New Zealand dessert wines are performing better than ever, reports John Saker.
The panel was impressed by another outstanding Top 5. You’ll see that all but one of the top nine wines are described on their labels as Noble or Late Harvest. Noble means the wine was made mainly from botrytised fruit – grapes infected by noble rot, a fungus that can attack any overripe white grapes left hanging on the vines, so producing some of the most delectable wines on earth (eg Sauternes in France). Such wines are rich, very sweet and oily in texture. They go well with rich smooth pâtés and strong blue cheeses. With a lower botrytis content, late harvest wines are lighter, less sweet and go best with sweet, fruit-rich desserts. Riesling shines in this class, but our top spot went to semillon. The perfect finish to a special dinner, these honeyed beauties are to be savoured.
The Tasting Panel
Panel chair John Belsham, highly respected international wine judge and owner of Foxes Island Wines, Marlborough, was joined by James Rowan, winemaker at Auckland’s West Brook Winery, and Sam Kim, senior Auckland wine judge and Wine Orbit author. Associate judge (non-scoring) was Cuisine’s New Zealand wine writer, John Saker.
This sublime expression triggered comparisons with Sauternes, France’s great botrytised semillon. Gorgeous scents (lanolin and honey) pave the way to a rich, ambrosia-like mouthful. Its depth, seamless purity and length are all exemplary. The classic Sauternes food match also applies here: the luxurious foie gras.
Jeremy McKenzie is Marlborough’s own Action Man. When Villa Maria’s senior Marlborough winemaker is not making wine or spending time with his young family, he competes in triathlons, shoots game in the hills and dives in the Sounds. In McKenzie’s world, there’s excitement to be had every season, but he particularly looks forward to the end of every harvest when the time comes to pick the botrytis-affected fruit and make dessert wines. “I love it. The rains through 2011 gave us the opportunity to make noble semillon that year,” he remembers. “There was a lot of good true botrytis as well as plenty of the little green berries that I call ‘lime bullets’. They provide the balancing acidity.”
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