The Sunday Independent (8 June 2008) featured an insightful roundup of the Family Of Twelve’s portfolio-tasting in Ireland.
8 June 2008 | Sunday Independent | LIFE | 47
New Zealand wines are grabbing the Irish market for good reason, writes an impressed Ernie Whalley.
The week before the London Wine Fair usually throws up an interesting happening or two, as winemakers criss-cross Europe on the way to the big event. This year was was no exception: it yielded an impressive portfolio-tasting put on by The Family of Twelve, an umbrella organisation for a dozen of the best winemakers in New Zealand.
Ireland is a key market for the Kiwi wine industry. New Zealand has the fastest growing wine sales here, with volume sales increasing by 40 per cent in 2007— amazing, as they are not at the bargain-basement end of the market.
Four wineries arrived seeking representation in Ireland. From tasting, I believe that the importer who gets Kumeu River, Milton, Neudorf and Fromm will do very nicely. The suggested RRPs in the catalogue were a little hooky, but if the Kumeu River Village chardonnay is put out at €11.50, it will be a steal. Neudorf’s Moutere Pinot Noir 2006 impressed with its earthy, forest-floor flavours bolstering up the dark cherry fruit. I loved Fromm Spatlese Riesling with its incredible racy acidity, offset with massive lush sweet fruit.
It was brilliant to be able to taste New Zealand’s three best pinot noirs side by side. Felton Road, Ata Rangi and Craggy Range are still way out ahead of the rest. It’s mainly a matter of complexity. There’s a lot to be wrung out of this temperamental grape, but many seem content to keep it overly simple, letting the crowd-pleasing ripe-cherry element shine through. Which isn’t to say these are bad wines; in fact they are really enjoyable drinking. There’s an extra ‘edge’ to the top three which more than justifies the money. Expect to pay around €35-€40.
I’ve mentioned before that some wineries are making strides at softening the acidity of the sauvignon blancs. If, like me, you relish the minerality, the tart gooseberries and the bracing north-easterly gale of the traditional style then seek out Nautilus, Lawson’s Dry Hills (good to see Ross and Barbara back here again), and the 2007 Craigy Range Te Muna Road, which eases perennially trendy Cloudy Bay out of top spot.
If you like your sauv b with shock absorbers, then Villa Maria (particularly the Clifford Bay Reserve), Palliser Estate and, a new one to me, Pegasus Bay, should suit.
New Zealand’s chardonnay doesn’t quite have the same cachet but I particularly liked both the Felton Road and the Ata Rangi Craighall 2006. the one clean, llean and laid back, the other full-on with upfront white-peach character. Ata Rangi has another ace up its sleeve; Celebre 2006, a blend of 50 per cent merlot, 30 syrah and 20 per cent cabernet sauvignon to ‘referee’. The immediate word that springs to mind is ‘vibrant’, for there are burgeoning flavours of blueberries, currants, and chocolate from the first sip, with a little kick of black pepper at the back end. Lovely stuff. From Fallen & Byrne and independents, around €31.99.