Wine of the week: Just what the doctor ordered

John Forrest is either a mad scientist or a certified genius. A winemaker with a doctorate in neurophysiology, he might just possibly be both.

Forrest has created a series of wines that have lower alcohol but still retain all of the flavor and characteristics of wines with traditional alcohol levels. Yes, I said ALL of the flavor and characteristics. And I would not have believed it had I not sampled several of them myself.

John Forrest was born and bred in Marlborough, New Zealand. He attended Queen Charlotte College in Picton. He got his doctorate from Otago University in 1982. And after spending time working in his field of study, he decided to return to Marlborough in 1988 to start Forrest Wines with his wife, Dr. Brigid Forrest, a general practitioner who specializes in pregnancy care, birth and families.

The Forrest family of wines is well-known and highly regarded throughout New Zealand, as well as many countries abroad. I have had the pleasure to write about several wines in the Forrest portfolio in the past. On a recent visit to the Forrest tasting room (called a Cellar Door in New Zealand), John Forrest asked me to sample several wines in a new series he has created. A lower-alcohol wine aptly named The Doctors’ (the apostrophe following the name is an homage to both Drs. John and Brigid Forrest).

The Doctors’ brand is nothing short of a breakthrough in wine consumption. The lower alcohol levels are not removed in the winery — as is typical with most brands featuring lower alcohol — but rather the science actually begins in the vineyard by slowing the grape vine’s natural ability to make sugar but not its ability to produce flavor. Most remarkably, it is all done using sustainable farming practices in the vineyard, and not through chemistry or genetic engineering.

While most wines typically run upward of 14% to 15% alcohol by volume (ABV), The Doctors’ wines only come in at about 9% ABV. They are easy to drink and enjoy on their own or with meals. And lower alcohol equals fewer calories (Yes, alcohol has a lot of calories).

Here are a few of the wines sampled during my visit with John Forrest.

The Marlborough region of New Zealand is synonymous with sauvignon blanc, so it is no surprise that The Doctors’ series would have one in their lineup. The 2018 The Doctors’ Sauvignon Blanc is everything you would expect or want from this variety. It features scents of gooseberry and grapefruit on the nose, with just a touch of fresh-cut hay. In the mouth, ripe flavors of passion fruit and pear exhibit good intensity upfront and throughout the crisp finish. The 9.5% ABV will not overshadow an assortment of shellfish — particularly oysters. $18

Most rieslings are not sweet. They are dry, refreshing and — most importantly — versatile wines. The 2018 The Doctors’ Riesling is a fun, easy to drink wine that goes with just about anything. John Forrest describes it as, “like biting into a deliciously crisp Granny Smith apple while simultaneously licking lime sherbet and apricot.” I like the delightful, tropical floral characters on the nose and a palate, including guava and kiwi fruit with just a touch of lime zest to give it lift on the tongue. The zesty acidity provides a refreshing finish. A modest 9% ABV makes it a wonderful holiday dinner companion. $20

Pinot noir is another grape variety that feels right at home in New Zealand. John Forrest has found a way to keep the delicate fruit flavor intact, while lowering the alcohol in the 2018 The Doctors’ Pinot Noir. Flavors of fresh, ripe cherries, blueberries and wild strawberries play over the entire tongue and lead to a wonderfully bright finish. Notes of dried spices join in on the back end and are buoyed by the lively acidity and fine-grained tannins. $25

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