The Aurora Vineyard Syrah 2006
This week's wine continues a thread that, without really intending it, I seem to have developed in my Weekend Wine feature. I think the 2004 Lowburn Ferry Skeleton Creek Pinot Noir started the ball rolling, when I commented that New Zealand was clearly no longer going to be known as a source of Sauvignon Blanc alone. Amongst vinous circles at least, Pinot Noir is likely to be king; it seems this reputedly fickle grape has found a new home outside Burgundy, and the wines have quickly usurped California and Australia from second place on the Pinot Noir podium.
Then a few weeks ago a curiosity from the cellar, the 1997 Delegat's Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, a tatty-looking bottle that I opened with low expectations, but with very pleasing results. It seemed clear to me, on tasting this wine, that even ten years ago New Zealand was turning out interesting, affordable and ageworthy wines based on Bordeaux's most famous variety. And yet the image of New Zealand, at that time, still revolved around crisp, zesty and yet flavour-packed Sauvignon Blanc.
And this week we have something new again. Syrah from New Zealand.
The Aurora Vineyard is located in Bendigo, an old mining town in Central Otago on New Zealand's South Island, just a little to the northeast of Lowburn and Mount Pisa, names that will be familiar to anyone who has explored the wines of this region. The vineyard was established in 1998 by a team of five who today are represented in the five vines evident on the label and screwcap capsule of the wine. Named Aurora after a nearby quartz reef, but also paying homage to the Aurora Astralis, the southern lights which sometimes dance in the night sky over the vines, the vineyard sees its first vintages released this year, principally Pinot Noir from 2006, this variety understandably dominating the vineyard, but also Riesling and Syrah from 2005. The wine featured here, the 2006, is thus only their second vintage for this Rhône variety.
Once again I think expectations played some part here, although in truth I really don't quite know what I was expecting. But I was taken by the deep colour of the wine as I poured it into the glass; was I expecting something a little less immediately convincing? It has a fine, dark, enticing core which gives way at the rim to a dark, pink-purple rim. The nose is also appealing, with aromas of white pepper and plums, and blackberries just on the edge of ripeness, so that they retain their refreshing tang. But this is not a wine characterised by simple fruit, as there are little nuances of roasted meat and a smoky-flinty-mineral note alongside these characteristics which suggest that this will be a wine I drink with pleasure. And this is true; the palate has a lovely style, not at all short on texture or weight, and is in fact a little creamy, but it is cut through with a cool and incisive acidity which runs right through the midpalate and lingers on the finish. There is plenty of dark fruit flavour, plenty of spice and pepper, and overall it is delicious...and maybe it would do well in the cellar too? There is lots here for The Aurora Vineyard and New Zealand to sing about, a country that clearly isn't all Sauvignon Blanc...or Pinot Noir...or Cabernet Sauvignon.
At present I don't seem to be able to locate stockists for this wine, perhaps reflecting its very limited production, but I have included wine-searcher links below anyway. The most likely source is Hellion Wines, run by Jim Hedwith (along carbon-neutral lines which is impressive) who imported this bottle into the UK. 17+/20 (1/10/07)