An hour and a half south of Whanganui lies the closest thing to a local winery: Ohau Wines, between Otaki and Levin. On a recent trip south to visit my sister in Wellington I decided to stop in. It was a cold, grey day, but the welcome at the small cellar door was warm and the marketing manager (whose name I regrettably forgot to ask) was passionate and knowledgeable.
I came to know of Ohau Wines when I discovered their Woven Stone range in a local supermarket, but I was amazed by the range of wines they had available – enough that I had to decline to taste many of them to ensure I could continue south safely and legally. Woven Stone (which is good wine) is their low-end, mass-produced supermarket range, and the winery has been doing some interesting things with their direct-sale-only wines.
Ohau was established about ten years ago, when the owners were looking for a crop that would break up land that was being subdivided. When the soil was tested turned out that it was perfect for wine. As you may have gathered, this is not a wine-growing region, so this was a pleasant surprise.
To start with they played it safe, putting in the mainstay of the New Zealand wine market, Sauvignon Blanc before adding Pinot Noir and our rising star, Pinot Gris. They also blend a Rosé from the Pinots.
So, which wines did I taste?
Spicer Brothers 2015 Sauvignon Blanc: The Spicer Brothers range is a tribute to two brothers associated with the winery, one of whom was killed in an accident. It was much fruitier than many Sauvignon Blancs I’ve encountered (which was great as the acid in Sauvignon Blanc sometimes irritates my throat), with an appley, herby aroma.
Ohau Gravels 2011 Sauvignon Blanc: The ‘top end’ wine only produced in really good years, this was what I meant by ‘interesting things’ – a Sauvignon Blanc which has been oaked and aged. This created something new (to me, at least), a Sauvignon Blanc with a silkier mouth-feel and a yeasty note mixed in with the flint and citrus. I didn’t buy a bottle, and I’m already regretting that choice.
Selected Vines 2014 Pinot Gris: This was a beautiful wine with floral notes, and yet not excessively sweet: there were green, herby influences and a subtle mineral note mixed in with the tropical fruit. I bought a bottle to share with my sister, but somehow it came home with me instead, so I’ll have to save it (or something just as nice) for her next visit.
Woven Stone 2016 Rosé: This wine was a great example of why I don’t have a problem with blending red and white to make a Rosé: done right, the results are lovely. With sweet melony notes and a crisp finish, this was summer in a glass.
Woven Stone 2014 Pinot Noir: This is the only red currently being produced at Ohau, and it was a dainty wee Pinot Noir with strawberry, spice, and cherry notes. I picked up a bottle because it was on special, but am rather glad to know it’ll be in the supermarket the next time I want a reliable Pinot Noir.
As I said, Ohau has about a dozen different wines, and I’m already planning a return visit.
Always drink responsibly. One standard drink of wine is approximately 100ml (3.3 fl oz). The New Zealand Ministry of Health recommends that women consume no more than 2 standard drinks a day, and no more than 10 standard drinks a week, and that men consume no more than 3 standard drinks a day and no more than 15 standard drinks a week (note that this is slightly lower than the limits recommended by the World Health Organisation). The World Health Organisation recommends that women abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. In New Zealand the legal drinking age is 18. Do not drink alcohol if you are under the legal age to do so in your country. It is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol.