Like the ebb and flow of the tide, many things in life come in and go out of fashion. I remember being very proud of a pair of cycling shorts with a fluorescent pink stripe down the side; teamed with a fluorescent pink crop top and a pair of baseball boots I thought I looked the bee’s knees…I was about eight years old at the time I hasten to add! So while at a single point in time, you may be at the height of fashion, shortly after you are at the nadir.
The same can be said for wine…in the seventies it was slightly sweet German wine that was en vogue; the late eighties through into the nineties heavily oaked Australian Chardonnay was the wine of choice for the nation. Once the tide had turned however it wasn’t the done thing to be seen drinking these styles.
Currently the UK’s thirst for Sauvignon Blanc, especially when it’s from New Zealand seems to be unquenchable, but how long will this last? At some point, if history is anything to go by, we, the fickle consumer turn our backs on the current trend and find a new contender. For something to stand the test of time there has to be more than fashion involved. There has to be an elegance and quality at the heart of the product.
With the current St. Clair wines that are available to buy exclusively online, there is a definite focus on quality. St. Clair is a top flight producer from New Zealand, crafting trophy winning wines time and time again. Established in 1994, its owners have been viticulture pioneers in the Marlborough region since the late seventies. The range of Pioneer Block wines are generally from single vineyards; each different wine aims to express its own terroir, and each variety has been specifically matched to the individual vineyard so that the very best quality wine can be produced.
The Pioneer Block 9 Big John Riesling is my personal favourite, partly because Riesling is my single varietal of choice at the moment, and partly because I love the idea of saying ‘Oh yes, I’ll have another glass of Big John please’…! It has been made in a spätlese style, and at only 10% abv means it’s perfect for a lunch time treat. It has delicious mouth-watering citrus fruit on the palate, with a hint of baked lime and honey secondary characteristics beginning to show. Overall this wine is quite delicious and is definitely on my shopping list.
The Block 5 Bull Block Pinot Gris may be bullish in name, but it certainly isn’t in nature. It has ripe stone fruit on the nose; pears and nectarines, this follows through onto the palate with the addition of almond notes. The aromatic nature of this wine would make it a perfect match for slightly spicy food; why not give it a whirl with a Thai inspired menu?
Block 10 Twin Hills Chardonnay comes from the Omaka Valley, the Maori translation of Omaka is ‘river between two hills’, hence its name. This particular site experiences warmer days and cooler nights than is average in Marlborough. This diurnal range affords the wine a superb concentration of fruit flavours. Fermentation in 100% French oak barrels, malolactic fermentation and lees ageing contribute to the wine’s finesse.
Last but not least in this parcel is Block 17 Bay Block Syrah. On the nose there are dark berries, cherries and plums, lifted by notes of violets and a touch of pepper. This flavour profile coupled with the wine’s full and ripe tannins would make it well matched to a fairly hearty dish, a stew or duck in plum sauce.
This range of wines really showcases the best of New Zealand and illustrate that there is more to experience than just Sauvignon Blanc, however good that may be. At this level of quality Pioneer Block wines will clearly last longer than the current trends, so perhaps it is time for us all to move away from being such dedicated followers of fashion, instead, follow that which embodies quality and a sense of place. I like to think that I have learnt a thing or two since my days of wearing fluorescent clothing; for my choice in wines as my choice in clothes, I’m aiming for quality and elegance – well, for most of the time at least.