Hawke’s Bay’s first top 12 Chardonnay collection

Hawke’s Bay Wine has released a collection of 12 of its top Chardonnays, all from one vintage – 2019. This is the first time such a collection has been put together of white wines from the Bay, which is New Zealand’s second biggest wine region.

The inaugural collection was put together via submissions which were blind tasted by Cameron Douglas, a Master Sommelier, who conducted a blind tasting of all wines submitted.

The collection represents a range of Hawke’s Bay’s Chardonnay, highlighting the quality and diversity of this extremely popular white grape, which is the most planted white grape in the Bay; by a small margin, thanks to the popularity of Sauvignon Blanc and, increasingly, Pinot Gris.

The objective of the top 12 Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay Collection is to increase awareness of the outstanding and consistent quality of Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay, and its core role in the New Zealand wine story.

The first top 12 includes these wines:

2019 Askerne Estate The Archer Chardonnay
2019 Bilancia Tiratore Chardonnay
2019 Church Road Tom Chardonnay
2019 Clearview Estate Reserve Chardonnay
2019 Collaboration Wines Aurulent Chardonnay
2019 Coopers Creek Select Vineyards Limeworks Chardonnay
2019 Elephant Hill Salomé Chardonnay
2019 Monowai Estate Upper Reaches Chardonnay
2019 Pask Declaration Chardonnay
2019 Sacred Hill Riflemans Chardonnay
2019 Tony Bish Wines Heartwood Chardonnay
2019 Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay

Wines of the week – four South Island Pinot Noirs

Joelle Thomson’s wines of the week are published every Friday (or Monday, on occasion). Read on.

What are old friends for, if not to share some of life’s most affirming moments, often with great wine (or for some, perhaps a beer) and food. One of my oldest friends reminded me this weekend of many shared memories that had sprung to mind after a challenging year of ill family members, interesting work challenges and the global pandemic to contend with. One memory that we haven’t shared, until now, is a recent one when my friend and their life partner visited a small winery that makes great wines in an unexpected location. We happened to have visited the same winery within weeks of each other. Both of us were taken aback by just how good this place and its wines are. Greystone Wines is situated a couple of minutes’ drive down a dusty road off the main State Highway in the Waipara Valley, North Canterbury. It’s not exactly an auspicious location but it is emerging to be one of this country’s best wineries, in terms of quality, style and sheer outstanding consistency. And now this little winery has a new-ish restaurant on site. The low key cellar door has been transformed into a modern small room where deliciously healthy day time food is served on shared plates, produced by professional chefs and foragers, who are equally as passionate and informed about ethical food production as the winemakers are about their 100% certified organic wines.

Here are four Pinot Noirs from Greystone, all outstanding.

17.5/20   4 stars
2017 Nor’ Wester Pinot Noir $22.99 to $26.99
Nor’ Wester Pinot is named after the eponymous dry north west wind that blows through North Canterbury’s vineyards, often decimating bunches of grapes and ensuring that those remaining retain thicker skins than Pinot Noir is used to. This defines the earthy structure and character of the wines made in this region and, even at this relatively humble price, the quality is high. Nor’ Wester is a blend of grapes from the region, fermented in small batches with daily hand plunging and aged in French oak for 10 months. It’s a very similar style to Greystone Pinot Noir, only it’s not made from 100% estate grown grapes.

19/20    5 stars
2017 Greystone Pinot Noir $41
Hand picked and hand sorted grapes are wild yeast fermented with a small percentage of whole bunches to add structure to this full bodied, earthy flavoured, silky textured wine made from grapes grown on north facing, limestone rich slopes in the Waipara Valley, North Canterbury; home to Greystone’s fully certified organic vineyards.

2018 Greystone Vineyard Ferment Pinot Noir $75
The first vineyard ferment Pinot Noir at Greystone was created in 2012 as an exploration of what flavours might happen with wild yeast ferments in situ in the vineyard, literally. The grapes never make it to the actual winery, until they are finished wine. It’s a fascinating process to watch small tanks fermenting in different parts of this vineyard, which is fully certified organic and far cooler in temperature than the winery, which means that ferments typically take longer. This vintage is another tasty vineyard ferment from winemaker Dom Maxwell and the Greystone team, who invited me and a group of other wine professionals to watch and learn for a day as the wine fermented. This is a beautiful earthy, dry, savoury tasting Pinot with spicy layers of flavour and a long finish. It’s deceptively pale colour, savoury in style and has time on its side – it’s sealed with a screwcap, drinks well now and can  evolve positively for five years, potentially longer.  

2018 Greystone Thomas Brothers Pinot Noir $100
This is the top Pinot Noir from Greystone Wines, made with grapes grown on the highest part of the north facing, organically certified vineyard, which is exposed and windy. This reduces the size of the crops and concentrates the flavour of this Pinot Noir because the skins of the grapes tend to be thicker from this part of the vineyard site. All grapes in this wine are hand picked, hand sorted and fermented with wild yeasts and a small portion of whole bunches in the ferment to add structure.
The wine tastes youthful, dark and savoury right now and needs time to soften and mellow. It’s impressive and will become even more so with age.

  • Greystone is one of two wineries in New Zealand to make it onto the 2020 Top 100 Wine Discoveries by leading wine authority Robert Parker. The other wine to be awarded this accolade is the 2018 Tony Bish Heartwood Chardonnay from Hawke’s Bay. 

Marlborough’s newest fizz launches today

End of year parties have a lot to answer for and I’m not just talking about the hangovers, if that’s where you thought this story was heading.
The silly season has piqued my interest in and craving for a glass of absolutely kick ass champagne. We drank a fair few bottles at our Christmas work party, just over a week ago, as you’d expect we would since the ‘we’ in question is the team from Wellington’s biggest independent wine store. Anyway, now I can’t get those delicious yeasty flavours out of my mind – and I’d quite like to taste them again soon too. Which is lucky really because tonight I had my chance and it didn’t cost me an arm and a leg because I was invited to be part of the launch of New Zealand’s newest bubbly from Whitehaven Wines in Marlborough.

This large winery made its first sparkling wine on a small scale, launching it tonight via an Instagram Live tasting, which I co hosted with winemaker Peter Jackson (no relation to the film maker of the same name). I’ve been lucky enough to try the first bubbly from Whitehaven twice now – and it’s come a long way over the past four weeks or so, since I first tried it. Only 1800 bottles were made and while it tasted fresh and crisp when first disgorged, corked and labelled, the 2018 Whitehaven Samantha Methode Traditionelle now has a far more complex taste of fresh sourdough, sweet pastry and citrus, all finishing super dry and with a long flavoursome finish, thanks to just 4.5 grams of residual sugar per litre. That’s pretty damned dry, if you ask me, given that when I first started drinking wines made this way, it was normal to have at least 12 grams of residual sugar. Wine changes. Not just overnight or over a decade spent in the wine cellar, but in how it is made. Winemakers have a vastly different philosophy today than they did even a decade ago, let alone longer. So, without further ado, here is my tasting note on the new Whitehaven Samantha bubbles.

Wine of the week

2018 Whitehaven Samantha Méthode Traditionelle $45
Buy here
Samantha is the daughter of Sue and Greg White, who founded Whitehaven Winery back in 1994, and she is also now a second generation member of the winery team. This wine is named after her and made as a méthode traditionelle; another way of saying it’s made the same way as champagne – and using the same type of grapes. In this case, the bubbles is a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir, all handpicked at low sugar levels (brix of 18-19°) to retain refreshing acidity and keep the wine at a modest alcohol of 12% ABV. The grapes were whole bunch pressed and went through malolactic fermentation to soften the acidity, which provides creamy flavours in the wine, which was then bottled for its secondary fermentation where the carbon dioxide dissolves into the wine. It was aged on lees for 22 months, developing secondary, savoury notes over that time. It’s a deeply refreshing, citrusy fresh, creamy, full bodied bubbly. Every sip lingers – and it only costs a fraction of the price of a comparable champagne.

(I realise that last sentence is likely to provide a talking point but in the course of my work as wine adviser to Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington, New Zealand, I do taste an enormous range of sparkling wines – and am lucky enough to drink many of them too.)