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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

NZ's Boutique regional wines

This month I was a bit stumped for inspiration, but luckily, Hallelujah ... I noticed that a bunch of recent wine samples were all from small producers in boutique regions. So in the end, the article focused on a random selection of great wines from some of the smaller producing areas of NZ’s varied geography and climate regions.

Marlborough and Hawkes bay are admittedly large and consistent wine regions, producing about 70% and 20% respectively by volume, of our fabulous NZ wines. Yet at the same time, we have small output producers located in boutique regions where exceptional wines are made - and rarely exported. Sure, we need the big producers to wave the flag internationally, but meantime we have some fantastic wines in local boutique regions where NZers have the chance to feel a bit special and have the inside knowledge to obtain some very special wines.

Soljans Gisborne Gewürztraminer 2010  $19As well as being renowned for Chardonnay production, the Gisborne plains are also home to some very good aromatic styles, Gewürztraminer in particular. Even at four years old, this is a lovely example and holding up well. Pale gold colour in the glass. Aromas and flavours of pear, apple, lemon squash, spice and lime.

Gladstone Vineyard Pinot Gris 2013 $21The northern Wairarapa Gladstone region is a relatively new wine growing region, with free-draining river terraces and a cool climate and plenty of sunshine. This wine was stainless steel fermented, but then left to age on lees (yeast residue) to add complexity. Aromas of citrus blossom, with flavours of ripe peach, creamy mouth texture and a hint of spice.

Dry River Martinborough Pinot Gris 2013 $55
Just south of Gladstone, Dry River is an iconic Wairarapa producer. Wilco Lam has recently taken over winemaking duties from Katy ‘Poppy’ Hammond. Have no fear; the wines are in capable hands. This wine is opulent and unctuous medium sweet with flavours of lime squash, Golden Queen peach and poached pear.

Mt Difficulty Roaring Meg Central Otago Pinot Gris 2012 $21
Proof that ‘Central’ isn’t just about Pinot Noir. Pale gold colour, with flavours and aromas of pineapple, citrus, nectarine, grapefruit, lime and a hint of tonic water. Lush off-dry style with a lengthy finish.

Soho Waiheke Island Carter Chardonnay 2013 $31
Auckland’s star wine region, Waiheke continues to prove that the clay soils and warm climate with onshore breezes are suited to many varieties.  (Typically the two whites that do well there are Pinot Gris and Chardonnay). On the nose - mineral, citrus, and yeast. On the palate, lively and ripe, with pineapple, lime, nectarine, hazel nutty oak and a crisp finish.

Supper Club Central Otago Pinot Noir 2012 $20
A new Christchurch label that sources fruit from Marlborough and central Otago, Supper Club aims to deliver wines at a good price. This one is a lighter style of Pinot, but still hits the buttons with medium dry tannins, spice and ripe black fruit flavours.

Phil Parker is an Auckland Wine Writer and operates boutique Wine & Food Tours in Auckland

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Craggy Range’s Epic 2013 Vintage

In 1986 North American billionaire Terry Peabody was tasked by his wife Mary, and daughter Mary-Jeanne to start a winery, after he had made his money in Canada and Australia. With the aid of renowned Kiwi viticulturist Steve Smith, he went on to develop Craggy Range – one of Hawke’s Bay’s premium red producers. Winemaker Matt Stafford gained experience in Marlborough, Australia and California before joining in 2006. 

Last week I attended the launch of Hawkes Bay winery Craggy Range’s ‘Vintage of a Generation.’ There is a lot of excitement in the industry about the wines from the epic 2013 vintage twelve months ago. The combination of lower cropping (which increases fruit quality) combined with a dry and sunny extended ripening period right up to harvest time, allowed growers the rare option of picking when grapes were at optimal ripeness.

The launch was held at the Auckland Observatory, with an impressive introductory video projected onto the Planetarium’s 360 degree overhead hemispherical screen.

Now, to the wines. Interestingly, I had anticipated that the white wines would be big, bold and full of flavour, but they were surprisingly delicate and elegant (admittedly, the riesling and the sauvignon were from Martinborough – a cooler region).  The reds on the other hand were more expressive of a hot, dry Hawkes Bay summer. We had a guided wine tasting of the new white wines, plus barrel samples of the four red wines that are blended into what will be the flagship Craggy Range ‘Sophia’ Bordeaux-style. And finally – a sneak preview of the 2013 Sophia blend (still in barrel).

2013 Te Muna Martinborough Riesling
Floral aromas, with some tropical pineapple and crisp lime on the palate. A crisp mouth-watering finish with lengthy lemon squash flavours.

2013 Te Muna Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc
Sweet ripe apricot and gooseberry aromas, with similar flavours plus guava and blackcurrant. Medium acidity makes this a very approachable sauvignon blanc.

2013 Kidnappers Vineyard Chardonnay
Floral aromas with a palate of subtle citrus with hints of herbal and mineral flavours.

2013 Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay
Toasty aromas with a whiff of lemon blossom.  In the mouth – soft acids, stone fruit, quinine and a lengthy finish.

Barrel Samples:
2013 ‘Sophia’ Gimblett Gravels Merlot
Dusty aromas with pot pourri and spice.  On the palate, ripe black berry fruit and chocolate with a hint of smoke and soft tannins.

2013 ‘Sophia’ Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon
Again a hint of dust, plus black stone fruits, black currant and plum, with a dry finish.

2013 ‘Sophia’ Gimblett Gravels Petit Verdot
Petit Verdot is a Bordeaux red grape which only ripens in a very good year and normally is blended with other varieties.  Smoky aromas, with sweet fruit and high acidity.

And finally …tad-dah!
2013 Gimblett Gravels ‘Sophia’ blend
This will be a fabulous wine, even in its extreme youth it has the hallmarks of greatness. Aromas of spicy fruit cake and ripe black berry fruit.  Flavours of black fruit, almond, red plums and a hint of chocolate.  Lengthy dry finish with youthful tannins.
Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine & Food Tours in Auckland 

Martinborough New Zealand - Revisited

Around twenty years ago, word started spreading about some excellent wines north of Wellington, just over the winding, windy Rimutuka Ranges.  DSIR scientists had discovered a climate and soil type similar to the classic French region of Burgundy that was suitable for growing Pinot Noir and a few other grape varieties.  And now, the Wairarapa, and Martinborough in particular is one of our top boutique regions, producing not only internationally acclaimed Pinot Noir but also Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and even some big reds like Syrah. Famous wineries like Dry River, Ata Rangi, Kusuda, Martinborough Vineyard, Palliser and Te Kairanga all hail from this region. 

Great food and upmarket boutique accommodation has made this one of our main wine tourism regions for both locals and foreigners.  The broad, flat plains bake in summer months, but in winter it becomes a misty, dreamy adventure land of fine wines and excellent food.  Whatever the season – it is just right for a weekend away.

Seven years ago, I visited for the first time when I was researching my wine region guide – The Mad Keen Wine Buff’s Road Trip (Random House 2008).  And just recently I was lucky enough to spend two days there with a group of fellow wine writers.  We tasted many wines over the two days and visited a number of wineries.

Current Aromatic Releases – my picks:
Te Kairanga Estate Riesling 2013, Big Sky Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Hamden Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Poppies Pinot Gris 2013, Dry River Pinot Gris 2013, Dry River Gewürztraminer 2013, Brodie’s Angels Sigh Pinot Rose 2013

Current Chardonnay Releases – my picks:
Palliser Estate 2013, Julicher 2013, Nga Waka 2013

Current Pinot Noir Releases – my picks:
Te Kairanga Runholder 2013, Poppies 2012, Kusuda 2012, Schubert Marion’s Vineyard 2011, Te Hera Reserve 2011, Cabbage Tree 2009, Dry 2012

Barrel Samples (i.e. not botled yet but showing huge promise):
Ata Rangi, Big Sky, Margrain, Martinborough Vineyard, Te Hera

(I was hosted by Wine From Martinborough New Zealand

Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine & Food Tours in Auckland