Vino

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

Category: Nelson

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

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.

Take ten with Hamish Kempthorne

On the eve of the biggest Pinot Noir event ever in New Zealand, meet Waimea Pinot Noir, made by Hamish Kempthorne

Who is your winemaking inspiration?

My earliest inspiration was my own grandfather making fruit wines in his garden shed and recording all manner of detailed winemaking notes in cherished and tattered notebooks. Many years on I have been lucky to enjoy the strong collegiate environment of New Zealand winemakers as we all share and aim for similar goals of making exceptional wines for the world. I have learnt a lot from talented winemakers along the way, including Alan McCorkindale and Andrew Blake who have since become good friends.

What do you see as the role of oak in red winemaking? And why?

Oak plays an important role in wines, providing tension and focus, yet hopefully never the brightest star on the stage. The role of oak in quality Pinot is to sensitively support the fruit and work alongside the natural grape tannin from the grapes… The barrels also provide a good place to sit my three kids when they are waiting for me to finish…

What’s the most important thing to you when making Pinot Noir? 

There is never one single thing. Pinot is devilish and unforgiving in both vineyard and winery, but this adds to the reward when it comes together. The vineyard is always near the heart of Pinot Noir and I try to bring honesty to the wine’s sense of place and have confidence in the vineyard to pick it early, while the natural acid is still adding focus and length to the finished wine.

What’s the best thing you can do to make great Pinot Noir?

Get out amongst the vines and develop a deep understanding of the vine and the soil, then get that sense of place into the bottle with as little interruption as possible. Now that we have Pinot Noir vines reaching 20-25 years in the ground, they are getting to a level where we now have the potential to re-evaluate and build wines to support a longer legacy in the bottle.

Anything else that helps in the winery…?

Pink Floyd – compulsory on any quality focused barrel hall playlist.

What are New Zealand’s most underrated Pinot noir regions?

Aside from Nelson…

Marlborough – the recently exploited southern valleys with their fragmented clay seams and higher vine planting densities are starting to show real class as vine age develops and we are able to manage Pinot Noir-specific blocks, rather than converted widely spaced Sauvignon Blanc vineyards.

North Canterbury – its odd environmental curve ball between vintages with the occasional frost and extended flowering, has fabulous hillsides and terraces that combine with chalky  soils to provide lovely tension and elegance in Pinot Noir.

 

Try this Pinot Noir…

2015 Waimea Pinot Noir RRP $25, 13% ABV

Nelson may be best known for its white wines but its reds can level peg in quality and value as this lively new Pinot Noir shows with its taste of red berries and red cherries, its dry style, its refreshing medium body, soft tannins and earthy flavours. This young red has complex flavours and drinks well now, but will definitely benefit from further aging, which will enhance the integration of flavours and a smoothness over the next five to eight years, possibly beyond.

4.5 stars – Joelle Thomson

 

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