Vino

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

Category: NZ wine (page 1 of 53)

Top 5 drops… top wines, tough choices

This is the eighth year running that the Gimblett Gravels 2015 Annual Vintage Selection has been put together as a case of the best 12 wines. Read on for my top five.

Arid, dry, stony ‘soils’ (if you could call them that) are the story of the 800 hectares of Gimblett Gravels (GG) vineyard area, which was first planted in grapes in 1981. Red grapes dominate  90% of the GG area…

 

The wines in the Gimblett Gravels 2015 Annual Vintage Selection were all selected from submissions made by wineries to the Australian based Master of Wine, Andrew Caillard.

He ranked and rated the wines to come up with the top 12 and then I ranked and rated them to come up with following five – my distillation of his favourites.

I hope you enjoy the line up and the read.

PS: Below the wine reviews (scroll down) you can read a snapshot that explains what The Gimblett Gravels 2015 Annual Vintage Selection is all about.

PPS: One complaint; I wish the producers would use screw caps on these wines, which would undoubtedly preserve them in more consistent condition and minimise the risk of possible wine faults.


You can buy the 2015 Gimblett Gravels Annual Vintage Selection from www.advintage.co.nz

 

Top Syrah – Le Sol

Craggy Range Syrah vines on the Gimblett Gravels in Hawke’s Bay at dusk…

2015 Craggy Range Le Sol Gimblett Gravels $136, 13.5% ABV

19/20

A top drop at a top price from the Gimblett Gravels; the name Le Sol refers to the Heritage Syrah clone, which winemaker Matt Stafford uses to make this bone dry, dark purple hued Syrah. The grapes were 100% hand harvested at 23.9 prix and fermented in open top French oak then aged in 30% new French barriques for 17 months. It’s unfined (so, technically, it could quality as vegan) and it was coarsely filtered. Now the technical stuff is out of the way, what does it taste like?
Incredibly dry, youthful and super powerful on the dark fruit flavoured front – it drinks well now, if you decant it at least three hours prior to drinking and serve in large glassware. Otherwise, stash it in a dark cool spot for at least 5 years. It will age superbly.

Cork closure.

Buy from Craggy Range

 

Sensational Syrah

2015 Ka Tahi Wines Rangatira Gimblett Gravels Reserve Syrah 13.4% ABV

19/20

This wine is a surprise, in so many ways. To start off with, it’s an unusual bottle because the traditional Bordeaux shape suggests Cabernet and Merlot rather than Syrah. And this may seem like a moot point (bottle shape doesn’t alter the taste, right?) but this wine is surprising in other ways too – its flavours verge on smooth soft caramel and far far nicer in terms of its riper flavours – dark fruit and dark plums and very smooth flavours and long finish… This is the wine of the five that I would opt to drink now, but there is no doubt it can age – for at least 5-6 years. A stunner.

Buy from Ka Tahi

 

Babich beauty

2015 Babich The Patriarch $79.99, 13.5% ABV

18.5/20

This wine lives up to its name; it’s an interesting blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 51%, Merlot 27%, and Malbec 22% (of which there’s precious little in New Zealand). The colour is deep ruby, opaque and stylistically this is an open wine right now with forward fruit flavours that intermingle with notes of spice (cardamon, cinnamon, nutmeg…) and a full bodied, long smooth finish. It’s a lovely drink now and also needs to be decanted. It will age for at least 5-6 years.

Cork closure.

Buy from Babich Wines

 

Sacred Syrah

2015 Sacred Hill Deerstalkers Syrah $59.99, 13% ABV

18.5/20

Excellent complex Syrah with dark ruby colour, bone dry style and a full body with rich dark fruit. It could age well but is open to drinking and enjoying now too; thanks to its smooth, soft, velvety mouthfeel and powerful dark fruit flavours, which intermingle beautifully with notes of spice, cedar and a hint of pepper. It’s one of my top three wines of the 2015 Gimblett Gravels line up.

Cork closure.

Buy from https://sacredhill.com

 

The top value red – Vidal

2015 Vidal Reserve Syrah $24.99

18.5/20

Tasty. And a bargain to boot. This Syrah has to take the top prize when it comes to value for money, but don’t let that dissuade you from enjoying its massively complex, rich, dark, powerful and intense fruit flavours and complexity. It’s full bodied, youthfully complex, fruit forward but has great ageing potential for at least 5-6 years. It is best served in a large glass after it has been decanted for at least three hours.

Sealed with a screw cap.

Buy from Vidal Estate

 

Wine fact file

The Gimblett Gravels 2015 Annual Vintage Selection

The 2015 selection is the eighth consecutive one following the 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 vintages; its aim is to provide:

  • a perspective on the style of Gimblett Gravels wines from one year
  • to show the evolution and progression of the wines

The 2015 Annual Vintage Selection includes seven blended reds and five Syrahs, all independently selected from submissions made independently by wineries to Master of Wine Andrew Caillard.

The full line up of wines

Blended reds

2015 Babich Irongate, $39.95

2015 Babich The Patriarch, $79.95

2015 Mission Estate Reserve Cabernet Merlot $29

2015 Sacred Hill Brokenstone $49.99

2015 Stonecroft Cabernet Sauvignon $47

2015 Te Awa Single Estate Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon $29

2015 Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot $49.99

Syrahs

2015 Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah $135

2015 Ka Tahi Rangatira Syrah $29.99

2015 Sacred Hill Deerstalkers Syrah $59.99

2015 Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Syrah $35

2015 Vidal Reserve Syrah $24.99

Prices quoted are recommended retail and do vary.

 

Breaking news… Craggy Range opens new cellar door

The cellar door of one of Hawke’s Bay’s largest wineries reopened last week after six weeks of refurbishment, which saw the space completely gutted to make way for a relaxed tasting experience.

Craggy Range general manager Aaron Drummond says the new cellar door, which opened this week, was modelled on its Northern Hemisphere counterparts in the Californian wine regions of the Sonoma and Napa valleys.

“The United States wine industry is much further advanced in delivering a great customer experience. Our visitors can still enjoy the more traditional tasting at the bench/bar, but for those that are interested in learning more about the wines, sitting down in a relaxed environment and tasting with the staff is a much more interesting and enjoyable experience.”

With the reopening of the cellar door, a new bites and platter menu has been designed for  Terroir restaurant by head chef Casey McDonald, who began this year. i

The Cellar Door is at the Giants Winery on Waimarama Road and is open seven days from 10am to 6pm.

The project is the first stage of a two part redesign for the cellar door and will be followed by the Terroir by Craggy Range restaurant in winter 2018. Design on both has been led by Paul Izzard from Izzard Design.

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.

Top 5 drops… best wines of the week and a 50 year old German ‘white’

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.

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