Vino

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

Category: Central Otago (page 1 of 3)

5 top drops… my best wines from a week of tasting…

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

A very humbling vineyard… Mt Ed’s Morrison

It’s not everyday you hear a winemaker talk openly about having their hopes and dreams smashed by an expert who sees their vineyard in an entirely different light to them. But, like most winemakers,  Duncan Forsyth is well used to adapting to his environment.

Not least because that environment is the world’s southernmost wine region. Frosts are standard fare at certain times of the year and the region is heavily reliant on one grape – Pinot Noir, which may be relatively early ripening, but is also thin skinned and has all the jazz and drama that goes along with anything or anyone who is thin skinned. Still, Duncan put great personal investment into the small Morrison Vineyard when he planted it entirely in Pinot Noir.

So you can imagine his surprise when the French agronomist engineer Claude Bourguignon stood on this favoured vineyard and said that “One day you will possibly make great white wine from this site.”

It was the last thing that Duncan expected to hear from Bourgignon’s lips. He and others in the region had pooled their resources to bring the French soil analyst to their region to help accentuate their chosen leading grape – not to diminish its importance by coming out of left field. But Duncan is a man who listens and he has since replanted parts of the small Morrison Vineyard in Lowburn with white grape varieties. He also retains Pinot Noir on the vineyard and it is consistently the pinnacle of his Pinots, but then again, the Riesling from this site is an outstanding wine with the potential to age for at least a decade. It’s a dry style with the same hallmark of the Morrison Vineyard as the Pinot Noir – a firmness on the finish of each sip, says Duncan.

I obviously need to taste a lot more of these wines (there are worst tasks) to pinpoint that characteristic in a blind tasting, but I can see his point. And I plan to get better acquainted with these wines because they consistently shine, for me, in both blind and non-blind tastings.

Duncan has also launched a new brand into New Zealand this week – it’s called Ted. And it includes a rose, a Pinot Blanc and  Pinot Noir. This range is mostly destined to bars, cafes and restaurants. Check out the wines.

Taste these Mount Edward wines…

 

2014 Mount Edward Morrison Vineyard Pinot Noir  

Arock star of a wine; picked earlier than in the past by two or three weeks to retain acidity, which drives the core of the dark cherry flavours in this intensely concentrated Pinot Noir. Whole bunch fermentation is big in this wine but it’s nicely integrated so that the flavours are fruit and savoury with a fresh, intense grip on the finish. It is certified organic with Bio-Gro New Zealand.

 

2017 Ted by Mount Edward Rose 

Light in colour, high in acid, very fresh and very youthful with a dry fruity style.

 

2016 Mount Edward Rose

Less fruit driven and more textural – a little more lees time adds weight and interesting texture to this wine.

 

2016 Ted Pinot Blanc

Lovely dry white, nice lees work adds texture to this wine’s refreshing citrusy flavours. It’s one of only three Otago Pinot Blancs.

 

2015 Mount Edward Morrison Riesling 12%

Extremely tasty; extremely low pH means this southern white will age superbly for the long haul (up to and probably beyond a decade) but it also drinks nicely now, thanks to notes of lime, lemon grass and green apples. But I’d keep it… cellar for at least two to three years.

And then there’s the orange wine – 2015 Mount Edward Clockwork Orange, which is a blend of Pinot Gris and Riesling blend; 8 months on skins and another year in barrel and then the trick, says Duncan, is at least another year of bottle aging. There are some nice floral aromatics in here; pretty and textural.

 

 

The Mount Edward Gamay is also a star, but made in tiny quantities. 

A wine worth cellaring

A top drop for the wine cellar… 2014 Amisfield RKV Pinot Noir $120

It can be a rocky road for wines made from grapes grown in cool climates, even when those grapes are planted on north facing slopes to maximise sunshine, but for one of Central Otago’s highest priced Pinot Noirs, it can be even tougher because the vines face both north and south on the steeply sloping Rocky Knoll Vineyard.

The vineyard is owned by Amisfield Winery. It’s a gravelly and dry site, so the vines often struggle in this arid environment, yielding fewer grapes than the average vineyard at Amsifield Wines does. Winemaker Stephanie Lambert says the Rocky Knoll Vineyard was planted with the expectation that it would grow high quality Pinot Noir grapes, but there was no guarantee until the wines were made and the proof was in the bottle, but at blind tastings conducted over the years at the winery, the batches of Pinot Noir made from the Rocky Knoll have always stood out.

For this reason the wine, fondly nicknamed RKV Pinot, has evolved as a highly expressive, small volume wine that expresses its site.

The first Amisfield RKV Pinot Noir was made 10 years ago but it has not been produced every year; there was none in 2011 and only tiny volumes in 2009.

A wine worth cellaring

2014 Amisfield RKV Pinot Noir $120

This intensely coloured, richly flavoursome southern wine is an outstanding expression of Central Otago Pinot Noir. Not only because it is super concentrated in flavour, thanks to low crop levels in the vineyard, but also because it is a true expression of both its place of origin and the grape variety it’s made from. There’s no doubting this is Pinot Noir, thanks to its freshness, driven by high acidity, which balances the rich fruit flavours and adds length. The new 2014 Amisfield RKV Pinot Noir drinks well now and will age well for up to 10 years, thanks to its firm tannins (derived partly from whole bunch fermentation) and the high acidity.

There’s a smidgeon of Riesling on the Rocky Knoll Vineyard too, which mostly makes its way into Amisfield Dry Riesling, which is another stunner of a wine. 

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