Binge buying is taking on a whole new meaning right now with wine and alcohol sales exceeding Christmas figures, prompting the Government to consider allowing wine, beer and spirits retailers to remain open during the Covid-19 level four lock down, which starts at midnight on Wednesday 25 March.
This poses the question: Is alcohol an essential part of daily life?
At least one aspect has been deemed essential. The wine industry has been advised that it can, along with other food and beverage producers, and the supply chain, continue to operate as an essential service during the COVID-19 level four lock down. This is good news because the 2020 harvest is now in full swing in some regions and about to start in others.
While we await news of whether wine, beer and spirits retailers may remain open during the level four lock down, here are my top 10 new wines, available in specialist stores and (some) more widely.
If you’re out shopping, keep a two metre distance from others, use gloves, wash your hands and clean fully, once home, including washing all clothes worn. This is the well publicised advice broadcast from the Ministry of Health this week.
Top 10 wines to drink during lock down
The in a nutshell version… a range of styles followed by 10 wines
Spanish Cava – sparkling wine made the same way as champagne but such great value for money, mostly about $25 or less. Look for Vallformosa, Cordoniu, Dibon and Privat, among many others.
Dry Riesling – and off dry; the world’s most succulent refreshing white wine and amazing value for money, due to having no oak maturation.
Modern Chardonnay – which can be big and buttery or crisp – stretch your wings and try a range.
Central Otago’s top Pinots – Go to the top shelf at your local wine store and buy Mount Edward, Quartz Reef, Takapoto, Valli and many more.
Next level Sauvignon Blanc – so many to choose from; like fumé blanc, only better… Try Dog Point Sauvignon, Churton Estate Sauvignon, Greystone Sauvignon… Look on the label or ask a retailer – or step up to next next level (see below).
Great Italian reds – one of the least known wine styles in New Zealand and so interestingly different – like trying a great new style of bread or cheese and wondering why you’d never fallen for it before.
Dry sherry – entering different territory here, but so is the world, so here’s a wine that opens doors of flavour that most of us ignore at our peril – if you love fish or salty snacks, here’s your wine.
The indepth version…
These are the tip of the iceberg – you can pay a lot less and still find beauty from these places and styles.
Privat Brut Nature Rose $31.99
This is Spain’s version of bubbly made in the best possible way, namely with the fermentation in the bottle – like Champagne, only aged for less time, so moderately yeasty in taste. Fresh and amazing. This wine is premium quality cava, bone dry and made with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – two of the three French grapes used to make Champagne. No wonder this tastes so good.
2018 The Boneline Dry Riesling $24
When a wine makes you say ‘yes, yes, yes’, it’s a winner and this beautifully refreshing Riesling is just that; ripe flavours of guava, Rose’s lime juice and peach combine in this crisp, dry North Canterbury Riesling.
2015 Pegasus Bay Riesling $31.99
A big wine with a significant proportion of botrytis, which is made in a spatlese style by Kiwi King of Spatlese, Mat Donaldson, and his talented team at Pegasus Bay in North Canterbury. This region, more than any other in New Zealand, has a long track record of exceptionally long lived and sensationally delicious Rieslings. This wine is the proof of the pudding.
2018 The Boneline Barebone Chardonnay $25.99
For a Chardonnay that is 100% unoaked, this wine has body and flavour richness to burn. It comes from the lees (decomposing yeast cells, following fermentation) rather than from malolactic fermentation or oak or anything else. It’s a wine with loads of bells and whistles and I could swear there’s a creamy, nutty, deliciously old school element about it too. An outstanding wine at a modest price.
2018 Tony Bish Skeetfield Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay $59.99
From Fat ‘n Sassy to Skeetfield. Winemaker Tony Bish reigns supreme over Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay made in a range of styles, including this top drop made from old vines of Mendoza Chardonnay – which has widely varying sized grapes and great concentration of flavour. All grapes were hand harvested and whole bunch to barrel then fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged in 60% new Taransaud French oak. Creamy, big, powerful and lingering.
Central Otago’s top Pinots
2016 Doctors Flat Pinot Noir $45.99
Steve Davies is the grape grower and winemaker behind this small production run of Doctors Flat Pinot, made from his three hectare block in Bannockburn, on a hill behind Mount Difficulty winery. The schist soil is a result of glacial ice deposited 480,000 years ago and it provides heat retention for grapes to ripen and good drainage too. This wine is made from hand harvested Pinot Noir, 27% of which was whole bunch fermented in small tanks with indigenous yeast (nothing added) and then drained to French oak barrels (23% new) where it matured for 12 months before being bottled without fining or filtration. It’s one of my top 10 Central Otago Pinot Noirs every year and this vintage is one of my faves of Steve’s production so far. 970 dozen bottles are made, it contains 13.5% ABV, 4.90 grams per litre of titratable acidity and zero residual sugar. A keeper and a pleasure now.
2015 Takapoto Estate Gibbston Pinot Noir $75
From a small vineyard in Gibbston Valley, made from hand picked grapes and matured in French oak, this wine is subtle, floral and all about red fruit style flavours, such as strawberries, cherries and cranberries. It was bottled unfined and unfiltered so there’s a deliciously savoury element to… The 2014 vintage won the Pinot Noir Trophy at the world’s biggest wine competition, the London International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) in 2018.
Next level Sauvignon Blanc
2018 Churton Best End Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc $40
Made from grapes grown on one of the oldest blocks of Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough, planted in 2003 on an east facing slope at Churton Estate. This wine is certified organic and most of the vines are single cane pruned to minimise the number of grapes harvested per vine. Lower yields tend to mean higher concentration of flavour, according to most winemakers, and this wine is all about concentration and complexity. This super tasty Sauvignon which was aged in French oak for 12-18 months then bottled, unfined and unfiltered.
Great Italian red
2017 Gaja Sito Moresco Langhe $76.99
Unconventional, unknown in this part of the world and uncommonly good. This wine is a blend of Italy’s greatest red grape, Nebbiolo, with France’s Merlot and Cab Sauvignon. Not that Nebbiolo needs to be blended because it has more than enough elegance and power of its own, but it works here somehow with the aromas of ripe Cab’ Sauv’ coming through and lovely balance from the Nebbiolo, which adds juicy succulence. Merlot fills in the flesh, making this cult wine taste approachable right now. It will, most definitely, age extremely well too.
Sito Moresco is a reference to the previous owner of the vineyard from which this wine is made – the Site of Moresco.
Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Fino $37.99
One of the great whites of the world, made from the relatively untalked about Palomino grape, which grows best in the light, white Albariza soils of southern Spain’s Andalucia region where sherry has its official home. These chalky soils absorb and retain moisture, releasing it to the grapes in the hot climate.
This wine is the thing to drink with green olives, goat’s cheese, Iberico ham or even a creamy, deep fried rice ball.
Drink it chilled and imagine a warm sunny day on your favourite beach.