Vino

Top drops under $20 (and over) and wine news from Joelle Thomson

Month: October 2017 (page 1 of 3)

5 of the best… New Pinot Noirs

Wines of the week

Pinot Noir is the most planted red grape in New Zealand so there’s no shortage of wine made from it, but here are five top drops – these wines stand out from the crowd and they all came my way directly from the producers, who were looking for independent analysis of quality, style and price.

These wines rock… they taste great and deliver consistent quality. And, no, they are not cheap, but you get what you pay for.

Prices quoted are approximate retail and drawn from Wine-Searcher.

Top Central drop 

2014 Chard Farm Mata-au Pinot Noir $39

A tasty top drop from an iconic historic Otago winery, Chard Farm, which is based in the dramatic Kawarau Gorge and accessed via a precipice sliver of a road, but which leads to the winery’s HQ. The grapes are another matter. While many grow around the winery itself, the vast majority come from the warmer, more settled weather of Lowburn and Parkburn – about 30 minutes’ drive away through in the Cromwell Basin. These vineyards are planted on terraces of alluvial schist from the Mata-Au (Clutha) River, and the hot summer days and cool nights enable the development of powerful ripe fruit flavours, while preserving Pinot’s hallmark of fresh acidic drive, which cuts through this wine’s fruity core, adding nerve and lingering freshness to every sip.

www.chardfarm.co.nz

North Canterbury great

2014 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir $49 

North Canterbury is often eclipsed by its southern cousin, Central Otago, but the best wines reach peaks that are at least as high, particularly Pegasus Bay, whose Pinots continue to grow in deliciousness, bringing a different take on the Pinot theme with their full body, earthy flavours, juicy succulence that provides the wines with length, finesse and elegance. The wine spent 18 months in French oak, 30% of which was new and adds some spicy bells and smooth whistles while.

Wellington wine 

2015 Te Kairanga Run Holder Pinot Noir $40

Fruit is the hero in this concentrated, richly flavoursome Pinot Noir from one of the Wairarapa’s oldest wineries, Te Kairanga – also known as TK on both the label and in the trade. Winemaker John Kavanagh… and the winery is now owned by Foley Family Vineyards, who employed winemaker John Kavanagh to turn things around, which he has done with  noticeable aplomb. He was previously the winemaker at Neudorf Vineyards in Nelson… speaking of which…

Nelson niceness

2015 Neudorf Tom’s Block Pinot Noir, $33

Nelson is known for its sunshine, its art and its lifestyles, two of which have forged the region’s most quality driven wines at their home in the Upper Moutere Valley at Neudorf – Tim and Judy Finn remain committed to their vineyard there, but also use grapes from other vineyards in the Upper Moutere in this full bodied Pinot, which spent nearly a year in French oak – 22% new – and went through 100% wild yeast fermentation, both of which have given this wine its wild earthy flavours and flatter its dark fruit appeal. It drinks well now and can age for 9 to 10 years.

Marvel newcomer from Marlborough

2015 Brancott Reflections Dror Pinot Noir $80

This is a powerful statement of a wine with bold, powerful aromas of cloves, orange peel and dried cherries; it’s 14.5% ABV, so it’s not shy on the alcohol front but this is nicely balanced by intense red cherry, plum and smoky flavours. It’s a blend of the best components of Pinot Noir from hand selected barrels, says Materman.

Bubble hubbub

This story was first published in Capital magazine, October 2017.

New Zealand winemakers enjoy great commercial success with high volume, low priced sparkling, but it’s the top shelf stuff that really gets me going. It’s modestly priced, compared to its classic European counterparts (we’re talking champagne here), and New Zealand’s bottle fermented sparkling wine can meet the best of them head-on, when it comes to quality.

New Zealand’s cool climate, burgeoning South Island wine industry and exceptional commercial success with white wines all bode well for the growth of top shelf sparkling wine, so it seems surprising that few wineries focus on it. All of which makes it heartening to hear Jane Hunter announce this year that she is growing the production of her fizz, MiruMiru.

If you’re thinking ‘why now?’, you’re not alone. This is the 20th birthday of MiruMiru, which is Maori for bubbles, and it’s a wine that replaced Hunter’s Brut, which was a fore-runner of its kind when first made in 1997.

When Hunter’s Wines went into bubbly production, it became the second Marlborough winery to do so and Jane utilised the winemaking expertise of Dr Tony Jordan; a sparkling wine specialist, who has consulted from day one with Hunter’s sparkling wine production, advising on choice of grape varieties, aging and production processes. It’s not a cheap exercise but, done well, it can be an extremely tasty one.
“In our mind’s eye, we are modelling MiruMiru on Bollinger and over the past decade, we have modified our winemaking methods to enhance the complexity of MiruMiru. These methods include using a higher proportion of barrel fermentation for the base wines and using old oak (with the occasional low proportion of new oak) as well as incorporating a higher percentage of reserve wines where possible,” explains winemaker James McDonald.

So, MiruMiru gets treated to plenty of tasty bells and whistles prior to its second fermentation in the bottle where the CO2 from fermentation dissolves into the wine, creating the bubbles we know and love.

There are three wines in the MiruMiru range; Hunter’s MiruMiru NV, Hunter’s MiruMiru Rose NV and the vintage dated reserve wine, the 2013 Hunter’s MiruMiru.
“High end bubbly has a huge amount of capital tied up in making it, due to the tank space it takes up, the barrel space we need to allocate for it and the money we don’t make while we are aging the wines, so we will be judicious about how much we increase production,” says Jordan.
Hunter agrees, saying that she doesn’t want to grow her sparkling wine production “too much” due to the sheer cost of stock tied up in aging sparkling wines prior to release. That said, she and Jordan are committed to growing Hunter’s fizz production, as are their winemakers  James McDonald and Inus Van Der Westhuizen.

This year is not the first time I have tasted MiruMiru bubbles in a line up but it is the first time I have seen such a strong comparative difference between the three styles. I am strongly impressed by the high quality and incredible affordability of these wines.
Like a small handful of other New Zealand sparkling wines, MiruMiru puts many champagnes to shame because its yeasty complexity, fresh crisp acidity and long finish makes it outstanding value for money at NZ$29.99. Call it $30 if you will, but it’s outrageously good value.

Post script on MiruMiru

Hunter’s was the second winery ever to produce bubblies made using the traditional technique used in the Champagne region – the so called traditional method of creating bubbles in the bottle during a second fermentation. This results in a greater density of bubbles and massively more complex, yeasty flavours than most sparkling wines made in sealed tanks where the CO2 from fermentation dissolves into the wine.

Hunter’s Wines was founded by Ernie Hunter in 1979. He made his first wine in 1982 and the first sparkling was produced in 1987 and named Hunter’s Marlborough Estate Brut. Jane Hunter took over the winery in 1987.

 

Top fizzy drop

Hunter’s MiruMiru NV $29.99

MiruMiru NV is fresh, clean and full bodied with intense flavours but a light touch – pronounced fresh bakery flavours add depth to the refreshing style of this bubbly, which is modelled on the world’s best, only it’s a hell of a lot more affordable.

New steel matrix sculpture lands on NZ’s biggest vineyard

Meet Marlborough’s massive new giant wine rack… The 8 metre high sculpture was officially unveiled yesterday along with two new high priced wines with labels that reflect the design by New York based Dror Benshetrit, who has been working on the project for the past 18 months.

The sculpture was craned onto Brancott Estate Vineyard last week as an interlocking concertina frame, comprised of 52 individual components, which locked into place once the flat matrix was unfolded. It’s welded to the ground and is a permanent fixture on the vast vineyard.

Dror also designed a mini version of the matrix as a wine rack (available from Brancott Estate’s Heritage Centre in Marlborough for purchase for $350) and the wine labels for the new Reflection wines.

Form and function combine in the mini version of the Understanding sculpture; a wine rack, pictured above.

The 8 metre high sculpture is titled Under/standing and the wines are called Reflection; a reference to both the sculpture and the wines, says Pernod Ricard chief winemaker Patrick Materman, who worked with Dror on the logistics of the new artwork – and the labels.

Great wine can be a reflection of the vineyard on which their grapes grew, which was the inspiration for the name and represents what he wants to achieve in these wines.

Reflection… Two new wines with labels which reflect the giant wine rack sculpture by Dror and also reflect the country’s largest wine region’s two major strengths – dry white Sauvignon and full bodied Pinot Noir.

Here are my notes on the new Reflection wines

2016 Brancott Estate Reflection $60

Here it is… and it’s tasty stuff too. This first new Brancott Estate Reflection white is a blend of 52% Sauvignon Blanc and 48% Sauvignon Gris (a natural mutation of Sauvignon Blanc, only grassier in taste). The aim was to make something that had some oak shining through, tastes good with food and can age, which meant the winemaking process was a few-expenses-spared process from hand picking the grapes to raging the wine in 4000 litre oak ‘fuder’ barrels. The result is a dry, full bodied white with flavours of lemon grass, grapefruit and notes of smoky complexity; it’s delicious but restrained rather than out there when it comes to fruit flavour, and its zesty acidity adds a long finish. A stunner.

How much was made? About 100-150 cases.

What does it taste like? Smoky and oaky on the nose but in a pretty restrained style. It tastes of fresh citrusy lemon grass and a touch of green apple and it’s dry, zesty, full bodied

What type of oak was used? Large 4000 litre oak fuder for fermentation and maturation, post ferment. The wine spent the best part of a year in that oak sitting on its lees – the decomposing yeast cells left over after fermentation, which protects wine from oxidation and also adds yeasty complex flavours.

What are the links between the wine and the sculpture? “The steel plates on the sculpture go in two different directions on the sculpture and together they form a structure and strength; the same is true of the two different grapes in the wine, which work together,” says chief winemaker Patrick Materman.

Will it be made again? It’s an ongoing brand which will sell only at the cellar door.

And it’s available… in standard 750ml bottles for $60 and magnums (1500 mls) for $130.

2015 Brancott Reflections Dror Pinot Noir $80

This is a powerful statement of a wine with bold, powerful aromas of cloves, orange peel and dried cherries; it’s 14.5% ABV, so it’s not shy on the alcohol front but this is nicely balanced by intense red cherry, plum and smoky flavours. It’s a blend of the best components of Pinot Noir from hand selected barrels, says Materman.

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