Huon Hooke

Date: 19 Mar 2005
Written by: Huon Hooke
Article: Good Weekend
Wine: Vinoptima Gewurztraminer 2003



Sensational. … Amongst the best I’ve tasted…


“Nick Nobilo and his family built up the New Zealand winemaking business Nobilo Wines, begun by his father in 1943, and sold it to Australia’s BRL Hardy almost five years ago.

Being a restless soul, Nick Nobilo had things he still wanted to achieve in wine.  His dream was to produce a great Kiwi Gewürztraminer, and now, with no shareholders or other family members to answer to, he could probably have planted any vine he damn well liked, regardless of whether there was a market for the wine.  Gewurztraminer, it must be said, is not one of the buzz grape varieties in our part of the world.  To plant a new vineyard entirely to gewurz could be regarded as slightly eccentric.


But that’s what Nick did.  The wine is called Vinoptima.  The idea was to make a world-class gewurz using the French concept of terrior.  New Zealand had already shown it could grow excellent gewurz, particularly in the Gisborne region.  Matawhero was the first to turn heads, then Montana’s Patutahi Estate, while Amor-Bendall, Milton and Revington also have runs on the board.


The Vinoptima vineyard, planted in 2000, is eight hectares of painstakingly selected clones of the best gewurz, on what Nobilo believes is the most suitable soil in New Zealand.  In the middle of the vineyard, he’s put a purpose-built winery, fitted out with specially made and selected equipment including oval casks of German oak.


So, how does the tiny trickle of wine from 2003, his first vintage, taste?  In a word, sensational.


It has full yellow colour, and a reductive aroma, which clears to reveal intense spicy fruit.  It’s an opulent, exotic-tasting wine with plenty of alcohol (13.5 per cent) and some sweetness.  It’s complex, sumptuous, bit-flavoured but not unwieldy.


At $50 it isn’t cheap, but think of the effort behind it.  The best gewurz I had last year was the ’95 Josmeyer Hengst, from Alsace, at $110.  Vinoptima is in the ballpark.  And if you think about pricing in Alsace, where gewurz is usually dearer than all other varieties, you wonder why Anzacs don’t have more respect for this distinctively marvellous grape.  It’s taken Nick Nobilo to raise the question”