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Wine of the Week for week ending 23 Aug 2009
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Butterfish Bay Pinot Gris 2009
Northland, New Zealand

It's always exciting when a new brand with real vineyards and real people behind it appears on the market and you taste the wines and they are good. Like the Sea Level Awatere Sauvignon Blanc 2009 that I blogged about recently. After tasting for a second time just recently that wine is destined to become a star.

Of course all brands have people behind them and vineyards behind them but sometimes they are not what you think. They are simply manufactured brands that could fulfil one or all of the following

  • to create a new brand to provide interest in the market place
  • to create a brand for downgraded wine so the main brand is not compromised
  • to get rid of unsold stock
  • to hide the fact a big order has been cancelled
  • With manufactured brands you'll be hard pressed to find out anything about the vineyard site or the people. They may even have an address in the middle of the suburbs, as do the manufactured brands of supermarket chains.

    But new brands with real people and real vineyards behind them are proud of their heritage and their team of people. They let you know who they are - or they will eventually when they get their website up and running.

    Like Butterfish Bay Wines in Northland grown on Paewhenua Island near Mangonui in Northland (photo to right from their website). When I was up that way last year, I took the opportunity to drive through the vineyards. An impressive scene for sure.

    The one page website ( says the 2008 wines will be available shortly, but I've just tasted the 2009's. A Pinot Gris and Viognier were part of a blind tasting of a dozen Pinot gris and Viognier wines and both Butterfish Bay wines were in my Top 5 and both attracted a silver medal rating from me. That's good enough to rave about, I think.

    Butterfish Bay Northland Pinot Gris 2009 was my favourite of the two. This young, fresh, spicy tipple tastes like it is off dry to medium in the sweetness stakes. Aromas and flavours are of apples, apricots and juicy late season pear with a citrussy twist and a touch of exotic spice. It's lightly creamy in texture with tropical fruit singing in the background and a biscuity richness to the lime-infused backbone and the finish is rich and long with textural complexity. Straight up and down Pinot Gris (knowing there were both P's and V's in the tasting line-up) but from where? Probably Marlborough I thought, but by my rough calculation it is, in fact, from over 700 kilometres in a straight line, further north. The wine has 13.5% alcohol, a screwcap closure and RRP is $27.95.

    Butterfish Bay Northland Viognier 2009 is remarkably pale in colour. It takes a while for the aroma to open up, but it is worth the wait -for the heady fragrance of apricot - and in the line-up it is one of only two wines that gets three ticks out of three for scent. Flavours of apricot and Dutch spices with youthful esters and underlying phenolics - it is proudly stating its youth. It is texturally interesting with a slight oiliness and lift to the fruit sweet finish. Next day the taste hints of the warm alcohol - though the wine is dry, it is alcohol sweet and heady. Yep, Viognier, for sure. The bottle states 14.5% alcohol, it has a screwcap closure and RRP is also $27.95.

    Mark Rattray, formerly from down Waipara way, has left the South Island and has headed north to make the Butterfish Bay wines. The grapes are transported to the Karikari Estate Winery, a little further north, for the transformation into wine. And the name - it's for the butterfish that breed prolifically in the area.

    New brand, new wines - wines worth seeking out.

    © Sue Courtney
    17 Aug 2009

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