This week, Poland comes to Warkworth, Portugal to Hawke’s Bay, and Henry Oliver drinks it up.
8 WIRED BALTYK-TASMAN
9%, 330ml, $7.99 from Fine Wine Delivery Co
Ahhhhhhh, isn’t it heartwarming when the disparate nations of the world can come together and make something beautiful? It seems to be happening a lot less recently. Every country seems to want to hang out alone, keeping its toys to itself. Whether it’s Brexit or Trump nationalism or the continuing tragedy on Nauru, the prevailing tide seems to be turning against globalism or internationalism.
Not so in beer. With new experimenters popping up everywhere beer is made, instead of just approximating foreign styles, more and more of these kindred spirits are collaborating and combining traditional knowledge with new geographies.
Take this Baltic porter, for example. Brewed by Browar Pinta brewery in Poland but in Warkworth microbrewery 8 Wired (is there, for better or worse, a more New Zealand name?), this deep, dark beer is brewed with a large amount of Munich malt and, apparently, a whole bunch of Polish hops.
It’s big, bright and darkly opaque. It’s strong as hell (9%) but so smooth you don’t really notice it (not good for office drinks if you’re planning on having one then driving). It’s a goddamn milkshake of a beer, full of sweet, chocolatey malt and with an almost chewy texture. Given that this was made last year and took three months of fermentation (it’s “lagered” if you want to get technical, but I had to look that up so don’t take my word for it) and, like I said, made by Polish people, so don’t expect for this to be available forever. Or ever again.
Verdict: Drink it up!
ESK VALLEY VERDELHO 2018
14%, $15.99 from Fine Wine Delivery Co
When you first get into wine, the world seems almost infinite. There are so many grapes! So many styles! So many regions! But after a while, you get to learn your taste. You might like chardonnay a lot, so instead of venturing out and trying varieties you’ve never had, you explore the world of chardonnay more than the world of wine. You get into different wines from around the country. You try and figure out Burgundy (if you can afford it), Californian wines, the Yarra Valley, Puglia.
Well, friends, I am here to tell you that I have discovered a wine I have not only never tasted, never considered buying, and never known anything about other than very vaguely being aware of its existence.
Verdelho is a white grape from Madeira, an island in Portugal. The grape has been used to make Madeira wine forever so if you’ve heard of it, that’s probably how (that’s all I ever knew about it, I think). Who knew Esk Valley in Hawke’s Bay has been growing it for 20 years and making wine out of it for 16? And who knew the wine of the forthcoming summer was going to be something you have to say slowly a few times to learn how to pronounce? NOT ME!
Esk Valley’s 2018 Verdelho is tropical and zesty on the nose, but not too sharp. It’s super fresh, bright and concentrated (14%!). Somehow both intensely zesty and dry, floral and acidic. It’s peachy and citric. It just tastes like summer. I drank this with chicken tacos and it held up to the spice perfectly. It would also pair with afternoons, parks, beaches and reluctant sweatshirts when the sun goes down and the wind picks up a little.
Verdict: Early contender for wine of the summer (which hasn’t even started)