Rippon’s new wines express their place…

Rippon Vineyard is one of the world’s most beautiful, a fact that never escapes those who visit its drop dead gorgeous vines on the shores of Lake Wanaka – the most westerly area in the world’s southernmost wine region. Winemaker Nick Mills was visiting Wellington today from the frosty deep south and he popped into Regional Wines for a tasting of his biodynamically certified wines, all of which come from grapes grown on the shores of Lake Wanaka.

As Mills says, Rippon Vineyard is an estate – not a brand. This means all his grapes are grown on the estate; as in Europe and all traditional wine growing countries, the word estate means the land owned and tended by the owners. Here are the wines I tasted.

The Rippon wines…

Best Otago Sauvignon this year – 2016 Rippon Sauvignon Blanc

Lots of work went into this wine, which is 100% wild fermented. Its softness and savoury style comes from a 60/40 ferment in stainless steel tanks and old oak barrels. It remains on lees unsulphured for two months. It is the best Otago Sauvignon Blanc I have tried this year.

New flagship Pinot Noir – 2013 Rippon Mature Vine Pinot Noir

This is a new release – all wines are held a year in barrel and another one in bottle before release; an expensive move for the winery but a tasty one for consumers because it allows the wines to open up and soften during this maturation time. This is savoury rather than a fruit bomb, but also bone dry in flavour, which rates highly with me. Love the long finish and balanced style.

New youthful Riesling – 2015 Rippon Jeunesse Young Vine Riesling

Very Germanic in style with an impressively broad spectrum of flavours. About 150-200 cases are made of this wine each year. Winemaker Nick Mills rates this year particularly well – and its complexity is a big drawcard to this fresh new white with its white floral flavours through to ripe apricot and a long finish. Nice.

Top drop – 2014 Rippon Riesling

Made from 25-30 year old vines, this is the leading Riesling in terms of quantity – and quality. The winery has about 2.5 hectares of Riesling, which is tiny but more than all other white varieties at Rippon. These vines provide enough grapes to produce between 500 to 600 cases of this dry, medium bodied, concentrated Riesling  each year. Rich, complex, dry and long – all you want in a Riesling. It’s all about youthful lime and peach aromas now, but it will develop further with time and it will age age.

This superlative southern wine shows loud and clear why Riesling is the most underrated white grape of the deep south in New Zealand.

Introducing… Soho Wines to Wellington

Soho Wines is now available for the first time ever at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington…

We’ve all got a day job and mine is wine writer and (part time) wine programme director for Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington, New Zealand. Today I’m in Marlborough at the second Organic Winegrowers New Zealand Conference, proving the rule that writers are often at large rather than at their desks. But yesterday, the desk took the form of the counter top at Regional Wines  & Spirits while tasting the extensive range of wines from Soho, which sent its roving ambassador, Amber Hatton, to Wellington to launch the wines.

Soho Wines was established in 2009 by Rachael Carter who worked for her father’s wine importation business (yeast, barrels, corks…), prior to planting the seeds of her own wine producing company. It was a smart move. Her experience meant that Carter understood the crippling overheads that owning a winery can bring, so, instead, she uses grapes from a combination of vineyards, including her family’s  and others. She has hand picked a winemaker in each of region from which she produces wine. She has, in a sense, a virtual winery with no fixed abode, aside from its business headquarters in Auckland.

The winemaking team consists of Dave Clouston in Marlborough, James Rowan in Auckland and Grant Taylor in Otago. And so to the wines, which are now all available at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington.

The Soho wines

2016 Soho Stella Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 13% ABV

Young, fresh and intense with flavours of  tropical fruit (passionfruit, pineapple) and citrus (lemon and grapefruit), a light body and a long finish. Very good drink now, which will continue to be lively for 2 to 3 years.

2016 Soho Jagger Marlborough Pinot Gris 13.5% ABV

Its name was inspired by Mick Jagger and this wine is soft, medium bodied and smooth with white fruit (pear, apple) flavours and an off dry style (6 grams residual sugar per litre).

2016 Soho Maren Marlborough Riesling 11.6% ABV

Zingy deliciousness with a light body, refreshingly zesty lime, mandarin and orange zest flavours, balanced high acidity and a long finish. Like a sorbet in the glass, only it has a dry finish.

2016 Betty Riesling 9.4% ABV

The inaugural vintage of this sensational, zesty, intensely flavoured, light bodied Riesling was made with grapes grown in Marlborough, which were treated to an intentional medium style – noticeable sweetness is balanced by crisp acidity, leaving lingering flavours of lime zest, green apples and lemon juice.

2015 Jonny Chardonnay Marlborough 13% ABV

Creamy, soft and buttery, this light bodied, lively young Kiwi Chardonnay comes from Marlborough and drinks very nicely right now.

2014 Soho Carter Marlborough Chardonnay 13.5% ABV

Warm climate Waiheke Island was home to the grapes that went into this full bodied, smooth, richly flavoursome Chardonnay (citrus, caramel, cedar and spice).

2015 Soho McQueen Central Otago Pinot Noir 14% ABV

This full bodied, fruity (redcurrant and cranberries) and spicy young Pinot Noir is a blend of grapes grown in Central Otago’s diverse grape growing regions (mostly Bendigo – one of the warmest, most sun drenched corners of the region) and it is made by winemakers Grant Taylor and Jen Parr.

2016 Soho Syrah Waiheke Island 14% ABV

Waiheke Island Syrah grapes and Auckland winemaker James Rowan are a great team in this dry, full bodied, toasty tasting red wine with its intense spicy flavours of cloves, white pepper and cinnamon. It’s an impressive drink now and will age well for 5 to 6 years.

2015 Soho Revolver Merlot Malbec Cabernet Franc Waiheke Island 14% ABV

This is an impressive big red made with grapes grown on Waiheke Island, which provided plenty of warmth to create this deeply coloured, bone dry, intensely aromatic wine with its black fruit flavours and long finish. Drink now or keep for 8 to 9 years.

Vineyard tales… pulling old bottles from the cellar…

It takes courage to show people something  you made 15 years ago that you’ve  been storing in a dark, cold wine cellar ever since, but that’s exactly what Crawford and Catherine Brown did last Thursday night at Regional Wines in Wellington.

Or should I say that I did this for them for a roomful of fans of Central Otago Pinot. Most of which we tend to drink when it’s youthful, young, fresh, fruity and new. And if you’ve ever tasted old wine, you’ll know it’s not always a good experience, so a few of these fans approached the wines with trepidation, but I am happy to report that the older wines really did show some attractive aged characters – earthy, but clean.

The older wines of Bannock Brae were, for me, confirmation that Central Otago Pinot Noir can, when well made, age and gain in complexity, concentration and flavour interest. Most of the Bannock Brae wines were unfined and unfiltered, which is Crawford and Catherine’ philosophy because, in their words, they want to present the wines at their most concentrated in flavour.

The youthful wines in this tasting (2014, 2013 and 2010) tasted very primary and relatively light bodied in comparison to the older wines from 2008, 2006 and 2002, which all demonstrated incredibly concentrated fruit flavours, earthy overtones with notes of savoury spice in the background.

I thought the three older wines were in exceptionally good condition, given their age and the youthful nature of the vineyard, the winemaking in Central Otago and even bottling under screwcap.

There has been so much fast and furious growth in the New Zealand wine industry that it is sometimes easy to forget just how youthful the whole concept of winemaking is in this country. Let alone that many of the older wine can actually age well.

So, let’s hear it for experimentation, good cellaring conditions (White Refrigeration advertises on this site and offers a dab hand when it comes to wine cellar design) and for the most southern wine region in the world – Central Otago, where Pinot Noir rules the roost with 78% of the planted grapes there.

How this Central Otago Pinot Noir tasting came about…

Crawford and Catherine suggested a tasting of their aged Central Otago Pinot Noirs  after I wrote about and talked on RNZ National about my discovery of a lovely old bottle of their Pinot Noir, which I unearthed among my personal wine collection when I was packing up to relocate from Auckland to Wellington about 18 months ago now.

Fellow writer Raymond Chan wrote this piece…

Wine writer and educator Joelle Thomson led a fascinating vertical tasting of Bannock Brae Pinot Noir, with the flagship ‘Barrel Selection’ wine from 2014 back to 2002. The tasting offered six vintages of these plus the 2015 vintage of the ‘Goldfields’ second label as a pre-taster. The tasting came about from Joelle’s move from Auckland, back to Wellington, during which she came across an older vintage of Bannock Brae ‘Barrel Selection’ wine. She drank it and thoroughly enjoyed it, wondering what other vintages would taste like. Contacting Bannock Brae’s proprietors Crawford and Catherine Brown, they came up with a vertical tasting spanning a dozen years. Joelle presented the wines at Regional Wines, in Wellington. She did so with real competence and I count myself fortunate to have attended, tasting history in motion, and seeing the benefits of bottle-age.

You can read his whole blog about the Bannock Brae Pinot Noir tasting here:You can read his whole blog here: Bannock Brae Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014-2002 by Raymond Chan.