Vino

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

Category: Bubbles (page 1 of 3)

Wine, the universe and everything part 2

Big wine regions often get a bad rap but where would we be without them?

I’ve lost count of how many visits I made to Marlborough last year, often with others who work with wine, and each time we were staggered by the region’s heavy reliance on Sauvignon Blanc. Even when you do expect it,  the number of eggs that Marlborough winemakers have in the Sauvignon Blanc basket is daunting, to say the least.

Great Chardonnays from Marlborough are growing in number but even at the largest wineries, it often makes up less than 5% of their overall production. And that doesn’t even touch on the potential greatness of Marlborough Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Chenin Blanc (listed in diminishing order of their numerical importance in the region). Such is the importance of the wine we call ‘Savvy’. And you’d be anything but that, if you chose not to put most of your energy into producing the most profitable wine. Still, it’s great to taste a slow but steady divergence  amongst Marlborough Sauvignons, which is why Kevin Judd’s Wild Sauvignon hits the sweet spot with so many wine commentators and drinkers alike, not only in New Zealand but around the world. Read on.

The latest stats

85% of Marlborough’s wine production is Sauvignon Blanc

76% of New Zealand’s white grapes are Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is the most planted grape overall and the dominant white wine in New Zealand, which occupies 22,085 hectares of the 37,000 hectares of grapes grown in this country

Sauvignon has had the biggest overall growth of any grape grown and wine made in New Zealand in the past 10 years

In 2008 there were 13,988 producing hectares of Sauvignon planted nationwide – today it is 22,085 (as above). Over the same period, Pinot Noir grew from 4,650 hectares in 2008 to 5,653 today; Chardonnay decreased from 3,881 to 3,203 and Pinot Gris grew from 1,383 to 2,469.

 

5 TOP DROPS

FOR THE CELLAR

2015 Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Marlborough $28-$30, 14% ABV 

Kevin Judd first made this wine in 2009 and it is 100% barrel fermented with 100% wild yeast; about two thirds of the wine goes through malolactic fermentation to soften Sauvignon’s naturally high acidity and  add roundness to this voluptuous, full bodied dry white. It ages in barrel and goes through battonage (French for stirring the lees – the decomposing yeast cells left over in the wine). It was James Healy – fellow winemaker at Cloudy Bay, who steered Judd in the direction of a wild and tank fermented Sauvignon, but that was back in 1991 when they both worked at Cloudy Bay. Judd says he was pestered by Healy to make  wild yeast fermented Chardonnay and he eventually he agreed to do it, he was surprised to find himself thinking ‘This is really quite good’.

As is his Greywacke Wild Sauvignon – full bodied, succulent, juicy, savoury and long. This wine shines a new light on Sauvignon Blanc. It can age well too; for up to 10 years.

 

NAUGHTY AND NICE

2015 Kung Fu Girl Riesling $24.95, 12% ABV

The label’s naughty, the wine is nice. And it has a new importer in New Zealand as from this week; namely, Constellation Brands.

Kung Fu Girl Riesling is made from grapes grown on the evocatively named Evergreen Vineyard in the Ancient Lakes AVA (American Viticultural Area – 566 hectares with only 5 wineries, so not large). It’s off dry, but only just, which suits its incredibly intense fruit purity,  light body and juicy flavours of ripe limes, green apples and mandarin.

Washington State is not exactly the first place you’d expect to look for Riesling but the classic light bodied, low alcohol, off dry German Rieslings were the inspiration for North American winemaker Charles Smith.

Available from specialist wine stores or email: joanne.deitch@cbrands.com

 

ONE FOR FUN

Bisou Bisou $19.99

Bisou Bisou means kiss kiss in French and the wine is definitely a big cuddly bubbly, made entirely from Chardonnay grapes grown in the Yarra Valley, 40 minutes north of Melbourne. It’s off dry but its creamy soft complexity balances the high but refreshing acidity. It was made at De Bortoli Wines and is available exclusively only through Vinomofo online.

Available from Vinomofo.

 

PINOT POWER

2016 Whistling Buoy Half Acre Vineyard Pinot Noir $42

This grapes in this wine were grown in Lyttelton, which is halfway down the South Island on the east coast of New Zealand. It’s a far flung place for growing fruit, even from the nearby city of Christchurch city (whose residents look north rather than east for the best local produce), but it is a beautiful getaway and a surprisingly successful one for the small Half Acre Vineyard, on the south of Lyttelton Harbour crater. This is the source of the Pinot Noir grapes in this wine. They growing facing north where they are drenched in sun on the warm slopes of a vineyard first planted in 2000. It’s an outstanding wine; revealing the earthy, mushroomy, dark cherry  character of Canterbury Pinot Noirs; its medium body and firm acidity add freshness to the beautiful ripe fruit flavours in this wine. The name comes from the original buoy that marked the entrance to this harbour.

Available direct from Whistling Buoy Wines online at http://www.whistlingbuoy.co.nz/index.php/en/

 

DECADENT DROP

2016 Chapel Hill McLaren Vale Bush Vine Grenache $28.95 , 14.5% ABV

Grenache may be one of the most prolifically grown grapes in the world, but it’s also one of the most under rated. How often do you even see the G word on a bottle of wine? It’s one of the most planted grapes in both Spain and southern France and it was once Australia’s most planted overall grape, until a significant amount was pulled out. How times change.

Winemakers like Bryn Richards from Chapel Hill are now keen to plant more Grenache. He is also lucky enough to have access to old bush vines for this wine, which was made from grapes grown on a vineyard planted in 1952 in McLaren Vale, south Australia – a hot bed of experimentation. Richards is a massive fan of Grenache for its soft, sensual mouth feel and its intense red cherry flavours. If you love Pinot, check out this next step up. It’s full bodied but has a lightness in taste and is a wine of real beauty and instant accessibility; drinks well now, though can definitely improve with age in the bottle for 4-5 years, possibly longer.

Available from Glengarry stores.

5 top drops… wines I never thought I would love

A dead French novelist once wrote that real discoveries are not about seeing new people, places or things, but seeing the same people, places and things with new eyes.

Apparently, he was quoting someone else but I’ve always liked the idea. And it’s been top of mind in the last three weeks of travel, tasting and writing; here are the 5 most surprising wines that I gave high wine scores to in tastings.

La Marca was first made in 1968  and is now available   in New Zealand.

 

Prosecco

La Marca Prosecco $26 to $28

Joelle’s rating: 17.5/20

Meet La Marca, which is new to New Zealand this month and is a cooperative wine made from grapes grown by over 5000 growers who sell their grapes to 9 cooperative wineries to produce this bubbly. It was first made in 1968 and was awarded a ‘Top 100 wines of the year’ by Wine Spectator magazine in 2007, which is pretty surprising given the light citrus flavours, frizzante style fizziness (i.e., not fully sparkling as a champagne is) and the lack of sweetness (1.7 grams per litre of grape sugar makes this wine bone dry – a big contrast to many Proseccos). Perhaps this is exactly what I like about La Marca – it’s dry, it’s fresh, it’s too easy to drink. Forget cider. I’ll opt for a Prosecco like this one any day.

 

Pinot Gris

2016 Mahana Estates Pinot Gris $25 to $29

Joelle’s rating: 18.5/20

Pinot Gris pales into significance when positioned next to its terpene fuelled kin, such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer, says winemaker Michael Glover, who decided to change his methods in making wine from Pinot Gris by seeing it as a copper coloured grape rather than a white one.

Blood Moon Pinot Gris is the result. He gave the wine four days of pre fermentation skin contact, which has unlocked doors of flavour that might have been closed to Pinot Gris if made along traditional lines, with no skin contact. This is the best Pinot Gris I have ever tried (and there have been dinner parties devoted to Pinot Gris in my honour; to try and turn my head and heart onto the best Gris from around the world). This wine is fresh, dry, medium bodied, smooth and flavoursome with savoury tastes of spice, nuts and ripe orange, with refreshing acidity to carry it to a lingering conclusion. I had to check it out over three days to see if it really was that good – it is. Best Pinot Gris ever.

Buy it here: https://shop.mahana.nz/product/Mahana-Pinot-Gris1

 

Sauvignon blend

2016 Brancott Estate Reflection Sauvignon $60

Joelle’s rating: 18.5/20

Brancott Estate is a big company pumping out vast volumes of white wine, mostly from Marlborough, so it’s hard to see what could be done differently with yet another Sauvignon Blanc from the region that is drowning in the stuff. This wine is deliciously different, thanks to winemaker Patrick Materman’s innovative blend of 52% Sauvignon Blanc and 48% Sauvignon Gris (a natural mutation of Sauvignon Blanc). It was officially released in late October 2017 to coincide with the launch of a new eight metre high iron sculpture, designed by New York based designer Dror Benshetrit, who also designed the label on this bottle. Like the sculpture, the wine makes a big statement; it’s dry, smoky and intense with flavours of lemon grass, grapefruit and oak – only 150 cases were made and it’s also available in a magnum; both bottle sizes are sealed with screw caps. I had to eat my silent words when tasting this wine because I wondered what could work well about blending Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris from Marlborough but this blend works beautifully with the succulence of Sauvignon Blanc being balanced by Gris’ fresh green flavours. Oak fermentation adds weight and depth but the fruit flavours taste stunning in this wine.

Buy it here: https://www.brancottestate.com/en-nz/visit-our-vineyard

 

New look for an old classic

2015 La Vieille Ferme Cote du Ventoux $20 to $25

Joelle’s rating: 17.5/20

It’s one of those cheapies you buy for the first time when budget rules all your buying decisions, but La Vieille Ferme (‘the old farm’) has come along in fruity leaps and savoury bounds since I last tried it about five years back, which was why  importer Mark Young of Vintners New Zealand suggested I take a new look at this old classic.

Today the old farm tastes brand new with a touch of savouriness balanced by fresh red fruit flavours and a smooth, light body. It’s a long way from the dusty austerity that held this wine back in the past and I can’t help but think the screw cap plays a large part in delivering this lovely French red in a fresh-is-best style.

 

Sauvignon from tricky vintage

2017 Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc $27

Joelle’s rating: 18.5/20

The 2017 harvest will be remembered as short, sharp and shocking in many parts of New Zealand. It only lasted 21 days in Marlborough, but challenging times call for innovative solutions and the Dog Point winemaking team chose theirs by spending more time in the vineyard than usual, where they indulged their Sauvignon Blanc vines to early shoot removal and crop thinning so that 2017 was, for them, “a very low harvest” with impressive fruit flavours.

The proof is in the bottle. It’s bone dry, intensely citrusy and fleshy with green fruit and herb flavours underpinned by refreshing but balanced high acidity, finishing with complex nutty flavours.

Kiwi bubbles wow the world…

Hunter’s Wines has been awarded Best New Zealand Sparkling Wine for the third year running at this year’s Sparkling Wine World Championships for the third year in a row…

The Marlborough bubbly was celebrated at a retrospective tasting in Auckland this month to mark the 20th year of production. Jane Hunter of the eponymous winery says production of MiruMiru will grow, but will be capped – “The resources tied up in making high end sparkling wine are so big so that it’s best for us to continue focussing strongly on quality as well as growing the quantity a little,” she said at the tasting.

“MiruMiru is the jewel in the crown of our winemaking and I have watched production grow over the past years as well as the range expand from the Reserve MiruMiru to include Non Vintage and Rosé,” she says.

Hunter collected the trophy for Best Sparkling Wine for the 2013 MiruMiru Reserve at the Vintner’s Hall in London last week. Hunter also received two gold medals at the event for the Hunter’s MiruMiru Non Vintage, and the 2013 Hunter’s MiruMiru Reserve.

The Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships is the most comprehensive international sparkling wine competition in the world and was founded in 2014. All wines are tasted blind at the competition, which is judged by Tom Stevenson, Essi Avellan MW and Dr Tony Jordan, who also consults to Hunter’s Wines.

 

Contact Hunter’s Wines here: http://hunters.co.nz/visit-us/

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