Our Picks for New Zealand Wine Week
In celebration of New Zealand Wine Week (8-12th February), we have put together a selection of wines from across New Zealand’s most well-known wine-producing regions, highlighting the diversity, quality and potential still to discover in New Zealand wines.
Still considered as a relative newcomer to the wine world, today New Zealand’s vineyards total over 38,000 hectares. From Marlborough, where the vines bask in the long sunny days, down to some of the world’s most southerly vineyards in Central Otago, where site selection is key, New Zealand’s wine regions extend across 1,100 kilometres.
For the most part, the vines grow on the eastern coastlines of the North and South Islands, favouring the rain shadow of the mountains. No vineyard is more than 120 kilometres from the ocean, with the maritime influence moderating temperatures and helping the fruit to retain the good acidity and freshness that are so synonymous with New Zealand wines.
Famous for producing some of the world’s most distinctive Sauvignon Blancs, New Zealand is also home to over 50 grape varieties, with world class examples of Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Grüner Veltiner. Champions of sustainable viticulture, all our New Zealand producers are fully certified by the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand Programme (SWNZ), a proactive environmental management system that enables the production of high-quality wine by employing environmentally responsible processes in vineyards and wineries.
The Regions - from north to south:
Trinity Hill, Gimblett Gravels
Hawke’s Bay, Gimblett Gravels
Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s second largest wine region, best known for its red blends. The Gimblett Gravels, located on the former bed of the Ngaruroro River, is now a highly sought-after sub-region renowned for the quality of its wines, particularly those made from Syrah. The wines have an elegance, balance, drinkability and precision of flavour that makes them a joy to drink. Trinity Hill was one of the first to plant grapes on the Gimblett Gravels in Hawkes Bay in 1993. Winemaker Warren Gibson and his team make wines that show the best of what Hawkes Bay and the Gimblett Gravels can produce
Trinity Hill ‘Homage’ Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2018
‘Homage’, which is produced only in the very best years and in very limited quantities is Trinity Hill's most outstanding and most lauded wine. First produced in 2002, it pays tribute to the late Gérard Jaboulet (a long-time friend of Robert, Robyn and John, who worked alongside Gérard in Tain L’Hermitage for the 1996 vintage) and is inspired by the wines of Côte-Rôtie. The fruit comes from three estate-owned vineyards in the Gimblett Gravels, where the soils consist of deep river shingle and exposed greywacke gravel stones, which absorb and re-radiate heat and are extremely free-draining, the perfect growing conditions for Syrah. Each parcel was vinified separately. One parcel was fermented with 100% whole bunches and Viognier skins to enhance aromatics and structure. The parcels were aged in 228-litre French oak barriques for 12 to 15 months, of which 32% were new. One parcel was aged for eight months in a 5,400-litre French oak oval followed by a further six months in barriques to add complexity to the finished blend. The 2018 Homage has an alluring bouquet of fresh raspberries, blackberries, sweet spice and black liquorice, with cedar and mineral undertones. The palate has superb definition and depth, displaying the purity and elegance for which 'Homage' is known. Fine tannins and vibrant acidity give texture and a long finish.
96 points: "Deep red colour with a good tint of purple. The bouquet is sweetly ripe to super-ripe, with some almost jammy touches, raspberry to blackberry, the palate intense and slightly sinewy in texture, the tannins slightly edgy and gritty with a stony mineral note. It`s not outstandingly rich or fleshy, but a very smart syrah." Huon Hooke, Best Wines of 2020, The Real Review
This picturesque village surrounded by small vineyards is tended by family-owned and small-scale producers. Acclaimed Pinot Noir, vivid Sauvignon Blanc, and elegant Syrah are all produced in this most southerly Wairarapa sub-region, which boasts free-draining soils and a cool, dry climate. Ata Rangi is renowned for its Pinot Noir, and is widely regarded as New Zealand’s top Pinot Noir producer.
Ata Rangi ‘McCrone Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2016
Visionary grape-growers Don and Carole McCrone own a four-hectare Pinot Noir vineyard in Yamhill, Oregon. Ata Rangi owners Clive and Phyll Paton first met them at the International Pinot Celebration in Oregon in 1996. Don and Carole confided that they'd dreamt of replicating the single vineyard concept in the southern hemisphere. With the McCrones quickly becoming firm friends of the Ata Rangi family - and the whole team's enthusiasm for the project - Don and Carole found and eventually purchased an ideal four-hectare block on the stony, free-draining Martinborough Terrace, just across the road from Ata Rangi, to the east of the home block. In 2001, Clive chose what he believed to be the most suitable clones for premium Pinot Noir to plant on this site; Ata Rangi Abel clone, naturally, plus Dijon selections (115 and 777) and Clone 5, with optimal trellising and recommended vine spacings for low yields and top quality. A compact seam of clay, 800mm deep, gives this vineyard's soils a unique water-holding ability and has a cooling effect on the roots.
96 points: "Made from slightly younger vines. Rich, elegant wine with cherry, spice/anise, floral/violet, cigar box and fine, stemmy tannins. Needs a little bottle age to realise its full potential." Bob Campbell MW, Gourmet Traveller Wine, July 2020
Home to approximately two thirds of New Zealand’s vineyards, Marlborough, located at the north-east tip of the South Island, is famed for putting New Zealand wines on the map. Here, vines benefit from long, sun-filled days and cold nights, which allow the fruit to ripen slowly, building high sugars while maintaining acidity. The continuing popularity of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has inspired many winemakers to map and analyse the areas sub-regions, to better understand the different variants in the wines of these individual zones. This recent move towards greater site selection and sub-regional variation as well as an increasing number of single-vineyard wines, highlight the huge potential still to uncover in this famous wine-making region.
Blank Canvas Marlborough Grüner Veltliner 2013
Winemaker, Matt Thomson has worked over 50 vintages in numerous wine regions around the world. In Matt’s words: “Blank Canvas represents my story as a winemaker. It is an endeavour that is entirely my own expression of winemaking…the ‘Blank Canvas’ is the vineyard and the variety, the winery, the brush and palette (no pun intended) at the winemaker’s disposal”. The fruit for Matt’s Grüner Veltliner comes from a single vineyard in the Rapaura sub-region in Marlborough. Free-run juice was fermented primarily in stainless steel, with 25% of the blend going into half new and half one-year-old French oak puncheons (600 litre, to ensure less oak uptake), where the wine remained for eight months. The oak gives depth and texture to the wine, while the single vineyard and the careful handling gives the wine a lovely aromatic intensity. It is a stunning example of how well Grüner Veltliner ages in bottle.
"But what a brilliant wine this is. Partially barrel fermented in larger French oak barrels, it’s bright, focused and remarkably youthful, with notes of bay leaf and white pepper, crunchy minerality and pear and citrus fruit. (91 points)" Tim Atkin MW, TimAtkin.com, November 2019
Framingham Marlborough 'Classic Riesling' 2019
Launched in 1994, Framingham produces wines from their 19.5 hectare estate vineyard (certified organic since 2014) and other selected sites. Their Riesling vines, planted in 1981, are among the oldest in Marlborough. Andrew Brown joined Framingham as head winemaker in January 2020, replacing Dr Andrew Hedley, who resigned from his role after 18 years at the helm. A highly regarded winemaker, Brown previously spent seven years at Framingham as assistant winemaker and understudy to Andrew Hedley, before working as consultant in regions including Oregon, Central Otago and Alsace. Last year, one of Brown's Rieslings won the Champion Riesling Trophy at the New Zealand International Wine Show; a fitting accolade from someone taking the reins at Framingham, who have always been renowned for their Rieslings. Fruit for the Framingham ‘Classic Riesling’ was sourced from their estate vineyard in the Wairau Valley, where there is low rainfall and relatively low frost risk. The wine was fermented in stainless steel and aged on lees for eight months, with some small lots aged in barrel to add texture and complexity. This wine has a fragrant, complex nose showing mandarin and cream aromas with stonefruit and hints of smoke and minerality. The palate is vibrant and intense with orange, nectarine flavours underpinned with a zesty acidity.
95 points: "Picked seven times over a month to give an array of complex flavours from green apple, to oyster shell, lime zest, white flowers and a tiny hint of honey. A concentrated wine that will age well. Made in the style of 'Classic Rieslings' around a decade ago. From 38-year-old vines." Bob Campbell MW, Top Value Wines of New Zealand 2020, The Real Review
Tinpot Hut Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019
The Tinpot Hut story began in 2003 when winemaker Fiona Turner and her husband Hamish established their own 20-hectare vineyard in Marlborough’s emerging sub-region of Blind River. Naming her range of wines after a historic Marlborough mustering hut, the ‘Tinpot Hut’ links the area’s sheep farming past with its current state as one of the world’s most dynamic wine regions. The fruit for this wine was sourced from Fiona's own ‘Home Block’ vineyard and two select vineyards in the Lower Wairau subregions. The Home Block's dry and sunny yet cool climate site in Blind River in the Awatere Valley sits on gravelly silt and wind-blown loess, producing fruit with a distinct mineral complexity. With more loams, Lower Wairau soils have higher water retention and parcels from here have great fruit intensity and body. Combining all the best characteristics of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, this is clean, super fresh and perfumed with aromas of passion fruit, melon and gooseberry.
"I am a fan of the less exuberant, classier, top-end 2019 Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs and Tinpot Hut is a perfect example of how this grape looks so much more enchanting without any overtly tropical notes crowding the palate. Restraint and composure are the watchwords here." Matthew Jukes, MatthewJukes.com, March 2020
Greywacke Marlborough Wild Sauvignon 2017
Greywacke was created in 2009 by Kevin Judd, chief winemaker at Cloudy Bay from its inception for 25 years and instrumental in the international recognition that Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc enjoys today. The name 'Greywacke' was adopted by Kevin for his first Marlborough vineyard located in Rapaura after the high prevalence of rounded greywacke river stones in the soils of the vineyard. The fruit for the Greywacke Wild was sourced from various vineyard sites in the Southern Valleys and the central Wairau Plains, specifically in Woodbourne, Renwick and Rapaura. Soil types vary from the young alluvial deposits of Rapaura and Renwick, which contain high proportions of greywacke river stones, to the older and denser clay-loams of the Southern Valleys. The grapes were pressed lightly and the juice was cold-settled prior to racking into mostly old French oak barriques. The juice underwent spontaneous indigenous yeast fermentation which continued for well over six months. The wine had occasional lees stirring and approximately two-thirds underwent malolactic fermentation. It was transferred out of oak prior to the following harvest and left on lees for a further eight months before bottling in January 2019. This Sauvignon Blanc from Kevin Judd is intensely complex, thanks to fermentation with wild yeasts and ageing in old French oak barriques – a delicious concoction of almond friand, white nectarine, blood orange laced with tarragon and a hint of smoked tea.
In 1997, there were just 14 producers in Central Otago. Today there are over 120 producers making standout wines in the world’s most southerly wine-producing region. Unlike the rest of New Zealand, Central Otago has a dramatically continental climate, rather than maritime climate, meaning summers are sunny and dry but short. The extreme climate and shorter growing season rewards careful site selection and is well-suited to the early ripening Pinot Noir, which produces fragrant wines bursting with crunchy red cherry fruit, underpinned by a taut structure and silky tannins.
Akarua Central Otago Rosé Brut NV
The Skeggs family were among the first people to buy and plant vineyard land in Central Otago in the mid-1990s, so were lucky enough to acquire a superb north-facing site in Bannockburn. Planted in 1996, this 50-hectare site has since provided the backbone of the Akarua wines. Due to the short growing season in Central Otago, site selection is one of the key elements in making a great wine, and Akarua have a site that is among the very best. Sustainability in the vineyard and winery is integral to the Akarua ethos. Water conservation, recycling, the use of lightweight bottles, fully insulated barrel rooms and energy efficient lighting in the winery are a few of the initiatives taken by Akarua to guarantee their accredited status as a sustainable producer. The Rosé Brut NV is a traditional method sparkling wine. It is a blend of 63% Pinot Noir and 37% Chardonnay, and spends a minimum of 18 months on the lees before release. It has a lovely fresh perfume of strawberries and redcurrant and great zip on the palate.
"The nose is a delight, with ripe strawberry and raspberry leading the charge, but there's real complexity here too, with a wonderful puff pastry note and just a hint of savoury character to add additional interest. The finish is long, leaving you with an overwhelming sense of pure, bright, sunny Otago fruit. A natural pair with grilled prawns, or smoked salmon, this needs no accompaniment, as it's just delicious as it comes." David Kermode, Vinosaurus.co.uk, March 2020
Burn Cottage ‘Moonlight Race’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016
Burn Cottage refers to the name of the road on which this 28-hectare property sits in Central Otago. The estate was once a sheep paddock until it was purchased by Marquis Sauvage in 2002. Marquis enlisted Ted Lemon of Sonoma Coast’s famous Littorai as their winemaker and together they decided to plant Pinot Noir in 2003. Burn Cottage has the unique distinction of being the first and only Central Otago estate that has been biodynamic since day one, Ted Lemon’s one stipulation for his involvement. To find suitable plots to plant on, 60 soil pits were dug and 10 Pinot Noir clones were selected to plant on five different rootstocks tailored to the different soil profiles. The ‘Moonlight Race’ Pinot Noir is named after a water pathway or ‘race’ that passes through the property. The grapes come from both Burn Cottage’s biodynamic vineyards and two other growers with whom they work closely. Aged in French oak barrels for 12 months before release, this is a vibrant reflection of classic Central Otago Pinot Noir. A myriad of dark berry fruits, wild rosehip and thyme and enticing savoury undertones of truffle and autumnal earth. The palate displays both generosity and restraint, with textural tannins that are supported by dark cherry and forest floor notes.
17 points: "Light and fresh. Very subtle and savoury. So appetising. Nothing out of place and a great imprint on the palate. Long." Jancis Robinson MW, JancisRobinson.com, October 2019
Top image: Greywacke © Kevin Judd