Like any other industry, the wine industry can be prone to complacency – it’s easy to keep doing what you’ve always done, without challenging yourself.
Thankfully, a number of New Zealand wine makers like to innovate and experiment, to push the boundaries and try something a little different.
Pegasus Bay in North Canterbury are a winery so well established and highly esteemed, it could almost be expected that they could fall into the complacent category. Fortunately, that is in no danger of happening. Wanting to push the envelope, they have recently created the ‘Vergence’ label, for wines that don’t fit into the normal Pegasus Bay or Main Divide stables. The 2017 Vergence ‘Red’ is made entirely of whole bunch pressed Pinot Noir, which adds spice and pepper not dissimilar to Shiraz, but maintains its varietal character. This is, effectively, Pinot Noir flavoured Pinot Noir. It’s big, bold, brash and delicious. $40 www.pegasusbay.com
Another established name to try something a little different are Stonecroft, from the Gimblett Gravels sub-region of Hawke’s Bay. One of the original, pioneering producers of Syrah in New Zealand, Stonecroft are entirely organic, and produce a tiny 3000 cases per year spread across a number of varietals. As if being organic wasn’t enough, the Stonecroft Undressed Syrah 2018 is also vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and entirely free of sulphites or any other preservatives. A dense, spicy, vibrant Syrah with a dollop of chunky oak – extremely tasty now, but will continue to develop for a few years. Top buying at around $31 www.stonecroft.co.nz
Arguably one of the countries most revered and famous labels, Hunter’s Wines of Marlborough have recently launched their ‘Offshoot’ label, giving young winemakers license to express themselves outside the confines of the usual varietals or treatments. Offshoot 2019 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is anything but a conventional ‘Savvy’ – bottled while still fermenting, it is naturally carbonated in the ‘per not’ style and sealed with a crown cap. It’s certainly unusual, being naturally cloudy and with a decent sediment (trick for young players, if you plan on drinking it, don’t lie it down to store …). It tastes not unlike a barrel sample, full of vim and vigour, fresh as a daisy and dangerously drinkable – just make sure it’s very cold when you open it, otherwise it may end up as a Sauvignon shower. Great stuff, and great buying at around $26 www.hunters.co.nz
A newcomer on the NZ wine scene is ‘Untitled’ wines, making wines from multiple vintages and across multiple varietals in homage to the legendary Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Penfolds Grange, as well as to Champagne, Oporto, Xeres, and Madeira. You don’t know what your bottle contains until you enter the lot number into www.untitled.nz , which will then tell you that (for example) the ‘Untitled Pink Blend’ you’ve just demolished with some smoked chicken is made up of no less than 7 varieties (including Syrah and Merlot of course, but also Chambourcin and Albarino, just to keep you on your toes) from 3 different regions, with the dominant region being Auckland. The Pink Blend is fresh and fruity, but with surprising length. The Untitled range, which includes Red, White and Pink, is available from www.glengarrywines.co.nz and is priced from $20 to $30. Great fun at dinner parties, where you can test each other’s knowledge (or lucky guessing skills!)