Pete's 2022 in a glass...
The Kiwi wine trends we’re excited about
We dare not do any crystal ball gazing after the last few years. We’d rather stick to wine glass gazing, so here’s our guide to the directions we’re thrilled to see our wine industry going in this year.
New Year, New Varieties
Get your laughing gear around Arneis, Albariño, Barbera, Carmenere, Chenin Blanc, Dolcetto, Fiano, Gamay, Gruner Veltliner, Montepulciano, Nebbiolo, Petit Manseng, Pinot Blanc, Sangiovese, Saperavi, Saint Laurent, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Zweigelt. These varieties hail from far and wide (Italy, Spain, France, Georgia, Chile and Austria), and are all being grown right here in NZ.
With 92% of our vineyards planted in just 4 French varieties (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris), it’s only natural that wine growers are curious to find out what else they can successfully produce. And this curiosity is met with enthusiasm by kiwi wine drinkers. We might not always nail the pronunciation, but we’ll sure as hell give a new variety a go.
Some producers have more than made their mark with alternative varieties over the years. Millton in Gisborne is synonymous with Chenin Blanc. Hans and Therese Herzog in Marlborough grow an impressive 28 different varieties on just 11.5 hectares, including their beautiful Montepulciano.
As well as established names, there’s a new wave of producers sourcing fruit, leasing vineyards, and top grafting to bring these lesser known varieties to light. Our picks include a racy Albariño from Three Fates in Hawkes Bay, and an elegant Pinot Blanc from Kelly Washington in Marlborough.
With climate change, growers will continue to experiment as the suitability of particular varieties to regions will begin to change. Angela and Paul Jacobson at Judge Rock in Central Otago have planted the Austrian variety St Laurent, with an eye to future proofing their estate. And the Port they produce from it is frankly delicious.
Organics is on the rise, in fact the growth of the organic wine sector significantly outpaces New Zealand’s total wine market growth, both locally and abroad. Currently 10% of our wineries are certified organic, which accounts for 4% of vineyard area. The conversion to organics has been led by some of the best in our industry, who might not be big players in terms of the size of their production, but are in terms of their reputation. Organic producers like Neudorf, Felton Road, Rippon, Herzog, Fromm and Burn Cottage are listed in great restaurants around the world. The progression from here is in the conversion of larger scale growers and producers. The demand exists, supply will follow.
The Grey Area
During the boom phase of our modern industry in the late ‘80’s and ‘90’s, the simplicity of our offering was celebrated. Expressive, varietal wines were labelled as what they are, avoiding the complexity of the French system of labelling by village for example. A Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough is simply labelled exactly that. But this is changing. You may already have noticed more ambiguity on labels, some of which might not indicate anything at all about a wine. And there’s a few good reasons to be excited and intrigued by this development.
Firstly, our viticultural landscape is becoming more defined and intricate. Growers have had the benefit of time to identify vineyards and sub regions that express something unique that they would like to champion. Having grown Pinot Noir for the likes of Felton Road, when it came time to make his own wine from the Calvert vineyard, Owen Calvert chose to champion the vineyard name above all else, followed by the sub region of Bannockburn. The great potential of this site is recognised by enthusiastic wine drinkers for it’s individuality, over and above the fact that it’s Central Otago Pinot Noir.
Secondly, as an extension of the freedom our producers have in terms of what they can grow and where, it’s natural that there’s a playful approach. Being in the unique position of planting his own vineyard near the Bay of Islands, Jake Dromgool of 144 Islands has chosen to plant many different varieties. Rather than vinify and bottle each separately, he co-ferments and blends them. The results are awesome, like Melika’s Field, a lively and harmonious blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Albariño and Petit Manseng. The blends change from year to year depending on what’s performing well, giving Jake an amazing, creative opportunity, and giving us more interesting drinking.
Finally, it’s the break with convention that we love to see. Wine styles are becoming less defined. Whites are being made like Reds, with skin contact. Reds are being made so light they could be Rosé. White and Red varieties are being fermented and blended together. Rather than needing to pigeon hole a wine, we are just loving trying different expressions and interpretations. Hayden Penny’s Organised Chaos Gamay sits on the precarious edge of being light enough to be Rosé. It’s juicy and delicious. As is Sarah Adamson’s supple blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, called Pinot x Pinot under her Scout label. Well and truly in curiosity corner is Flora from Gravel Downs. This obscure white variety is grown in West Auckland, foot stomped and given skin contact overnight. The result is hedonistic, aromatic and like biting into the flesh of a perfectly ripe nectarine.
Our advice to you when choosing wine in 2022, is to take a punt on the unknown. Try a new variety, style or producer when ‘supporting local’. The wine growers who are shaking things up are the future of our industry, so let’s spur them on. And of course, get in touch with us for any guidance along the way!