Unconventional wines rising in New Zealand

Six surprisingly unconventional Kiwi white wines

Spring is not only about new growth in the ground beneath our feet but about new beginnings as these new wines show.

These wines reflect growth in new styles of wines made by New Zealanders who are dipping their winemaking toes in new waters. This includes using lesser known Spanish and French grape varieties, individualistic styles of winemaking and even giving mainstream grape varieties some tender loving care, instead of milking their popularity for all its worth.

These wines are rated and include recommended retail prices are included.

19/20

2021 Redmetal Vineyards Triangle Block Five Albarino RRP $32 to $37

This is a great example of Albarino, a new grape in this country but an old one in its homeland in north west Spain. It’s all about freshness with salty flavours of green olives and green herbs, underpinned with a citrusy twist on the finish. These factors make it a great match with seafood and salty flavours.
Albarino is known for adapting well to climates that are moderate in heat and can be relatively wet throughout the year. This makes it work well in a range of different areas in New Zealand, including Hawke’s Bay’s Bridge Pa Triangle; the sub region where the grapes in this wine were grown.

19/20

2019 Pegasus Bay Finale Noble Semillon Sauvignon Blanc RRP $41

Wines like this don’t come along every day. It’s made in the mould of a great sweet white wine from Bordeaux so it is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, both of which contribute fresh acidity to balance the super intense sweet flavours in this succulent white. Barrique maturation adds smoothness, which flatters the flavours of white honey, yellow sultanas and white peach, which all shine in this wine with its long finish, thanks to that beautifully balanced acidity.

18.5/20

Pegasus Bay Fortissimo Muscat RRP $42

A vin doux natural style made in very small volumes; just 400 litres – enough for family, mailing list and cellar door sales, so get in quick to secure some. This wine was moulded after the great vin du naturals of the southern Rhone Valley and areas in the Languedoc in the sunny south of France. It’s a beautiful expression of the aromatic Muscat grape with flavours of ripe orange and tangelo zest adding cleansing freshness and intensity to what seems like a light bodied sweet wine, until the 16% ABV kicks in on the deliciously long finish.

17.5/20

2021 Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc RRP $24

Sauvignon Blanc is the stock in trade of every self respecting Marlborough winemaker and the vast majority of it tastes juicy, fruity and even with a hint of sweetness on the finish. Here is a wine that bucks that trend entirely thanks to its dry taste, light body and powerful aromas of fresh green plums, gooseberries and herbs. Its refreshing dry style makes a pleasant change from so many Sauvignons these days and the finish leaves a refreshing impression.

18.5/20


2015 Dog Point Vineyard Section 94 RRP $38

Here’s a wine that has complexity to burn with a medium body, intense flavours and fully dry taste. This is a library release direct from the winery’s cellars where winemakers have held it back to highlight just how damned delicious a well made, well aged, 100% Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc can taste. In this case, it still looks and feels incredibly youthful but the acidity has softened so that it reveals a smooth side to Sauvignon, supported subtly by green herb notes and a lingering finish. Section 94 is a vineyard named after its original name on an old Lands & Survey map in Marlborough. The grapes in this wine were fully barrel fermented which softens, adds complex savoury notes and tames Sauvignon’s wild side.

19/20

2021 Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc RRP $30

Meet this year’s Champion at The Aotearoa Regional Wine Competition, which is part of the New Zealand Agricultural Show run by the Canterbury A&P Association. The 2021 competition saw more than 240 of New Zealand’s best wines judged blind over two days and Saint Clair’s Wairau Reserve was one of only four Sauvignon Blanc wines to win gold. It’s from a lighter vintage in terms of volume and the flavours are anything but light in terms of taste. Depth and weight add power to this refreshing dry white with its long finish.
This wine highlights Sauvignon Blanc made in a classic New Zealand style, only better by far.

Author: Joelle Thomson

I am a wine writer, author and educator... first bitten by a big buttery Chardonnay on a dark and stormy night in the 1980s and there was no turning back... Follow my tastings and join some too on this new site.

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