Rippon Vineyard is one of the world’s most beautiful, a fact that never escapes those who visit its drop dead gorgeous vines on the shores of Lake Wanaka – the most westerly area in the world’s southernmost wine region. Winemaker Nick Mills was visiting Wellington today from the frosty deep south and he popped into Regional Wines for a tasting of his biodynamically certified wines, all of which come from grapes grown on the shores of Lake Wanaka.

As Mills says, Rippon Vineyard is an estate – not a brand. This means all his grapes are grown on the estate; as in Europe and all traditional wine growing countries, the word estate means the land owned and tended by the owners. Here are the wines I tasted.

The Rippon wines…

Best Otago Sauvignon this year – 2016 Rippon Sauvignon Blanc

Lots of work went into this wine, which is 100% wild fermented. Its softness and savoury style comes from a 60/40 ferment in stainless steel tanks and old oak barrels. It remains on lees unsulphured for two months. It is the best Otago Sauvignon Blanc I have tried this year.

New flagship Pinot Noir – 2013 Rippon Mature Vine Pinot Noir

This is a new release – all wines are held a year in barrel and another one in bottle before release; an expensive move for the winery but a tasty one for consumers because it allows the wines to open up and soften during this maturation time. This is savoury rather than a fruit bomb, but also bone dry in flavour, which rates highly with me. Love the long finish and balanced style.

New youthful Riesling – 2015 Rippon Jeunesse Young Vine Riesling

Very Germanic in style with an impressively broad spectrum of flavours. About 150-200 cases are made of this wine each year. Winemaker Nick Mills rates this year particularly well – and its complexity is a big drawcard to this fresh new white with its white floral flavours through to ripe apricot and a long finish. Nice.

Top drop – 2014 Rippon Riesling

Made from 25-30 year old vines, this is the leading Riesling in terms of quantity – and quality. The winery has about 2.5 hectares of Riesling, which is tiny but more than all other white varieties at Rippon. These vines provide enough grapes to produce between 500 to 600 cases of this dry, medium bodied, concentrated Riesling  each year. Rich, complex, dry and long – all you want in a Riesling. It’s all about youthful lime and peach aromas now, but it will develop further with time and it will age age.

This superlative southern wine shows loud and clear why Riesling is the most underrated white grape of the deep south in New Zealand.