The Providence 2008 vintage was reviewed by Sarah Wong for the South China Morning Post. The 2008 vintage is available in Hong Kong through Seapower Trading, or in Macau through TH Fine Wines.
When Jim Vuletic set up Providence Winery, his goal was to make the best Bordeaux-style wine in New Zealand, his own favourites being Cheval Blanc and Petrus.
He planted cabernet franc, merlot and malbec. His Bordeaux blend features a large percentage of cabernet franc, reflecting the blend of Cheval Blanc. Syrah was later planted and the wines from those grapes are more Rhone-like in style than their New World counterparts.
To gauge the quality of the wines, Vuletic often organises blind tastings pitting Providence against top Bordeaux wines. A few years ago in Hong Kong, Vuletic organised a stellar wine tasting featuring Petrus and Cheval Blanc from the highly rated 1990 vintage.
Even the hosting sommelier was taken aback by Vuletic's audacity. He asked: "Providence wines are good but are they that good?" The tasters were predominantly connoisseurs of fine wines and experienced Bordeaux drinkers. The results were controversial, because Providence wines were ranked highly, and even came out top for some of the tasters. Vuletic was not surprised, as he believes that Providence can stand up to the very best.
Though Providence is from the New World most of its followers are Old World fine wine connoisseurs.
The success has been due mainly to word of mouth and the wines have a strong following among a small circle. Production is small, with about 8,000 to 10,000 bottles produced annually.
The wines have reached cult status in markets such as Japan, and fetch super premium prices in auctions. Running an internet search, turns up little information on them. A recent concession to technology is the website providencewines.com
Providence is situated in Matakana, about 60 kilometres north of Auckland. The vineyards are planted on free draining, iron rich clay soils of volcanic origin. Vuletic believes that the high mineral content of the soil leaves an imprint on the wine and makes it easily recognisable and distinct. The vines are cultivated sustainably using no synthetic fertiliser or herbicide. Even the canes removed during pruning are later used to fuel barbecues.
The winemaking is low-intervention, and sulphur, with its antioxidant and antimicrobial benefits, is not used. This does not seem to have an adverse effect on the cellaring potential, as the wines can age over a decade. At a recent tasting, Providence 1993 proved to be still full of life and drinking well.
- Sarah Wong