This weekly blog is a place I can share some of the top drops that come my way as a wine writer. Wine is work. And let’s not forget the coffee, missing from this photo.

The aim of this weekly 5 top blog is to share wines that are consistent, uncompromised and thoughtfully made – the same aims I have in mind when writing about them. After writing for nearly every major daily newspaper in New Zealand, I am now a regular contributor to Capital magazine in Wellington, NZ WinegrowerDrinksbiz and Good magazine. I also work as wine programme director at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington, all of which means I taste a vast number of wines every week and the following five at the tip of a far longer iceberg.

So, what makes a great wine?

Is it only the taste?

I often think great wine is as much about affordability, accessibility and company as it is about flavour because a humble wine can taste fantastic when shared with the right person, just as some of the world’s most expensive wines can taste good but not great, if there’s no one to share them with. So, meet Madam Sass.

 

Sassy Pinot

2016 Madam Sass Pinot Noir $26, 13.5% ABV

The makers of Madam Sass Pinot Noir have channeled their energy into creating an appealingly cheeky brand as well as a drink-me-now red from the world’s most southern wine region, Central Otago. This is the first vintage of Madam Sass Pinot Noir, which is made with grapes grown in Bendigo, one of the sunniest spots in Otago. The warmth and sunshine translate to ripe, rich and dark cherry flavours and a medium body, underpinned by firm but balanced acidity, which adds a nervy edge to Madam Sass, which is made by Accolade Wines.

Where to buy: it’s widely available.

 

Top Aussie drop… for the cellar

2014 Vasse Felix Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon $45, 14.5%ABV

It’s not only yours truly who celebrated a five decade milestone this year (ouch) but this wine also does, thanks to being founded in 1967 by Dr Tom Cullity, who broke new ground in Margaret River when he produced this far flung region’s first significant red wine from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec in 1972. This new release is a big, brooding Western Aussie red made 100% from Cabernet Sauvignon and needs plenty of time in the bottle before it reaches the pinnacle of its tannic power and savoury structure. It drinks well now, if decanted, and has potential to age for over a decade.

Where to buy: specialist stores or order from Negociants NZ, phone 0800 634 624 or ordersnz@negociants.com  or www.negociantsnz.com

 

Great southern white

2017 Felton Road Bannockburn Riesling $30, 8.5% ABV

It’s tempting to think Central Otago is all about Pinot Noir; after all, there’s plenty of it down there – 80% of the region’s vineyards are planted with Pinot, but here’s a white that shows the great potential of sizzlingly fresh, succulently seductive Rieslings from the world’s most southern wine region. It’s one of two Rieslings made by Blair Walter at Felton Road, who puts this wine’s most vibrant fruit forward in this flavoursome drop with its ripe limes, white peach and nectarine tastes. Like a great Riesling from the Mosel in Germany, this beautiful Bannockburn Riesling walks a precarious tightrope between its fresh high acidity, its low alcohol (8.5% ABV) and its high but balanced residual sugar. Not that you’d think of this wine as ‘sweet’. It’s long succulent finish keeps the mouth watering for more.

Where to buy: www.FeltonRoad.com or email: wines@FeltonRoad.com

 

Nelson Pinot power

2015 Greenhough Hope Vineyard Nelson Pinot Noir $, ABV %

Certified organic

Small yields, high quality and certified organic grapes are the story of this Pinot Noir, which was grown on the Hope Vineyard in Nelson from vines with an average age of 20 years. The grapes were destemmed into open top fermenters, treated to a pre-fermentation soak of 4-5 days to extract colour and tannin and then, during fermentation, plunged twice daily to gently coax their most flavoursome side out. This wine is all about silky Pinotesque elegance coupled with earthy, spicy flavoursome depth and a long finish, thanks to winemakers Andrew Greenhough and Jenny Wheeler.

Where to buy: Greenhough Vineyards, phone 03 542 3868 or email: info@greenhough.co.nz

 

Champion winner under $20

2016 Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Riesling $21.90,  12.5%

The champion wine of this year’s New Zealand Aromatic Wine Competition was this humbly priced Riesling, which is made with grapes grown on the Mound and Deans vineyards on the south side of the Waipara Valley in North Canterbury. Most of the grapes in this wine were pressed immediately but a small portion were left to soak on skins for 12 hours to extract flavour, then the juice was settled, inoculated with commercial yeasts and fermentation stopped at a medium dry level of  13 grams per litre of residual sugar – not too sweet at all,  but ideal for delivering a beautiful burst of lime, ripe mandarin and incredibly pretty floral aromas. This is an outstanding wine at a humble price.

Where to buy: it’s widely available.

 

PS: The New Zealand Aromatic Wine Competition began in 2003 as part of the Canterbury A&P Show, which is now in its 155th year and was first established in 1863.

The 2017 New Zealand Aromatic Wine Competition

The full list of winners from this year’s show is here.

Beck & Caul Supreme Champion Wine of the Show

2016 Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Riesling

Champion Sauvignon Blanc Winner

2017 Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Champion Pinot Gris Winner – 2017 Summerhouse Pinot Gris

Champion Rosé Winner – 2017 Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Pinot Rosé

Champion Gewürztraminer Winner – 2017 Saint Clair Pioneer Block 12 Lone Gum Gewurztraminer

Champion Other Aromatic Varieties Winner – 2016 Left Field Gisborne Albarino

Champion Riesling Trophy Winner – 2016 Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Riesling 2016

MacVine Champion Canterbury Wine

2016 Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Riesling 2016

Champion Canterbury Rosé Winner

2017 Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Pinot Rosé 2017

Champion Riesling Trophy Winner

2016 Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Riesling 

Champion Sweet Winner

2015 Tohu Raiha Reserve Noble Riesling 2015

Winemaker of the Year 2017

Michael Wood, Obsidian Vineyard

www.theshow.co.nz/show-entries/international-aromatic-wine-competition/#results