Don Kavanagh is the editor of Hospitality magazine.

Don Kavanagh: A taste of the exotic

Try to hold off drinking top Penfold vintages. They will only improve with age. Photo / Alan Gibson
Try to hold off drinking top Penfold vintages. They will only improve with age. Photo / Alan Gibson

I'm a huge fan of New Zealand wine and I love everything about the variety, quality and sheer exuberance of our vineyards, but sometimes it's nice to remind yourself of what else is available.

I was at two very different tastings recently that reminded me how good overseas wines can be.

The first consisted of five of the Penfolds Bin wines from South Australia. I tried, in ascending order, the 28, 128, 138, 389 and 407. This is as good a collection of wines as I've tasted from this range and, despite talk in some quarters of price gouging, they represent a really good investment, if only you can hold off on opening them for a few years.

Elegant, structured and complex, they all stood up well, but the 389, the 50th consecutive vintage of this wine, is a classic, packed with flavour and tannin and one that will be at its peak in about 12 years, which is frustrating for those who want much more immediate gratification.

If you buy it, please, please hold off on drinking it for at least five years because, good as it is now, it will be sublime with age.

The other tasting I attended was Gisselbrecht, a small but enviously good producer from Alsace on the French-German border. They only work with four varieties, but their pinot blanc, pinot gris, riesling and gewurztraminers are effortlessly balanced and elegant wines.

In fact, I defy anyone to try the standard, entry-level pinot blanc and not be utterly seduced. Packed with lovely white peach and pear flavours, the sweetness rests on a lacy framework of acid that is both balancing and refreshing. If you like Marlborough sauvignon blanc, you'll love this; not for the overpowering flavour, but for the lightness, elegance and wonderful balance.

The pinot gris makes a lot of our own versions look like crude, ham-fisted attempts, while the riesling manages to combine racy acidity with rich honeyed notes. The gewurz is too good to even begin to describe here.

So be proud of our own wines, but don't forget that there is a big, wide world of wine out there; dive in and explore.

- Herald on Sunday

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