As it turns out plenty. This year with close to 40 wineries in attendance I tried to avoid New Zealand's signature grape and instead focused my attention on "anything else". At one point I started asking producers what wine they were most proud to pour for me, and 90% picked something other than Sauvignon Blanc - seems the Kiwis are getting the message loud and clear: If you are going to have a sustainable wine industry you can't focus solely on one grape - the world wants to see what else you can do.
The Wine Fair was broken down into two parts - the self pour media seminar and the trade portion. This year's seminar wanted us to focus on 'The Amazing Aromatics from New Zealand', other than Sauvignon Blanc, and the "Various Faces of Syrah" from different parts of this dual island nation.
Seminar (aromatics) ...
I thought all the Rieslings (3 in total) were quite nice, the best of which was a Mt. Beautiful 2008 Cheviot Hills Riesling from Canterbury; at $18 it delivered fresh fruit, petrol, peach, apple and pear ... beautiful is a good name for it. (****+)
I was less impressed with the Pinot Gris selection, the best of this mediocre lot was an Akarua 2009 Pinot Gris from the Central Otago. (***+)
My palate fared better with the Gewurztraminers, the Spy Valley 2010 Gewurztraminer ($21.95) had just what you'd want from this grape - nice floral and rose petal nuances with a dash of spice. (****)
Seminar (syrah) ...
Seven Syrahs were on the table for sample, four from the Hawkes Bay region, two from the Gimblett Gravels (a sub-region of Hawke's Bay) and one from Waiheke Island. My favourite was the Sacred Hill 2007 Deerstalkers Syrah ($39.99) from Hawke's Bay proper; it was deep, rich and dark fruited with some sour black raspberry notes on the nose; the palate proved just as deep and rich with flavours of raspberry, smokiness and earthiness leading to a firm mouthfeel and good tannins; the finish proved to be very Syrah-like with lots of peppery notes (****+). Rounding out my top three were two from Gimblett Gravels: Mission Estate 2009 Reserve Syrah ($26.95) with its slightly plum-pepper finish (****) and Villa Maria Cellar Selection 2008 Syrah ($37.95) with meaty-earthy and chalkiness in the mouth ... with time this should develop into something wonderful, say 3-5 years (****).
The Rest of the Show (alphabetically, four-stars and above) ...
Amisfield 2009 Pinot Gris ($32.00) - rich fuller style of Gris (****+)
Astrolabe 2009 Durvillea Pinot Noir (n/a) - sour cherry and strawberry (****)
Churton 2008 Pinot Noir ($34.95) - good acidity, nice aromatics and spicy finish (****)
Giesen 2009 The August Sauvignon Blanc ($29.95) - wild ferment, 9 months in oak, whole bunch pressed ... results: creamy mouthfeel, something different (****)
Kato 2010 Sauvignon Blanc ($16.95) - grassy, gooseberry and gorgeous, especially for the price, and available on the general list (****+)
Jackson Estate 2008 Vintage Widow Pinot Noir ($29.95) - cherry cranberry fruit with a pinch of earthy on the finish (****)
Nautilus 2009 Pinot Noir ($37.95) - dark berries and spice (****)
Ostler 2009 Caroline's Pinot Noir ($39.95) nice structure, plenty of dark fruit (****)
Sileni 2009 Estate Selection 'The Pacemaker' Cabernet Franc ($18.95) - great story behind the wine, lovely cherry-tobacco notes, very pretty wine (****+)
Teawa 2009 Left Field Merlot Malbec ($18.95) - red fruit dominant with a touch of pepper on the rounded finish (****)
Te Kairanga 2007 Runholder Pinot Noir ($32.95) - from 25 year old vines, earthy perfumed and sour cherry (****)
Wairau River 2009 Pinot Noir ($19.95) - red sour cherry, sweet vanilla, spiced-cranberry, very feminine in style (**** 1/2)
Wither Hills 2010 Rarangi Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($22.95) - lots of mineral and citrus with an inkling of pea pod (****+)