The cork from a 1971 German Riesling tasting at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington on 30 November 2017… 12 wines were all drawn from Geoff Kelly’s cellar; he is holding the shrivelled bit of tree bark that kept one of these wines ‘alive’ (relatively) over the past 46 years.

Here are my 5 top drops of the last 7 days – the wines that I can say, hand on heart, are the absolute best that I have tasted from my work as a wine writer and wine programme director at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington. Not that it’s been easy to pick just 5.

The week has been full of wine from sales reps who highlighted local (Martinborough), national (Marlborough, North Canterbury and Hawke’s Bay) and international wines (where do I begin?). And then there was the 1971 German Riesling tasting I paid to attend last night at which 12 wines surprised us all. Not a single bottle was tainted by cork’s worst trait – TCA (trichloranisole), also known as cork taint. Then again, not a single bottle was unaffected by cork because all had, to one degree or another, a level of oxidation due to being sealed with cork. One of the corks is pictured above and it’s not a pretty sight. You get that it’s a bit of wood and it doesn’t do wine any favours after a year in the neck of a bottle, let alone nearly 50.

Speaking of which, last week seems like a while ago now, so without further ado, here are my top 5 drops from this week.

I hope you enjoy the four that you can buy – and the fifth one is purely voyeuristic. How could I not share an incredible wine from my birth year (ouch, 50, guilty as charged).

 

Great white

2015 Pegasus Bay Riesling $32 to $37

Rating: 19/20

A hot night and an old friend’s birthday party last week called for all sorts of interesting wines but as I scoured the wine list for something refreshing, this wine stood out in neon to me – and its succulent, refreshing flavours made it my wine of the night. Pegasus Bay Riesling is North Canterbury’s best known wine and is, in my view, the rock star white of the region, thanks to the Donaldson family, who are among the earliest pioneers of high quality wine in that region. This wine consistently reaches high quality peaks with its rich concentration of flavour and juicy high acidity, which is balanced by lemon honey flavours and a long finish.

Where to buy: Specialist wine stores, Victoria Park New World in Auckland, Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington or www.pegasusbay.com

 

Gem Riesling

2017 Giesen Gemstone Marlborough Riesling $19.99, 10% ABV

Rating: 18.5/20

Speaking of Riesling, we were, weren’t we? Gemstone from Giesen is more than about alliteration; it’s a seductively tasty new wine made entirely from one vineyard in Marlborough – called Eden Valley Vineyard, in the Lower Waihopai Valley. Winemaker Nikolai St George fermented this wine in an interesting combo of granite tanks (made from a giant slab of volcanic rock), French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks. That’s no mean feat for a wine that costs $20. The granite retains its core temperature, allowing for a slower fermentation while the other two vessels contribute diverse flavours (softer fruit, warmer ferment from the oak; fresher crisper brightness from the stainless portion). This wine is 10% and noticeably rich in flavour with a medium dry style, balanced by crisp acidity, which provides a long, flavoursome finish.

Where to buy: widely available in supermarkets.

 

Fresh as a daisy Chardonnay

2016 Fromm La Strada Marlborough Chardonnay $31

Rating: 18.5/20

La Strada means the way in Italian and refers to the way that Chardonnay responds to the Marlborough region; which is another way of saying that this wine is all about freshness, powerful ripe citrus flavours and purity of fruit rather than oaky bells and buttery whistles. That said, all those intense citrusy flavours are nicely balanced by 10% new oak, which adds body, weight and a creamy soft appeal.

Where to buy: specialist stores or Fromm Wines.

 

2015 Sacred Hill Brokenstone Hawke’s Bay $64

Rating: 19/20

Merlot, Malbec and Syrah rub shoulders with two Cabernets in this staunch but smooth Hawke’s Bay red – Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc add backbone to the dark spice in this seductive full bodied wine, which was one of my top three wines of the dozen ‘best’ box of 2015 Gimblett Gravels reds sent to me this year. The top 12 selection are chosen blind by Master of Wine Andrew Caillard, and it’s a great privilege to then be allowed the privilege of tasting the entire 12 wines for myself (the wineries send them out to wine writers).

More to come on this top 12 selection in future weeks. Watch this space. In the meantime, grab a bottle of Brokenstone; it’s not cheap but it is outstanding.

Sealed with a cork.

Where to buy: specialist stores or Sacred Hill Wines.

 

German aged Riesling

1971 Reichsgraf von Kesselstaff Josephshofer Trockenbeerenauslese QmP Mosel 

19/20 

This was my top wine of one of the most outstanding tastings held in New Zealand this year – Wellington wine writer and collector, Geoff Kelly (who has an amazing cellared collection of wines), proposed calling this tasting Does Riesling Age?
It sold out in two hours and was held last night with 10 wines from the 1971 vintage, one Cru Classé Sauternes thrown in for good measure and one 1967 beerenauslese, which was my third favourite wine of the night, but more on that next week.

All wines were tasted blind – Geoff had previously decanted them into numbered bottles so that the actual bottles were empty and lined up in age order in front.

This wine was one of the freshest in the lineup, despite its medium amber colour, which suggested it may have faded, but talk about incredible concentration of flavour – rich dried apricot flavours reminded me of the intensity of Central Otago dried apricots; the wine’s high acidity was still present and counted, and balancing the flavours of liquid honey, leaving this wine with a long finish and juicy drinkability which was remarkable to taste in a wine that is now 46 years old.

Where to buy: you can’t, but it’s inspiration to collect and keep Riesling because there is no question that it can age exceptionally well.