Great white and ruby red… meet the Medoc

One weekend and two days of wine classes meant an indecent number of bottles were opened, but these two stood head and shoulders above many others.

They were served with their IDs concealed at dinner by Stephen Bennett, Master of Wine, who had them as advance samples. They will be released in New Zealand on 1 September through in Parnell, Auckland, New Zealand, followed by a release to the wider trade in December.

Both retail for less than $40 and come from the Medoc in  Bordeaux.


2012 Chateau Loudenne Bordeaux RRP NZ $34.95, 14% ABV

This great white is made by a first class Medoc producer in Bordeaux and this wine highlights how outstanding and underrated the Semillon grape is; it’s blended here with the better known Sauvignon Blanc, both of which combine to make a dry, full bodied and zesty white, where the high acidity is balanced by a rich, creamy, full body and flavours of intense lemon, ripe apples and hot buttered toast, which linger on the finish.

It offers very good value for money.

Available in New Zealand from 1 September from


2011 Chateau Loudenne Medoc Cru Bourgeois RRP $40 NZ, 13.5% ABV

This super youthful, bright young, ruby hued red comes from Bordeaux and has pronounced flavours of blackcurrant, blackberry and black cherry with almond, cedar and clove notes kicking in on the palate. It’s a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant Cru Bourgeois (a category that has to be applied for each year by quality minded wine producers). It is dry with high acidity, big smooth tannins and a lingering finish. It’s commanding now and it has outstanding aging potential for up to 10 years, possibly longer  in a cool, dark cellar – or in similar conditions.

Available in New Zealand from 1 September from


The Bordeaux white above reminds me of a trio of outstanding New Zealand whites, the makers of two consistently shine a fresh light on New Zealand whites by taking Sauvignon Blanc and blending it with Semillon. They are Te Mata Estate in Hawke’s Bay (Cape Crest – a barrel fermented Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc) and Pegasus Bay’s North Canterbury SSB;  barrel fermented, rich in flavour, full bodied, high in acidity, long on flavour and affordable.

The third wine is a rare 100% Semillon from Sileni Estates in Hawke’s Bay, which begs the question: why don’t we make more Semillon in New Zealand these days? Our winemaking, packaging and understanding of vineyard sites has never been better and there has never been less Semillon grown – nor has it ever tasted better. It’s a pretty small production run of Semillon that is made at Sileni but the quality is outstanding and, due to this grape’s naturally high acidity, it has incredible potential to age well too – gaining flavour as it does.

Transformers – wines to keep

Five of the best wines to cellar

There’s a common (mis)perception that the only wines worth building a wine cellar with are incredibly pricey, usually from Europe and often inaccessibly hard to find, but history reveals that most wines improve after a year or two in the bottle. A large number improve for 5 years and many for a decade – or more. It all depends what flavours you like, how patient you are and how much dosh you want to spend.

The world is changing and so are the wines worth keeping.

Who would have thought a $10 Aussie white (Jacob’s Creek Riesling) or a $20 Sicilian red (Cent’are Nero d’Avola) or a $60 Central Otago Pinot (Bannock Brae) would change positively beyond recognition after 10 years in the bottle. And they were cellared in less than perfect conditions, namely, the humid basement of an Auckland house I shared in Grey Lynn in the 2000s, followed by the draughty cupboard in a dilapidated 1800s Auckland cottage on the cold east face of Arch Hill.

The key to cellaring is to choose wines that can change for the better. This is usually determined by high amounts of tannin in reds, acid in whites or sweetness in botrytised and other late harvest styles. Tannins, acids and sugars are all preservatives.

Then there’s the issue of where to keep them. Most of us don’t have a wine cellar or a house with an underground space that could become one. The answer is to build. This can cost a large amount or a modest one, if it’s in a small cupboard, an unused room or even an insulated garden shed.

Like the wine choice, the physical cellar space can be optimised if  left to the experts, such as those at White Refrigeration;

Here are five top wines that are worth keeping for at least five years, in some cases, far longer. All are available now.

The Central Otago Pinot 

2014 Bannock Brae Central Otago Pinot Noir $60

Many of us wax lyrical about Central Otago Pinot Noir and its fruit bomb flavours but I prefer these wines after 8 or 9 years of leaving them to their cherry fruit and oak/cedar devices. A bottle of 2007 Bannock Brae Pinot Noir tasted last year is a great case in point. I stumbled upon it when moving house and was more than  pleasantly surprised by its earthy rich flavours; I remember tasting it back in 2009 and thinking it was nice but this was a revelation.

The new 2014 Bannock Brae Pinot Noir ticks all the drink-me-right-now boxes – dry, full bodied, fruity and spicy – but it’ll be so much better in another 8-9 years.

The southern white

 2015 Ceres Black Rabbit Vineyard Riesling $22

Central Otago winemakers may have most of their eggs in the red wine basket (80% of the region is planted with Pinot Noir grapes) but this cool southern area is ideally suited to a cool, crisp white wines, such as the Ceres Black Rabbit Riesling (winner of a pure gold medal at the 2015 Air New Zealand Wine Awards), which tastes like succulent limes, fresh crunchy green apples and lemon curd. It’s refreshing and crisp with very high acidity, which means it will age superbly for up to a decade; possibly beyond.

The keeper Shiraz

2010 Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz $40

Originally Bin 28 was named after the Kalimna Vineyard, which Penfolds Wines bought in 1945, but the words South Australia on the front label mean this is a multi-regional blend of grapes from this reliably warm, Mediterranean-style climate. This is ideal for Shiraz, which needs heat to develop its trademark dense dark fruit, spicy, robust tannins flavours, which wines like this one absolute winners –right now, if you like the big-is-best style or in another 15 to 20 years, if you prefer to taste smooth, savoury, earthy and impressively long lived reds, as a bottle I opened from my cellar two years ago showed.

The budget bargain

2015 Jacob’s Creek Classic Riesling $10.59

Bottles this good are rare anywhere in the world. It’s a wonder it doesn’t cost double because of its ability to transform positively for 10 years, which give it the breathing space to taste all about fresh lemons and limes and crisp red apples with notes of honey and white flowers. That’s no mean feat for a wine that costs $10.

The big red

2014 Vidal Hawke’s Bay Legacy Syrah $79.99

It’s a high price but this is from arguably the better of two exceptionally warm, dry years (rarities in New Zealand’s maritime climate); 2013 was the first and the 2014 reds are now proving to have the muscle, the power and the savoury dark spice flavours that can age exceptionally well for up to a decade, perhaps far beyond.

All of these wines were tasted by me in the past six months and all are currently available.

Big buttery Chardonnays in hot demand

Wellingtonians tasted the tip of the big buttery Chardonnay iceberg at a tasting at Regional Wines & Spirits last night, hosted by yours truly.

The tasting was a sell out because Chardonnay’s popularity is on the rise. This white grape has nearly doubled globally since its creamiest peak in the 1980s when there were 100,000 hectares of it planted . Today, there are nearly 200,000 hectares of Chardonnay in the world, according to the new 2015 release of the latest Oxford Companion to Wine, edited by Masters of Wine Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding.

Where does New Zealand sit in relation to Chardonnay? We look pretty static. Chardonnay has actually shrunk over the past decade from 3,779 hectares in 2006 to 3,361 hectares today. This does not seem to bode well for quantity but it could be suggested that the quality and consistency of New Zealand Chardonnay has never been better, to judge by the potential of Kiwi Chardonnays to age well.

Still, in comparison to our other leading white grapes, Chardonnay needs a push. Back in 2006 there were 8,860 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc and now there are over 20,000 and Pinot Gris has risen inexplicably from 700 hectares to 2400, and then some.

This is inexplicable, to me, because Chardonnay has an easy lead on Pinot Gris in New Zealand in terms of character, quality and consistency of style. Not to mention the potential of this country’s top Chardonnays (and some pretty swish medium priced ones too) to age beautifully for up to, and often beyond, a decade in the bottle.

The big buttery Chardonnays tasted at Regional Wines & Spirits, Thursday 9 June

2014 Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay, Auckland

2015 Tony Bish Summertime Gisborne Chardonnay

2013 Pegasus Bay Chardonnay North Canterbury

2012 Villa Maria Gisborne Chardonnay

2012 Shaw + Smith M3 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay

2013 Saumaize Pouilly-Fuse

2013 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay

2015 Esk Valley Winemaker’s Reserve Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay

2011 Louis Jadot Meursault Narvaux