I’ve been to New Zealand a couple of times on holiday, and while one of the aims of the most recent trip was to make it to Hawkes Bay to visit wineries, I didn’t have any winery visits in mind beyond that. However, with a little unscheduled time in Auckland on our schedule, we hopped on a ferry and spent a lovely day driving around in a hired convertible on Waiheke Island and picked up a few bottles to bring home, including this one from a bottle shop, the Ridgeview Waiheke Island Malbec 2004.
Waiheke Island is a small patch of hills about 18km east of Auckland, just off the North Island. It has some nice beaches that reminded me of Northern California and there were no shortage of day trippers over on the ferry. In addition to the beaches, there’s a good collection of roughly 30 small wineries on the island spread across just over 200 HA.
The island enjoys a maritime climate with more moderate conditions than most of the North Island. Not only are the highs and lows less extreme, the growing season is longer as the seasonal temperature changes are more gradual. The geology of the island has been fractured multiple times, resulting in abrupt changes in soil types sometimes over very short distances. Large portion of the island are covered in dark grey-brown soil over a lower layer of brown to yellow subsoil, but there are areas of clay, pumice, sand, decomposed organic bog, and weathered volcanic rock.
Plantings on the island are largely a French greatest hits collection, with vines originally from Bordeaux, Burgudy and the Rhône all doing quite well apparently. The most common reds are Syrah and Cabernet, though all the red Bourdeaux blending partners seem to be planted as well. Whites include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier. Pinot Gris and Montepulciano are also planted in small quantities.
Unfortunately, with most wineries on the island being very small, and having such a vibrant influx of tourists, you’re unlikely to encounter wines from Waiheke Island far from the island itself. There are certainly some wineries that have international distribution, but only to limited markets, and the quantities are tiny. So apologies for writing about a region that you’re unlikely to encounter unless you visit, but at the same time it’s certainly worth a visit if you’re ever in Auckland.
I may also have to apologize in terms of what I can tell you about the producer as I can’t tell if it still exists. The name of the producer in the first paragraph is typically a link to their website, but it is no longer even registered, so the company may not be trading. They were founded in the 1990s and in addition to red grapes of Bordeaux, also have/had plantings of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. I did find them on the map, right next to the airport, and their vineyard is among the highest on the island at 500ft. Also they hosted a big party in 2009. Fascinating, I know.
This is not our first Malbec, and when I last tasted the Majestic Plough on Malbec World Day I actually wrote something sensible, so for a full run down of the grape please check that out. So that’s the location, producer and grape at least mentioned, so it’s time to have a look at this wine.
In the glass, this wine is clear and bright, with dark garnet colour and quick legs. On the nose it’s clean, with medium plus intensity, developing, with notes of perfume, scented candle/potpourri, blueberry, raspberry, and a little red meat. On the palate it’s dry, with medium plus acidity, medium minus tannins, medium body, medium plus flavour intensity, medium plus length, and medium plus alcohol. It’s very tart, borderline bitter, with notes of cranberry and iodine, a little bit peppery, with some funk.
I’ll call this wine very good quality. To my palate it’s very much in the style of an older Bordeaux in terms of being savoury, but not oaky or tannic. The tannins are soft and well integrated – barely there – but clearly they’ve kept the fruit in check.
As you might have guessed by the fact that I’ve posted about feeling a bit bad and that I’ve missed a couple of days of updates, things have been a bit bleh around here lately, but I’m on the mend I hope and look forward to being back on form next week. I may even write about a wine that you could find and drink if it sounds interesting.