Artisan wine: small is beautifulby Michael Cooper
The wines from the best small producers are full of personality.
What is “artisan” wine? Several producers joined forces recently under the banner of Artisan Winegrowers of Central Otago.
The group’s six members – Auburn, Ellero, Georgetown Vineyard, Lindis River, Lowburn Ferry and TOSQ – barely make 5000 cases of wine a year between them. No wonder – they have to do everything. “The same people that own the brands are the people working in the vineyard, crafting the wine and selling the product.”
In a recent book, Grape-A-Hol, Michael Spratt (owner of Destiny Bay Wines on Waiheke Island) and Mark Feldman argue the New Zealand wine industry is split between two conflicting forces: “Small artisan winemakers and large multinational mass producers of alcoholic beverages made from fermented grape juice.” These popular wines are dismissed as “grape-a-hol”.
In fact, New Zealand’s greatest wines flow from small, medium-sized and large producers; no size category has a monopoly on quality. The wines from the best small producers are full of personality. Definitions of artisan wine vary, but they are generally understood to be linked to a specific vineyard, labour-intensive and hand-crafted.
Auburn Bendigo Central Otago Riesling 2012
This is rare – only 851 bottles were made. It is light-bodied, with lovely depth and delicacy of vibrant, citrusy flavours, hints of spices and apricots and a gently sweet, crisp, lasting finish. $30 (5/5)
Lowburn Ferry Home Block Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011
This full-coloured red is mouthfilling and savoury, with strong cherry and spice flavours, finely balanced tannins and excellent complexity. Best drinking 2014 onwards. $48 (4/5)
TOSQ Central Otago Pinot Gris 2011
This fleshy, full-bodied wine has strong, ripe stone-fruit flavours of peaches and nectarines, hints of apricots and spices, a sliver of sweetness and considerable complexity. It’s delicious now. $24 (4/5)
Ellero Pisa Terrace Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009
Still fresh, this is a full-bodied, ruby-hued red with ripe, sweet-fruit characters and good depth of plummy, spicy flavours. $39 (3.5/5)
Lindis River Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008
The colour is lightish, the palate mature and savoury, with ripe, nutty, spicy, slightly earthy flavours, showing considerable complexity, and a rounded finish. Drink now. (3.5/5)
WINE OF THE WEEK
Georgetown Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010
From close-planted vines, this is a deeply coloured red with layers of ripe cherry, plum and spice flavours, showing lovely texture and depth. Still very youthful, it is a classy red with great personality. $45 (5/5) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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