Friday wine with Ric Little of Vintners NZ

Ric Little is the general manager of sales and marketing for Vintners NZ, one of the most interesting importers of wine to New Zealand, as well as a distributor of top local brands, such as Kumeu River Wines and The Escarpment Vineyard. Top international brands that Vintners import include, among many others, Umani Ronchi, which produces the outstanding Casal di Serra Verdicchio; surely one of the world’s most under rated wines. It’s now made from certified organic grapes, is sealed with a screwcap and is a dry, full bodied white that stands the long term test of time. Verdicchio may not be a house hold name here in New Zealand but it is a great white grape and makes exceptional wines, such as this one which comes from the Montecarotto Vineyard in the Marché region of central Italy.

Here it is as my wine of the week, followed by this week’s Proust interview with Ric Little. The Proust questionnaire originated in 1886. Find out more  here.

Wine of the week

18.5/20
2019 Umani Ronchi Casal di Serra Verdiccio RRP $23.99
Natural yeast fermentation in stainless steel tanks preserves the fresh green herb, green apple and piercing citrus aromas of lemon zest that characterise this beautiful full bodied, dry white wine from central Italy. There are currently 2,220 hectares of Verdicchio growing in this area, most it around the town of Jesi on the slopes of the Appenine mountains, which rise to over 6,500 feet. Vines grow in a diverse range of soils here from clay and sand on the north side of the Esino Valley with  limestone on the south side. This wine spends five months in contact with yeast lees, which adds flesh to the wine. There is no malolactic fermentation in this wine and it’s all the better for it. Tension comes from the fresh vibrant spine of acidity which adds depth and length to every sip.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Being able to work in an industry I love, for a company and with people I respect, and sharing the dreams and ambitions of over 30 family owned wineries from across the globe.

What is your current state of mind?

I would say curious. I am curious to see what will happen in the world in the next year or so and the impact that will have on me and people around me. I see hope and opportunity as you always get a bounce coming out adversity. Our industry has had a pretty challenging time globally over the last two years. Some good news would be welcome.

What is your favourite part of winemaking?

Firstly, I would say – the drinking. Next would be provenance and storytelling. Few other things in life can give a snapshot of time, place, weather, terroir and the touch of talented humans, quite like a bottle of wine.

Do you have a most treasured wine?

I have been collecting wines from eight Bordeaux properties since the late 1990s and have several verticals from them. I have visited the region a number of times and each chateau holds different special memories.

Where is your favourite wine region?

See above. I’m also very fond of Margaret River, Chianti and Hawke’s Bay.

When and where are you at your happiest? 

This is a hard one as I’m pretty happy most of the time. I reckon it’s a toss up between the hustle and bustle of traveling in one of the world’s great cites like New York or Tokyo or sitting in quiet contemplation on my deck overlooking the deserted shores of the Kaipara Harbour.

What do you most dislike in wine?

Snobbery and pretension. It irks me when so called industry professionals tell consumers what they should like rather than letting those people decide for themselves.

What is your greatest fear? 

I don’t really fear anything or anyone.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Stopping occasionally to reflect on what a great life I have had.

What is your greatest regret? 

Never learning to play a musical instrument. I would have been an awesome rock star.

What talent would you most like to have? 

I would love to be more proficient in speaking foreign languages.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? 

Loss of control.

What is the trait that you most deplore in yourself?  

I cannot answer that. No one should deplore anything about themselves. It is really unhealthy. If you do feel that way, please seek help.

What do you most value in your friends?

Loyalty, honesty and humour

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“At the end of the day…” and “Between you and me…”. I wish I could stop  but I can’t.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

Abraham Lincoln – not sure I would want to be assassinated, but what an extraordinary life up to that point.

Trinity Hill’s new single vineyard wines

Trinity Hill Wines has released a new range of single vineyard wines, which are available to purchase online, at the Trinity Hill winery cellar door as well as in some restaurants and wine stores.
There are four wines in the new range, priced at $39 for the rosé, $80 for the Chardonnay and $120 for each of the reds; a Syrah and a Cabernet Sauvignon. Here are my reviews.

17.5/20
2021 Trinity Hill Molly’s Block Rosé RRP $39

Pale pink in colour with fresh, youthful aromas of strawberries, raspberries and watermelon on the nose, leading into a dry rosé with a medium body and summer fruit flavours. Molly’s Block rosé is 100% Syrah, made from grapes grown in Moteo Pa in Hawke’s Bay.
The wine was made from grapes grown on a later ripening site with a cooler climate which allows the grapes to retain acidity, which is beneficial for rosé’s refreshing qualities. The grapes in this wine were gently pressed with only free run juice used and, following cold settling, it was fermented at cool in stainless to capture and retain fruit flavours, freshness and vibrancy. Residual sugar of 0.3 grams per litre makes it totally dry.

18.5/20
2020 Trinity Hill 125 Gimblett Chardonnay RRP $80

Pale lemon in colour with aromas of toasted almonds, notes of grapefruit and citrus flavours on the nose. The wine is dry, intensely citrusy with notes of lemon and grapefruit on its full bodied palate. Youthful acidity adds brightness and freshness to the smooth, creamy texture in this wine. It’s made from hand picked grapes from the Tin Shed vineyard at 125 Gimblett Road (hence the name). Grapes were fermented in new 500 litre French oak puncheons with malolactic fermentation encouraged to accentuate softness and a creamy texture in the wine. Delicious tension comes from the well balanced acidity, which will preserve this wine for up to 10 years in good cellaring conditions.

18.5/20
2019 Trinity Hill Thomson’s Block Syrah RRP $120

Deep purple with a clear rim and pronounced aromas of spice, cedar and ripe plums combine on the nose of this youthful new Syrah, made with grapes grown on Thomson’s Block Vineyard on Roy’s Hill in Hawke’s Bay. The 2019 vintage is shaping up to be one of the best of the past decade in the Bay and this wine expresses it beautifully with layers of spice, cedar and a hint of black pepper enveloped in a dry, full bodied expression of Syrah, which was blended here with 5% of Viognier from the Gimblett Estate vineyard. This adds a smooth texture, fleshes out the mid palate, adding viscosity and accentuating the ripe red and black plum flavours. The wine was aged in French oak barriques for 21 months and bottled without fining.
Thomson’s Block is a north facing vineyard, planted in 2007 on Roy’s Hill in Hawke’s Bay; a sunny and warm site which optimises flavours in late ripening grapes, such as Syrah. All grapes were in this wine were hand picked and foot plunged in a small stainless open tank where they spent 11 days on skins to gain colour and flavour.

19/20
2019 Trinity Hill Prison Block Cabernet Sauvignon RRP $120

Deep ruby in colour with an opaque, almost black centre. This is an impressive wine with dark aromas of blackberries, blackcurrant leaf and cedar, underpinned by fresh rosemary and almond notes. Dry, full bodied and intensely fruity in flavour; this is a great Cabernet Sauvignon from grapes grown on a block of land behind Roy’s Hill, which was initially earmarked to be the site of the Hawke’s Bay Regional Correctional Facility, hence the name Prison Block. Today this land is home to the unforgiving Cabernet Sauvignon grape clone 337, which needs intense heat to ripen and a lengthy summer. The impressive depth of flavour and layers of complexity in this wine with its ripe dark fruit and high but balanced acidity all suggest that this is a wine for the long haul. Ten to 15 years in a good cellar will see it continue to evolve and open up with increasing depth of flavour. Top marks for impressive flavours now and every indication of a wine that will stand the test of time.

Wines of the week… Syrah and Shiraz

Trinity Hill Wines has released a new range of single vineyard wines, all relatively high priced. There are four wines in the new range and prices start at $39 for the rosé, rising to $80 for the Chardonnay and $120 for each of the reds; a Syrah and a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Their launch prompted me to taste the Syrah blind, alongside another new Syrah from Hawke’s Bay and one of Barossa Valley in Australia.

The following three wines were tasted blind but not double blind. This means that I knew which wines were in the lineup but they had their identities concealed. That said, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out which was the Australian wine which was deeper in colour and significantly more intense in taste.

I’ve never been one to make ‘best ever’ declarations about a movie, a book or even a great meal, let alone a wine, so I am not a little betwixt and between about New Zealand reds from the 2019 vintage, which I regard as responsible for some of the nicest, most drinkable and balanced wines I’ve had yet from this country. The reviews below reflect this.

18.5/20

2019 Squawking Magpie Gimblett Gravels Stoned Crow Syrah RRP $49.95

More information here

Hand picked grapes from a single vineyard and an extremely good vintage in Hawke’s Bay make this wine an impressive one for its price. Dark, rich and juicy with a full body and long, elegant finish from the elevated but balanced acidity, which adds freshness to the complex layers of cedar, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. There’s a lot going on in this bottle, which may not tick the everyday drinking box in terms of price, but which delivers an extremely impressive red for drinking now and with great potential for further aging for up to a decade.

This wine was selected as one of the top 12 wines from the Gimblett Gravels Annual Vintage Selection by Master of Wine Andrew Caillard.

19/20

2016 Peter Lehmann Stonewell Barossa Shiraz RRP $105.99

More information here

Inky, dark and smooth with very ripe, rich flavours of concentrated blackcurrant juice and jam notes, underpinned by powerful tannins and weight. This new P super full bodied wine with depth, complexity and length of flavour. First made in 1987 and named after the Barossan wine district that the late Peter Lehmann held in the highest regard because he saw super concentrated wine made from the small black grapes from this area in the Barossa, which he admired for the dark richness in taste in the wines he made from them.

Grapes were fermented and macerated for two weeks with a portion of barrel fermentation and followed by 18 months aging in French oak hogsheads. This wine drinks well now and will age for well over a decade in well chosen cellaring conditions.

18.5/20

2019 Trinity Hill Thomson’s Block Syrah RRP $120

More information here

Thomson’s Block is a north facing vineyard which was planted in 2007 on Roy’s Hill in Hawke’s Bay; a sunny and warm site which optimises flavours in late ripening grapes, such as Syrah. All grapes were hand picked along with 5% Viognier from the Gimblett Estate vineyard. They were foot plunged in a small stainless open tank where they spent 11 days on skins to gain colour and depth of flavour. The wine is dark, full and rich in taste with ripe black plum flavours and deep layers of spice adding complexity. It was aged in French oak barriques for 21 months then bottled without fining.

Big, bold and begging for time in the cellar.

Thomson’s Block bears no relation to the writer of this blog.

  • These wines are available online and in specialist stores.