Truth or Dare? (Grand Cru Grapevine: January 2012)

If you make only one wine, it can be a bit risky. If you only make Riesling in New Zealand, it’s downright daring! In fact, that is precisely what Hennie Bosman and his wife, Celia, are doing. The proprietors of True & Daring admit that the venture is high risk; at a recent event Hennie joked that they should have called it Truly Mad. But, despite the inherent madness, the result is a wine that is true to their palate.

Born in South Africa, the affable Hennie planned to make wine in retirement, but their relocation to New Zealand prompted them to accelerate their plans. Starting out in the usual vein, they made several different varietally-labeled wines, including Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. However, as Hennie explained, they “decided to be daring; to stay true to the wine [they] love.” Accordingly, they turned their attention exclusively to Riesling.

Not wanting to imitate a particular style or region, Hennie believes that the vineyard speaks through Riesling more than other grapes. In this regard, the grapes are carefully sourced from vineyards in Nelson, on the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island. He then works in small batch fermentations and leaves the wine on the lees for a longer period of time (by New Zealand standards). Consequently, the wine is bottled in December or January as opposed to September. Finally, the couple allows the wines to age before releasing them, further adding to their audacious behavior. Production is deliberately kept tiny with only 2,200 cases produced.

So what does all this mean in the end? An event held at Porterhouse brought together several top New York sommeliers, including Roger Dagorn, MS, all of whom were asked to taste nine wines blindly. While the tasters knew that the wines were all Riesling and that the True & Daring was among them, they didn’t know what else was in the line-up. Despite the tasters’ honed skills, upon tasting the True & Daring Riesling they couldn’t place the wine as being either distinctly Old World or New World. Moreover, the wine held its own in the company of such wines as Trimbach’s Cuvee Frederic Emile 2004 from Alsace, France, the Muller-Catoir 2009 from Pfalz, Germany and Eroica 2009 from the Columbia Valley, WA joint venture between Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Loosen.

First released with the 2004 vintage, True & Daring’s current release is the 2007 vintage. Tasted in October, this wine was showing some development with honey, citrus and a hint of petrol on the nose. The dry palate was dominated by citrus and petrol with high acidity, medium body and long length.

Unfortunately, all of the Bosmans’ audacity doesn’t come cheap; the wine retails at $35.00/bottle, but it is well-worth the splurge.

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