It's the end of autumn so not surprisingly the first of the 2007 vintage wines are appearing on the market and although I've only tasted two new releases and it is early days yet, I've been totally impressed.
I had the opportunity when I popped out to Coopers Creek Vineyard in Huapai, just north of Auckland City (about 20 minutes drive) to chat to winemaker Simon Nunns and taste some wines.
"It's been a magical season,' said Simon, who is ecstatic about the quality of the whites, especially the grapes that came in from Gisborne (Chardonnay, Viognier and Arneis), but the Sauvignon Blanc that I tasted from Marlborough was rather magical too.
Coopers Creek Early Release Sauvignon Blanc 2007 is made from pure unadulterated Sauvignon Blanc grapes that have been picked, pressed, fermented in tank and magically transformed into delicious wine. I was not surprised when I heard it came off a vineyard in the Brancott Valley because this is where the first vineyards were planted with Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough some 30 years ago. When I tasted the new wine, memories flooded back because the fresh, fruity, clean, punchy, vivacious flavours reminded me why I fell in love with Sauvignon Blanc all those years ago. It reminded me of the wine that made me fall in love with wine and started me on my never ending quest to find out more.
But even more magical, if that is possible, is Coopers Creek second new release that will be available at the Huapai winery this coming weekend (the holiday Queens Birthday Weekend. It's not punchy and vivacious like the Sauvignon Blanc is. That's because it is made from a different grape, a grape that should not exhibit those energetic Sauvignon Blanc characters. It's made from Viognier and it's soft, clean, pure and delicious with a whimsical charm. It's the Coopers Creek Gisborne Viognier 2007 and like the sauvignon blanc, it's a wine that had minimal handling to let the fruit be the star.
Coopers Creek Gisborne Viognier 2007 is light golden coloured with fruit salad aromas and bright fruit flavours of apricots and lemon biscuits with a soft, full, fruit nectar texture and a youthful tingle. The wine is clean and the ethereal flavour is long. The fruit was obviously been picked at its optimum, at the top of the ripening bell curve, before the flavours started to fall away. And knowing exactly when to pick is the key. From a hot dry vintage, the fruit came from two vineyards, one in the Hexton Hills on the north side of the valley, and the other from the Patutahi plateau, a little to the south.
The wine has 14% alcohol, it's fermented to dryness, it is sealed with a screwcap and costs about $19.
Gisborne is really showing how exciting Viognier can be when the winemakers let the fruit be the winning component of the wine.
Simon Nunns and Coopers Creek Viognier will be two of the stars at a Viognier Workshop being held in Gisborne on Saturday June 9th 2007. Prospective attendees have until the 1st June to register.
See this blog entry for details.
As for a food match, I recommend this Fennel, Butternut and Ham Risotto that I made. I thought that with the fennel component, it would be a delicious match to the sauvignon blanc - I also had Chardonnay and Pinot Gris left over wines to try with the food - but it was the Viognier that was the outstanding accompaniment on the day.
Melt a little butter in a frying pan and add a teaspoon of lightly crushed fennel seed. Then add half a small, finely sliced red onion and soften for a minute or so. Then add half of a bulbous fennel bulb, again finely sliced, together with about 1/2 cup of finely sliced pieces of butternut pumpkin and a cup of short grained risotto rice. Saute for about 5 minutes than start the laborious but rewarding task of stirring in your home made stock (from left over chicken bones
as detailed in last week's Wine of the Week recipe). Add a cup of warmed liquid at a time and stir all the while, until it absorbed by the rice. Repeat four or five times until the rice is cooked and creamy and all of the liquid has been absorbed.
In another small frying pan, chop up some slices of ham and fry in a little walnut oil. Plate the risotto and garnish with the ham.
Find out more about Coopers Creek wines from www.cooperscreek.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
27 May 2007