This week I'll be looking at a series of wines from Australia and New Zealand. 10 wines from a few different regions, tasted on their own, with food, and with a handful of friends. There were several things I liked about these wines as a group:
1) All were enclosed with screwcaps. Not only does this make it easier for your friendly neighborhood wineblogger to evaluate ten in a row, but these are all casual, drink-now wines in the $20-30 range that aren't intended for long term cellaring.
2) All were balanced alcohol-wise, 12-14.5% abv. Even those on the higher end were not hot or overpowering; no 16% monsters here.
3) All but one had fairly traditional labels; while some featured animals, it was not done in the "line of koalas dancing the Macarena" style. I'm happy with all sorts of label design, but since so many Australia/New Zealand wines went with goofy labels to distinguish themselves from the other wines in the market, you're now seeing more "serious" labels emerging to differentiate themselves from the surrounding kangaroos and penguins. For instance, while I enjoyed the Ass Kisser Shiraz a few months ago, there's no way I'd serve that at a wedding reception or business dinner. There's a time and place for everything.
To begin with, we'll start with the two from New Zealand.
Maude wines are made on the southern end of the South Island of New Zealand, a region called Otago. I tasted both of the wines made by this small family operation, and was impressed with both.
2008 Maude Pinot Gris, 14% abv.
Medium sweet, full-bodied. Don't think about the light European versions, this Pinot Gris has firm, fruit-forward flavors of peach and apricot. I would recommend this with a good roast chicken with lots of rosemary.
2008 Maude Pinot Noir, 13.5% abv.
Classic strawberry aromas, but with a touch of spice underneath. The body and feel of this wine was most impressive: light and smooth, mild but not weak, and wonderful for slow, methodical sipping. This was a huge hit among the various tasters I'd assembled, some of whom hadn't had a proper New Zealand Pinot Noir before. Highly recommended. This one is so nice that it seems a shame to pair it with food, but I'd suggest grilled salmon and soft white cheeses like brie. That's not to say that it doesn't go well with food; just some wines are so wonderfully delicious on their own you don't want them to have to share the spotlight.
In accordance with the new regulations imposed by the Federal Trade Commission, I publicly disclose that these wines were received as samples from The Country Vintner. No additional gifts or compensation were provided.