Terra Sancta owners Sarah Eliott and Mark Weldon (right)
with winemaker Peter Bartle (second from left) and wife
Dora. Photo by ODT.
Central Otago wine producers were in town for their
annual tasting last week. Having tasted numerous pinot noirs a
couple of weeks ago, I took the opportunity to look at the
whites on show - particularly the wonderful rieslings, which
offer great value for money.
Riesling is a hard sell, several of the producers said.
It polarizes people. On one hand are wine lovers who
appreciate its ability to express the place it comes from,
its amazing ability to develop with age, its charm, its
stylish fruit and variety of styles, from bone-dry to
intensely sweet, but always with a lively backbone of
acidity, and on the other hand are those who don't understand
it and often expect something sweet and simple.
Central Otago riesling may sometimes be sweet but it's rarely
simple, and there were several three- or four-year old wines
on display which are drinking superbly now - intense,
harmonious and delicious. Others were young - 2011 or 2012 -
and so fresh and youthful it seems a shame to enjoy them now
when, given a couple more years to mature, they will surpass
Good riesling is the one white wine that benefits from bottle
age, which harmonises and integrates the steely acidity and
the fruit and any sweetness.
Some of the rieslings that that stood out at the tasting
were: the charming, limey Rockburn Parkburn 2009; Rippon's
rich, marmalady 2010; Peregrine's fragrant citrus and
buttered toast and marmalade 2008; Mt Difficulty's Target
Gully fresh, tropical-fruited 2012, Kingsmill's Tippet's Race
intense, dry, citrusy 2009, Ellero's textural, nuanced 2011,
the first crop from the grapes on their remarkable
north-facing slope; Domain Road's intense, marmalady sweeter
Duffer's Creek 2011; Ceres' bright, mouth-filling Full Circle
2012; Carrick's complex, textural 2011; Aurum's charming,
limey and deliciously mature 2008; Akarua's fresh, lively
2012; Two Sisters' fragrant, beautifully balanced 2008; and
Valli's delicate but steely Old Vine 2011 and its luxuriously
botrytised, apricoty Dolce Vita Late Harvest 2011.
Riesling, dry or off-dry, is great with seafood of many
types. With its lively acidity, an off-dry or medium sweet
riesling is a lovely aperitif with nibbles.
For those interested in wine, it's certainly a variety worth
• There were two other noteworthy things at the tasting: Mt
Difficulty was showing a 2012 chenin blanc, its first release
and the first commercial chenin I've seen from Central.
It's wonderfully fragrant with herbs and flowers, and made in
a sweeter style but with a lively intensity and delicious,
Several growers, mostly from South Africa, where chenin is
known as steen, have planted chenin in Central. It's one of
the main white grapes of the Loire Valley in France, where it
produces a range of styles from sparkling through dry and
sweet wines to botrytised dessert sippers.
• Also new at this tasting was Terra Sancta, owned by Mark
and Sarah Weldon, who bought the former Olssen's vineyard in
Felton Rd, Bannockburn, along with some extra vineyards, one
next door and one on the Cairnmuir side of Bannockburn.
After a year's hard work they are presenting their new brand
with attractive labels evocative of Middle-earth and
nostalgia for ancient maps. "Terra sancta" means "sacred
earth" or "special dirt" and the owners aim to nurture their
vineyards and make wines that reflect them.
Weldon, a former chief executive of the New Zealand stock
exchange, says he aims to over-deliver in terms of quality
and value and to build relationships with customers by
producing top level wines that are well priced.