Tag Archives: New Zealand wine

Wine review: Spy Valley Riesling 2011

One of the themes on the blog for the past couple of weeks has been value — does a wine offer more to the consumer than it costs? In this, value is not about price, because not all cheap wine delivers value. Sometimes, it’s just cheap.

It’s also worth noting that a wine doesn’t have to be cheap to offer value. Yes, it’s more difficult for an expensive wine to do this, given that too many expensive wines are expensive because their reason for being is to be expensive. But it is certainly possible, and it happens more often than I acknowledge here.

One producer who consistently does this is New Zealand’s Spy Valley, which as been making $15 and $20 wines that taste like they cost much more for as long as I have been writing about wine. I had one of those sublime, geeky wine experiences with the sauvignon blanc last year, and it’s not even my favorite Spy Valley wine.

That would be the riesling ($18, purchased, 12.5%), which is as enjoyable as it is difficult to find. I only see it in Dallas every couple of years, given the vagaries of the three-tier system, so when I do see it, I buy it, even if it’s a previous vintage. The producer is good enough so that doesn’t matter.

The 2011 didn’t let me down. It’s not riesling like most consumers know it — no sweet tea-like sugar or fruit flavors that taste like they came out of a can. Instead, it’s a dry riesling, complex with layers of flavor that range from petrol on the nose (a classic riesling characteristic) to citrus and tropical in the front and middle. It’s still fresh and almost aggressive after almost two years in bottle, which is a sign that it’s only going to get better with age.

Serve this to someone who doesn’t think they like riesling, and see if they change their mind. Highly recommended, and well worth the money.

Wine of the week: Thorny Rose Sauvignon Blanc 2011

ss_tr_img_bottle-sauvblancNew Zealand sauvignon blancs were all the rage in the couple of years before I started the blog. One of them, Cloudy Bay, even got big scores from the Winestream Media, something that almost never happens to sauvignon blancs.

Since then, they’ve mostly faded into the store shelf and have become just another wine to buy. I’m not quite sure why; the fickle consumer, perhaps, who moved on to something else?

So I was surprised to see the Thorny Rose ($9, purchased, 13.5%), apparently a new label from Big Wine’s Constellation Brands. Who is doing new sauvignon blancs these days?

Be glad they’re doing this one. I expected another tepid grocery store New Zealand sauvignon blanc, with lots of sort of grapefruity fruit and not much else. Instead, I tasted lots of real grapefruit, as well as a tiny bit of tropical fruit in the middle and even an attempt at a finish. This is not a one-flavor wine by any means. (Though, if you click on the link to the wine, be warned: The copy reads as if it was written by someone my age trying to appeal to someone in their 20s.)

Serve it chilled with roast or grilled chicken or boiled or grilled seafood, and don’t forget how much sauvignon blanc likes garlic and parsley.

Wine of the week: Brancott Sauvingon Blanc Reserve 2011

Brancott Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2011This was not the scheduled wine of the week, but since I’m still waiting, weeks later, for a distributor to call me back about a Gascon wine I want to do, I had to shift the schedule around.

I mention this not to damn the Brancott with faint praise, because it deserves better than that. Rather, it’s to note (again, sadly) how lazy distributors are and to point out that we shouldn’t force ourselves to stick to some sort of wine drinking schedule. Which even I find myself doing sometimes. Drink what you like, but be willing to try all sorts of things.

The Brancott ($10, purchased) is a mostly one-dimensional New Zealand sauvignon blanc, but that's not a bad thing for a grocery store wine at this price — especially since so many others aren't even that. Right, Monkey Bay? There is grapefruit, and it does dominate, which is to be expected. But it’s not overdone, and there is also some ripe tropical fruit in the middle, just 12 1/2 percent alcohol, and a clean, fresh approach. All in all, a very pleasant surprise.

Drink this chilled on its own, or with grilled vegetables, small plate salads, and even something like hummus. And be glad that I was forced to take a different path.

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