Sick of same old white wines? Try these different varietals

by Michael Cooper / 06 April, 2018

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For adventurous drinkers, there are many appealing white wines other than sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot gris and riesling.

For casual drinkers of this country’s white wine, it would be easy to think we grow just four grape varieties: sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot gris and riesling. Together, they account for more than 97% of our white-wine plantings.

Probe a little deeper, however, and you’ll find intriguing examples of many other varietal white wines, such as albariño (native to Spain and Portugal), gewürztraminer (France and Germany), grüner veltliner (Austria), verdelho (Portugal), and chenin blanc, pinot blanc, roussanne and viognier (France).

Be adventurous. The wines featured here are full of personality. If gewürztraminer looks like a nightmare to pronounce, just say “ge-vurtz”.

Albariño

Forrest Marlborough Albariño 2016 ••••½

Delicious now, but age-worthy, too, this is an attractively scented, full-bodied (13% alc/vol) wine. It has lively, ripe-fruit flavours, which show good intensity, a slightly salty streak and a crisp, dry, persistent finish. $25

Nautilus Marlborough Albariño 2017 •••••

Full of youthful impact, this is a fresh, aromatic, single-vineyard wine. Mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), it is sweet-fruited and dry, with a strong surge of peachy, citrusy, spicy flavours, a distinctive salty note and a resounding finish. $30

Neudorf Moutere Albariño 2016 •••••

This classy, punchy wine was estate-grown at Upper Moutere. Full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), vibrant, concentrated and tangy, it has deep, citrusy, slightly limey and spicy flavours, a hint of saltiness and a dryish, appetisingly crisp, lasting finish. $33

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Braided Gravels Hawke’s Bay Albariño 2016 •••••

This stylish wine was mostly handled in tanks, but 25% was fermented in French oak puncheons. A powerful, fresh, full-bodied wine (13.5% alc/vol), it is fully dry, with vibrant flavours, showing excellent intensity, complexity and length. $32

Nautilus Marlborough Albariño 2017, Villa Maria Single Vineyard Braided Gravels Hawke’s Bay Albariño 2016, and Astrolabe Vineyards Wrekin Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2015.

Chenin blanc

Astrolabe Vineyards Wrekin Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2015 •••••

Offering great value, this classy Marlborough wine is a fully dry style, with a real sense of youthful vigour. Mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with vibrant fruit flavours, suggestive of grapefruit and lime, it has excellent delicacy, complexity and length. $25

Margrain Old Vine Martinborough Chenin Blanc 2016 •••••

A striking wine that comes from 35-year-old vines. Highly scented, it is medium-bodied (12% alc/vol), with gentle sweetness, appetising acidity and rich, vibrant, lemony, appley flavours, showing lovely purity, delicacy and intensity. $65

Gewürztraminer

Johanneshof Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2016 •••••

Exotically perfumed, this is a sturdy (14% alc/vol), fleshy, medium-dry style with concentrated, peachy, gently spicy flavours, good complexity, a slightly oily texture and a soft, lasting finish. $30

Lawson’s Dry Hills Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2016 •••••

Benchmark stuff. Weighty (14% alc/vol) and well-rounded, it has generous, youthful peach, pear, lychee and spice flavours, and a rich, slightly sweet, harmonious finish. It’s already delicious. $25

Pegasus Bay Gewürztraminer 2016 •••••

Grown at Waipara, this outstanding wine is beautifully perfumed. Sturdy (14.5% alc/vol), it has rich, well-spiced flavours, gentle sweetness, and unusual complexity and harmony. $30

Lawson’s Dry Hills Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2016, Spy Valley Envoy Johnson Vineyard Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2016, and Mount Edward Central Otago Grüner Veltliner 2016.

Seifried Nelson Gewürztraminer 2017 ••••

Already enjoyable, this medium to full-bodied wine (12.5% alc/vol) is perfumed, with strong fresh pear, lychee and spice flavours, gentle sweetness and a smooth, harmonious finish. $18

Spy Valley Envoy Johnson Vineyard Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2016 •••••

This late-harvested beauty has a powerful presence. Medium-bodied (12% alc/vol), it has lush, highly concentrated stone-fruit, peach and ginger flavours, abundant sweetness and a harmonious, softly seductive finish. $32

Grüner veltliner

Babich Family Estates Headwaters Marlborough Grüner Veltliner 2016 ••••

Drinking well now, this is an invitingly fragrant, dry wine. Medium-bodied (12% alc/vol), it has vibrant, peachy flavours, hints of ginger, herbs and spices, and a well-rounded finish. Certified organic. $27

Jules Taylor Marlborough Grüner Veltliner 2016 ••••½

Fermented in tanks and old French oak casks, this fragrant, mouthfilling wine (13% alc/vol) is vibrant, with strong, peachy, citrusy, spicy flavours, showing a touch of complexity, and a dry, slightly minerally finish. $22

Lime Rock Grüner Veltliner 2016 •••••

Full of personality, this wine was grown in Central Hawke’s Bay and made in a dry style. Enticingly fragrant, it is full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), with fresh, vigorous, penetrating flavours, peachy and slightly spicy, and packed with youthful charm. $28

Mount Edward Central Otago Grüner Veltliner 2016 •••••

Certified organic, this intensely aromatic wine was grown in the Cromwell Basin. It is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with intense, vibrant, peachy, citrusy, spicy flavours, deep, dryish and finely balanced. Drink now or cellar. $29

Pinot blanc

Kaimira Estate Brightwater Nelson Pinot Blanc 2016 ••••

Partly oak-aged, this is a weighty (14% alc/vol), fleshy wine, with strong, youthful, peachy flavours that show considerable complexity, a slightly creamy texture and a harmonious, fully dry finish. Certified organic. $25

Tohu Single Vineyard Marlborough Pinot Blanc 2016 ••••

Built to last, this barrel-fermented wine has a fresh, citrusy, slightly spicy and creamy bouquet. Full-bodied (13% alc/vol), it offers good concentration of grapefruit, apple and nut flavours, and is dry and smooth. $25

Kaimira Estate Brightwater Nelson Pinot Blanc 2016, Tohu Single Vineyard Marlborough Pinot Blanc 2016, and Te Kano Central Otago Blanc de Noir 2017.

Roussanne

Mahurangi River Winery Roussanne/Viognier 2015 ••••½

Estate-grown north of Auckland, this is a blend of classic Rhône Valley grapes. A powerful young wine, it is sturdy (14% alc/vol), with deep, ripe, peachy, slightly spicy flavours, good complexity and a lingering finish. $34

Verdelho

Summerhouse Marlborough Verdelho 2016 ••••

Offering fine value, this barrel-fermented wine is weighty (14% alc/vol) and vibrant, with fresh, ripe, tropical-fruit flavours to the fore, a gentle seasoning of oak adding complexity, and a dry, lengthy finish. $19

Viognier

Clos de Ste Anne Les Arbres Viognier 2015 •••••

Certified biodynamic, this Gisborne wine was hill-grown by Millton and barrel-fermented. Instantly seductive, it is weighty (14% alc/vol), rich, sweet-fruited and soft, with generous, peachy flavours, a creamy texture and a dry, lasting finish. $60

Hans Herzog Marlborough Viognier 2015 •••••

From mature vines, this barrel-fermented wine is certified organic. Mouthfilling (14% alc/vol) and dry, it is fleshy and well-rounded, with concentrated, citrusy, peachy, slightly spicy flavours, good complexity and a smooth finish. Delicious now. $44

Leveret Estate Hawke’s Bay Viognier 2015 ••••½

Priced sharply, this floral, barrel-fermented wine is deliciously fleshy, sweet-fruited and smooth, with substantial body (14% alc/vol), vibrant, peachy flavours, a subtle oak influence and a dry, harmonious finish. $23

Others

Bellbird Spring Sous Voile NV •••••

This rarity echoes wines from Jura, France. Made from Waipara pinot gris, it was fermented dry and matured for four years in old oak barriques under a layer of yeast. Light gold, it is an unfortified wine (although 15.5 alc/vol), with substantial body and strong, dry, peachy, yeasty, nutty flavours. $40 (500ml)

Sileni Estate Selection Alba 2016 ••••

How’s this for an unusual blend? Pinot gris, sauvignon blanc, albariño, muscat and chardonnay were grown in Hawke’s Bay and barrel-aged to produce an aromatic, weighty (13% alc/vol) dry wine, with an array of peach, pear, citrus and spice flavours showing excellent complexity and depth. $33

Te Kano Central Otago Blanc de Noir 2017 ••••

Invitingly fragrant, this white wine is from pinot noir grapes grown at Bannockburn. Skilfully crafted, it is pale and full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), with generous, ripe, peachy, slightly spicy flavours, dry and well-rounded. $27

This article was first published in the March 17, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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