Lauraine Jacobs

Food Writer and Author of Delicious Books

Wines to drink

28 July 2010


I have a New Zealand palate. Essentially that’s because I live in a country where everyone resides no more than 150kms from a vineyard, and often much closer. Our wine industry, worth over $1 billion, produces a range of terrific wines that we drink constantly and have all grown to love. We start out on sauvignon blanc, graduate to chardonnay, veer off for love affairs with riesling and gewürztraminer and then full circle, return to the more complex sauvignons, especially when they spend a little time in an oak barrel. And that’s just our white wines. (I will leave the reds, pinot noir, cabernet blends, syrah and all that for another time.)

So it’s very intriguing when confronted by a couple of imported white wines, to watch our reaction as we taste something quite unknown. Bill came around the other evening for an impromptu dinner. Bill owns a wine shop (Village Winery in Mt Eden village) and with access to a glorious range of both local and imported wines, can be counted to turn up with something very interesting to drink. His choice on Saturday? A Fritz Haag 2000 riesling kabinett and a bottle of José Pariente 2008 verdejo.

Riesling is one of my favourite varietal, if not the favourite, so this looked promising. And it was. Fritz Haag comes from a respected wine family who have tended vines on the banks of the Mosel in Germany for over 400 years. So this was a wine that we could expect to be pretty good. It was quietly minerally, had lots of ‘structure’ and light fruity accents that were sweet and citrusy. Different from the wines I love from the Waipara, but delicious. But best of all for me, the alcohol level was 7.5%. Gosh, I could drink several glasses of that and still cook dinner!

The other wine, a verdejo, had me completely flummoxed. It’s not a wine we see a lot of in New Zealand. I knew the lovely fruity verdelho produced at Esk Valley in Hawke’s Bay and I knew that Villa Maria won a trophy for their excellent Ihumatao verdelho 2008 this year, but generally the variety is as rare as hen’s teeth. So I was not really prepared for this slightly aggressive dry wine with what seemed to me to be a little bitterness on the edge. The second glass grew on me however, which goes to show that even a seasoned palate is only seasoned by the experience of the wines that have gone down before. We’ll have to get Bill over again soon.

NOTE: That trophy winning Villa Maria verdelho will be served at our New Zealand Vegetable Cookbook launch lunch at Soul Bar & Bistro on Tues 10 August. Another good reason to attend!