Vino

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

Category: Pinot Gris (page 1 of 2)

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.

Top drop under $20… Gisborne goodness

Gisborne goodness 

2016 Spade Oak Voysey Gisborne Pinot Gris $19.95

Gisborne’s vineyard area has shrunk by more than a quarter over the past 10 years, but winemakers like Steve Voysey of Spade Oak have added diversity in spades, if you’ll excuse the pun…

Voysey and his wife, Eileen, own Spade Oak and produce many of their region’s most interesting wines from the safe – such as this well priced, full bodied, high quality Pinot Gris – to the downright unsafe, such as Petit Manseng (a hand sell, if ever there was, but a delicious one at that).

They also make very good quality Albarino, Viognier, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and blanc de blancs bubbly. This Pinot Gris is youthful, dry, full bodied and soft with a flavoursome style spanning green apple and pear to ripe stonefruit (white peach and peach nectar) with secondary bells and whistles from a short time on yeast lees following fermentation.

Vineyard tales with Lauren Swift

Lauren Swift is the winemaker at Ash Ridge in the Bridge Pa Triangle, Hawke’s Bay, and she’s in Wellington today to taste her new wines with writers here.

The winery she works for is owned by Chris Wilcox (who runs the vineyard in a hands-on fashion) and Sonia, his wife. He is an ex banker who dreamt about having his own winery and bought 9 hectares of land in 2000, which was planted in grapes in four stages from 2005 onwards. In 2007, he retired from corporate life, moved his family to the Bay and made his first wine, a Syrah, in 2007. Initially, the contract winemaker was Trinity Hill.

Winemaker Lauren Swift began at the end of 2012 and has since grown production by about eight fold from 1500 cases to 8000-9000 cases. The estate vineyard is planted in Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and a little Viognier – used to co-ferment with the Syrah.

The Ash Ridge wines

There are three tiers of wine made at Ash Ridge. The estate range  includes a barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Rose, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah, all priced at $20; the premium range (which often includes one off wines that Swift likes to experiment with) and includes Malbec, Viognier, Chardonnay and Syrah, all priced at $30, and the reserve wines, which include Chardonnay at $40 and a Syrah at $50.

The closures… everything is sealed with a screw cap

Cork was used to seal the reserve wines in the past (Diam) and Swift does not think it added anything to the wines but she prefers the screw caps – “much prefer them”.

The wine tasting…

Body to burn Chardonnay

2016 Ash Ridge Reserve Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay $40, 12.5% ABV

Chardonnay clones 15 and 95 were used to make this wine from grapes grown on the Ash Ridge estate at Bridge Pa, Hawke’s Bay. This is a succulent wine with high acid, balanced by a full body, soft mid palate lactic tones and ripe grapefruit, peach and nectarine fruit flavours with a  long finish. Lots of lees stirring, 25% new oak, no fining but the wine has been filtered.

Fruit is the hero Syrah

2015 Ash Ridge Reserve Hawke’s Bay Syrah, $50, % ABV

Two clones of Syrah are grown at Ash Ridge estate vineyard and this wine is a near 50/50 blend of both – the Chave clone and MS (mass selection).  It was bottled unfined and unfiltered.

The wine included 25% whole bunches in the fermentation. It’s ruby in colour and overtly peppery in aroma with juicy, bright, intense deep black fruit flavours; 30 per cent new oak was used but the fruit is the hero on the long finish.

Fortifed Syrah…

The 2016 Ash Ridge Ruby Syrah is 20% alcohol and is fermented on skins with 90 grams residual sugar in the wine when it’s fortified. It’s barrel aged for 12 months and sells for $25 at the cellar door.

Hot new Syrahs – Doppio, $150 for two-pack

Doppio is a new wine range from Ash Ridge in Hawke’s Bay was to conceived by winemaker Lauren Swift pin point differences in two Syrah clones – MS and Chave.

“It’s not so we can say one is better, although we all have our preferences,” says Swift.

The two new wines were made from the same vineyard site from which Swift had noticed big differences in the taste of the wines made from each clone. “The Chave clone behaves extremely differently and is always balanced with very little done to it. We spur prune it and have a very open canopy and hardly fruit thin at all whereas with the MS you need to fruit thin a lot – the bunches are huge, it grows a lot of leaf that you’ve got to remove and we trim it two to three times a season whereas the Chave we only trim once when it gets to the top of the posts.”

MS is the clone that is most widely used in Hawke’s Bay.

The wines were aged in barrel for nearly two years and bottled a year prior to release. They are available only in two-packs directly from the winery and were bottled straight from barrel with a smidgeon of SO2. Just 280 two-packs were produced. See website below for further details.

2014 Doppio MS 13% ABV

Bigger bunches of grapes provide big red and black fruit flavours in this full bodied, fleshy and succulent Syrah, which has been the crowd favourite, to date.

2014 Doppio Chave 13% ABV

Thicker skins and smaller bunches are characteristic of the Chave clone, which results in a wine with darker fruit flavours, more mocha and chocolate notes, a fuller body and longer finish. The brix are typically 21 at harvest.

Find out more at: www.ashridgewines.co.nz

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