Complex and sophisticated. Dynamic character and plenty of depth. While those may be terms to describe the wines of Nobilo they most certainly can be applied to their wine maker, David Edmonds. His passion for turning well-selected grapes into perfectly crafted wines is practically written on his face but listening to him speak, you completely understand how he has managed to infuse this enthusiasm into his craft.
Tasting five offerings from the Nobilo line paired with four small plates from the Sidedoor restaurant, showcased just how the versatile Marlborough style can enhance the total tasting experience. A pulled peach pork taco with the Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc from 2016 kicked off the tasting and was the perfect union of sweetness and acidity, stone fruit and tropical flavors along with a great textural contrast.
The highlight for many of the sommeliers in attendance was the tuna sashimi with yuzu marmalade, pickled jalapeños and mustard seed served with the 2016 Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc. The elegance and grace of the wine amplified all the spice, umami and sweetness in the dish while boosting the passion fruit and minerality in the wine. This is what pairings are all about. Finding the match that elevates both the food and the wine to heights greater than their individual contributions.
In describing the Icon, David remarked that the aromas were absolutely “crawling over the sides of the glass” and indeed the intensity of these Blind River grapes was perceptible even before the glass was lifted from the table. Although the word iconic is annoyingly overused in virtually every piece of writing and conversation, it’s a perfect fit for this benchmark New Zealand varietal. Full of passionfruit, gooseberry and an elegant minerality that David compares to “lightning in the distance coming across in the breeze”, this is truly a wine that sets the standard for excellence.
Nobilo has ambition as well as laurels and they are experimenting with alternative ways to make Sauvignon Blanc and other varietals into different styles and hopefully adding new layers of character to their future offerings. By varying techniques such as hand picking versus mechanical, whole bunch or crushed fruit, old barrels and new or introducing different yeasts, the hope is to gain knowledge that will lead to continuous improvements and new experiences. One such experiment led to the creation of their 2016 Regional Collection Chardonnay.
This chardonnay was served with a buttermilk panna cotta and lemon confit. While some felt the dessert coated the palate too much thereby muting some of the wine’s character, the wine on its own was delicately designed to be stylistically like Sauvignon Blanc. To achieve this profile, the fruit was crushed, destemmed, and direct pressed with no skin contact. The clarified juice was fermented at cool temperatures and approximately half of the wine was fermented and matured in French oak, either new or up to 3 years old, with very little malolactic fermentation. This made for a crisp style of chardonnay that was driven by tropical notes of mango and pineapple accented by a sight citrus presence.
The 2016 vintage offered some challenges to the Benheim-based wine makers. A cool start to the year in October and early November 2015 yielded a tardy bud break but a dry summer followed that was ideal for the vast acreage of Sauvignon Blanc cultivated in the northern valleys of the South Island. Late rainfall made for a very hectic but productive harvest with all the fruit arriving at the wineries at once. The Edmonds team was up to the challenge and had grapes fermenting in quick order. The rainfall didn’t impact the fruit quality and the ideal summer conditions started to express themselves immediately under David’s hand.
Moving away from the most recent vintage, the group was treated to a black cod with miso sake glaze and spiced dashi set against a backdrop of the 2013 and 2014 Icon Pinot Noir. The 2013 is already showing some of that aged character of mushrooms and forest floor while its younger sibling expressed a more fruit-driven profile. The 2014 was a better match to the cod given the very salty nature of the dish. Perhaps a mushroom-based delicacy would have been more suitable to the 2013 version.
The delicate grape needed to make this graceful wine finds a perfect home on the South Island of New Zealand and while the Central Otago region gets lots of attention, the pinots from Marlborough should be respected as well. Given the immense focus on Sauvignon Blanc in this area it makes sense that any pinot noir that has been retained over the years would have to be very special. And when it is treated with care this grape can be spectacular in maturity. Mr. Edmonds explained that even the punch-down of the cap during fermentation was particularly gentle for their Pinots. By using puffs of nitrogen rather than mechanical means to break up the cap, the inert gas simply moves the solids without otherwise impacting the wine. This process is colloquially called the doof-doof method by the workers tending to the fermentation.
It’s clear from this tasting that Nobilo Wines has a great ambassador in their head wine-maker, David Edmonds. Moreover, his focus on quality and innovation promises to yield great wines now and in the future.
Photo Credits: David Skinner and Nobilo Wines