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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wine Writing - Someone Has To Do It

I have always enjoyed writing, and over 30 years have had a rollercoaster ride in freelance journalism, including a winery travel guide book, The Mad Keen Wine Buff’s Road Trip (Random House2008) and two regular wine columns along with the odd feature article in daily papers.

Problem is – most wine writers are regarded as total tossers by the general public.

And not without good reason. There is a tendency for us to wax poetical about the aromatic and metaphoric virtues of wines in way which alienates the average drinker –i.e. somebody with a neck and a thirst. And to be totally honest, after three glasses of anything, subjectivity goes out the window because, well, wine contains alcohol.

This very fact is sadly overlooked by nearly all wine writers, who would rather say, “Subtle oak nuances flirt with the nose, while crème brulée and tropical fruit flavours predominate, and a symphony of citrus notes play on the mid-palate before a sunset of honeyed vanilla,”  than “This is a Chardonnay which will get you totally rat-arsed after two bottles.”

But then, most of your mates could say that, if they were intelligible – and it would neither be terribly interesting, amusing nor informative. So as a writer you are rather stuck with having to say something descriptive about the wine. But there is a standard vocabulary based on the Aroma Wheel (see: Google) developed at the University of California at Davis by professor emeritus Ann C. Noble. The good professor has obviously spent many an hour drinking good wine and analysing the aromas and flavours thereof.  This is extremely helpful when you try to describe in print how you interpret a particular wine and distinguish it from others. Each grape has its own flavours and characteristics just as a Granny Smith differs from a Braeburn apple, or a raspberry tastes different to a boysenberry.

Writers do have to try to convey something in print which evokes the very subjective experience of a glass of wine (or two). I always think it's akin to writing about music - trying to nail the ethereal in a pithy phrase.

Which means this article can now segue effortlessly into some comments about a few great wines I have tasted lately.

Matwhero Grüner Gisborne Veltliner 2012  $27.00
Grüner Veltliner originates in Austria and is still a pretty experimental variety in NZ.  Kumeu’s Cooper’s Creek winery were the first to produce one back on 2008.  This is a complex wine, just off-dry with some tropical fruit aromas, with a slightly herbal and citrus mouth-filling palate. 

Dry River Martinborough Pinot Gris 2011  $73.00
Delicious and drinking really well right now.  Golden in colour.  Aromas of pineapple and apple juice, a medium sweet palate of poached pear and honey with crisp citrus finish.

Waimea Estates Nelson Dolcetto 2011 $25.00
Another fairly rare grape variety – this one hails from northern Italy.
Dark and opaque, this is a full-bodied red style with black berry fruit and plum flavours. Spicy and earthy, it has firm tannins indicating it would cellar well for 3-4 years.

Heron’s Flight Matakana Sangiovese ‘Unplugged’ 2011 $25.00
Boutique north Auckland producer Heron’s Flight grow just two grapes – Dolcetto (as above) and the famous Tuscan red Sangiovese.  ‘Unplugged’ refers the fact that this wine spent just 2 weeks in oak – letting the ripe fruit speak for itself.  Lovely ripe black cherry flavours, floral aromas and ripe tannins make this a soft, too-easy to drink medium bodied red. 

Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine Tours in Auckland.