Wine Pages

Mike Steinberger's Wine Diarist


Alsace in Kiwiland

I recently tasted through an assortment of rich, complex, expressive, mineral-laden, mouthwatering wines which, had I tasted them blind I would have guessed were from Alsace. I would have been wrong. They were from New Zealand, and may have been the first wines from that country I have ever encountered which honestly showed a sense of place.

Of course, other New Zealand wines clearly have the markings of that country, but I contend that has more to do with the winemaker than it does the place. Those markings, after all, are overwhelmingly related to opulence of fruit aromas and flavors. They rarely demonstrate the distinctive character of a specific site. The wines I tasted this day, however, from a small winery called Pyramid Valley, did just that... and more.

Pyramid Valley is one of those wineries that just seems to be out of step with their neighbors. Husband and wife team, Mike and Claudia Weersing (he's from California and she is originally from Germany) searched the world-over for the right spot to settle down and work the soil. Mike spent time working in Europe, the US, and Australia with some of the top biodynamists - and has brought much of their philosophies along as he and Claudia started up shop in North Canterbury, NZ.

I had a conversation with a colleague the other day in which she said that she would sell, but would never drink California wine. With so much great wine from elsewhere, she explained, why bother with anything from California? Well the example of Pyramid Valley goes a long way for me in explaining why I think she is wrong to think the way she does. Mike and Claudia's wines are sophisticated, intellectually intriguing, and downright delicious - not characteristics I would have expected to find all together in most New Zealand wines.

I've said it before, and I will say it again - look beyond label, variety, and place of origin, and, instead focus on style and characteristics which make you happy... I bet you will find amazing wines from some of the least expected places.