Joelle Thomson

Words on wine

Second generation takes over at Astrolabe Wines

Change is in the air for many of us thanks to the global pandemic that took us all by surprise this year, not least the family who own and run Astrolabe Wines in Marlborough, which appointed a new general manager.

Libby Waghorn Levett takes over from Jane Forrest-Waghorn, co-owner of Astrolabe Wines with winemaker Simo Waghorn.

“In this recent time of economic uncertainty, I feel it is important to have clear, strong and energetic leadership. I have decided to step aside and asked Libby Waghorn Levett, our middle daughter, to take over my role as general manager, effective immediately,” says Jane Waghorn, adding:  “This was always the plan, but I have brought the change forward to ensure we manage Astrolabe with confidence and clarity.”

“Libby is looking forward to tackling the challenges emerging out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the new landscape that awaits on the other side. It has really made us take a look at the way we work and the way we engage with our industry community. It feels like we have been in fast-forward for the past few weeks, and we have been working hard to make sure Astrolabe keeps pace while staying true to our roots as a small, family-run wine producer.”

Wine reviews, Trinity Hill’s new Lost Garden and White Label

Someone famous once said we never get a second chance to make a first impression.

If first impressions count for you as much as they do for me, then the new Lost Garden wines are likely to make a strong impact but will it be a positive one? For me, it is an instantly positive one, thanks to the visual appeal of the bottles but what’s inside is always more important so this week I put these wines to the taste test and they came up smelling if not exactly like roses, then definitely like clean, floral, fresh and tasty wines made in an approachable style across the board. This means they drink well now and are not intended nor really ideally suited to further aging, although the winemaking (and choice of closures, all screwcaps, thankfully) will preserve them for at least the next two to four years.

The range is made for early drinking, which means they tend to be on the lighter side with fruity flavours and smooth attributes, flavours designed to appeal to those who want an affordable wine to take home and drink tonight or as a weekend treat. They are made by Trinity Hill in Hawke’s Bay and priced in the next level range of $29.95 each. I tasted three of the range and here are my notes on them.

17.5/20

2019 Lost Garden Hawke’s Bay Rosé $29.95, 12% ABV

Light pink rosé is on trend and its colour comes from minimal skin contact during winemaking, in this case using Syrah and Pinot Noir grapes grown in Hawke’s Bay; New Zealand’s second biggest wine region.
It’s a light bodied pink wine with fresh flavours of red fruit, such as cranberries and strawberries. Its fresh zesty finish adds balance to the fruit flavours and this wine is dry with 2.5 grams of residual sugar per litre (firmly in the dry style). This wine is tasty, refreshing and very good quality.

16.5/20

2019 Lost Garden Hawke’s Bay Pinot Noir $29.95, 13.5% ABV

Hawke’s Bay has arguably the most diverse range of climate types in New Zealand when it comes to grape growing, which means it can ripen a wide range of grape varieties, including the cool climate loving Pinot Noir. This new Lost Garden Pinot Noir is dry, light bodied and pale in colour with fresh vibrant red berry aromas and flavours of red fruit. It’s a wine to drink now rather than to cellar but will hold for two to three years as a lively, refreshing expression of all that’s great and good about the thin skinned Pinot Noir grape.

17.5/20

2018 Lost Garden Hawke’s Bay Syrah $29.95, 12.5% ABV

Syrah is the second most planted red grape in Hawke’s Bay and is slowly but steadily increasing in vineyard area due to its incredibly promising taste potential. This one is dry with a medium ruby colour, spicy aromas of cloves and fresh black pepper. Its flavours suggest a region well suited to Syrah with its ripe black plum notes, smooth tannins and  medium finish. This is a wine to drink in its youth and enjoy for its refreshing  lighter take on the Syrah theme from Hawke’s Bay.

17.5/20

2019 Trinity Hill Hawke’s Bay White Label Syrah $, 13.5% ABV

Talk about stepping things up a notch or three; this medium ruby hued Hawke’s Bay Syrah has… aromas of freshly crushed cloves, black pepper, spice and all things nice; it’s a medium to full bodied red with firm grainy tannins and medium plus length of flavour. Aging at the winery, pre bottling, includes eight months in stainless steel and a shorter time period in seasoned (older) French oak, which accentuates the smooth texture and adds light notes of spice for appeal and complexity.

 

17.5/20

2018 Trinity Hill Hawke’s Bay White Label Pinot Noir $22.95, 13% ABV

Now I like wine, which shows how refreshing Pinot Noir can taste when it’s light bodied and dry. It also shines a spotlight on the great potential of Hawke’s Bay to produce good to very good quality Pinot Noir that highlights this sensitive grape variety’s most elegant, silky side – its bright fresh red fruit flavours of red berries and red plums intermingled with spicy flavours of nutmeg, cinnamon and notes of cedar, all of which add complexity to this light bodied, intensely flavoursome dry red.

 

17.5/20 

2017 Trinity Hill The Trinity White Label Red Blend $22.95, 12.5% ABV

This Cabernet Franc dominant red blend has great density and structure with ripe red and black fruit flavours, notes of olives and savoury spice. It’s dry, full bodied, richly flavoursome and complex, drinking well now and clearly a good contender for the cellar, thanks to its impressive structured style.

 

18.5/20

2019 Trinity Hill Merlot Hawke’s Bay White Label Merlot $22.95, 13.5% ABV

Merlot is one of the top four most popular grapes in Hawke’s Bay, both with vineyard plantings to reflect this and in terms of wines that red drinkers look to the Bay to produce. This wine doesn’t disappoint. It rewards with deep ripe red plum flavours in a plush, soft, smooth bodied with impressive structural backbone from the 10% of Cabernet Franc and 5% of Cabernet Sauvignon, which do not need to be declared on the label (85% of the wine is Merlot and this is in line with label regulations). These two grapes add backbone and richness, while allowing Merlot to take the driver’s seat in flavour profile. This wine will hold for a couple of years but it’s a damned delicious drink right now…

The grapes in this wine come from the Gimblett Stones, Tin Shed and Gimblett Gravels vineyards.

Wines of the day, Tuesday 19 May… A tale of two Pinots

I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would write about wine as an essential service in a time of global lockdown but life throws all sorts of weird and sometimes even wonderful things at us.

In this case, Covid-19 is the weird and wine is the wonderful. It’s an essential part of a wine writer’s ‘job’ to report on new releases and here are two interesting Pinot Noirs that landed on my tasting table (aka my desk) this week. Both come from North Canterbury with one from 2018 and the other from 2019. The vintages and the wines are extremely different in style.

My pick of this pair is the youngest wine from the 2019 vintage, which also happens to be a reserve wine, meaning it has had more hand work in its production and also comes from a superlative year. It also needs  more time to soften and relax into itself, and it has the structure to reward those with willpower to cellar it for seven or eight years. It’s great to taste another delicious South Island Pinot Noir from the 2019 vintage, which is hitting high notes all round in terms of top quality 2019 Pinot Noirs from the South Island, of the wines I’ve tasted so far. If this is any indication, there’s a lot more to look forward to from 2019. Bring them on.

18.5/20 (gold medal)

2019 Main Divide Te Hau Reserve Pinot Noir $32.95
Te Hau Reserve Pinot Noir is named after Henry Te Hau Tapu Nui o Tu Donaldson, an ancestor of the Donaldson family who own Pegasus Bay Winery today. This wine and that region are consistent favourites of mine, due to the depth of flavour and robust structure, which comes from earthy flavours and smooth but noticeable tannins (not always a strong feature in Pinot Noir). These qualities come from windy springs (which reduces grape and bunch size), to hot summers (which aid ripening) and long autumns, which enhance ripeness. This reserve wine is not made every year but every time it is produced, the style and quality punch significantly above the price tag, which is relatively humble, given the great concentration of flavour, dry taste and full body in this wine.

The 2019 vintage in North Canterbury was unsettled in spring and a smaller crop ripened earlier than usual in settled weather conditions. This wine will reward cellaring for another six to seven years.

17/20 (high bronze medal)

2018 Main Divide Pinot Noir $24.99

This new release of Main Divide comes from a very hot summer with some rain followed by dry autumn conditions. The wine was aged in oak (35% new) after fermentation with plunging twice daily to extract structure. It’s a good quality Pinot Noir and tastes youthful now, so will benefit with time, softening and maturing into an even more approachable wine.

The Main Divide wines are the introductory range from Pegasus Bay Winery in Waipara, North Canterbury. They are named after the Southern Alps, which form the backbone of the South Island.

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