Further Down Under
A personal selection of nice wines from nice people in
New Zealand - that are available here!
No star ratings because this was my personal selection
and I'm biased - I'll seek advice from colleagues and include their
1. Montana Lindauer Brut NV
I would have liked to have
presented either Pelorus vintage from Cloudy Bay or Huia Brut, both of
which are exquisite and available here, but mindful of the club’s
financial circumstances you got Lindauer Brut from Montana instead That’s
not to say that there is anything wrong with it; on the contrary, it
performs consistently well in blind tastings. Straw hued, moderately
complex, fruity yeasty flavour and a soft, smooth finish. It is made from
Pinot Noir (50%), Chardonnay (30%) and Chenin Blanc (20%) grown in
Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne and matured on the lees for 15
months. It’s a great buy at the price. We tried this at their Brancott
winery and were impressed; there are three Montana wines here tonight.
€16.69 - Widely available
2. Huia Gewurtztraminer, Marlborough, 2000
Huia was one of the wineries most consistently good across the range
of varieties. I chose the Gewurtz as one of the most exquisite examples we
tasted. It is before the SBs because it is so delicate and charming that I
would fear for it if we put it with the Riesling, where it belongs. It
comes from the Hassan Traminer View vineyard and, for the first time, Fell
Vineyard, one of the oldest vineyards in the Wairau Valley. (The 2002 was
from the Fell vineyard.) The distinctively Turkish delight flavoured
Gewurztraminer grapes were picked from 21-year-old vines on their own
roots and it was fermented with indigenous yeasts. On the nose, rose
petals and honeysuckle abound. This is an aromatic full flavoured wine
with floral, lychee and fig. The balance and depth of the palate supports
a long dry finish. A wine to last a few years and improve as it goes.
Huia Vineyards was established by winemakers Claire and Mike Allan, who
were drawn to Marlborough by the intense fruit flavours in the wines. I
understand from Charles Searson that Mike trained at Vavasour, one of my
other overall-favourite wineries. They have a great sculpture of a fish
made from car parts and forks.
3. Montana Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2003
Montana is the biggest producer with vineyards in Gisborne, Hawke's
Bay, Waipara and Marlborough, and tends to be sniffed at a bit because of
it. Even apart from the stuff, like their Saints range, that we can’t get
here I have to say that I was extremely impressed by what we tasted. The
range of brands is vast, including their 'Icon' wines, Tom (Sold in NZ,
$100) a Bordeaux-style red wine produced only in outstanding vintages from
the very best terroir, and Virtu (Sold in NZ & Australia, $38 - 375ml), a
traditional Sauterne-style sweet wine, intense, concentrated and luscious
- truly an "object of desire"; their Super Premium range, which includes
Babich, Church Road, CJ Pask: Gimblett Road & Reserve, Domaines
Schlumberger from Alsace, Gibbston Valley - Central Otago, Lawson's Dry
Hills, Louis Latour, Mas de Daumas Gassac, Montana Reserve - NZ , St
Hallett - Barossa Valley, Wither Hills and a host of others as well as
their premium and value ranges and even some cask wines.. They also have a
host of champagne and sparkling labels. Those that you can get here come
from Grants or Irish Distillers.
This is from their super premium range and it features fresh, distinctive
gooseberry flavours, enhanced with rich lush tropical fruit. Strikingly
intense gooseberry, melon and tropical fruit flavours are well-balanced
with crisp acidity, a decided green capsicum flavour and a lingering
finish. Powerful, punchy, fresh, vibrant, smooth and long: At this price,
not bad at all!
€13.99 Jus de Vine
4. Vavasour Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, 2002
Another winery that scored near the top for overall quality, Vavasour
makes wines that are as elegant as the bottle. The rooster is part of the
family crest – they go back to the Norman invasion of England. In the
early 1980's Peter Vavasour took a keen interest in the viticultural
developments of the Wairau Valley in Marlborough. After some research it
was found that the climate and soils of the Awatere region were quite
similar but less fertile (this is a good thing) than the Wairau. The
Awatere Valley is also drier, and they control the growth of the vine with
the irrigation water.
The 2002 Vavasour Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc fruit shows mineral and
lime characters which underpin the ripe fruit flavours. This wine was hand
picked, whole bunch pressed and fermented in older French oak barriques.
This allows the wine to evolve without excessive oak flavour. After
fermentation is complete, some of the wine remains on the lees and is
stirred weekly. Quite flinty, the wine shows ripe passion fruit and rich
apricot notes on the nose. The creamy palate exhibits persistent passion
fruit flavours with caramel and a touch of vanilla oak.
5. Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling, Marlborough 2002
Villa Maria advertises itself as New Zealand’s most awarded wine. Just
taking a look at the Air New Zealand awards announced in late November or
early December shows that they might be telling the truth. It’s owned by
one George Fistonich, who founded it in 1961, so it’s ancient by NZ
This wine is reasonably priced, but they have premium ranges that you just
don’t see here. Although PB is their “affordable” range, this wine seems
to me to be in the Alsatian tradition. It comes from various vineyards
from both the Awatere and Wairau Valleys of Marlborough. A lifted bouquet
of ripe citrus-lime and spring-blossom aromas. The palate is beautifully
balanced with intense flavours, great length and a zesty lime finish.
€14.99 Oddbins and various
6. Brookfields Ohiti Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Hawke’s Bay, 2002
We went for a tasting and stayed for one of the best lunches we had in
NZ. (Wairiu River was also great for food but you can only get their SB
here). In fact, I think this was our favourite winery to visit. We were
especially fond of Bacchus, the winery dog, who was a giant sized boxer
with a temperament as pleasant as its owners. Our favourite wine was the
Syrah, but Joe Karwig doesn’t bring it in (yet). The CS, though, struck me
as one of the best I tasted, and I want to say a special word of thanks to
Joe, who went to heroic lengths to get these two bottles to me – he got
them out of bond on last Friday afternoon.
A fantastic expression of Hawke’s Bay Cabernet, this wine exhibits a
polished, integrated mixture of berry fruit, leather and spice on the
nose, and a palate full of ripe fruit. It has lots of character, silky
tannins (matured in French oak casks), and a great deal of elegance..
Brookfields, on the Tutaekuri River, between Napier and Hastings, was
founded in 1937. Peter Robertson bought it in 1977; and he and his wife
Sharon are a charming couple.
7. Framingham Merlot/Malbec, Marlborough, 2001
We voted Framingham overall best winery. You are all familiar with
their dry Riesling, and many with their scrumptious Classic Riesling, but
they have a lot to show right across the piece. The place is also very
beautiful, with gorgeous rose gardens and a fountain.
I would have preferred to show their Montepulciano, a superb wine by any
standards, but they don’t export it at present, so here is the Merlot/Malbec
from the Framingham vineyard; shallow and stony soils with overlying sandy
loam, well drained. 60:40 blend.
A deep ruby red, it has sweet plum and berry fruit flavours, mingled with
some spicy, savoury notes derived from the Malbec component, which gives
it a big backbone. The palate is rich, supported by some vanilla oak notes
and a firm, leathery tannin structure. This tannins should continue to
soften and integrate over the next 4 - 5 years. A good depth of flavours.
Impressive. €13.50 Various (Gleesons import it)
8. Esk Valley Black Label Merlot/Cab Sauvignon, Hawke’s Bay, 2000
The place is fairly basic but it produces some exquisite wines. Their
reserve Merlot/Cab/Malbec is considered a classic and you can get it here
at a price, but this is quite an impressive version at a reasonable price
as NZ wines go. I wanted to show their 100% Merlot, which impressed me
enormously, but Findlaters don’t bring it in. (I’ve suggested to Nigel
that they should). Though it says Merlot/Cab, it is Merlot, Cab Sauv,
Malbec and a very little Cab Franc, matured for a year in French and
American oak casks. It’s is a full-bodied, weighty and rich Hawke’s Bay
wine. It possesses a very deep colour, and a bouquet of plums, red fruits,
dried herbs and hints of sweet oak. The palate is concentrated and well
fruited with a firm palate structure providing ageing potential. This wine
can be enjoyed as a young wine or cellared for up to five years with
Esk Valley is part of Villa Maria; it was previously Glenvale, which went
bust in the 80s. It sources its grapes exclusively from Hawke's Bay, from
both its own vineyards and from contract growers.
Adjacent to the winery itself are the famed 'Terraces' vineyard, which
produces the limited edition icon wine bearing the same name. Bring your
9. Montana Reserve Pinot Noir, Marlborough, 2001
While we were here we seemed to go from just another tourist to
someone they were interested in – not bad for a monster company, and we
got to try a number of things that weren’t supposed to be available.
This is the sibling of the SB we had earlier, and again an impressive
mouthful at the price.
From the Wairau valley, it is a deep ruby red, with ripe black cherry and
plum fruit aromas coupled with leather and a balanced oak toast and spice.
The palate exhibits a soft, sweet approach with loads of ripe berry fruit
and dark cherry flavours along with a hint of chocolate and leather –
quite a grip. The tannins are full and ripe and will ensure good aging
potential for the wine.
€15.99 Jus de Vine
10 Nautilus Pinot Noir Marlborough 2001
Nautilus Estate wines were first released in 1986. Since then, the
viticultural focus has been on Marlborough where two estate-owned
vineyards complement the small coterie of contract growers. French oak is
used extensively during fermentation and maturation to complement and
enhance the fruit flavour.
The Nautilus Marlborough Pinot Noir 2001 is dark ruby in colour with
aromas of raspberries, plums, spicy oak and a hint of violets. The palate
is full bodied with fine soft tannins and generous fruit flavours adding
length and structure to the intense finish. This Pinot Noir will benefit
from a further 3-5 years cellaring, which will see the development of
secondary 'earthy' aromas and flavours such as game and mushroom. I think
that this is a quite Burgundian Pinot, very earthy, very leathery, and
needing time to develop… but elegant.
€22.99 Jus De Vine(David Cassidy Wines)
11 Peregrine Pinot Noir, Central Otago, 2002
And finally …Peregrine makes what they call “Wines with Altitude”. And
it is a gorgeous place as well. I know it’s pricey but this was one
that I felt I had to include. Minimal intervention is their goal – they
want to let the unique flavours of Central Otago grapes shine through and
believe that the less you do the more you retain.
A lovely warm late summer with cool nights provided the perfect climate
for the 2002. The fruit used was sourced from a variety of vineyard in the
Gibbston, Lowburn and Northburn areas. The wine was matured in a mixture
of French oak barrels for ten months, allowing integration of the spiced
clove characteristic of French oak with the more traditional flavours of
Pinot Noir. The resulting wine shows a complex variety of strawberries,
blackberries, plum fruit flavours, delicious earthiness and rich spice.
Full bodied, soft in texture, with a long warm finish. Quite a French
style, I thought; quite complex. 14.5%.
Additional Info on New Zealand
New Zealand’s national production is 12,822 ha, of which red varieties
occupy 4424 ha (Pinot Noir 1,716, Merlot 960, Cab Sauv 727, Cab Franc156,
Malbec 110 and Syrah 101ha) and white 8398 ha (Chardonnay 3424, Sauv Blanc
3086, Muller Thurgau 342, Riesling 583, Semillon 248, Muscat varieties
126, Chenin Blanc 139, Gewurtztraminer 159, Pinot Gris 219 ha). The Muller
Thurgau is a hangover from the advice of an imported German expert in the
1960s, Dr. Helmut Becker, who might have recommended planting Riesling but
instead went for making a better Liebfraumilch. New Zealand voted for
prohibition in 1919, and until as recently as the 1980s the whole drinks
industry was treated with disapproval. Interestingly, the emergence of the
wine industry and a wine-drinking culture seems to be bringing on a new
food culture: Nearly all of the great food we had was at wineries. The New
Zealand bloke beer culture doesn’t do much for the standard of food.
Although New Zealand first came to international note for its incredibly
zingy Sauvignon Blancs these are now eclipsed to a great extent by
excellent Rieslings and some wonderful Chardonnays that regrettably aren’t
available here (with the exception of Cloudy Bay, but since I was already
breaking the budget I thought I’d better not). Some of the Pinot Gris we
tried was also outstanding.
The reds have gone from strength to strength, with the Pinots getting a
great deal of attention, but the Syrahs though quite rare, have some
outstanding examples – especially one from Brookfield - and I found one
exquisite Merlot from Esk Valley that unfortunately Findlaters doesn’t
bring in. A lot of the wines here tonight are from Marlborough – that’s
what people are bringing in – but I’ve managed to get a few others to
introduce some variety. See the map for details.
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