Medical experts have long debated the health benefits of wine. The results are still inconclusive. But if nothing else, wine forces us to slow our busy lives. We may be able to munch a hamburger on the run, but it is impossible to appreciate takeaway wine.
Wine is meant to be drunk with good company in a relaxed environment. In the process we unwind. For that reason alone one could argue that wine in moderation must be good for us.
This debate leads us to Doctors John and Brigid Forrest, who launched their Forrest winery in the Marlborough region of New Zealand in 1988. Brigid was a medical doctor and John a scientist. They have long advocated the health benefits of wine.
In recent years the doctors have bought vineyards in Marlborough, Otago and the Gimblett Gravels region of Hawkes Bay. All are considered the best terroir for specific types of grape: Otago for pinot noir and pinot gris, Hawkes Bay for Bordeaux blends and Marlborough for riesling.
The Forrest’s doctors’ range label features a cartoon silhouette of Albert Einstein on a bicycle, his coat tails flapping in the breeze. The label also suggests homage to Dr Zeuss and Dr Ernie Loosen, of the great German family of winemakers who craft consistently excellent riesling.
The Forrest 2010 riesling is a lovely wine that reminded me of sherbet lemon sweets I ate as a child: Sweet and hard on the outside with a tang of sherbet inside. The acidity is at the lime end of the citrus spectrum.
It is no surprise that this wine has become the biggest-selling riesling in New Zealand. The fine acidity balances the sweetness. Too much of each and the wine would be unpleasant, but here the marriage is perfect. A feature of the riesling is the low alcohol, at 8.5 per cent, which means people can have an extra glass and not encounter problems with drink-drive laws.
The balance ensures each mouthful is a refreshing experience, John Forrest told a gathering of wine journalists in Hong Kong. “Perfect on a summers day or, as I’ve discovered, the perfect palate cleanser at the end of an evening.” I could not agree more. The 2010 riesling sells for $25 via ASC Fine Wines in Hong Kong.
The Forrest Tatty Bogler range features a scarecrow on the label. A “tatty bogler” is Scottish for scarecrow, a reference to the early Scottish settlers of Otago who used scarecrows to drive away the birds that gorged on ripe grapes.
Dr John Forrest believes Otago produces New Zealand’s best pinot gris because its “unique terroir seems ideally suited to this delicate variety.” The 2009 pinot gris tasted of ripe peaches and pears, with touches of lavendar and rosemary. It retails for $36 in Hong Kong.
Also from Otago was the Tatty Bogler 2008 pinot noir, one of my favorites of the wines tasted. It is blend of Otago grapes from the Waitaki, North Otago and Bannockburn regions. This pinot is rich and sweet with aromas of black cherry, black currants and wild thyme. It tastes of plums and spice. The tannins are ripe and the whole comes together in a seamless marriage. It sells for about $33 in Hong Kong.
Also excellent was the 2007 Cornerstone Bordeaux blend. Only three bottles a person are sold at the vineyard. It is a blend of 56 percent cabernet sauvignon, 23 percent malbec, and the rest merlot. These merge elegantly to produce a generous wine that tastes of cassis, blackberries, ripe black cherries and hints of cinnamon and violets. It drinks well now but would be superb in 15 years.
This wine came equal first in a blind tasting of 146 Bordeaux blends that Winestate magazine organised late last year. The 2005 retails for $55 in Hong Kong but the price for the 2007 is not known.
The last wine tasted was also superb: the 2009 botrytis riesling. It has already won six trophies and a dozen gold medals and will easily collect more. It was like tasting a memory of zesty kumquat liqueur – the drink I made as a child by soaking kumquats in brandy with a dash of raw sugar.
But this dessert wine was so much better and more balanced than my childhood groping. It has such a mouthful of flavors that it would take a range of words to describe the taste: ripe marmalade and peach plus superbly balanced acidity. At about $46 for a half bottle this is a bargain when compared with German dessert wines.
Try these wines and experience the contentment and relaxation of elegant winemaking. Surely evidence of the doctors’ belief in the health benefits of wine.
* “Does a glass a day keep the doctor away? Here’sto your health!” in China Daily, 18 February 2012, page 12. Fine a link here.