Wines of the week, from New Zealand

A couple of pleasant surprises last week—delicious white wines from New Zealand that weren’t Sauvignon Blanc. The first was the real surprise: full and peaches-and-creamy 2008 Chardonnay from Clos de Ste. Anne, “Naboth’s Vineyard,” near Gisborne; the forthright fruit was nicely buttressed by a fresh, persistent zip of balancing acidity. It wasn’t surprising to discover that the grapes were dry-farmed, grown on their own roots (biodynamically, actually), hand-harvested and bunch-pressed. Old-fashioned, indeed; the back label mentioned “luminosity,” and for once, that wasn’t typical back-label hyperbole.
       The other taste of serendipity was Greywacke 2009 Pinot Gris, from a single vineyard in Marlborough, the northernmost region of the South Island. Winemaker Kevin Judd is a talented perfectionist, and it shines through in all his wines (even his Sauvignon Blanc, all gooseberry and no cat pee). The wine is more in the style of the best of Friuli, well-rounded but still bracing, autumnal and savory, like baked apples with citrus zest. Half the juice was fermented in stainless steel, the other half spontaneously fermented in old oak casks, then both were left on the lees for a while before blending. There’s some more technical stuff involved, but the main thing is, it all added to the wine’s vibrant character. Considerably.

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