There's been a fair amount of talk about organic wine in our household lately, mostly tinged with disappointment and a lack of enthusiasm. So we went looking to see if we could find wine that was taking environmental concerns seriously while also delivering on taste, body and balance, while capturing a little of the summer sunshine.
Black Cottage Rose 2012
Dave Clousten grew up in Marlborough's Awatere Valley, overlooking the two rivers that feed the unique Wairau wine climate. That view was the inspiration behind his first wine label, aptly named "Two Rivers", but his second label, "Black Cottage", pays tribute to his home, the place where he dreams and spends quality time with friends and family.
He believes sustainable wine-making is about respecting age-old winemaking traditions while using innovation and care to ensure the environment - crucial to producing the best grapes - is preserved. Black Cottage Rose is made from a pinot base, although it's primarily treated like a white wine in the cellar. Its dusky salmon pink hue looks blushing in the glass and almost transports you to the South of France, where Dave spent plenty of time making rosé.
The sharp red cherry and spicy notes have a crisp, dry finish that sits well on its own or matched with lighter summer cuisine.
Elephant Hill Le Phant Blanc 2011
The entire Elephant Hill operation is 100 per cent sustainable and has quickly established the family-owned business as a landmark in the Hawkes Bay, with a thriving vineyard, restaurant and lodge. German couple Reydan and Roger Weiss fell in love with the Te Awanga coast in 2001 before moving to NZ with the dream of starting an innovative single-estate winery. The vines were at last planted in 2003. Winemaker Steve Skinner had worked in France, California and Canada before at Elephant Hill to capture the unique character the coastline gives the grapes.
The Le Phant Blanc is a unique character, to be sure. A blend of three aromatic varieties, the grapes were hand-picked and hand-sorted for only the best in what was otherwise a challenging vintage. Viognier, pinot gris and gewurztraminer are varieties growing in popularity (and rightly so, it's about time New Zealand's palate was broadened) but blending them together creates complexities and subtleties that are something quite delicious. The floral notes hit you, along with subtle spice and sweetness that doesn't cloy, but has a slightly off-dry finish. This is screaming out for chilli prawns straight off the barbecue, or anything with a lime/chilli/coriander profile. Our tastebuds were singing happy summer songs.
So bottoms up to a great outlook for a Kiwi summer.
Where to buy: Elephant Hill Le Phant Blanc at all good wine outlets, Black Cottage at Glengarrys and The Village Winery. Both priced at $22.