Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


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