Speeddating New England Wine Style
You would think speed-winedating would end up in a raucous mess. And from the rising crescendo of voices in the room, it would seem that raucous was but a bell away. However, when 20 wine producers from the New England wine region in Northern New South Wales and 19 wine buyers & writers took part in the Boutique Wine event organised by NSW Industry & Investment last month the atmosphere was certainly dynamic but also incredibly intense. The kind of intensity that trying to introduce your winery to people who do not know anything about you or your region while fitting in tasting 2 or 3 wines, all in just 5 minutes. Is it any wonder that after a speedy hour & a half everyone’s head had reached spinning stage?
However, it was a great format as it really did put the pressure on both sides to make sure that the 5 minutes were used well – wineries ensuring that their best 2 or 3, most distinctive wines were put forward & the buyers & media making sure that they had enough information to decide whether to come back to the table later for a longer chat after lunch. It has continued to surprise me just how much information you can actually gather in this mayhem of bells, laughter & slurping.
For instance, the owners of the Thunder Ridge, Peter & Susan Moore, went to the Hunter Valley for Susan’s 40th Birthday and they fell in love with idea that they might be able to grow vines to make their own wines in. Or that Peterson’s were looking to invest in a vineyard in Orange but after discovering that the Dangar’s summer residence was for sale, they just had to come up and see what Armidale had to offer for themselves and decided to invest there instead. There are so many stories in the New England region – stories of intuitive farmers diversifying to enable them or their children to stay on their land, winemakers searching for new adventures & families branching out to stay together are just some. But they are, at the moment, all stories with a family focus as this region is yet to receive the attentions of the large wine producers.
The wines are as diverse as the stories. According to the experts, the cool summer temperatures average around 28 C and it is considered a heat wave if the temperature edges over 30 C. This allows for a cool & long ripening period. The altitudes are also very diverse in this region, one of the newest regions awarded GI status in Australia. With the highest altitude being 1360m, the region is the only one that has both cool & warm climate designation. Another interesting but little, as yet, known fact is that the New England Wine region as has those fabulous terra rossa soils at the highest altitudes in Australia.
The diversity is not limited to the climate or geography either. Some growers such as Toppers Mountain Wines started out planting up to 30 varieties in their small vineyards. Just a row or two of each varietal to see which prove themselves as worthy of future expansion. As yet, there is no real standouts with good results for most varietals being seen around this large region. Although unexpected varietals such as Tempranillo, Verdelho & Barbera seem to be doing well. Pinot Noir can achieve good potential fruit however winemakers are continuing to get their heads around this diva of a grape. Riesling also, although at the moment the best seem to be just lacking a little length. I think that there will be plenty of variety to choose from, particularly once the freshness of the region has been captured (and the oak is toned down!).
This visit was planned as part of the launch of the ‘Discover the NEW’ (New England Wine) initiative. A long awaited push to get this wine region on the radar of wine drinkers & wine travellers as a destination rather than just a place to stop on the way to somewhere else. And so with a snappy new logo, New England Wines entered a new era, one that will mean that you will most certainly see their wines on the shelves of your local fine wine stores and popping up on wine lists in the most discerning restaurants. Well, in some shelves & restaurants…. because by simply increasing the local wine tourism from just 6% to an entirely achievable 10% with a case of wine thrown into the equation, there will be very little wine left for us out of towners.
So, what are the wineries to watch…..
Mihi Creek has a very fresh pea pod Sauvignon Blanc plus a fragrant spicy plum Merlot. Zappa Wines have a fragrant rose & earth Barbera that has great potential amongst their portfolio, one to watch for. Peterson’s, with many years experience in the Hunter & Mudgee, have s wide range of quality wines available including a delicious Botrytis Semillon. Topper Mountain have shown good results with their Tempranillo and are experimenting with a Pinotage Viognier which does pique my interest. Andrew at Woolaway Wines does a lot of work with Verdelho including a Madiera style version that is rich with plenty of nutty hazelnuts, raisins and would be a welcome match for your Christmas Cake this Christmas.
These are just a few of the 42 vineyards from this diverse area and does not do the region justice. I think that you should go and see it for yourself or failing that, if you see one of the planned tastings around – make sure that you get along.
As far as the speed-winedating …. did I come home with something special? You betcha! A sense of the unique & unconventional from the newly discovered.
NOTE: This event was organised by NSW Industry & Investment.