Last year I was invited to lunch with Akarua Wines from Central Otago but sadly I couldn't make it. It was a hard gig to give up – lunch at one of Auckland's top restaurants and a chance to meet the winemaker, but talking about the importance and heritage of the local Auckland wineries to an aspiring Supercity mayoral candidate took preference. The candidate won the election and I hope he will support the local wineries in all their tourism endeavours.
This weekend, tasting the Akarua wines took preference but to be fair to them and to myself, they were hidden amongst others in a blind tasting lineup. The two Akaruas kicked butt by coming in first and second. It was pretty hard not to like them.
Akarua Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009, at $35 bottle, is the cheapest of the Akarua pair. It's a deep and intense ruby colour with opulent aromas and powerful and succulent flavours. Chocolate and cherry combine with creamy oak, velvety tannins and the succulent finish has an earthy savoury depth. A delicious, rich and generous wine with a gorgeous infusion of spice and bright kick to the finish, I thought it quite outstanding, definitely of gold medal standard and a five star rating. The wine spent 10 months in medium-plus toast, French barriques, 25% new, and alcohol is 14%.
But Akarua Central Otago Bannockburn Reserve Pinot Noir 2009, $56.60 a bottle, deserves its elevated status in the hierarchy. A brilliant rich ruby red colour, showing a little more depth than its sibling, this has a very inviting voluptuous aroma of smoky savoury oak with a hint of game and bittersweet red fruits. A full-bodied pinot in the best possible way, it's spicy and savoury with silk-edged velvety tannins, juicy red and black fruits and a succulent and savoury finish that leaves a powerful impression. I am not at all surprised that this has won three gold medals in New Zealand in the 2010-2011 wine show season because it has a textural complexity that gives it the upper hand and a lovely vibrancy as the spice-infused flavours linger. The wine spent 10 months in medium-plus toast, French barriques, 36% new, and alcohol attained is 14.7%.
I didn't get to meet new winemaker Matt Connell, who joined Akarua in November 2008, but I have tasted the result of his fruitful labours. I also think the new label design is quite outstanding. I can't find out what the flower represents – perhaps the wild flowers of Central Otago.
Check out the comprehensive Akarua website www.akarua.com to find out more.
© Sue Courtney
6 Mar 2011