John Hawkesby

John Hawkesby is a wine writer for Canvas Magazine.

Wine for heroes

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2011 Ryan Nelsen Central Otago pinot noir. Photo / Supplied
2011 Ryan Nelsen Central Otago pinot noir. Photo / Supplied

Top sportsmen and women are sought out by major brands to endorse or be seen to use their products. Roger Federer will make significantly more money from his illustrious tennis career by using a certain racquet, wearing sponsored clothing, flying a certain airline and wearing a certain watch. Tournament earnings, despite being huge, will pale by comparison to his international star power as a walking billboard.

Good on him and others gifted enough to attract that sort of investment. New Zealand's revered All White, Ryan Nelsen, who has an international reputation as well as being one of our all-time great football players, has recently put his name to the release of four locally produced wines.

The Ryan Nelsen wines are a collaboration with Fine Wine Delivery Company managing director Jeff Poole.

Nelsen, who at 35 would be regarded as in the twilight of a remarkable career, has always enjoyed New Zealand wine and this is a good strategic move for when his football days come to an end.

He will be smart enough (Nelsen has a political science degree from Stamford University in the United States) to realise that few people make a decent living from wine alone - the bread needs to come from somewhere else.

But it's a passion and although initial production is not huge, all the wines are well made and competitively priced. The idea is to produce affordable wines that capture New Zealand's purity of fruit in an earlyish drinking style.

The filigree on the label incorporates elements of the Nelsen family crest and the shield signifies defence and leadership, two things for which Nelsen has become synonymous. The white backdrop is a tribute to his lengthy involvement and captaincy of the All Whites.

Fruit is sourced from various areas and the wine made in that location, although Poole is a bit shy on saying exactly where or by whom - fair enough, it all adds to a bit of mystery. To date the portfolio consists of a Marlborough sauvignon blanc ($19.99), Central Otago pinot gris ($19.99) and pinot noir and a sassy Hawkes Bay chardonnay.

Golfers Greg Norman and Ernie Els have their own wine labels, as does Michael Schumacher. No reason it shouldn't work as well for one of our sporting heroes.

Recommended

2011 Ryan Nelsen Hawkes Bay Chardonnay, $25.99
The standout for me and excellent value. Only 100 cases made but this is perfectly balanced with enough oak for strength and that purity of fruit for style. It's drinking now but an obvious keeper, nimble and irresistible.

2011 Ryan Nelsen Central Otago Pinot Noir, $29.99
A Central Otago pinot under $30 is a wonder to behold. The grapes are from the Cromwell Basin area and the wine delivers a bright forward-fruit, lighter style with sweetish red berry flavours. An approachable and perfect summer red.

- NZ Herald

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