Vino

Joelle Thomson's online wine guide

Category: Marlborough (page 1 of 6)

Vineyard tales of great whites in Marlborough

Big wine regions often get a bad rap but where would we be without them? Last week I visited Marlborough with a group of New Zealanders who work with wine (from the Hamilton Beer & Wine Company and Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington). And we were all staggered by this region’s heavy reliance on Sauvignon Blanc. Even when you do expect it,  the stats can be a tad overwhelming. Here they are…

Marlborough in a snapshot

85% of Marlborough’s wine production is Sauvignon Blanc

3 subregions account for plantings of this white grape

45% of grapes grown in the Wairau Valley

25% of grapes grown in the Southern Valley

30% of grapes grown in the Awatere Valley

Pinot Noir… there’s of it in Marlborough than in Central Otago

Chardonnay… there’s plenty and it’s very good but totally eclipsed

 

So, there we were visiting Astrolabe, Whitehaven Wines and Nautilus Estate, marvelling at the outstanding taste and modest prices of the Chardonnays ($26, $22 and $35, respectively) only to discover that these wines account for less than 5% of the overall production at both Whitehaven and Nautilus. Percentages weren’t discussed at Astrolabe, but winemaker Simon Waghorn’s firmest focus is naturally on Sauvignon Blanc and he makes a wide range from different vineyards, sub-regions, single vineyards and blends.

There are good reasons for this a focus. New Zealand wine is now the fifth biggest export earner for the country, and Sauvignon Blanc makes up about 85% of this.

But still, it’s surprising how good New Zealand Chardonnay is today and how small its profile is.  So, why is Chardonnay overlooked?

Is it because of the big buttery numbers that ruled in roost back in the 1980s and ’90s? Or the heavily oaked versions that followed? Or the easier, non oaky charms of Pinot Gris, which is nibbling at Chardonnay’s heels in New Zealand’s national vineyard today?

Ten years ago, I remember a blind date telling me unequivocally that there was no way he would drink a Marlborough Chardonnay because they simply weren’t any good.  I tried to persuade a little open mindedness because back then there were some exceptional Marlborough Chardonnays, but he wasn’t having a bar of it. Needless to say, he didn’t last longer than five minutes.

Today, Marlborough is emerging as one of New Zealand’s most promising Chardonnay regions, even if it’s still only making a relative trickle of wine made from this perennially popular white grape. Large oak puncheons (500 litres) are favoured by Whitehaven winemaker Sam Smail and large 3000 litre cuves are often used for fermentation by Nautilus Estate winemaker Clive Jones, who has reduced the amount of Chardonnay he makes in order to focus on better quality. When opening old Nautilus Chardonnays a couple of years ago, Jones was as amazed as the rest of us at the youthfulness and consistency of these wines under screwcap. They might have been nudging eight years of bottle age, but they were as fresh as a daisy and looked like they had only been in bottle for about two years, due to their pale lemon colour.

It’s nearly the weekend, or perhaps yours has already started, but sitting on my desk are two Chardonnays from another great, under rated Chardonnay region – Margaret River in Western Australia. As we in print media, watch this space for notes on Vasse Felix Chardonnays, made at a winery which turns 50 years young this year. You don’t need to convince me that 1967 was a good year to be born.

 

 

 

 

Blast from the past… buy wine from Peg’ Bay and Dog Point’s cellars

One of the most frequently asked wine questions is this: Can I cellar this wine and what will it taste like in 10 years’ time?

This month two New Zealand wineries have put their money where their mouths are and opened up their cellars for the public to buy 10 year old wines.

Pegasus Bay in North Canterbury and Dog Point Vineyards in Marlborough have done the cellaring for us so that we can taste well cellared wines and track the progress of flavour over a decade. It’s an interesting – and tasty – concept.

Lest this sound like a marketing ploy, the wineries in question have chosen one of the best vintages of the past decade and are not flogging off second tier wines, but their flagships. And they’re damned good too, as I have been finding out while tasting samples.

Both wineries make maverick styles of wines at prices people can afford and – for those of us who personally know the makers – they also have a deep love of the great wines of the world, which inspire their styles.

Why keep it

Now that wine is New Zealand’s fifth biggest export earner (and rising), it’s only natural that we would, could and, perhaps, should start keeping some of the best bottles made here. Not everything has to be consumed right now. It’s fun, decadent and delicious to have a small wine cellar. My own dwindled a tad when I relocated from Auckland to Wellington 18 months back because I was trying to rationalise everything I owned, so I shared, drank, swapped and gave away many old bottles. But it’s growing again and these two wineries have a growing place in it because I know their wines can age reliably well – and taste even better five or 10 years down the track.

It’s been great to retaste Dog Point Section 94, Dog Point Chardonnay, Dog Point Pinot Noir, Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir and Pegasus Bay Riesling (all from 2007), but it’s far from the first time I have tried and enjoyed old wines from these two producers.

If you want a wine cellar…

By the way, if you want to cellar wine, then the team at White Refrigeration makes custom-built cellars and consultations are free. If you can convert that unused wardrobe, spot under the stairs or spare space into a wine cellar, why not?

The cellar wines available

2007 Dog Point Vineyard Pinot Noir

2007 Dog Point Chardonnay

2007 Dog Point Section 94

2007 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Aged Release

2007 Pegasus Bay Riesling Aged Release

My top picks

2007 Dog Point Section 94

The 2007 Dog Point Section 94 shows Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in a bright new light – it’s 10 years old and incredibly fresh, no doubt the high acidity preserves it, as do the dialled up flavours and long finish. Here’s a succulent and complex Sauvignon that says more about the place than the grapes grown there, which were 100% barrel fermented, which adds beautiful bells and whistles to this Sauvignon.

2007 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Aged Release

It’s a delicious treat to revisit this North Canterbury Pinot Noir’s silky, fresh and complex flavours – every sip taste of black cherries on speed and the zesty acidity (which is Pinot’s hallmark) makes every mouthful linger. It drinks well now and still has many years up its lovely sleeve yet.

How to get them

Dog Point Vineyards… is selling cellared wines now in 6-packs through the Dog Point Vineyard Library Wine Club. Membership is free and includes information and preview offers.

More information at www.dogpoint.co.nz

Pegasus Bay Wines… is selling cellared wines from August via three different channels – at the winery cellar door, via mail order and at some specialist wine stores.

More information at www.pegasusbay.com

 

 

Cellaring wine

If you’re going to drink old wines now, then it only stands to reason that new ones should go straight into the cellar… or under the stairs, if that’s the place you store tasty treats. Try stashing these for 5 or 10 years.

2015 Pegasus Bay Riesling 12.5% ABV

This is the brand new outrageously good Riesling from New Zealand’s king of spatlese styles – Mat Donaldson, winemaker and eldest son of the Peg’ Bay winemaking dynasty in North Canterbury. Mat is a man on a mission to progressively produce Rieslings that taste ever so slightly drier in style and this is an elegant step in that direction. Concentrated lemon zest, ripe mandarins and fresh peach all combine in this great new wine. (And yes, it is Mat – with one ‘t’.)

2016 Palliser Estate Riesling Martinborough 12% ABV

Dry, deliciously lemony with zingy freshness to burn. If you like this wine now, check it out in 5, 10, or 15 years, depending on your willpower. I have regularly enjoyed many Palliser Estate Rieslings up to 15 years old and been consistently impressed by its freshness and intense flavours.

Introducing… Soho Wines to Wellington

Soho Wines is now available for the first time ever at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington…

We’ve all got a day job and mine is wine writer and (part time) wine programme director for Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington, New Zealand. Today I’m in Marlborough at the second Organic Winegrowers New Zealand Conference, proving the rule that writers are often at large rather than at their desks. But yesterday, the desk took the form of the counter top at Regional Wines  & Spirits while tasting the extensive range of wines from Soho, which sent its roving ambassador, Amber Hatton, to Wellington to launch the wines.

Soho Wines was established in 2009 by Rachael Carter who worked for her father’s wine importation business (yeast, barrels, corks…), prior to planting the seeds of her own wine producing company. It was a smart move. Her experience meant that Carter understood the crippling overheads that owning a winery can bring, so, instead, she uses grapes from a combination of vineyards, including her family’s  and others. She has hand picked a winemaker in each of region from which she produces wine. She has, in a sense, a virtual winery with no fixed abode, aside from its business headquarters in Auckland.

The winemaking team consists of Dave Clouston in Marlborough, James Rowan in Auckland and Grant Taylor in Otago. And so to the wines, which are now all available at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington.

The Soho wines

2016 Soho Stella Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 13% ABV

Young, fresh and intense with flavours of  tropical fruit (passionfruit, pineapple) and citrus (lemon and grapefruit), a light body and a long finish. Very good drink now, which will continue to be lively for 2 to 3 years.

2016 Soho Jagger Marlborough Pinot Gris 13.5% ABV

Its name was inspired by Mick Jagger and this wine is soft, medium bodied and smooth with white fruit (pear, apple) flavours and an off dry style (6 grams residual sugar per litre).

2016 Soho Maren Marlborough Riesling 11.6% ABV

Zingy deliciousness with a light body, refreshingly zesty lime, mandarin and orange zest flavours, balanced high acidity and a long finish. Like a sorbet in the glass, only it has a dry finish.

2016 Betty Riesling 9.4% ABV

The inaugural vintage of this sensational, zesty, intensely flavoured, light bodied Riesling was made with grapes grown in Marlborough, which were treated to an intentional medium style – noticeable sweetness is balanced by crisp acidity, leaving lingering flavours of lime zest, green apples and lemon juice.

2015 Jonny Chardonnay Marlborough 13% ABV

Creamy, soft and buttery, this light bodied, lively young Kiwi Chardonnay comes from Marlborough and drinks very nicely right now.

2014 Soho Carter Marlborough Chardonnay 13.5% ABV

Warm climate Waiheke Island was home to the grapes that went into this full bodied, smooth, richly flavoursome Chardonnay (citrus, caramel, cedar and spice).

2015 Soho McQueen Central Otago Pinot Noir 14% ABV

This full bodied, fruity (redcurrant and cranberries) and spicy young Pinot Noir is a blend of grapes grown in Central Otago’s diverse grape growing regions (mostly Bendigo – one of the warmest, most sun drenched corners of the region) and it is made by winemakers Grant Taylor and Jen Parr.

2016 Soho Syrah Waiheke Island 14% ABV

Waiheke Island Syrah grapes and Auckland winemaker James Rowan are a great team in this dry, full bodied, toasty tasting red wine with its intense spicy flavours of cloves, white pepper and cinnamon. It’s an impressive drink now and will age well for 5 to 6 years.

2015 Soho Revolver Merlot Malbec Cabernet Franc Waiheke Island 14% ABV

This is an impressive big red made with grapes grown on Waiheke Island, which provided plenty of warmth to create this deeply coloured, bone dry, intensely aromatic wine with its black fruit flavours and long finish. Drink now or keep for 8 to 9 years.

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