I am happy to state that I am one of those people who grimaced and rolled eyes at the substantial investment made by the MPI and NZ Winegrowers into the ‘lighter wines’ category (even typing this brings on minor clenching of body parts). Surely it’s better to encourage people to either drink naturally low alcohol wines – after all, there’s plenty of delicious riesling looking for a home – or to drink less, but better. Apparently I’m in the minority with this view as evidently consumers are very keen on them, with NZ sales already eclipsing a target set for 2024. Also, I can’t maintain too much grump in the face of someone as lovely as Dr David Jordan, who is always very enthusiastic and interesting on the research behind the project.

I was therefore pleased to chat to Dr John Forrest at the recent Sauvignon Celebration. He explained the vineyard work behind his The Doctors’ series of wines, which is indeed a clever and encouraging system. It is based on selective leaf removal; having established which leaves are delivering the most sugar to the grapes, these are duly removed and the vine is encouraged to ripen the grapes in a balanced fashion with usual phenolic expression. The end result is lower sugar levels, and thus lower alcohol while still tasting like actual wine. The process has so far been over a decade of trial and error across different varieties. Most satisfyingly it is one leading towards a genuine product based on the vineyard, rather than winery technology such as spinning cones.

2018 Forrest Wines The Doctors’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 9.5% $22.00
Pretty textbook nose with pineapple, fresh herbs and citrus. Light, crisp and very citrussy palate, veering a little sour lemon on the finish but they’ve done a pretty smart job of capturing a medley of methoxy and thiol elements of Marlborough sauvignon delivering a classic style in a lighter frame.

2018 Forrest Wines The Doctors’ Marlborough Rosé 9.5% $22.00
This was the least satisfying of the trio for me. Slightly herbal strawberries, with a lift of orange zest, rounded out with notes of cherry and watermelon (but not a very ripe one). Very light bodied, it’s a little flat and unfocused, lacking the zip and balance of the SB.

2018 Forrest Wines The Doctors’ Marlborough Pinot Noir 9.5% $25.00
Very obviously Pinot Noir, spiced cherry and rhubarb nose, a touch of florals, smooth, slightly sweet palate, soft and open with little tannin. Juicy and fresh, slightly creamy texture on the mid-palate and moderate length. It’s little bit odd if your mindset is ‘normal’ pinot but all in all, it’s a pretty smart effort, achieving 9.5% alcohol in what is clearly recognisable and balanced Pinot Noir. And given what a hash some producers make of full strength pinot, it’s all the more impressive.