Lauraine Jacobs

Food Writer and Author of Delicious Books

Wines to drink

12 August 2010


I went to a very special wine tasting recently. Kemp Rare Wines have scored the distribution of Waitaki Braids; superb wines, (made in a spectacular northern Otago valley), which are possibly the tipping point in the recognition of a newly emerging region. Kemp can be found upstairs in Carlton Gore Rd, above Jones (great cheese room there), and I spent a fascinating couple of hours tasting and talking.

The Waitaki Braids owners were out in force. Wineries need money so Steve Cozens, an investor and developer, bought the best land and joined forces with two other people who have the requisite skill set for success. Michelle Richardson, arguably our country’s best winemaker, and Peter Gordon, who’s the most famous international face of NZ cuisine and a tireless promoter of food and wine. All spoke with passion and wit, but the night was Michelle’s.

Michelle is extraordinary. I have never heard a better talk and explanation of wines than she gave that night. Her description of the processes she put these wines through was brilliant and I will bet if the other winemakers of NZ had attended and listened all our wines would improve. She’s a wine maker who pays incredible attention to the viticulture, picks the grapes at precisely the optimum moment and then lets them do their thing in their own time. (I hear readers saying that’s what every wine maker does. No, that’s what every winemaker tries to do. But some do it far better. Michelle does it best of all!)

Suffice to say I am not going to share her secrets here. The Rosé 2009 was fabulous. It was sweet and succulent, dense in flavour and colour, and really truly memorable. I had to have a second glass and noticed all the boys did too. This rosé was so gutsy and delicious it could almost be a red wine. It was then on to the as yet unlabelled Pinot Gris. Pinot Gris is a real enigma; sometimes oily, some times sugary, sometimes flabby. Waitaki Braids Pinot Gris, in Michelles’ hands, is none of that. It was mouth-filling and still ever so slightly fizzy (that will disappear as it settles) and has a wonderful wallop of fruit that leaves the palate tingly and excited.

Finally the Pinot Noir, supposedly the flagship of the stable. It’s very different from the Pinots from Central Otago. More sophisticated and way more cool than most of those. Michelle manages to find subtlety and maximum flavour at once. This is truly great wine from a truly great winemaker. But I can’t stop thinking about that rosé.