To link in with this month’s blog post about orange wines, we have chosen Craft Farm Rosehip from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand as our Wine of the Month.
The first thing to say is, don’t panic, it’s not made from rosehips! In fact, it’s a wonderfully balanced combination of Albarino, Gewürztraminer, Muscat Petit Grain and Pinot Gris grapes, all grown by the renowned winemaker Ant MacKenzie on his estate in Havelock North on the North Island of New Zealand and sold under the Craft Farm label.
With respect to Craft Farm wines Ant writes: “As a kid I dreamed of being a farmer. Not just any farmer, a Craft Farmer. I wanted to grow things and make and market a product from the land. There was plenty of inspiration, my grandfather Tom was a Craft Farmer. He milked cows and was the chair of the dairy company he and his brother set up after World War II. Growing stuff is a noble pursuit. Be it wine, food or flowers – all agricultural products that sustain us, mind and body, and connect us to the land.”
This philosophy is evident in the wines Ant and his wife, Fiona, produce. The estate isn’t large, and the majority of work is done by hand with the help of friends and family and with little mechanical intervention except for the use of one vintage tractor. The vines were planted over three consecutive years from 2010 and are grown without irrigation using an organic, holistic farming approach, although the estate is not certified organic.
To produce this exceptional, small batch orange wine, the four grape varieties were harvested on one day, de-stemmed and put into an open-topped fermenter. After two days some fancy foot work came into play as the grapes were trodden to release the juice: fermentation then took place using only indigenous yeasts.
To achieve the characteristics of orange wine (see my previous blog post), the wine was left on the skins for a total of two weeks before pressing. After fermentation, the wine underwent malolactic conversion to soften the acids. Maturation followed, and after about a year the wine was bottled without stabilising, fining or filtration – a serious non-intervention approach.
The resultant wine almost defies description: a good lexicon to describe orange wines has yet to emerge because the usual descriptors for white and red wine don’t really suffice – but I’ll do my best.
Prepare to be surprised: expect baked apple, orange peel, and grapefruit, a hint of gingery spice and musky dried flowers, with a touch of green tea. All of these aromas and flavours are underpinned by roast nuts and crème fraîche. Subtle tannins also emerge to give a rich mouthfeel. Altogether very complex – and unique.
Every part of that complexity makes this wine really food-friendly – try it with lamb tagine or slow cooked shoulder of lamb, pork or veal, roasted vegetables, or sheep’s or goat’s cheese.
By Maureen Little