John Ducker writes:-

Make no mistake, your writer has not gone off the boil in suggesting a wine choice which from its production history could be accused of being arguably less individual than the usual candidates for this column and therefore less worthwhile. Far from it.

Paikea the whale rider

‘Paikea’ East Coast Pinot Grigio 2017 from New Zealand is in the frame for discussion, newly available from Waitrose.

There’s more behind this Kiwi wine than first sight and taste indicates. The overall producers run under the name Indevin, revealing a New Zealand holding company leasing vineyards on long-term and well-supported bases to winemakers across from Marlborough to Hawke’s Bay and, in this particular case, Gisborne on the east coast of North Island, the plus point being that ‘sustainable viticulture’ principles are applied to each grower’s separate block/s. The holding company therefore represents a big family of individual winemakers working to high aspirational standards across all the viticultural areas concerned.

So what is ‘sustainable viticulture’ – and should we care? The principle is enshrined in a lengthy document admittedly, and with the highest aspirational goals, nonetheless it is heartening to read the website ‘Sustainable Winegrowing in New Zealand’ which lists the required applied standards in the fullest detail. The principle of sustainable viticulture goes far beyond ethical controls of weeds and vineyard diseases and air and water pollution issues. It embraces important local targets including the preservation of natural habitats for beneficial insects and wildlife in general, let alone efficient energy conservation in winemaking processes from soil care and vine planting/spacing etc.- even through to the design of wineries themselves. The original principle of sustainable viticulture was first applied in 1997, with official certification being issued from 2002 onwards.

‘Paikea’ , the bottle label tells me, is the Maori word for the hump-backed whale which is native to the local waters – and there’s a picture in gold of one such animal on the face of the bottle label. (Ok, I’m struggling to find the image’s linkage to wine, but fortunately it is no matter as the bottle contents speak ably for themselves. ) To describe this wine simply as ‘white, dry, fruity and completely assured’ is far too simple. There’s a spicy subtlety beneath the flavour complex overall, the wine having a good balance between depth of fruit and acidity. There’s perspective behind the initial taste, too, the wine being what I call ‘a good mouthful’. Additionally the wine has quite a long satisfying finish, suggesting it perhaps as an aperitif/food accompaniment each-way bet. An image of Hump-backed whales aside, lighter foodstuffs from shellfish through to well-flavoured poultry dishes would be ably serviced by this glassful from Gisborne.

It is interesting to note the bottle label’s adoption of the Italian-named version of the grape ‘pinot grigio’ – the classic ‘pinot gris’ of France, yet I find it has very little in common with the taste of some of the rather anodyne squeaky-clean versions that frequently turn up in parts of the Veneto and elsewhere in northern Italy. Sultry fruitiness and fleeting spicy undertones apart, this particular NZ example reveals both a bit of body and depth about it. This Kiwi example of Pinot Grigio is what it is – and, let’s face it, New Zealand wines are never shy of being uniquely characterful.

Finally, the romantic factor I’ve held until the end: this, my choice for September, has been imported to the UK in bulk to be bottled here at a plant in County Durham at a location masked only by a dumb postcode. Given this appealing stage in its journey ultimately to the supermarket shelf, how can you wait to taste this delicious wine for yourself?

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN New Zealand (Gisborne)
NAME OF WINE ‘Paikea’ East Coast Pinot Grigio 2017
STYLE Dry lightly spiced full-bodied white
ALCOHOL 12.5% Vol.
RETAILER Waitrose and Partners
PRICE £8.99