Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

A taste of home sweet home in a wine barrel

Lance Redgwell of Cambridge Road Wines.
Lance Redgwell of Cambridge Road Wines.

Wild plums, dark cherries, a scent of pine and a hint of ... kahikatea?

Lance Redgwell admits it's still a pipe dream, but the Martinborough winery he manages could some day be producing vintages with a subtle, barrel-borne taste of native New Zealand timber.

"We are looking at kahikatea, kauri, totara - maybe even matai," said Mr Redgwell, whose winery Cambridge Road will be showcased among 21 other vineyards at the New Zealand Boutique Wine Festival in downtown Auckland tomorrow.

While the French oak barrels widely used in New Zealand's wine industry brought out a range of colourful spices and tannins, these generally had little to do with the natural flavours of New Zealand, he said.

"With the fruit we grow, we do everything we can through artisan growing techniques to display the tastes of our place - the hallmark of great wine is that it should reflect its terroir."

Cambridge Road is the only winery in the country that produces ceramic-aged wine, using a specially made, egg-shaped vessel that lets the wine slowly interact with the oxygen around it, while retaining the flavours of its small home vineyard.

Eventually, Mr Redgwell hopes to integrate native timber into the heads of the oak barrels the winery uses.

While New Zealand's earliest winemakers coopered their own conditioning vessels from native timber with the skills they brought here, that art had long since been lost, he said.

"It would be lovely if we could bring to New Zealand someone with the skills to achieve that - the alternative being taking timber and sending it to Europe to have it crafted. We do have a strategy to achieve it, and it would be a first ... but it's something that is yet to be put into print, so to speak."

Featuring alongside Cambridge Road's wines will be more than 200 others from around the country, spanning a range of varietals. The festival also offers food and wine pairings, blind tasting seminars, master classes by master sommelier Cameron Douglas and Viva wine editor Jo Burzynska and a two-course set lunch created by Matterhorn head chef James Pask.

Event founder Ash Lomberg said: "This event allows visitors the opportunity to sample a wide variety of great wines in a single venue."

- NZ Herald

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