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Wine of the Week for week ending 22 Feb 2009
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Riverby Noble Riesling 2008
Marlborough, New Zealand

"Shall we try a Chardonnay?" I posed the question to my sisters who had come around to help us with our bounty of peaches. The weight of the fruit was so heavy on one side of the tree that the boughs were touching the ground. It created a 'cool room' in the sizzling late afternoon heat. The peaches had been gathered and we were enjoying the taste of the sweet juicy fruit that made our hands sticky as the juices dribbled into our hands.

"Bob Campbell says you always have to eat fresh peaches under the tree with a chilled sweet wine," one of my sisters replied.

Now I've always thought of Chardonnay and fresh peaches straight off the tree being the perfect match, but I'd give the sweet wine theory a go, especially as Neil found three sweeties in the refrigerator, ready for such an impromptu occasion. Only problem, they were all Gewurztraminer sweeties and I was not sure how well wine and food match would go.

I chose Fromm Late Harvest Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2006. This is light gold in colour with a perfume of rose petal, violet, honey and spice and lightly viscous in texture with rose petal and honeyed orange water and gingery spices that add a little kick of tingly brightness to the finish. Soft in its attack, the flavours seem quite savoury in some respects and broaden as they linger. A lovely wine, a beautifully varietal wine, but not a peachy wine. This has a Diam cork closure and an alcohol content of 12% by volume.

"We'll have to try something else," I said, wondering if I had a sweet Chardonnay in the tasting box. I was keen to see if sweet Chardonnay would work.

I found the number of stickies were piling up in the tasting box because we never seem to get around to tasting them - mainly because of the thought and work that is required to create a food match. So as well as Chardonnay, it would be a chance to try some others too.

Three bottles were chosen and submerged in a sink of cold water, then wrapped in a wet tea towel and placed in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Back outside we talked and gorged on peaches.

"Fifteen minutes must be up by now, " I said after 20 minutes. The wines were chilled nicely. This is a trick to remember when you want to cool wine down in a hurry. We kept them wrapped in the cold wet tea towel on the lawn.

First of the three to be opened was Spy Valley Noble Chardonnay 2007 from Marlborough. This has a rich gold colour with bright yellow glints. Intensely concentrated butterscotch and honeycomb emanate from the nose and the palate has a thick waxy texture. Bright acidity underpins the apricot and golden queen peach flavours and there's a raisiny richness to the creamy finish. There's also a touch of oak spice. Unusually for a botrytised wine, I could detect the alcohol was quite heady and when I checked, I saw it clocked in at 13.5% on the label.

Peachy flavours in the wine, fresh peaches straight off the tree. It should work. In theory, yes, In reality , no. The wine was just too sweet and made the fresh peach, which was sweet on its own, taste sour. "Decadently sweet," says the back label of the wine. Indeed it is.

Next wine to be opened was Valli Vin Santo Pinot Gris 2006 from the Gibbston Valley region in Central Otago and gosh, what a totally different style. It's a lighter straw gold colour with honeyed pear on the nose and a hint of oak - like honey on toast with a scraping of pear jam. There a touch of 'volatile acidity' too, which is acceptable in this style of wine. It's sweet but it's savoury with a viscous texture and a touch of toffee and pears and spice - and so beautiful with the peaches - the combination works.

"We should try the pears," said one sister. The pears are early this year and the sheep were put in the backyard this morning to gobble up the windfalls. They also stand on their hind legs to wrest pears off the tree. But it's early in the season and there are plenty more pears there.

The pear we had was juicy and sweet and the wine gave it a toffee-like coating. Valli Vin Santo Pinto Gris 2006 definitely got the thumbs up. Now, this has oak aging and is high in alcohol (14.5%), but it didn't stick out in this wine. The winemaking is different with the grapes dried on racks for four months after harvest before being made into wine, then it was aged for six months in small oak barrels.

Last wine to be opened was Riverby Noble Riesling 2008 from Marlborough. 2008, with all that late season rain, was a great year for botrytis and with this style of Riesling, that's a good thing. This distinctive and beautiful botrytised Riesling is a bright, light yellow gold in colour. The aroma is of beeswax, honey, apricot and orange zest and in the luscious palate there's bright acidity that makes the wine seem so fresh. The citrussy flavours - marmalade and lime in particular - pierce through the honeyed richness. Then the lingering aftertaste is all orange toffee praline. This wine, which has a screwcap closure and just 10% alcohol by volume, is quite simply stunningly delicious.

We all agreed that when accompanied with fresh peach, the Riverby Noble Riesling 2008 was the stand out wine of the four, easily eclipsing the runner-up, the Valli Vin Santo Pinot Gris 2006.

What a fun way to spend an afternoon tasting wines.

So I'm, sipping on these wines again as I type up these notes and the Riverby Noble Riesling 2008 is hard to resist. And the delicious flavours last for ages. It's this week's 'Wine of the Week'.

© Sue Courtney
15 Feb 2009

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