A winemakers’ dozen… 13 top bottles

A shorter version of this story appeared in FQ Life magazine in June 2016.

Pscyhology writer Mark Manson once said that reading a book can be like visiting an author’s brain, which made me think that drinking wine is a little like setting foot inside a hand tended vineyard. It provides an insight into the place a wine comes from, into the person who grew the grapes there and the wine itself.

Wine’s colour, flavour and style take their cue from the climate in which their grapes were grown.

Big dark reds get their colour and flavour from vineyards doused in sunshine while cool crisp whites retain their citrus freshness from cool climates.

This winemaker’s dozen (there are 13 wines here) is a round up of 13 of my favourite wines, following a request by FQ Life Editor Naomi Larkin, who asked me to recommend 12 great (‘all time favourite’) wines.

I hope you enjoy the wines – and the read.

Wild winemaking 

2014 Pegasus Bay Riesling $30

Winemaker Mat Donaldson has a reputation for pushing boundaries in winemaking, which comes through loud and clear in Pegasus Bay Riesling, a wine with its flavour dials turned up high. This wine is made with grapes that hung out on the vines for about a month longer than all others in North Canterbury, providing Mat with rich raw materials from which to coax flavours that taste like peach puree, dried apricots and succulent lime sorbet. This is my all time favourite New Zealand wine because it’s consistently complex and far too drinkable.

Black beauty

2013 Terrazes Reserva Malbec $32.95

Argentina has more Malbec (36,000 hectares) than all of New Zealand’s vineyard area (35,000 hectares) put together. The powerful black colour and commanding flavours in this wine come from grapes grown at over 1000 metres high in the Andes foothills, where hot days drench vines in sunshine and cool nights enable them to retain fresh acidity. Big, velvety and powerful doesn’t get better than this.

Big buttery Chardonnay

2014 Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay Margaret River $66

Vasse Felix was the first winery in Western Australia’s Margaret River region, and this Chardonnay is the last word in X-factor big and creamy. It tastes like roasted almonds, cashews and macadamias – or like salted butter on hot toast, only better.

New wave Marlborough

2014 Dog Point Section 94 $39.99

It’s sauvignon blanc but not as we know it. Winemakers James Healy and Ivan Sutherland add creamy bells and whistles to this wine by fermenting their sauvignon grapes in oak barrels to soften savvy’s crisp green flavours – rather than adding a wood-derived taste. This is the result: an addictively tasty new take on Marlborough savvy.

Everyday deliciousness 

2015 Montana Waipara Riesling $11.99

Everyone needs an affordable everyday wine and here’s mine – fresh as a daisy Waipara riesling that tastes electric with intense citrus and green fruit flavours of lime and granny smith apples. It ages brilliantly, softening after five years in the cellar (under the bed or tucked away in the hall closet will do the trick). 

Pinot Central

2013 Mount Edward Morrison Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir $65

Winemakers Duncan Forsyth and Anna Riederer have nailed the temperamental pinot noir grape in their Morrison Vineyard pinot, which is all about complex flavours of red fruit, dark earthy and spice. It’s a velvet smooth, deliciously savoury style from the world’s most southern wine region.

Awesome alternative

2014 Astrolabe Vineyard Wrekin Vineyard Chenin Blanc $27.99

And now for something totally different – Marlborough chenin blanc; one of the best dry whites in the country, despite being made from one of its least planted grapes. There are 22 hectares of chenin in New Zealand today compared to over 20,000 of sauvignon blanc but it has every bit as much wow factor with its dry, crisp, apple and honey flavours.

Earthy vino

2014 Earth’s End Central Otago Pinot Noir $29

This so-called second tier wine leaves many higher priced reds in the dust, thanks to the ace winemaking duo of Duncan and Anna at Mount Edward in the chilly Gibbston Valley in Otago, where they coax savoury as well as fruity flavours in this way too drinkable pinot noir.

 Italian stallion

 2014 Allegrini Valpolicella DOC $33

If only all Italian reds were as soft, smooth and curvaceous as this silky little number from Valpolicella in Veneto, north east Italy. It’s all about redcurrant, red plum and spicy flavours in this wine, which is made from the tasty Italian grape trio of corvina, rondinella and molinara.

Fantastic fizz                                                                                                               

Champagne Gatinois Ay Grand Cru $54.95

Winemaker Louis Cheval-Gatinois makes this full bodied, toasty bubbly from a very small, very high quality vineyard in Ay, a village in the Champagne region. His vineyards are classified as grand cru – French for top tier and this fizz tastes just as you’d expect, once you know that bit – think fresh French toast with powerful yeasty aromas, only better.

Canterbury tales

2014 Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon $31.99

There’s a party in every glass of this fresh, flavoursome, oak aged blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon. It’s an innovative South Island white, not only for being an unusual blend, but also because it was matured for 9 months in old oak barrels where it gained softness, smoky flavours and a creamy texture.


Doctor’s orders

 2014 Dr L Dry Riesling $21.99

This is a tasty ripple in the new wave of German white wine with its dry, fresh, light bodied with flavours of lime zest, lemon juice and green apple, thanks to Dr Ernie Loosen, one of Germany’s most innovative winemakers. His straightforward winemaking and modern packaging (simple label and screwcaps) put riesling’s best foot forward.

Cheeky little French red

2013 Saint-Francois Xavier Cotes-du-Rhone $18.99

This wine channels an exotic southern French vibe with its soft curves of grenache, its spicy full body of syrah and its warm, dark, earthy flavours of mourvedre grapes. What more could you want in a $19 red?

Author: Joelle Thomson

I am a wine writer, author and educator... first bitten by a big buttery Chardonnay on a dark and stormy night in the 1980s and there was no turning back... Follow my tastings and join some too on this new site.

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