Cellar it or drink it?

Five top wines to cellar

For more on cellaring wine, go to www.whiterefrigeration.co.nz/wine-cellars/

The man behind Jacob’s Creek has retired after 40 years of turning one of the world’s biggest wine brands into a household name. And in his wake, Bernard Hickin has made a wine that he hopes will last  another 40 years.

Wine 1

The 2010 Jacob’s Creek Limited Edition Shiraz Cabernet costs  $75 and with fewer than 900 bottles made, it’s in short supply. Does the wine live up to the words?

Here’s my review on a wine I think is worth cellaring.

The 2010 Jacob’s Creek Limited Edition Shiraz Cabernet is an unconventional blend of two deeply coloured black grapes, unless you’re in Australia where Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon regularly rub shoulders in full bodied wines, such as this big, bold red. For every powerful aspect to this full bodied, high tannin, high acid red, there is a balancing smooth (soft tannins), velvety (mellow nature due to oak aging) and and juicy character (vibrant acidity), all of which suggest that this wine will stand the test of time and age for up to 20 years, potentially longer.

I was one of 12 New Zealanders to receive a bottle of this wine to taste. The limited bottles of 2010 Jacob’s Creek Limited Edition Shiraz Cabernet are available for purchase solely at the Jacob’s Creek Visitor Centre in the Barossa Valley.

Footnote

Bernard Hickin studied grape growing and winemaking at a degree at the Roseworthy Agricultural College in Adelaide in the mid 1970s and began work for Pernod Ricard Winemakers (then G Gramp & Sons) in 1976 – the same year Jacob’s Creek was officially launched. He was appointed chief winemaker of Pernod Ricard Winemakers’ Australia in 2006 and was succeeded this year by winemaker Ben Bryant, who began making wine in the small Australian town of Mudgee in New South Wales.

Wine 2

2015 Vidal’s Legacy Hawkes Bay Chardonnay $59.99

In many wine drinkers minds, Chardonnay is a white to drink now, as in, right now, but that is to forget the great aging potential of top Chablis and other cool climate wines, such as this one from Hawke’s Bay. It was released this month in Wellington and its full body, noticeable zesty acidity and intense stone fruit flavours all give it the power and backbone (the acidity) to last and improve in the bottle for 8-9 years, in a cool, dark cellar.

Wine 3

2014 Vidal’s Legacy Hawkes Bay Syrah $79.99

Now we’re talking about a wine that seems to say ‘cellar me rather than drink me right now’ because its deep purple colour, dry, full body, powerful but smooth tannins and intense black fruit flavours all bode well for a wine which will gain in complexity with time in the bottle. How long is ideal to age this wine? I suggest a decade. It’s high priced but also high quality.

Wine 4

2014 Vidal’s Legacy Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon $69.99

Cabernet Sauvignon has shrunk in New Zealand to less than 300 hectares today, despite being more than double that as recent as 11 years ago. This may seem a sad state of affairs for fans of powerful French reds from Bordeaux (the home of the Cab’ Sauv’ grape), but it means that the few New Zealand wines made from this grape are better than ever before. It’s one of the world’s latest ripening grapes and even with climate change now apparent, Cabernet Sauvignon usually demands more warmth than New Zealand can deliver, with a few recent exceptions – such as the 2013 and 2014 vintages. This is my pick of the new Vidal’s Legacy trio for its powerful style and firm, youthful, dry flavours, which will, I believe, transform into complex dried herb and black olive flavours with up to a decade and beyond in the bottle.

Wine 5

2015 Sileni Estate Selection Springstone Pinot Noir 14.5% ABV

Hawke’s Bay has more than one white wine string to its bow, so why not allow it the leeway with red wine too, provided it is made from grapes grown (as this Pinot Noir is) from suitable climate zones. While you’re pondering that question, pour yourself a glass of this outstanding new Sileni Pinot Noir, made from grapes grown on a vineyard on elevated river terraces, 150 metres above sea level at Mangatahi. This is inland Hawke’s Bay so the climate is significantly cooler than many other areas in the region. The grapes were divided when picked into two different portions, 30% were fermented as whole bunches while 70% were completely destemmed. The wine stayed on skins four weeks to maximise colour from a relatively light coloured grape and the wine was then matured for nine months in 225 litre French oak barriques; in the final blend only 5% of the wine has had new oak. This refreshing, silky smooth, medium bodied red drinks well now and can further improve for up to 5 years in the bottle.

Wines of the week… 17 August

Let’s just say it’s already been a surrounded-by-new-bottles kind of week because it’s only Wednesday and here we are with a best of the bunch blog. It’s no wonder, really. Not only is New Zealand wine one of the first things we see at the supermarket, it’s the sixth biggest export earner for this country – a significant rise from ninth biggest this time last year.

The following wines were tasted alongside a range of other comparable wines, which were all from New Zealand and all relatively new, with some very recently bottled, as the two 2016 wines show.

Chardonnay of the week

2014 Domaine Rewa Central Otago Chardonnay 14% ABV 

Domaine Rewa Chardonnay is made from grapes grown on a 5.5 hectare vineyard at Pisa, a short drive north of Cromwell in one of Central Otago’s most sun drenched grape growing sub-regions. This Chardonnay highlights what I believe is the strong potential in Otago for high quality whites, due to this wine’s rich flavours, full body, fresh vibrant (high) acidity and balanced creamy softness. Lingering flavours of ripe citrus, nectarines and white peach add to its appeal. www.domainerewa.com

Biodynamics is a philosophy of growing plants sustainably, which includes, among other things, planting, pruning and harvesting according to the phases of the moon. It also includes no systemic sprays, such as herbicides, fungicides, insecticides or pesticides. 

Top Pinot Gris

2016 Jules Taylor Marlborough Pinot Gris 13.5% ABV $23.99

There’s a reason Jules Taylor Pinot Gris keeps appearing on the wine lists at the Gypsy Tea Rooms and The Elbow Room – two small but busy neighbourhood wine bars in Auckland. This Pinot Gris consistently rates highly (with me) for its intensely fresh flavours of subtle white fleshed fruit, such as white pears, white peach and lychees. It’s dry with refreshing crispness and a medium body, all giving it a strong lead on many of its competitors. This is a very good wine with 3 to 4 years time up its sleeve, but why wait? It tastes great now. www.julestaylor.com

Disclaimer: I select the wines for both the Gypsy Tea Rooms and The Elbow Room wine bars in Auckland.

Sensational Sauvignon 

2015 Alluviale Sauvignon Blanc Semillon Hawke’s Bay 13% ABV $23.99

Hawke’s Bay winemaker Ant McKenzie bought the highly revered Alluviale brand earlier this year (2016) and has launched this wine recently, which brings his love of Bordeaux’ best to bear in this dry, fleshy, crisp white wine, which is pale in colour with intense aromas of lemon grass, lime juice, green apple and brie, thanks to the 14% portion of barrel fermented Semillon, which is nicely balanced by the crisp 81% Sauvignon Blanc and the 5% Muscat Blanc, which adds an aromatic je ne said quo. Not only stunning wine but outstanding value for money. www.alluviale.com

Best orange wine

2015 Aurum Organic Amber Wine Central Otago 13.5% ABV 

Lucie Lawrence is a French winemaker who married a Kiwi viticulturist and settled in Central Otago where she makes a trickle of the region’s best Pinot Noirs – and dabbles with 60 cases of this orange Pinot Gris. It was fermented with wild yeasts on skins (hence the orange hue) and bottled unfined and unfiltered. The wine is bone dry, with high (but balanced) acidity, and a light creamy influence adding softness. If rose is your thing, try this adventurous organic amber wine. aurumwines.co.nz

Best newcomer 2016

2016 Jules Taylor Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc $ 23.99 13% ABV

Juicy, fresh and brand spanking new, this intensely tropical tasting Sauvignon Blanc shines the spotlight on the freshest wines on the market in this country right now – 2016 whites. It’s a super fresh sunshine-in-a-glass style of wine with tropical fruit – pineapples, papayas – a medium body and long finish. What’s not to like. www.julestaylor.com

Top Central Pinot Noir

2013 Domaine Rewa Central Otago Pinot Noir 13% ABV

Pinot Noir is the grape that occupies 80% of Central Otago’s vineyards, and this one is made from a single vineyard at Lowburn, just north of Cromwell. All the grapes in this wine were hand harvested and destemmed prior to fermentation, which keeps the dark fruit flavours to the fore while 8.5 months in French oak softens its youthful vibrancy so that each sip is a silky experience. A delicious newcomer made in small quantities, which puts the country’s southernmost wine region’s best foot forward. www.domainerewa.com

 

 

Alternative Gisborne wines

Wines like Albarino and Petit Manseng not only sound like a foreign language (which they are to English speakers) but they are so unfamiliar to many New Zealanders that it can be difficult to get these wines into the mainstream. Unless… you also happen to have three Chardonnays that tick three different price boxes.

Enter Spade Oak Vineyard.

This Gisborne based wine brand is owned by Steve and Eileen Voysey, who are partners in wine and in life. Last week Steve was in the so-called windy capital city (on a sun drenched, windless day) and he popped by with his wine distributor, Sue Davies of Wine2Trade (her business) to taste his  wines.

We started with Albarino – a wine that may be offbeat in New Zealand but is very much on trend in the Northern Hemisphere right now where it is having a renaissance, along with all things Spanish relating to vino and food.

Albarino is made in a wide range of styles from fresh, flinty and green in taste to big, bold and creamy. Voysey likes to make (and to drink) the fresher style, avoiding using any malolactic conversion in his winemaking because, he feels, this makes the wine taste too heavy and big. Not that he’s adverse to using plenty of malolactic fermentation in his Chardonnays, of which we tasted three.

But first Albarino, which is originally from the maritime north west of Spain, most notably Rias Baixas DO, a defined wine production area north of the Portuguese border. Heading south into northern Portugal takes a visitor to  Vinho Verde, the region where the same grape is known as Alvarinho.

Both of these areas have relatively high rainfall, which makes fungal diseases one of their biggest issues when it comes to growing grapes. This means that thick skinned grapes, such as Albarino / Alvarinho can fit the bill  nicely. Many winemakers here in New Zealand can relate, which is why Albarino is working a treat, particularly in Gisborne, which is home to Riversun Nurseries – the biggest grapevine nursery in New Zealand and therefore the main gateway for disease-free grapevines which are certified in identity (important in a young wine country, such as this one).

The Voyseys are not the only ones making Albarino and Steve says it’s thanks to the biggest producers, such as Villa Maria Wines, that this grape is gaining ground in people’s minds.

Albarino is currently the most promising newcomer grape in New Zealand at the moment, in my view. Its thick skins, vibrant acidity and green flavours make it a natural fit for this cool, mostly maritime country. And I am impressed not only with the Voyseys’ version of Albarino, but with all of the other wines made from this white grape, given that I have been fortunate enough to try nearly all of them and several times alongside each other too. The other wineries making Albarino currently include Cooper’s Creek, Hihi, Matawhero, TW and Villa Maria and one that I have not yet tried, Tono.

It is not the only thing that Steve and Eileen Voysey are doing well. They  make three Chardonnays in different styles, and are also dabbling with Petit Manseng, which traditionally grows in Jurancon, south west of Bordeaux, where it makes some of France’s greatest but least known sweet wines.

Petit Manseng is a late ripening, high acid grape with small thick skinned berries, which tend to shrivel on the vines rather than be prone to the ‘noble’ fungus we call botrytis.

The following Spade Oak Vineyards wines were tasted by me with winemaker Steve Voysey in August this year.

2015 Spade Oak Vineyards Heart of Gold Albarino RRP $23ish

This is the fourth vintage of Albarino from Spade Oak’s one hectare of Albarino grapes, so volumes are pretty small and it’s still early days, despite which the style of the wine is one that winemaker Steve Voysey is consistent on. He picks the grapes for this wine slightly earlier than the other grapes he harvests, which enables him to make a wine that retains its fresh flavours and also cruises in with a lighter style at 12.5% alcohol.

Voysey has also been to Rias Baixas and tried a range of different Albarinos, including sparkling versions, higher alcohol and creamy styles  (made using malolactic fermentation) but he prefers to make (and drink) the fresh vibrant styles. Otherwise, he feels, the wine tends to lose the freshness that so distinctly marks out what he describes as “the New Zealandish white wine flavour and strong point”.

He prefers to save the big creamy bells and whistles for the variety where they are expected… Chardonnay.

My top wines from Spade Oak Vineyards, August 2016

2014 Spade Oak Vineyards Chardonnay $18-$19

This is a big, creamy crowd pleaser with all the soft, smooth Chardonnay bells and whistles, moderate acidity and a full body. It delivers good value at this price.

2014 Spade Oak Vineyards The Prospect Chardonnay Ormond $25

Machine picked grapes don’t usually tend to be treated to a full, 100% barrel fermentation because it’s a high cost winemaking technique, but it also results in an impressive, full bodied Chardonnay in this wine. It’s made from grapes grown on two historically important Gisborne Chardonnay vineyards (both formerly owned by Montana Wines and, later, by Pernod Ricard, but now owned by the contract winemaking facility, Indevin). This wine is a blend of grapes grown on both sites; Ormond Vineyard is warmer at night, has an earlier for harvest and adds the softness and roundness to the wine whereas Patutahi tends to provide grapes with a little more acidity and freshness due to higher day-night temperature variation.

2015 Spade Oak Vineyards Vigneron Chardonnay Gisborne $33

This is the flagship Chardonnay from Spade Oak wines and is the youngest of the trio here, made from hand harvested grapes and given full malolactic fermentation (which means 100% of the wine went through a second fermentation to soften the sharp malic acid into softer lactic acidity). It’s an impressive full bodied Chardonnay which is more about savoury flavours than buttery appeal, but successfully straddles both, thanks to wild yeast fermentation, which can tend to accentuate savoury flavours. This wine has rich flavours, a full body and a long finish.

 

2013 Spade Oak Vineyards Petit Manseng $32, 375ml (half bottle)

Four long rows grapes is a minuscule .4 of a hectare (in case you didn’t see the dot, that’s less than half a hectare) of very small grapes, which grow in very loose bunches and develop their pronounced ripe yellow raison-like flavours purely from hanging on the vines long after all other grapes have been harvested. Petit Manseng grapes have very thick skins, so they do not tend to develop fungal diseases and therefore they shrivel, which reduces their moisture, resulting in tropical fruit flavours of mango, pineapple and dried fruit flavours of figs and raisons. This grape was picked at 30-32 prix (high high high) and it still had 9-10 grams of natural acidity at harvest, which helps to balance its intense richness. It was my absolute favourite of this tasting, due to the balancing freshness of that impressive acidity, which stretches out the wine to a long finish.

Voysey has made four vintages of Petit Manseng and released two so there are two more in the pipeline.

This wine will drink well with tasty hard cheeses and will cellar for up to a decade, possibly beyond because its acidity lends it a long life.

2015 Spade Oak Vineyards Late Harvest Viognier RRP $32, 375ml (half bottle)

Saving the treacliest wine till last, this has a deep golden colour with intense orange and spice-like flavours and a medium plus finish. It’s like liquid honey in texture and will drink well with sweet creamy desserts.