When I’m hosting wine tastings, especially for less experienced tasters, I try my best to serve wines in related pairs to best illustrate the differences made by one particular factor.
For example, tasting a McLaren Vale GSM blend back to back with a Chateauneuf du Pape from the same year is more illuminating than comparing the later with a mature Barossa Shiraz.
And now I’m going to apply that principle to wine reviews – a series of articles where each covers two wines that have something in common, and most likely some point of difference. Compare and contrast is the order of the day – so make mine a double!
Two New Zealand Rieslings
As well as the runaway export leader Sauvignon Blanc, NZ is noted for its Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. However, other aromatic varieties in addition to SB also perform well in many parts of the country – Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. Here are two that I recently enjoyed together, from places with similar (at first) looking names but actually on different islands.
Paddy Borthwick Wairarapa Riesling 2013 (€14.95, Wines Direct)
Disclosure: Sample kindly provided for review
Although the name wouldn’t seem out of place in Dublin, Paddy Borthwick is a fifth generation Kiwi farmer based in Gladstone at the heart of Wairarapa, close to Wellington. 90% of his produce is exported, including Sauvignon Blanc (amazingly tropical, mango and passion fruit) and Pinot Gris (to die for).
Fairly pale in colour, though not water white, this is unmistakably Riesling on the nose – very aromatic. There’s a sense of sweet fruit in the aromas, even though sugar isn’t supposed to be volatile (explain THAT, Mr WSET!)
The palate is tangy and fresh, with enticing flavours of grapefruit, ginger and exotic spices, lemon and lime – there’s striking acidity through the middle and a touch of sweetness, perfectly balanced. Although this was lovely to drink on it’s own it would really shine with East or mild-medium spiced South Asian food.
Pegasus Bay Waipara Encore Noble Riesling 2008 (~£25 375ml, The Wine Society)
Pegasus Bay is one of the standout producers of Waipara, part of the larger Canterbury wine region north west of Christchurch. They produce a wine range of wines from which it is difficult to choose a favourite. I particularly enjoyed the Chardonnay and several Rieslings when tasting at the cellar door in 2009.
The Noble in the name of the wine of course refers to noble rot, Botrytis cinerea, which is allowed to grow on grapes left late on the vine. This reduces the water content of the grapes, hence concentrating the sugars, and also adds complex flavours.
This 2008 is almost gold in colour, a combination of the sweetness, age and botrytis (here’s a reminder). It’s lusciously sweet, but not cloying; the residual sugar levels are high but balanced by the acidic streak running through the wine. Although now seven years old it’s still tangy, with rich flavours of peach,apricot and nectarine, plus some mushroom notes from the botrytis. Above all it’s an interesting wine!