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Exciting future forecast for NZ Gruner

The UK wine trade was told to “watch this space” during a masterclass on New Zealand Grüner Veltliner in London yesterday.

Nine different expressions of the Central European grape variety were shown from Marlborough, Gisborne and Nelson, although there are also plantings in Hawkes Bay and Central Otago.

Speaking of the Grüner grown in New Zealand, Matt Thompson, winemaker at Saint Clair Family Estate said that the grape retains its European characters of tangerine peel and white pepper, although a subsequent tasting highlighted a riper and more overt fruit character for the variety in this new and distant outpost.

Indeed, as previously reported by the drinks business, New Zealand Grüner is like “Austrian Grüner Veltliner with hormones – it is much more aromatic”, according to John Forrest from Marlborough’s Forrest Wines.

He also told db back in late 2010, “Marlborough may have done to Grüner Veltliner what it did to Sauvignon Blanc as much as 30 years ago.”

Meanwhile, during yesterday’s event, held at the New Zealand annual London trade tasting, Thompson pointed out there are now 30 hectares of Grüner planted in New Zealand, 80% of which are found in Marlborough.

The first commercial release of Grüner from New Zealand was in 2008, by Cooper’s Creek in Gisborne, using clones 4/15 and 4/153 obtained in 2005 from New Zealand’s Riversun Nursery.

Thompson explained that the grape performed best, like Sauvignon Blanc, where there were sufficeint supplies of water and nutrients.

“We conducted extensive research before planting and what consistently came through from the Austrians was that Grüner needed reasonable vigour because it is a nutrient and water hungry variety, like Sauvignon Blanc.

He also said there was a climatic overlap with Austria in Marlborough.

However, Yealands Estate winemaker Tamra Washington warned that New Zealand Grüner yields must be controlled and ripeness levels closely monitored.

“You must pay attention to minimising crops,” she said, recording 400 gram bunches, and stressed that there was “a small sweet spot in terms of ripeness: if you pick from 22.5 to 24 Brix you get lovely ripe styles, but below 22.5 and it can be green, while above 24 and it can show alcohol, which, with the grape’s spicy character, can bring a hotness.”

Meanwhile, Thompson emphasised a few winemaking issues for Grüner.

“The problem I found were sulphides and disulphides, giving unattractive cheesy aromas, so maintaining a clean ferment is key with Grüner, but with high vigour soil types and high nitrogen juices, you get cleaner ferments.”

He also pointed out the need to treat the grapes carefully to avoid extracing phenolics from Grüner’s thick skins, as well as advocating a reasonably dense leaf canopy to avoid intense sunlight reaching the grapes, which will thicken the skins further.

On the other hand, this character, he said, means Grüner isn’t prone to rot. “I haven’t seen one botrytised berry,” he said.

As for the marketing of the grape, Thompson expressed excitement: “Grüner is not hard to say, and much easier to say than Gewürztraminer”.

He also said Austria was excited at New Zealand’s growing interest and plantings of the grape.

“Willi Klinger, from the Austrian Wine Marketing Board is pleased we are growing the grape as he believes Marlborough Grüner Veltliner will encourage people to look at Austrian Grüners.”

Nevertheless, Thompson admitted, “Most of the vines [in New Zealand] are first cropping and we are experimenting, and having fun.

“We are nowhere near defining our style yet, we are learning, but we are excited about the potential.”

Meanwhile, Washington, said, concluding the masterclass, “Watch this space for Grüner in New Zealand.”

The wines at the tasting, in the order they were poured, were:

1. The Paddler Grüner Veltliner, 2010, Marlborough

2. Forrest The Doctors’ Grüner Veltliner, 2010, Marlborough

3. Coopers Creek SV The Groover Grüner Veltliner, 2010, Gisborne

4. Seifried Grüner Veltliner, 2011, Nelson

5. Nautilus Estate Grüner Veltliner, 2011, Marlborough

6. Hans Herzog Grüner Veltliner, 2011, Marlborough

7. Yealands Grüner Veltliner, 2011, Marlborough

8. Jules Taylor Grüner Veltliner, 2011, Marlborough

9. Saint Clair Pioneer Block 5 Grüner Veltliner, 2011, Marlborough

(All the wines were sealed using screwcap apart from Hans Herzog’s which was closed with cork)

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