Winemakers often describe themselves as artists, especially when it comes to Chardonnay. "It's like working with a blank canvas," they will say of the grape.
They paint their picture of the wine with use of different yeasts, use of different fermentation vessels, use of oak, type of oak, toastiness of oak, time in oak and blending of different components to add to the complexity to the finished wine. It's the same with reds.
The impression of the winemaker's picture is what we get when we taste the wine. Like art in an art gallery, it is subjective.
Wine and art has always been closely related. You couldn't imagine going to an art gallery opening without a glass of wine to sip on. Sometimes the wine flows liberally to aid you in getting your credit card out to red sticker one of the pieces of sale. And how many 'still life' prints or paintings are of bottles of wine, or the raw material, grapes.
There have been many artistic impressions on wine labels too, but now one of New Zealand's most contemporary artists, Hawkes Bay-based Dick Frizzell, has produced his own range of wines in collaboration with winemaker Rod McDonald. And the labels, well, they are fresh and exciting and sure to attract both the modern art followers as well as the modern generation of drinkers. They tell you boldly what's within.
So does the promise on the label deliver in the taste?
Frizzell Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2008
Fermented in tanks and transferred to barrel, there's little oak influence on the nose and it's quite creamy textured - or perhaps lightly oily is a better description - whatever it has that touch of nectar-like viscosity and it slips down rather easily. The gentle oak component comes through with a butterscotch sweetness and the peachy fruit is juicy, fleshy and fresh with a zesty, sweet orange tang to the lingering finish where the yeast lees aging has added a creamed nut complexity.
The label says "Peach, apricot and nectarine" and all those stonefruits are there. It's a medium bodied style with 13% alcohol and is very easy to enjoy. $22. 3.5 stars.
Frizzell Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Wow- full of fragrant tropical fruit on the nose- passionfruit, melon, gooseberry, feijoa and a hint of tangelo - a pleasing fruity softness (if that makes sense) - no screeching acidity on this nose of this little number. Vibrant and punchy, it is crammed with ripe tropical fruit characterised by ripe banana passionfruit (the oblong yellow skinned ones with the orange flesh). Yes, this wine makes me think orange with melon and tangy tangelo too. Vivaciously juicy and ultra fruity with a hint of coconut - now I wonder where that comes from - perhaps it is the tropical lime. So fresh, so summery (the label states, "warning, may contain traces of summer"), and with its smooth attack in the mouth, I can drink this. A big glass at least. I rate it 4 stars. RRP is $19.
Frizzell Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec 2007
"Red red wine. Plum. Cherry. Chocolate. Spice" states the label. So, so true.
Gosh, what a soft, velvety, full flavoured number - it's got great colour - a vibrant red black brambly colour. Attractive aromas of plums and blackberries with a backing of sweet savoury oak. A juicy savouriness brims through the palate with concentrated black berries and plums - ripe blueberry too. There's spicy oak providing a solid base for the fruit then Malbec's classic earthiness together with hints of rose petal and chocolate notes comes through on the succulent finish. Rounded, smooth, full of flavour, this is good. With a comfortable 14% alcohol, it's as good as any of the reds I judged at the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards this past weekend. I rate it 5 stars.
Dick Frizzell describes this as "soft and savory and bloody delicious". I agree. It's my favourite. It's my Wine of the Week. At $22 RRP it also delivers absolute value in Hawkes Bay reds.
Well, I like the wines, I like the labels. They are fresh, they are fun and they are most definitely conversation starters.
Find out more from www.frizzellwines.co.nz. You will find out where you can buy online and at least 75 restaurants around the country - while stocks last.
© Sue Courtney
2 Mar 2009