For too long Paul Mooney, the winemaker at Mission Estate, hid his light under a bushel, a barrel, whatever. Thanks to the rebirth of what is New Zealand's oldest winery it now shines brightly -- as it should for the man who in 1983 fermented a couple of barrels of chardonnay in oak, a full 12 months before John Hancock (then at Delegat) got the credit for being the first winemaker in New Zealand to do so. To celebrate the occasion, 30 years later, in 2013 produced a super-premium barrel-fermented chardonnay and named it for Brother Huchet, the Mission's first winemaker. It is now the flagship of a very smart chardonnay fleet.
The best of the five now produced:
The best of the five now produced:
Alcohol levels a matter of taste and fashion
Let’s not confuse the results of a new study suggesting that most people think lower alcohol wines taste better with the New Zealand wine industry spending millions of dollars to encourage the development of lower alcohol, so-called “lifestyle”wines.
This was a purely commercial decision aimed at making a buck out of a growing international market for wines weighing in at less than 10.5 percent alcohol, a fad driven mostly by health and image - conscious trendies.
The new study is about real wines, if I might put it that way; about higher alcohol (14-15 percent), bold- flavoured wines like those which have traditionally been produced in California and Australia (and to a lesser degree in this country) being less palateable than those with lower (12-13 percent) levels of alcohol from France, from Spain and elsewhere in the Old World.
The study was carried out in Spain, which comes as no surprise.
But the methodology does.
Instead of inviting a panel of experts to swirl, sniff, slurp and spit wines from either side of the alcohol divide, neuroscientists plied participants with red wines of various strengths then scanned their brains with an MRI machine.
The result: When people drank the lower alcohol red wine, there was increased brain activity in the “taste processing” areas, including the insula and cerebellum, than when a wine with a higher alcohol content was consumed.
Or, in neurological study-speak: “The low-alcohol content wines induced a greater attentional orienting and exploration of the sensory attributes of wines relatively to high-alcohol content wines.”
The conclusion, in simple terms: Most people prefer/think wine with a lower alcohol content tastes better because the flavours are not masked by the alcohol.
Either way, it is a problem recognised several years ago by New Zealand winegrowers who, like others producing 14-15 percent wines, have and still are working to reduce alcohol to more moderate and acceptable levels.
However, the method of doing so bears little or no relation to the type or degree of manipulation being used to produce many of the skinny, or lifestyle wines.
And all this in the name of fashion, which has, thank God, a fortunate habit of changing.
But not just yet in this case. The market is being bombarded with low alcohol wines, few of which (rieslings are an exception) hold much appeal for me or, I assume, for others who drink wine for the pleasure of doing so, not because they are dedicated followers of fashion.
News in brief
Two low-histamine red wines are now available from Italian winemaker Veglio Michelino e Figlio, which claims these bottles can reduce some people’s alcohol allergies. The wines are made in stainless steel instead of wood.
An Australian doctor of psychology has come up with 10 simple steps which he claims can set you on the road to becoming a wine expert in just four hours. Dr Alex Russell says that after seven years study he's convinced there's "a knack to it."
Diageo, the drinks giant, is to provide nutritional information, including calories per typical serving, for all of its products, including wine – a first for any alcohol company. It has already gained regulatory approval in the US