MARY-THERESE BLAIR gets her sticky fingers on some real stunners.
SWEET WINES HAVE many different monikers the most colloquial of which is ‘sticky’. This refers to the luscious, almost-syrupy consistency of the wine which makes it luxurious to drink, add to desserts or even cook with – I’ve heard tales of legendary glazes made with stickies. In New Zealand, sticky or dessert wines generally fall into two categories – late harvest or botrytis. Late-harvest grapes are harvested late, so have been left to hang on the vine; over time the grapes dehydrate and what’s left in the raisined grape is high levels of natural sugar. Botrytis wines are made from grapes that have been infected with a fungus called botrytis cinerea. Considered to be a beneficial (or noble) rot it infects the grape and causes it to dehydrate, naturally rising the sugar and acid levels in the grape. While known as dessert wines, they’re just as well suited to a soft, gooey cheese at the end of the evening. There are some real stunners to choose from here.
TASTING PANEL Ben Glover, owner and head winemaker for Zephyr Wines in Marlborough and internationally regarded wine judge, led this panel and was joined by two experienced wine professionals. Jane De Witt is operations winemaker North Island for Lion and one of New Zealand’s most-awarded sparkling winemakers and Chloe Somerset is winemaker and vineyard manager at Cable Bay Vineyards, Waiheke Island.
TUPARI IS THE M?ori word for ‘cliff’, appropriate as their vineyards sit at an altitude of 150-200 metres and boast some of the best views in the Awatere subregion of Marlborough. The riesling block, from which this wine’s grapes originate, is on a thin terrace which stretches along the top of the cliff face. This location makes the most of the warm days and cool nights in the region and these conditions allow the grapes to create the complex flavours in the wine. In 2018, weather conditions favoured the creation of a late-harvest riesling and the grapes were left to hang on the vine for an additional month after the other grapes had been harvested, allowing noble rot to develop. The botrytis shrivelled and concentrated the flavours in the grape and once they were at their optimum they were hand picked and carefully fermented. The result is a lusciously sweet dessert wine with more than 200 grams of residual sugar; however make no mistake, despite its high residual sugar count this wine is in no way cloying. The superb acid provides a wonderful balance between the concentration of botrytised sweetness. In the glass the colour is a fresh and bright light-green straw colour. The nose has stunning riesling notes underpinned with clean, expressive botrytised honey, marmalade, dried apricot and nutty liftednougat characters. The concentrated flavour culminates in a lengthy satisfying finish.