Vino

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

Category: Marlborough (page 1 of 9)

The Friday wine drop… what inspires Clive Jones from Nautilus

Clive Jones has been the winemaker at Nautilus since 1998 and is this week’s interviewee in The Friday wine drop…

Like most Marlborough winemakers, Clive’s job is to make high volumes of Sauvignon Blanc, so Clive makes less Chardonnay than ever before but is happier with its style and quality than ever before too. A vertical tasting of Nautilus Chardonnays proved the point, showing that, even at eight years old, these wines are incredibly fresh – and age beautifully. Nautilus is also a member of Methode Marlborough – a group of 10 companies adhering to strict rules around the making of their traditional method sparkling wines.

 

What’s your favourite part of working in a winery?

Clive Jones: The diversity of tasks – from growing and making through to marketing and selling.  Then of course there is ‘vintage’ – the one time of the year when everything is at stake.  It is super busy but with the right people around you it can also be lots of fun.

What trends do you see emerging with wine today?

Clive Jones: More emphasis on authenticity. Having a sense of place and a sense of direction for wine companies.  People want to hear genuine stories and know that there is some substance behind a wine brand.  Whether the story is based around organic, conventional or even natural wine, is less important than the story itself.  I love the way we can relate this to Turangawaewae in New Zealand and talk about the ‘place where we stand’ (and make wine).

When did you decide to dive in and work with wine?

Clive Jones: I enjoyed drinking wine and saw it as an exciting opportunity that was closely aligned to my skill set at the time.  Back then the New Zealand wine industry was just starting to emerge on the world stage so it was a great time to hop on board.

What inspires you each morning?

Clive Jones: The Marlborough landscape and surrounding environment.  It is easy to get inspired in the short drive up the valley from home to the winery.

How has your wine drinking changed over the years?

Clive Jones: Well, I would like to think it has become more refined. Certainly we are seeing more diversity in wine styles from both New Zealand and overseas, which is good for broadening horizons.

What’s your favourite wine and food match?

Clive Jones: Marlborough Chardonnay and Marlborough hot smoked salmon on crusty bread.  Simple but delicious. The weirdest match I have had recently was Warthog tacos and Pinotage – in South Africa of course.

What’s your favourite wine?

Clive Jones: Professionally it has to be Chardonnay but, for pure pleasure, it is Riesling (as I don’t make one).

What keeps wine rewarding for you? 

Clive Jones: The yearly cycle of work is basically the same but every year is different and will bring new challenges which keeps you refreshed and continually learning.

5 of the best wines of the week… top drops

Every week I publish 5 top drops which are the peaks of the mountain of wines that come my way as a wine writer, which has been my job for the past 23 years. Or is it more of a flash hobby than an actual job, as Master of Wine Stephen Wong once suggested? After 23 years of writing weekly columns 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. The 5 top drops usually go to ‘press’ on this site each Friday. Last week became a little busy so, without further ado, here are last week’s top 5 drops.

 

Pink with a difference…  

2017 Silver Wing Nada Syrah Rose Waipara $24, 11.5% ABV, 17.5/20

Hand picked Syrah grapes were whole bunch pressed and settled in tank (a portion of the juice was frozen and added back at bottling to produce a spritzy wine with a little cloudiness). The majority of the juice was then racked to barrels where it went through wild yeast fermentation and spent five months in elevage. This is a pale salmon wine with a cloudy appearance, a refreshing spritzy bubble and a dry taste, which makes it my kind of rosé from a small, adventurous producer in North Canterbury, New Zealand. www.silverwingwines.co.nz

 

Best Wild Sauvignon yet… 

2015 Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Marlborough, $30, 14% ABV, 18.5/20

This is an outstanding wine that shines a new light on Sauvignon Blanc, thanks to Kevin Judd who trademarked the Greywacke brand in 1993 when he was still working at Cloudy Bay Wines.  He later trademarked the name Wild Sauvignon, which is the flagship wine for his Greywacke brand – “It’s our interpretation of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc out of left field and it’s a style of wine that I personally think is pretty tasty,” said Kevin, who was in Wellington recently to taste every vintage of his Wild Sauvignon Blanc. This version was made with grapes grown predominantly in Marlborough’s Southern Valleys, but for the past four years, Kevin has also bought grapes from the Awatere Valley.  The first year it was made was in 2009 and the winemaking has remained consistent to a formula, which Kevin tweaks in response to the year’s weather. That formula always includes 100% barrel fermentation, 100% wild yeast and about two thirds of the wine going through malolactic fermentation to soften the acidity. The finished wine spends about 11 months in barrel and remains in tank for another six months where it goes through battonage (the French name for stirring the lees – the decomposing yeast cells left over in the wine). The oak is kept at 10% new oak (or less). This latest Wild Sauvignon is, in my view, the best yet.

 

Powerful Pinot

2015 Mammoth Pinot Noir Moutere Hills Nelson $60, 13.5% ABV, 18.5/20

Michael Glover likes to push boundaries but it hasn’t always been that way. A winemaking stint in Italy many moons ago opened new doors of flavour and showed him unconventional ways of making wine. He now grows grapes without irrigation in the Moutere Hills, outside Nelson, New Zealand, which he treats to 100% whole bunch fermentation with no acid, yeast or enzyme additions and then produces this outstanding, full bodied South Island Pinot Noir as a result. It’s rich in flavour but not entirely all about fruit, which is what makes this wine so good, to me. It’s the earthy depth, the dark fruit flavours and the silky mouthfeel that give this wine its powerful but somehow elegant voice. You’ve heard the expression an iron fist in a velvet glove, well, here it is because it drinks well now but clearly has aging potential too; for up to a decade in a good cellar.

 

That southern Pinot… 

2014 Chard Farm Mata-Au Pinot Noir, $39, 13.8% ABV, 18.5/20

Otago Pinot Noirs seem to be a dime a dozen in New Zealand right now, so it’s worth searching for the goodies and here’s a bottle that stands head and shoulders above the crowd, without its producers charging like wounded you-know-whats for the privilege of enjoying it. This wine is made from two vineyards – the Tiger Vineyard at Lowburn and the Viper Vineyard at Parkburn (not that there are any vipers down that way). The name Mata-Au (pronounced martar-o) refers to the nearby Clutha River and this wine is all about silky mouthfeel, intense bright pretty red fruit flavours, characteristic high acidity which is balanced by a rounded full body. www.chardfarm.co.nz

 

Italian stallion… 

Umani Ronchi Vigor Sangiovese Merlot IGT $26.99, 17.5/20

What’s the main thing about a good Italian red? I often think it’s the dark, ripe flavours of the fruit. I’m thinking blueberries, black plums, ripe peaches and liquorice; and that’s what this big Central Italian red is all about, thanks to being grown at elevation to benefit from more intense sunshine than flat vineyards would allow. In this case, those vineyards are in the municipality of Osimo, 150 metres above sea level on a south east facing hillside in the Marche region in central Italy. It’s a blend of 75% Sangiovese with 25% Merlot for its softening effects; and it works a treat. This is a lovely smooth, spicy red with firm acidity adding a nervy edge to a drink-me-now wine from a consistently outstanding producer.

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.

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