Vino

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

Category: Top drops over $20 (page 1 of 5)

Wine, the universe and everything part 2

Big wine regions often get a bad rap but where would we be without them?

I’ve lost count of how many visits I made to Marlborough last year, often with others who work with wine, and each time we were staggered by the region’s heavy reliance on Sauvignon Blanc. Even when you do expect it,  the number of eggs that Marlborough winemakers have in the Sauvignon Blanc basket is daunting, to say the least.

Great Chardonnays from Marlborough are growing in number but even at the largest wineries, it often makes up less than 5% of their overall production. And that doesn’t even touch on the potential greatness of Marlborough Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Chenin Blanc (listed in diminishing order of their numerical importance in the region). Such is the importance of the wine we call ‘Savvy’. And you’d be anything but that, if you chose not to put most of your energy into producing the most profitable wine. Still, it’s great to taste a slow but steady divergence  amongst Marlborough Sauvignons, which is why Kevin Judd’s Wild Sauvignon hits the sweet spot with so many wine commentators and drinkers alike, not only in New Zealand but around the world. Read on.

The latest stats

85% of Marlborough’s wine production is Sauvignon Blanc

76% of New Zealand’s white grapes are Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is the most planted grape overall and the dominant white wine in New Zealand, which occupies 22,085 hectares of the 37,000 hectares of grapes grown in this country

Sauvignon has had the biggest overall growth of any grape grown and wine made in New Zealand in the past 10 years

In 2008 there were 13,988 producing hectares of Sauvignon planted nationwide – today it is 22,085 (as above). Over the same period, Pinot Noir grew from 4,650 hectares in 2008 to 5,653 today; Chardonnay decreased from 3,881 to 3,203 and Pinot Gris grew from 1,383 to 2,469.

 

5 TOP DROPS

FOR THE CELLAR

2015 Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Marlborough $28-$30, 14% ABV 

Kevin Judd first made this wine in 2009 and it is 100% barrel fermented with 100% wild yeast; about two thirds of the wine goes through malolactic fermentation to soften Sauvignon’s naturally high acidity and  add roundness to this voluptuous, full bodied dry white. It ages in barrel and goes through battonage (French for stirring the lees – the decomposing yeast cells left over in the wine). It was James Healy – fellow winemaker at Cloudy Bay, who steered Judd in the direction of a wild and tank fermented Sauvignon, but that was back in 1991 when they both worked at Cloudy Bay. Judd says he was pestered by Healy to make  wild yeast fermented Chardonnay and he eventually he agreed to do it, he was surprised to find himself thinking ‘This is really quite good’.

As is his Greywacke Wild Sauvignon – full bodied, succulent, juicy, savoury and long. This wine shines a new light on Sauvignon Blanc. It can age well too; for up to 10 years.

 

NAUGHTY AND NICE

2015 Kung Fu Girl Riesling $24.95, 12% ABV

The label’s naughty, the wine is nice. And it has a new importer in New Zealand as from this week; namely, Constellation Brands.

Kung Fu Girl Riesling is made from grapes grown on the evocatively named Evergreen Vineyard in the Ancient Lakes AVA (American Viticultural Area – 566 hectares with only 5 wineries, so not large). It’s off dry, but only just, which suits its incredibly intense fruit purity,  light body and juicy flavours of ripe limes, green apples and mandarin.

Washington State is not exactly the first place you’d expect to look for Riesling but the classic light bodied, low alcohol, off dry German Rieslings were the inspiration for North American winemaker Charles Smith.

Available from specialist wine stores or email: joanne.deitch@cbrands.com

 

ONE FOR FUN

Bisou Bisou $19.99

Bisou Bisou means kiss kiss in French and the wine is definitely a big cuddly bubbly, made entirely from Chardonnay grapes grown in the Yarra Valley, 40 minutes north of Melbourne. It’s off dry but its creamy soft complexity balances the high but refreshing acidity. It was made at De Bortoli Wines and is available exclusively only through Vinomofo online.

Available from Vinomofo.

 

PINOT POWER

2016 Whistling Buoy Half Acre Vineyard Pinot Noir $42

This grapes in this wine were grown in Lyttelton, which is halfway down the South Island on the east coast of New Zealand. It’s a far flung place for growing fruit, even from the nearby city of Christchurch city (whose residents look north rather than east for the best local produce), but it is a beautiful getaway and a surprisingly successful one for the small Half Acre Vineyard, on the south of Lyttelton Harbour crater. This is the source of the Pinot Noir grapes in this wine. They growing facing north where they are drenched in sun on the warm slopes of a vineyard first planted in 2000. It’s an outstanding wine; revealing the earthy, mushroomy, dark cherry  character of Canterbury Pinot Noirs; its medium body and firm acidity add freshness to the beautiful ripe fruit flavours in this wine. The name comes from the original buoy that marked the entrance to this harbour.

Available direct from Whistling Buoy Wines online at http://www.whistlingbuoy.co.nz/index.php/en/

 

DECADENT DROP

2016 Chapel Hill McLaren Vale Bush Vine Grenache $28.95 , 14.5% ABV

Grenache may be one of the most prolifically grown grapes in the world, but it’s also one of the most under rated. How often do you even see the G word on a bottle of wine? It’s one of the most planted grapes in both Spain and southern France and it was once Australia’s most planted overall grape, until a significant amount was pulled out. How times change.

Winemakers like Bryn Richards from Chapel Hill are now keen to plant more Grenache. He is also lucky enough to have access to old bush vines for this wine, which was made from grapes grown on a vineyard planted in 1952 in McLaren Vale, south Australia – a hot bed of experimentation. Richards is a massive fan of Grenache for its soft, sensual mouth feel and its intense red cherry flavours. If you love Pinot, check out this next step up. It’s full bodied but has a lightness in taste and is a wine of real beauty and instant accessibility; drinks well now, though can definitely improve with age in the bottle for 4-5 years, possibly longer.

Available from Glengarry stores.

Top 5 drops… wines to get you through the season

5 top drops that push the boat of flavour into deep waters of deliciousness…

As Justin Dry – our Friday interview this week – says: our favourite wines might be a very personal thing but no matter what they are, they always taste better when shared. And with the year drawing swiftly to a close (some of us are happy to see the back of it), it’s only fitting to share 5 top drops for the silly season.

These are my final 5 top drops of the week for 2017 but I will post the year’s top 10 wines (personal choices, that is) in the next week or two.

The following wines were selected from a combination of my work as wine writer (I get sent wine to review), wine lover (I put my money where my mouth is) and Wine Programme Director (writing and tastings) at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington, New Zealand.

So, without further chit chat, here they are – 5 top drops that really push the boat of deliciousness out into deep calm waters of great flavour.

Merry everything…

Spy’s top white… dry Riesling

2016 Spy Valley Envoy Dry Riesling Johnson Vineyard $32

19/20

It’s rare to find bone dry Riesling in New Zealand, especially when it’s fermented in old German oak ‘fuder’ (barrels) and has only ever been made four times.

Meet Envoy. Spy Valley’s top dry white is made from grapes grown on the sunny slopes of the Johnson Vineyard in the Waihopai Valley, Marlborough – a free draining site where stony soils mix with clay at a slight elevation, which means the vines get more  intense sunshine and, in good years, gain greater  aromatic flavour, thanks to careful harvest decisions from winemakers Paul Bourgeois and Richelle Collier.

All the grapes used in this wine were hand picked after being trained on two canes which were shoot and bunch thinned to restrict yields. They were fermented in old oak which does not imprint its own flavour on the wine, instead allowing it to shine with softness as well as the characteristic high but, in this case, beautifully balanced acidity, which stretches out this wine’s flavours to a long finish. Delicious.

Available from… specialist wine retailers.

 

Great Italian white

2015 Umani Ronchi Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi $23

18.5/20

Verdicchio is an indigenous Italian white grape that comes from the Marche region in central Italy – go to Tuscany, then head straight over to the east coast on the Adriatic Sea. It has the body of a fleshy big Chardonnay and the acidity of Chenin Blanc; speaking of which, great Verdicchios can also age superlatively, for those with the necessary will power. This accessibly priced white is just one of the growing number of Verdicchios available in New Zealand these days… It’s a fantastic dry white with full body and a long, succulent, intensely lemon zesty finish.

Available from… specialist wine retailers.

 

Dog Point Pinot

2015 Dog Point Marlborough Pinot Noir $47

18.5/20

The 2015 vintage was a great one in New Zealand with drier weather, lower rainfall and a warmer summer than most years, which eased the pressure on winemakers to pick grapes before their optimal window, and this is what makes the reds from that year so tasty. Like the year, this wine is dry, super concentrated in flavour (black cherries, savoury spice, hints of mushroom) and a full body. It drinks well now, but be sure to decant it and let the wine sit for two hours or more, before drinking. It also has outstanding potential to cellar well and evolve into an even more complex wine.

Available from… www.dogpoint.co.nz

 

Sauvignon with bells on

2014 Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon $32

19/20

Old vines, oak fermentation, maturation on decomposing yeast cells… it may sound like an interesting combination of factors, but this wine is an outstanding dry white that rocks my boat with its full body, complex flavours of green fresh herbs, ripe tropical fruit and nutty flavours. Year in, year out, this wine ticks all the boxes with its full body, vibrant freshness and super concentration of flavour; not least thanks to being made from grapes grown on a north facing, 30 year old vineyard in North Canterbury. Both the Sauvignon Blanc and the Semillon spent a portion of time fermenting and aging in old oak barrels, which adds body, softness and builds the textural deliciousness into this wine.

Available from… pegasusbay.com

 

Top champagne

Bernandier Champagne NV $94.99

19/20

Ticks all the boxes – a champagne made by the grape grower, who hand picked all the grapes, used wild yeast fermentation and a combo of oak and stainless steel for fermentation, then aged it for two years in bottle, prior to disgorgement (six months longer than the legal minimum aging time in the Champagne region).

This is a 100% Chardonnay, hence it’s a blanc de blanc, and it is the best champagne that I have tasted so far this summer. Despite my personal preference for Pinot Noir dominant bubbles, this one  blew my mind – a champagne that is, like Bollinger and many other great wines, first and foremost, a wine – the bubbles add a je ne sais quoi.

Available from… specialist wine stores or Dhall & Nash.

Champagne Larmandier open at our last Wine Wednesday of the year… tonight at 5.30pm…

We’re sharing the love at our last official Wellington Wine Wednesday of the year at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington tonight from 5.30pm to 7pm…

We are cracking open this outstanding champagne, which ticks all the taste boxes and then some, thanks to winemaker Pierre Larmandier…

Champagne Larmandier Bernier Latitude is…

Made from biodynamically grown grapes (think: organic but on a whole new level)

Hand harvested and fermented with wild yeasts (no commercial yeasts added)

Fermented in a combo of wood and stainless steel

Aged on lees in the bottle for 2 years, which is 6 months longer than the legal minimum aging time

Given a super low 4 grams per litre of dosage – it’s extra dry, in other words

Bottled aged for 6 months prior to release

Come and join us for a free taste of one of a 100% Chardonnay (blancs de blanc) champagne, which we usually sell for $95.99 and today it is on special for $89.99… it’s not an every day price but then this is not an everyday wine – it’s something super special.

We will also be selling Robert Walters’ new book Champagne – A Secret History for $36.99 – a book that shakes up all your thinking about what champagne is, should be and could be.

 

Wine Wednesdays 2018… kick off again on 10 January

PS: Our next Wine Wednesday will be on Wednesday 10 January and we’ll have 2016 Fromm Riesling Spatlese open for free tasting, with a discount on the bottle that night.

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