Wines of the week (why you should spend more than $20…)

Why pay $20+ on a bottle of wine when there’s so much of it available for significantly less than a $20 note?

If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question, I would have enough to go all the way and buy great burgundy, the pinnacle of Pinot Noir. All jokes aside, it’s a fair enough question for wine lovers who are surrounded by cheap and cheerful Pinot – why would they seriously consider buying Pinot Noir that costs above $20 when there’s so much readily available for far cheaper?

There’s so much to gain from spending a little more and, occasionally, a lot more, but it’s sometimes hard to believe when prices have dropped and quality has risen of wines for less than $20.

If you’re a Pinot Noir lover in New Zealand today, here are two great wines – worth the extra spend.

2018 Nga Waka Pinot Noir $33, 17.5/20

Martinborough Pinot Noir is one of the great unsung stars of this country’s red wine industry and is where the Pinot story began, in the late 1980s when this tiny town was purely a farming community with a few fledgling wineries. Nga Waka was one of the second wave of early wineries and its founding winemaker Roger Parkinson is still at the helm today, albeit with new ownership. He makes this lovely refreshing Pinot Noir from the winery’s Pirinoa Block, a vineyard south of the town on Lake Ferry Road, which he blends with grapes grown on the Old Cemetery Block. Ten per cent is fermented with whole bunches and the juice is macerated for 19-21 days followed by 22 months in French oak, 20% new. Fruity, dry, velvety and smooth, underpinned with refreshing acidity which makes every sip linger.

2018 Nga Waka Lease Block Pinot Noir $37 to $40, 18.5/20
Roger Parkinson is one of Martinborough’s most experienced winemakers and produces this great Pinot from a small 0.8 hectare vineyard known as Lease Block. It’s on Huangarua Road, Martinborough’s golden mile of wineries and vineyards. This small site was planted in 1999 in 100% Pinot Noir clone 5, 115, and 10/5.This wine is made with 15% whole bunch fermentation, maceration for 22 days and maturated in French oak, 33% new for 20 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered, so vegan friendly. Fresh, earthy, savoury, medium bodied and refreshing, thanks to great balanced acidity.

New cellar door for Escarpment in Martinborough

One of Martinborough’s most respected wineries has teamed up with one of its least known boutique accommodations to offer wine tastings with food.

The winery is Escarpment, based in the Te Muna Valley; nine kilometres east of Martinborough township, which is slightly off the beaten track for visitors to the village, who generally cycle or walk to the wineries. The new collaboration with Peppers Parehua offers an easy walk or cycle from Martinborough village to enjoy both the great wines of Escarpment Vineyard, made by founder Larry McKenna, alongside food in the pretty landscape of Peppers.

The new collaboration kicks off with tasting flights of four wines open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 5pm.

Wine of the week – New Zealand’s first en primeur Chardonnay

David Nash is not the first filmmaker to turn his hand to winemaking but he may be the first New Zealand one to produce a Chardonnay, which sold out as an en primeur offer before it was in the bottle. This breaks the mould of how Kiwi white wines are sold. It was never offered at retail and was such an instant hit that it didn’t even get the chance to make it into traditional wine retail stores.

The wine is called Helio and it’s Nash’s first foray into winemaking. Helio  is a Chardonnay from the 2019 vintage in Hawke’s Bay. It was sold en primeur because this is a helpful way of getting cashflow for a wine business and is best known in Bordeaux in south west France where it’s not only de rigueur but  also controversial, but that’s another story. Nash is best known in wine circles for co-producing the film,  A Seat at the Table, launched at last year’s New Zealand International Film Festival. He has since delved into making wine, of which Helio is the first. It’s a collaboration with Mat and Sarah Kirby, a couple of winemakers (Clearview and Felton Road) who met Nash during his film making and coordinated to get New Zealand wine to France. Nash says they were aligned on the styles of wines they liked, so the collaboration to make their own together made total sense to both parties. And so to the wine. Even though it is sold out, it blew my socks off with its deliciously drinkable style; successfully crossing the current trend to make flinty, reductive styled Chardonnay with the popular creamy aspects that have made Chardonnay the world’s most popular dry white wine.

Nash says the 2020 Helio is shaping up to be similar to the 2019. Contact him (details below) to go onto the list for the next vintage’s en primeur offer.

2019 Helio Chardonnay Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay $35

Unfined and unfiltered so it ticks the vegan friendly box, but more importantly, it’s rich, dry and full bodied Chardonnay, which tastes delicious to drink now and can age further, thanks to its underlying citrusy acidity, which adds length and cut through to the bold creamy notes. This wine is made from a vineyard on the Heretaunga Plains in Hawke’s Bay where the hot days and cool nights make their mark of ripeness with freshness felt strongly. It’s sealed with a good quality cork topped with wax.

Sign up for the 2020 Helio via the website or email