Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Pinot Palooza - Welcome to the world of Pinot

Big scale wine events are abound in Hong Kong, including the annual Wine & Dine Festival, Taste Hong Kong and various country generic tastings such as Discover South Africa, Riesling Weeks and also James Suckling Great Wines series. But as far as I’m aware, there has not been a big scale single varietal tasting event yet.

Organising a single varietal tasting in such a scale is challenging as there is not enough differentiation in single varietal wine. Cabernet Sauvignon, like all other grapes, may taste different depending on where the grapes are grown and winemaking techniques but the style of wine is pretty much similar. In my view, there are only two varietals that can push this boundary, Riesling and Pinot Noir.

Riesling is a white grape with many faces, from sparkling and dry to off-dry and delicious sweet wine, while Pinot Noir is similarly diversified and can be made into sparkling, rosé and of course red wine. Both grape varieties are used in Canada for ice wine.

Finally, we have the chance to experience one of these two multifaceted grape varieties, Pinot Noir, at Pinot Palooza on coming Saturday (1st December). First launched in Melbourne back in 2012, Pinot Palooza has since extended to 11 cities in 5 countries with Hong Kong being the latest addition.

You might have read or heard that Pinot Noir is a temperamental grape variety (remember the movie Sideways?) and winemakers can’t help but talk about soil and clones. However, don’t be intimidated by this. Pinot Palooza is all about Pinot Noir and music. Founder Dan Sims likens wine to music, “It’s not meant to be intimidating because like music, wine has so many different artists and genres, countries and labels.” He suggested that we should approach Pinot Palooza as we would a music festival. Spend time at the Main Stage for the classic but also explore the Fringe and Emerging Stages for something new and non-mainstream, and there is also the Dance Tent for fun, easy-going, and in my words, everyday-drinking good quality Pinots.

I am totally with Dan. Wine should be accessible. We can enjoy a glass or two and at the same time learn about it, preferably in a social setting. Pinot Noir maybe temperamental but it is also diverse, attractive, inspiring and fun. Its low tannin makes it particular suitable for Chinese cuisine as tannin often clashes with soy sauce and Chinese herbs. The lighter style Pinot Noir from Burgundy and Adelaide Hills goes well with the lighter Guangdong dishes while the more fruity and structured style from Central Otago and South Africa is perfect with roasted meat and Peking Duck. Martinborough Pinot Noir has a savoury and earthy character that can stand up to heavier dishes.

Get your ticket now and enjoy a day of fun and music, while sipping and exploring everything about Pinot. See you there. 

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Central Otago | Tasmania

The two most southern wine regions in the Pacific known for their Pinot Noirs but there are much more than just Pinot.

Finally I had a chance to visit these two wine regions back to back, and I’m glad to learn that the regions are more diverse than most of us think.

Central Otago is the most inland wine region in New Zealand with semi-continental climate. Although the six sub-regions, Gibbston, Bannockburn, Cromwell, Bendigo, Wanaka and Alexandra, are relatively close to each other, they are separated by mountain ranges therefore have variations in temperature, rainfall and sunshine hours. Simon, vineyard manager at Domaine Thomson, remarked that the different styles of Pinot Noir across the sub-regions in Central Otago is more to do with climatic differences rather than soil.

Central Otago is big on Pinot Noir, but wineries are also mindful not to be stereotyped into a single-varietal region. While most producers are still largely focus on Pinot Noir, they are making various styles —fruity, accessible, age-worthy, estate blend, sub-regional, single vineyard wine — to make sure they don’t fall into the homogenous trap. I am particularly impressed with Valli Vineyard, the only winery that makes four different sub-regional wines including Gibbston, Bannockburn, Bendigo and the new Waitaki sub-region in North Otago. Gibbston is the coolest region and the wine is softer with finer tannin while the warmer Bannockburn region results in more structured wine with intense fruit. Bendigo is the warmest but the vineyard is the highest at 400m altitude and the vines are the youngest. The wine has similar flavour profile as the Bannockburn’s but a leaner structure with more finesse. Waitaki is maritime with less diurnal temperature difference and the resulting wine has vibrant fruit with a hint of earthiness and fine tannin. According to winemaker Jen Parr, the differences in the wine are from the individual sites with measured winemaking to capture what the site wants to express.

No doubt winemaking technique also contributes to the final wine style. Valli swapped some of the Gibbston fruits with Burn Cottage’s Lowburn site in Cromwell. Burn Cottage Valli Gibbston Pinot Noir shares the same floral notes and similar palate weight with Valli Gibbston’s but with an extra touch of spices and a livelier profile. Both wines have years of life ahead. 

Other notable Pinot Noir makers are biodynamic producers Burn Cottage, Domaine Thomson, Felton Road and Rippon; early pioneers Chard Farm and Rockburn (rebranded in 2002), Asia-hand Misha’s Vineyard (check out their website for their Lucky number 8), mighty Mt Difficulty (because they are one of the largest producers in the region and the view from their cellar door is magnificent in a clear day) and husband and wife team Maude Wine. Together, they make nearly 40 Pinot Noirs, each a slightly different shade from the rest. Wooing Tree makes Pinot Noir in all kinds of colour from Blondie (still blanc de noir and the bestseller) to the late harvest Tickled Pink.

And Central Otago is not only about Pinot Noir. Aromatic whites thrive here and nearly all producers who make white has a Pinot Gris. Valli makes a cool Pinot Gris orange wine called The Real McCoy with 21 days on skin and 12-13 months in neutral barrel. Mount Edward is reputable for the Riesling but also makes Grüner Veltliner and Chenin Blanc. Rippon has Ostenier, a cross between Riesling and Sylvaner; a lovely Mature Vine Riesling and a beautiful Gamay only made in good years. Scott Aliprandi from Rockburn Wines experiments with his own Syrah from one of the highest altitude vineyards close to Queenstown. It is nice to see that winemakers are trying out all possibilities. 

Central Otago’s undulating landscapes, rugged mountains, deep gorges and mirrored lakes is a heaven for outdoor sports. Queenstown, the gateway to the region, is lively and bursting with energy. The Winery, a bar-cum-retailer with over 80 NZ wines served in enomatic machines is a good place for comparative tasting. Serious wine lovers may want to spend a few days in Cromwell, the heart of Central Otago for easier wineries visit. Nightlife in Cromwell is pretty much minimal but the nearby Bannockburn Hotel, a regular spot for winemakers, has a serious wine list and serve both NZ and further afield with Coravin. 

The wineries that have representations in Hong Kong are below. Others are looking for importers.

After a quick research, I ventured to Tasmania, or Tassie as the Aussies call it, visiting 14 wineries in six days starting from the south and making my way to the north via the east coast. I had no idea what to expect but trip was as inspiring as all other wine trips.

Tasmania has four wine growing regions pretty much lie in the eastern half of the island: Tamar Valley, Pipers River, East Coast and Coal River Valley. Unlike Central Otago that has semi-continental climate, Tassie’s wine regions are influenced by their proximity to water (either ocean or rivers). At latitude 41º- 42º S, it is 3º- 4º closer to the equator than Central Otago but without the intense summer temperature. I found Tassie’s Pinot Noir, in general, more delicate, more floral and softer than Central Otago’s with a couple of exceptions such as Freycinet (also outstanding sparkling) and Home Hill Kelly’s Reserve (from Huon Valley west of Hobart). However, this doesn’t mean that Tassie’s Pinot Noir is lesser quality. It’s like comparing Volnay with Chambertin. It all depends on the occasion, the food and the company. 

Pinot Noir is up and coming, but Tasmania has already put its mark in the international arena with its sparkling wine made in traditional method with champagne grape varieties. Central Otago can be hot in summer thus pushing the sugar in grapes a little too high for sparkling wine production. In contrast, Tassie does not really have the heat spikes thus allowing grapes to ripen more slowly while still retaining the acidity. In fact, some wineries/labels, all located in Pipers River, are solely making sparkling wines with worldwide acclaim, including Jansz Vineyard, Clover Hill, House of Arras and Pirie, the sparkling wine label developed by Andrew Pirie while he was working at Tamar Ridge, now part of Brown Brothers. 

Andrew Pirie is probably the most respected winemaker in Tasmania, if not Australia. He started Ninth Island in the mid 1970s followed by Pipers Brook. After he left the corporate world, he founded Apogee and continued his research on cool climate wine. It was fascinating to hear his view on the correlation between temperature and humidity (or aridity), that two wine regions may be on the same latitude but produce different wine because of humidity. Based on the climatic index, one can thus use vineyard management technique such as trellising to facilitate grape ripening in cool climate. He restricts his vineyard plot to 2 ha only in order to best manage the site without scarifying quality. He makes 10,000 to 20,000 bottles a year of Vintage Brut and Rosé, which are elegant with finesse, and a small quantity of still wine, Alto Pinot Gris and Alto Pinot Noir. I can easily spend the entire day talking to and learning from him.

Another stand out winery is Pressing Matters in Coal River Valley in the south, founded by retired barrister Greg Melick, hence the name and the label with a thick law book. Vineyard Manager Matt Connaughton told me that Greg tasted a Pinot Noir from next door’s farm some years ago that impressed him so much that he decided to make his own in similar terroir and eventually Pressing Matters’ plot came into the market. For now, there is only one Pinot Noir but there is a range of Riesling from dry to Auslese style. The wine are conveniently named R0, R9, R69 and R139, indicating the level of residual sugar in the wine. The R0 Riesling is more delicate than the Clare’s dry Riesling and the range is more akin to Mosel’s. Matt is enthusiastic and the discussion with him from soil and climate to sustainability and biodynamic practices made the tasting more memorable.

Like Central Otago, Tassie’s aromatic whites including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling suit the conditions but there is also a fair amount of Chardonnay, probably because it is also used for sparkling wine production. Josef Chromy, Freycinet, Devil’s Corner, Pipers Brook all have well-made Chardonnay with and/or without oak. Domaine A in Coal River Valley is one of the handfuls that produce Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot because of its exceptionally warm site, and Pooley Wines, also in Coal River Valley, is experimenting with Syrah that I think certainly has potential.  

I used Hobart and Launceston as bases to explore the wine areas. It was a bit of a drive but there are nothing much in the small towns/villages closer to the wine growing regions. What compensated is that Tassie is also home to crafted gin and whisky. I had a gin tasting at Society Salamanca followed by a nightcap at The Salamanca Whisky Bar in Hobart. I was at Launceston during the Queen’s Birthday long weekend so most eateries were closed, but was super-happy to have discovered Geronimo, an Italian restaurant with a cool wine list and delicious food. The east coast of Tassie is a nature paradise but may be a bit remote for those who only want to visit wineries. However, don’t be put off by it. Devil’s Corner has a great cellar door where two independent operators serve pizzas and seafood (including oyster) in a casual al-fresco setting with a great view of the vineyards and ocean right behind it. It attracts a lot of people in good weather who just want to relax with friends and family with a good bottle of wine. 

Wineries with importers are:

Central Otago and Tasmania share some commonalities but they are also distinctively different. Both are great vocation destinations especially if you like outdoor activities. I did a bit of hiking in both places but hopefully I’ll have chances to revisit again for more adventures and tastings. 

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Made in Bali

Located just south of equator at 8ºS, Bali is known for growing rice and exotic fruits. But wine grapes? Most wine professionals will tell you impossible because it is just too hot. In fact, Bali has been growing table grapes since the beginning of the 20th century and like rice, there are three harvests per year as there is no winter for the vines to be dormant. However, this doesn’t stop some forward-thinkers (or you can say stubborn) to try making wines in this tropical island that attracts tourists from all corners of the world including Jakartans.

Hatten Wines is the pioneer of Balinese wine. The winery was established in 1994 and the vineyards, around 35ha in total and expanding, are located in Singaraja, northeast of Bali where it is the driest. At the beginning, Hatten only made Rosé (still and later a sparkling) from local table grape Alphonse-Lavallée of French origin. Only after the 100th harvest in 2001 then Hatten its portfolio using local grapes including the near extinct Probolinggo Biru, and Belgia in the Muscat family. The portfolio now has seven wines: sparkling made in traditional method (white Tunjung and rosé Jepun), dry Aga white, semi-sweet Alexandria white, semi-sweet Rosé, light Aga Red, and solera-aged fortified wine Pino de Bali.

Sababay Winery, the second oldest Balinese winery, was born in 2010 out of the urge to help local grapegrowers after Mrs Mulyati Gozali visited their farms. Set up in a cooperative framework, about 300 farmers provided local grapes Muscat St Vallier and Alphonse-Lavallée from some 80ha of vineyard in the north to make seven wines: White Velvet from 100% Muscat St Vallier (aka Belgia), Pink Blossom Rosé, reds Black Velvet and Reserve Red, Moscato d’Bali, semi-sweet Ludisia and ruby port style Masscetti. Probably of its close involvement with the farming community, Eva Gozali, daughter and CEO, is super-excited that Sababay has been invited to partner with Wonderful Bali, the tourism body, to promote the island/country.

Isola Wine by Cantine-Balita, an Indonesia-Italy partnership, soon joined the duo in 2012. In addition to Muscat St Vallier and Alphonse-Lavallée, the winery also grows Malvasia Nera and some Syrah.  At the moment, only three wines are made: Isola white (Moscato), Isola Rosé and Isola Red.

Winemakers from all these wineries agree that growing grapes is the most challenging in Bali. James Kalleske, Australian winemaker at Hatten, said the company spent the first 10 years of trial and error to finally come to where it is today. Balinese vineyards use Pergola system, an overhead trellis where grapes are hung below the leaves. The system keeps workers shaded and cool, and at the same time protects the grapes from sunburn and rain. While the white varieties, Probolinggo Biru and Belgia grow reasonably well, the red Alphonse-Lavallée often struggle for phenolic ripeness. Hatten has a 10 ha R&D vineyard where James and researcher Jeremy Pramana
experimented with over 40 varieties in Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP) training and alternating long and short pruning to limit harvest to only once a year. Because of the high vigour, vines develop apical dominance where the distal few buds are most advanced comparing to those near the trunk head. Jeremy bent the cane upward to form an arc that slows down the flow of nutrients/water to the end of the cane enabling the nodes in the middle of the cane to develop properly. Tempranillo is a disaster but James is happy with the progress of Chenin Blanc and Syrah.

Nicolas Delacressonniere, the French winemaker at Sababay, echoed James. To improve grape quality, Sababay limits harvest to twice a year and does not pick in wet season. The farmers are compensated by receiving a higher price per kilogram of grapes. While Alphonse-Lavallée can be made into a delightful rosé, it is not ideal for a world-class red and therefore, like Hatten, Sababay is working with farmers to grow other varieties. Nicolas is tired of the old style thinking and rigid regulations in France that restrict competitiveness of French producers, and love the challenges in Bali as he has freehand to use innovative techniques to improve the wine quality. His motto is, ‘yesterday’s innovation is today’s tradition’.

From the onset, Cantine Balita planted Malvasia Nera to give more colour to Alphonse-Lavallée and to increase fruitiness. Italian winemaker Giacomo Anselmi and assistant Agung Willys, while work closely with farmers to implement strict vineyard practices such as green pruning and restrict harvest to two times per year to improve grape ripening, also plan to experiment with other Italian varieties including Glera, Nero d’Avola and Primitivo to up the quality of wine.

Indonesia has 90% import duty on wine and there are also excise and GST. Considering the fact that average income of Indonesian middle class is around US$250/month, even very basic entry level imported wine, retailed between 360k-400k rupiah (US$25-28) per bottle, is a luxury item for most locals. Holidaymakers also find wine too expensive comparing to their home countries. Balinese wine, at around US$20 per bottle, therefore is an attractive option for them. All these three wineries cited local market is their focus, with the majority of sales come from Bali, Jakarta trailed behind.

When there is a will, there is a way. Round about 2000, producers were determined to make quality wine from only international grapes to compete with imported wine. Instead of planting vines in Bali, they import raw materials from other grape growing countries and process them in Bali. Australian Mitch Hayhow from Cape Discovery explained that on one hand there are surplus grapes in some wine producing countries and on another hand, there are emerging countries that are asking for reasonably priced quality wine. What he does is to bring these two sides together. Cape Discovery imports frozen musts and clarified juice from vineyards in West Australia, the US and New Zealand and make wine on demand. Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition. As a matter of fact, Hatten Wine also has a second label called Two Islands where wines are made from imported Australian juice.
Mitch said that even though he is not making terroir-driven wine, he has people on the ground to make sure the grapes are harvested according to his specifications. His goal is to make good quality wine focus on varietal distinction. Priced between Balinese wine and entry level imported wine, it won universal approval on price to quality ratio from a group of Malaysian wine professionals including importers, sommeliers and educators that I showed the wine to. Cape Discovery wines also won a few medals from international wine competition including

Plaga Wine is another producer taking advantage of the much lower import duty of non-alcohol raw materials to make wine in Bali. Headed by a spanish speaking team including marketer Juan Diaz from Chile, winemakers Plabo Gonzalez from Argentina and Jordi Moreno from Spain, the company imports both grape concentrate and juice from Central Valley in Chile, Sicily in Italy, and La Mancha in Spain with on-the-ground quality control at harvest. Plaga’s primary target is young Indonesian and the retail price is in par with locally grown wine. In the true Latin spirit, their message
is upbeat — to have fun and celebrate anytime, anywhere. Juan showed me the video of the soon-to-be-released Moscato and I have to say it is spot on in engaging his consumers.

There will always be debate about making wine using grapes from third countries. However, grapes are often transported from across regions to the cellars for processing. Transporting musts and juice in frozen state should in theory preserve the quality (and some may even argue preserving terroir). Urban wineries where grapes are sourced often from different countries are sprouting in metropolitan cities such as London, Sydney, Vancouver and Washington’ and we have our own Urban Project in
Hong Kong. If consumers think urban winery is hip, there should be nothing wrong with Cape Discovery, Two Islands and Plaga.

After discussing with the winemakers, observing the local market and trying all the wines, I can only respect  these Balinese wineries and what they are doing. Like other Asian countries, Indonesia has not developed wine culture yet and imported wine is largely beyond the reach of average consumers. However, these should not stop curious locals to taste and enjoy wine without feeling intimidated. Alphonse-Lavallée or Belgia may not be mainstream wine but so be it if Indonesian like them. If wine made from imported raw materials is as good as wine made from
grapes in the same country, why should we challenge it? It’s much better than a lot of products making from synthetic materials. Perhaps the wine industry is lagging behind other industry in terms of creativity and innovation?

Where to buy in Hong Kong:
Hatten Wines: Vines and Terroirs (available at Hotel ICON and The Peninsula)
Sababay Wine: Whole Green Peonies

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Gimblett Gravels/Hawkes Bay revisit

The last time I was in Gimblett Gravels was three years ago in 2015 when I did a harvest at Unison Vineyard. I was only there for three weeks and left after all the grapes were picked. Therefore it was fitting that I went back to Unison during my extended winemaking journey but this time for post harvest work. I arrived two days after the last Cabernet Sauvignon was picked.

There is still plenty to do after grapes are picked, especially for red wine. My work included punching down, pressing, lots of racking, barrel work and blending trials. It was less frantic but still heaps to learn - how long should post fermentation maceration last and when to press; what to look for at blending, effective barrel stirring .... all under the guidance of highly-regarded consultant winemaker Jenny Dobson and owner Philip Horn.

Unison is a boutique winery with just over 40 tons of grapes processed this vintage. Working in a small cellar is totally different from working in a bigger one. It is more relaxed because everything is in a much smaller scale but it also means we have no one to pass the jobs to. More importantly, we need to be much more careful not to make any mistakes that may lead to unnecessary wastage or worst, ruin a batch of wine. After all, a litre of wine means a lot more to a small winery than a big one. We even put leftover samples back in tanks/barrels rather than chucking them down to the drain. I learnt to appreciate and save every single drop of wine.

Gimblett Gravels is a sub-region of Hawkes Bay that lies on the east coast of North Island of New Zealand. As the name implies, the soil is composed on a mixture of stones, gravels and sand. Unlike most vine-growing region, Gimblett Gravels (and in fact most Hawkes Bay) is largely flat but this free-draining gravelly soil enables the region to produce world-class wine. About 90% of vines are red varieties with Merlot leading the pack, followed by Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties. Merlot dominated Bordeaux blend is the jewel of the region but I think their Syrah, with the elegant cool climate pepper character combined with ripe dark fruits aromas, is the star. Depending on producers, Gimblett Gravels Syrah can be fruit-forward and accessible when young or refined, savoury with ageing potential.

Unison’s Syrah is of the latter style. Its current release is 2013 vintage. Philip kindly organised a vertical tasting of his Syrah from 2013 to the just bottled 2016 for me and it was fascinating. The oak regime was slightly different in each year but the wine certainly reflected the climatic condition of the year. 2014 and 2016 were warmer and both wines have good concentration while 2015, being a cooler year, resulted in a  more fragrant and slightly softer wine. I love the 2015 probably because I was there picking and processing the grapes!

Unison also makes a small amount of white wine from sourced grapes. This year there are six barrels of Chardonnay which I fervently stirred every other day, and a small tank of Pinot Gris. Because of different fermentation techniques, the wines have totally different but equally lovely texture. I found that Unison wine tends to be more restrained in general probably because Jenny has lived and made wine in Bordeaux for some 20 years.

Hand crafted wine
Perhaps because Hawkes Bay is not as well-known as Marlborough or Central Otago, winemakers are not pressured to only focus on one style of wine or one grape variety. I visited a few wineries and happy to see creative ideas abound. The most impressed was boutique winery de la terre with only 5.3 ha of vineyards consisted of Viognier, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Montepulciano, Barbera, Tannat with the latest addition being Tempranillo. Owner Tony Prichard spent 30 years making wine for big brand Montana that was eventually bought by Pernod Ricard. He said being a ‘corporate’ winemaker is like being in a trap with golden handcuffs that drains creativity. In late 2000, he made the decision to get away from industrial winemaking, built his own winery with local earth (hence the name de la terre), and since then made wine the way he wants. He said Viognier has a bad reputation of being fat and clumsy therefore he decided to make an elegant, textural Viognier that is not varietal driven. He loves being experimental hence all these non-mainstream varieties and stays away from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. His Grand Reserve Tanat is just superb!

Tony was not the only ‘corporate’ winemaker who started his own label, Warren Gibson of Trinity Hills created Bilancia in 1998 and they were joined by Rod Easthope, formerly chief winemaker at Craggy Range. Rod has two lines, Rod Easthope that is available at Naked Wines in the UK and Easthope Family Winegrowers, the top hand crafted wine that Rod has 100% freedom to do what he desires. The winery for this label is perched above the Ngaruroro River next to the family house and vineyard, a playground of Rod where he does 100% whole bunch fermentation and foot treading in 500kg bins for his red wine; and ferments white wine in concrete eggs and barrels. For those who dismiss Gamay as candied fruit drink in the form of Beaujolais Nouvelle, you have to try Rod’s Gamay Noir. It is elegant with profile not dissimilar to Pinot Noir. Apparently there are only around 6 ha of Gamay in the whole of New Zealand, and Rod has access to nearly half of it. He made his first Chenin Blanc this year in barrel but plans to ferment it in concrete egg next year.

Sacred Hill co-founder winemaker Tony Bish also ventured to start not only his label, Tony Bish Wines which only makes Chardonnay fermented in different vessels, but also The Urban Winery, a wine bar-cum-Tony Bish cellar in the historic National Tobacco Company Art Deco building in Napier. Tony is a big fan of egg. He designs, produces and markets his own version of concrete egg in New Zealand, and is also the first and sole owner of the 2,000l Taransaud wooden egg in New Zealand where he makes his Skeetfield Chardonnay from 14 rows of dry-farmed vines. This wooden egg was enshrined in the cellar and I had the privilege to touch it when I was visiting. Skeetfield is definitely one of the outstanding Chardonnays from Hawkes Bay but the Golden Egg, fermented in Tony’s concrete egg, is also exceptionally.

Last but not least is Jenny Dobson, former winemaker at Te Awa Winery and now consulting to a number of wineries at Hawkes Bay including Unison. She is also one of the few winemakers who made Pinotage and I was lucky to try her 2006 Pinotage three years ago and this time the 1999 vintage (Apparently there were quite a few South African
s in NZ wine industry in early days hence the plantings of Pinotage and Chenin Blanc). Anyway, Jenny is finally starting her own label and I was really excited about it. I stayed with her three years ago and again this time. She and her husband Charles are so knowledgeable that I more than double my learning during my stay in New Zealand. Jenny’s first wine is Fiano and the label has an erupting volcano in the background to emphasise the origin of Fiano. We had a couple of bottles and my conclusion was 4Fs: Fiano-Fruity-Flinty-Finesse. Jenny also has a red wine in barrel but has yet to decide on the final blend.

Because Hawkes Bay is not dominated by one grape variety, winemakers are flexible to play with less common ingredients. Jenny, Rod the two Tonys and Warren, talented and experienced, are handcrafting wines from different varieties in small quantities under their own labels; and this is exactly what makes Hawkes Bay interesting. I hope they can join force, perhaps something like The Douro Boys, to shout out to wine consumers that New Zealand is not as homogenous as we think and certainly there is a lot more tjhan Sauvignon Blanc.

Philip from Unison complained that because there is no direct international flight to Napier, the region is often overlooked. View Hawkes Bay as a hidden gem and make an effort to spend a few days there during your next visit to New Zealand. You won’t be disappointed.