Well, two actually. But did you know that the first vineyards in the world
to see the sun every day are those in New Zealand? This is because New
Zealand lies close to the International Date Line. Actually, that’s about
all it does lie close to. Australia is 900 miles to the North-West and the
small nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga are 600 miles to the North.
Go a couple of thousand miles to the South and you’ll find yourself
stumbling about in the icy wastes of Antarctica. There aren’t many vineyards
down there. Not very many at all. But at least, you might see a penguin.
Winemaker Nadine Worley.
You probably know that New Zealand is made up of two large islands known as
the North Island and the South Island. I sometimes wonder how long it took
them to come up with such imaginative names. The vineyards are the furthest
south of any in the world and although wine-making began in the nineteenth
century, the industry didn’t really get going until the 1970s. Compared to
other players in the field, the country produces a comparatively small
amount of wine and an increasing amount comes from independent wine
One of these is Mud House, a thriving company established in 1996 but
already producing award-winning wines. The company has two wineries; one in
Marlborough, which is in the north of the South Island and another in
Waipara Valley which is in the centre. In Chiang Mai these wines are
available at Kafevino, Ratree Samosorn, and Deck 1. That’s the trendy place
on Chareonraj Road, overlooking the River Ping and directly opposite the
RarinJinda Wellness Spa Resort. The wines are available there at around Bt
Mud House Pinot Gris South Island, 2011 (white) New
Forget everything you know about those watery Pinot Grigios from
Northern Italy. This sumptuous New Zealand Pinot Gris (PEE-noh GREE)
couldn’t be more different. Expertly crafted by Nadine Worley, it has a
classy floral, perfumed aroma announcing that something special lies ahead.
The aroma is complex and tantalising, with rich white fruit, notably fresh
pear, quince, white peaches and honeysuckle. Give it a bit of time and you
may detect hints of nectarine and in the background, a faint smell of nuts.
I told you it was complex.
The sensation on the palate is superb, because the wine has a sumptuous
silky texture, giving a rich and creamy mouth-feel. It’s dry and quite
full-bodied with a fine balance of very gentle acidity, rich fruit and
subtle hints of sweet spices. The fruit follows through in the intensely
long and glorious finish and you might even notice a delicate tang of
oranges. To my mind, this is a very sophisticated and stunningly good wine.
It’s a superbly crafted wine too and at a heady 14% alcohol content, the
winemakers suggest you drink it with heavier white meats with a moderately
rich palate like slow cooked pork. Incidentally, the wine achieved a Silver
Medal at last year’s Spiegelau International Wine Competition.
Mud House Riesling Waipara Valley 2011 (white) New
Riesling is considered one of the world’s great white-wine
grapes, because for generations it has produced exceptional wines in
Germany’s Rhein and Mosel valleys as well as in Alsace in Northern France.
In the 1970s Riesling (REEZ-ling) acquired an unfortunate reputation for
sweetish, bland mass-produced wines which graced many a middle-class dinner
table in Britain. If your memory of Riesling goes back to those days,
prepare yourself for a revelation. Riesling grapes can sometimes be tricky
to grow and for some people who manage to get the first two vowels in the
wrong order, tricky to spell too.
I was expecting something rather unyielding; mineral, flinty and as dry as a
dinosaur bone. But what a surprise! Gone is the stony, green-apple aroma of
so many northern Rieslings - this one is rich and fruity. There’s a honeyed
floral aroma, loaded with pineapple, citrus, and a distinct tang of orange
peel. If you’ve got a really good nose you might pick up spicy herbs in the
background and also that trade-mark of a fine Riesling: a very faint but
distinctive whiff of paraffin.
The wine is soft and gentle on the palate; full of rich ripe fruit and just
the faintest tingle of acidity. Unusually for Rieslings, which are usually
low-alcohol wines, this one comes at nearly 13% alcohol content. There’s a
superb off-dry fruity finish which seems to last for ages; invariably the
sign of an exceptional wine.
Winemaker Nadine Worley has crafted a very special Riesling, totally
different from the steely wines of the Mosel. It’s different again to their
more full-blooded cousins of Alsace and the Rhein. This one shows the rarely
seen sunny side of its character; there’s a kind of joie de vivre about it,
as though it’s rejoicing to be free of the grim and grey winters of Northern
The makers suggest you drink this wine with mild and fragrant Asian styled
dishes. And before I forget, let me remind you that despite the spelling,
the wine is always pronounced “REEZ-ling”. Don’t let me ever catch you
calling it “RIZE-ling” otherwise I’ll send over my three wild and ferocious
dogs to sort you out.