Sommelier Wine Awards 2009: New World

Riesling, Gewurztraminer & Pinot Gris

A smallish but dynamic section, our sommeliers found some really good, food-friendly wines here at prices that make them all well worth a look

More and more New World producers are starting to look at Riesling. If Chardonnay and Sauvignon are the cash cows, then it’s the white grape that gives their portfolio a bit of credibility. Oddly, all of the Rieslings this year were from New Zealand and Australia, and before the corks were even pulled (or, more appropriately, the screwcaps broken) the tasters had to wrestle with the question of style.

‘Were we looking for New World Riesling that said, very prominently, “New World Riesling”, or were we going to bear in mind the Old World, Germanic style?’ mused team leader Andrew Catchpole. ‘The ones that were Germanic were very, very good,’ said Mike Harrison. ‘Excellent wines with some residual sugar.’

In the end, the tasters found two Gold List wines with which they were very happy: the Stonehaven, that was felt to have real potential for Riesling virgins, and the Watervale, that delivered an awful lot of poise and elegance for the money, and that came within a whisker of picking up a By the Glass award with the Thai green curry.

It’s perhaps not a big surprise that there were plenty of Pinot Gris sent in (from a lot more countries than Riesling, as well). But, given the general lack of enthusiasm for Pinot Grigio among sommeliers, what definitely was a surprise was how much the tasters enjoyed them. Two Gold Listed wines and three on the Shortlist is a heck of a return for a minority category. And even though there were one or two grumbles about the upper price levels, this was a section that delivered pretty good value for money, and even supplied a By The Glass winner in the A to Z from Oregon.

The Gewürz entry was, as always, pretty small. But again the tasters were pleasantly surprised by what they found. The slightly lighter, fresher style of New World Gewürz plays well with sommeliers, and that was the case again here, with Cono Sur continuing its excellent showing this year with a Gold List and a By The Glass award for its superlatively priced Maiden Flight.

‘These are certainly useful food wines with something spicy,’ said Samuel Walker of Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms.

Indeed, overall, this small section of Alsace/Germanic aromatic varietals showed that the New World’s winemakers are starting to get the hang of balancing fruit and freshness in a most food-friendly way.

The quality of the Rieslings was high, but we had to kick out wines that were good, but where price was a factor. Stephen Nisbet, L’Ortolan

The Rieslings have freshness and minerality, and would be a good by-the-glass offering. Alvaro Marcos Garcia, Theo Randall

I was pleased with the Pinot Gris flight. One or two were a bit hot, but most had that nice oily texture you’d be looking for. Will Buckland, Planet of the Grapes


Maiden Flight Gewurztraminer 2007, Cono Sur Vineyards & Winery, Casablanca, Chile
£4.90 @ Concha Y Toro

Some floral complexity here, with reasonably pronounced tropical fruit and lychee nose. Decent finesse and persistence for the money. Well balanced and long of finish, this really overdelivers.

Morande Pinot Grigio 2008, Casablanca, Chile
£6.50 @ Bottle Green

Big banana and apple flavours are balanced by a necessarily brisk acidity. Fruity, floral complex and exotic. ‘Vibrant,’ said Geoffroy Laville. ‘Elegant,’ countered Andrea Briccarello. ‘Gold List’ decided the judges...

A To Z Pinot Gris 2006, Dundee, Oregon, USA
£8.92 @ Bibendum Wine Ltd

‘Real richness here,’ said an approving Caspar Auchterlonie of this perfumed little number. Pears, apples and lemon combine with a flinty minerality, rich peachiness and crisp acidity.

Watervale Riesling 2008, Mount Horrocks, Clare Valley, Australia
£9.77 @ Liberty Wines

Lightish, pretty wine – minerals and white petals with a bright, leafy kaffir lime finish. Almost European rather than New World in style. ‘Complex, elegant and good fun,’ said Stephen Nisbet


Santa Florentina Fairtrade Pinot Gris 2008, La Riojana, Famatina Valley, La Rioja, Argentina
£5.63 @ Corney & Barrow Ltd

A lot going on here for the price. Rich fruit salad of mango, pineapple and orange blossom. ‘Quite lively in the mouth, with a good fresh finish,’ said Sarah Guignard.

Marlborough Pinot Gris 2008, Tinpot Hut, Marlborough, New Zealand
£7.07 @ Liberty Wines

Fresh, clean melon and apricot flavours, with a white pepper base. Alcohol level means this needs to be kept cool.

Delheim Gewurztraminer 2008, Delheim, Simonsberg, Stellenbosch, South Africa
£8.30 @ Jackson Nugent Vintners Ltd

Very subtle Gewürztraminer. Chewy and softly perfumed, with a touch of oil. Deep richness, full crisp acidity and a lingering finish. ‘Great with belly pork and chilli squid,’ said Roger Jones.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Seddon Pinot Gris 2007, Marlborough, New Zealand
£9.85 @ Hatch Mansfield

Lively and fresh, with plenty of minerally citrus characters behind a stone fruit attack. ‘Smooth and honeyed, with a long, warm finish,’ said Louise Gordon.

Editorial feature from the Sommelier Wine Awards 2009.

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