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Grape variety champions launch re-education campaign

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A producer, a wine commentator and a top restaurateur have combined to champion New Zealand's top Gew�rztraminer wines saying wait staff and customers need more education about the variety.

Blackenbrook Vineyard's Daniel Schwarzenbach says the wine has suffered from misconceptions that need to be challenged.

" The typical comments we hear is that it only works with spicy foods, that it's really floral and something only women would drink - all these stereotypes are incorrect and it's time we gave Gew�rztraminer its true place on the New Zealand wine menu."

"We find many restaurants simply don't know enough about the wine and hesitate adding it to their wine lists. They don't feel confident and put it into the 'too hard' basket, when in fact it's a classic variety and a wonderful match to a wide range of food."

Gew�rztraminer (pronounced Gi-vurz-tra-meaner) is an aromatic variety that grows superbly in New Zealand's temperate climate. Commentators agree that New Zealand is one of the world's best producers of this variety after Alsace.

To counter some of the myths and prejudices against Gew�rztraminer, Blackenbrook Vineyard has prepared a Gew�rztraminer basic information sheet titled "Gew�rztraminer - the fresh Dimension to New Zealand Fine Dining". They will send it to restaurants around New Zealand and will also have it available for download from their website.

Wine Commentator Yvonne Lorkin says customers are often afraid to order a Gewurz, for reasons as basic as that they're not sure of how to pronounce it.

"It's an education thing. If people are taught that it's okay to ask for a 'Gewurz' - and perhaps even showing in brackets on wine lists how to pronounce it - this would help people feel freer to experiment.

Yvonne says she's happy to join the crusade to get Gew�rztraminer back in the spotlight.

"I talk to many people who are convinced they won't like it. When I insist they try it, I see their eyes light up, they go 'wow!' So when you get a good Gew�rztraminer down the throat you can instantly convert someone who used to avoid it.

Top Food/Wine matcher and owner of Wellington's The Ambeli Restaurant, Shae Moleta, says Gew�rztraminer has fallen on the sword of being popular with Thai food.

"I would love to see people embrace the Gewurz more, as it's my favourite grape. Now that the fad of Asian fusion is winding down there should be more room for it. Kiwis hate tall poppies and they like to move forward so I just think it's a matter of people realising what it's like to drink."

"Any time you want to avoid the use of acid and bring out the savouriness I look for a Gewurz. There are not many grapes that come with a low acid, and for me, in my forte of food matching to wine, that's when I instantly go looking for Gew�rztraminer.

Where I see the Gew�rztraminer coming in is that sweet, slightly salty flavour - the aftertaste of particularly good bacon. Blackenbrook's Gew�rztraminer is so close to the sea it's easy to imagine a dish that's resting on a sweet saltiness. The dish we're using it with is very gently cold smoked cured salmon with an orange and chilli picada and it comes with an avocado mousse."

Shae Moleta says it's a food wine that he can't live without.

"You get people who swear till they're blue in the face that they don't like Gewurz - but I don't think they realise that it can be such a savoury wine.

Yvonne Lorkin says the key to changing attitudes and perceptions is to have restaurants offering Gewurz by the glass.

"There just aren't enough available by the glass and it really annoys me. How do you expect people to try it? It's not fair to expect them to fork out for a bottle. It's far more likely they'll spend $8 or $9 on a glass if they're unsure. It's not the cheapest wine to produce but I really think it's important to encourage availability by the glass."

Daniel Schwarzenbach says it's a crime that while they and others are consistently producing world class Gew�rztraminers (Blackenbrook Gew�rztraminer has been rated - 4.5 stars by Michael Cooper, five stars from Bob Campbell MW for the 2007 Reserve Gew�rztraminer and four stars for Blackenbrook Reserve Gew�rztraminer 2008 and 2010, Blackenbrook Gew�rztraminer 2008 and 2009) many wine lovers are still not sure when to drink it.

"It pairs well with salty, spicy, smoked or fruity foods. In Alsace it is served with Tarte Flamb� (or Flammenkuchen), Choucroute with European Sausages and smoked Meats or an Assortment of washed rind and blue vein Cheeses.

But it also harmonises beautifully with a Crab Salad with Ginger and dried Orange Peel, a Dukkah crusted Salmon or an Asian braised Pork Belly.

We hope to arm Chefs and Front of House Staff with valuable information that will lead to opening doors for many more New Zealanders to try and fall in love with this amazing grape variety."

Blackenbrook is one of less than 5% of wine producers in New Zealand who make vegan wines with accredited sustainable practices and using gentle wine making processes in their gravity-fed winery in Tasman Bay near Nelson.

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