The wine buff: New Zealand greats
Ben Glover is a bit of a winemaking rock star. He was in Dublin recently and was quick to mention that the last time I met him, he was wearing a toga. I wasn't, I might add. Not everyone can pull off the look of a modern-day Bacchus. It was at the gala dinner at Brancott Estate in Marlborough as part of a Sauvignon Blanc conference held in New Zealand earlier this year. The dress code was white, so hundreds of people dressed in white in the evening sunshine and it was quite spectacular.
With a sizeable number of interesting bottles of Sauvignon Blanc which had been brought to the event by winemakers doing the rounds, it was fun and interesting. But as I've mentioned before, what surprised me most when I was in Marlborough was the sheer range of different Sauvignon Blanc styles.
Ben is the winemaker behind Zephyr, a top-end Sauvignon Blanc that is not available in Ireland yet, although I'm hoping that someone might bring it in. But he has also released a new duo of wines with his name, Mr Glover, in large black letters across the white label. The white has recently landed in Tesco, and as it is on offer at the moment, I have included it in today's line-up.
A few days later, when I travelled to Wairarapa on the North Island, I found myself sitting beside Paddy Borthwick at lunch. He is one of the renowned Pinot Noir wine- makers in the region, and like many of them, he loves the opportunity to be a bit experimental. He has a project called Left Hand and Right Hand, which he has been doing since 2011, where he goes head to head with one of his winemakers, Braden Crosby.
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Both winemakers take the same amount of Pinot Noir grapes from the same plot and have complete autonomy to make the wine they want. He says it's like two chefs having the same ingredients, but making completely different dishes.
"When we do tastings, we put the two bottles up, so it's 'what one do you like, left or right?'"Ben says. "Whatever you choose, you've made the right choice.
"Braden likes more oak and more acidity. He loves that brambly character, and red, tangy fruit. For me it has that earthiness of Pinot Noir.
"So what we see is that young people will go for the left hand, and people with big burgundy cellars will go for the right. When you give it to wine writers, some will like the left and some will like the right. At award shows, it's the same. You'd think two winemakers should make the same wine, but they don't."
There is a tiny allocation of these wines, and sometimes Wines Direct get their hands on a few bottles.
But they do stock the other Borthwick wines year round, which are well worth checking out. As well as Pinot Noir, Ben makes excellent Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling.
Wine Week at Kelly's Resort in Rosslare, Co Wexford, kicks off on Monday with Christine Dubreuil of Domaine Fontaine Pere et Fils in Burgundy holding tastings of her wine. There's a wine dinner on Wednesday as well as a tour of Bordeaux with the Sichel family on Wednesday and Thursday, featuring top wines from the region, along with their own wines -Château Argadens, Château Trillol and their renowned Château Angludet. www.kellys.ie
Mr Glover Sauvignon Blanc
€10 reduced from €15, 13pc, from Tesco
Newly launched, this is a really nicely made Sauvignon Blanc. It has the vibrancy and zippiness you expect from Marlborough, but also a certain amount of restraint, and the mineral line running through gives it a lovely structure.
Paddy Borthwick 'Paper Road'
€16.45, 13.5pc, from Wines Direct at Arnotts & Mullingar and winesdirect.ie
Bright and delicious, this Pinot Noir from the Wairarapa region is all about purity and rich washes of generous fruit, with flavours of crushed strawberries and a hint of spice.
Lot Series Redwood Hills Single-Vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
€8.99, 13pc, from Aldi
From the Awatere region of Marlborough, this has the typical New Zealand aromas of green grass and lime, with a touch of passion fruit. Great with a goats cheese salad or asparagus.