What makes a Wine of the Week? Well, there has to be something special about the wine, something that makes the wine stand out. Usually it is the gloriousness and drinkability of the wine but sometimes that is not the case. And this week is one of those cases. From a week where I have tasted some of the most glorious wines, the one that I've chosen as Wine of the Week is a wine with a special uniqueness. It is the first of its variety to be produced in Australia and New Zealand and offers up a taste profile that is exactly what I would expect from that variety. It is Coopers Creek SV Gisborne Albarino 2011 'Bell-Ringer'.
Albarino is a Spanish grape variety, best known from Galicia on the northwest coast. It's also known as Alvarinho in the most northern part of Portugal. The Spanish Albarino is extremely popular, to the point of being trendy, highly rated by influential critics and thus attracting the interest of wine drinkers the world over – including here in New Zealand. I've tasted half a dozen. I like the variety and the wines I've tried remind me a little of Pinot Gris, Viognier and Riesling – aromatic, perhaps a little neutral on entry, a nutty richness, then some ethereal apricot notes and brightness to the finish. Always textural and seemingly quite food friendly – a wine that conjures up the bounties of the sea.
But it's also attracted the interest of growers here in New Zealand, especially in the country's more northern regions.
Robin Ransom of Ransom Wines in Matakana became enthused about the variety when he realised the climate in Galicia was similar to Auckland's. Coastal, maritime, late summer and early autumn rains – a climate the thick-skinned Albarino grapes relish. It took almost 10 years for cuttings, via Riversun, to become available with his first allocation in December 2009 and more last year. He hopes to make his first Albarino next year.
But Doug and Delwyn Bell in Gisborne, long time growers for Coopers Creek, got their cuttings a couple of months earlier. And this year they picked a tiny crop. Just 310 kilograms of grapes, such a small amount that winemaker Simon Nunns used a seasoned oak barrel for the winemaking vessel.
Named Bell-Ringer after the growers but also because Simon says the wine has the clarity of a peal of a bell, I found it to be almost exactly what I expected. Aromatic with a nutty infusion to the bouquet, it smells textural and rich and the palate has that richness too. Quite rounded, smooth and creamy, a little like Pinot Gris with it's initial nutty neutrality, a little like Viognier with its mid-palate apricot delicacy and a finish that's more punchy with Riesling-like tropical fruit and lime. The notes say 4 grams per litre of residual sugar, but it tastes extremely dry. Alcohol is listed at 12.5%, the bottle has a screwcap closure and it's priced at $19.99.
No doubt there will be lots of interest in this wine, but sadly, with only 250 bottles made, there is not much to go around. Coopers Creek is offering initially only to their mail order customers with a one bottle allocation. So if you want to get your hands on this piece of New Zealand's vinous history, it's best to click on www.cooperscreek.co.nz, join their mail order club and see how you go from there.
© Sue Courtney
25 Jul 2011