NZ Listener Columns
  • Cooler weather is here and with it different tipples.

    Issue 3965 24th May 2016

    Full-blooded reds and sturdy dry whites hit the spot in winter, pairing well with the season’s heavier, richer foods. Who wants a chilled, crisp, light-bodied white wine in winter? Now is the time for cool – but not cold – full-bodied whites, and robust, rich reds, served at a comfortable room temperature.
    Made from grapes grown mainly in New Zealand but also Australia and Argentina – famous for bold, beefy malbecs – these wines all offer great winter drinking and stand out for quality or value – or both.

    1. Black Estate Home Chardonnay 2015 (5 stars)
    Fragrant, fresh and finely balanced, this Waipara, North Canterbury, wine is harmonious and very “complete”. Hand-harvested from 21-year-old vines and given the full treatment in the winery – including fermentation with indigenous “natural” yeasts in French oak casks – it has strong, vibrant, citrusy, peachy, spicy flavours, appetising acidity, hints of toast and butterscotch, and a lingering finish. $42

    2. Clearview Beachhead Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2015 (5 stars)
    As a drink-young style, this high-flavoured wine is hard to beat. Estate-grown at Te Awanga, on the coast, it was hand-harvested, barrel-fermented and matured for six months on its yeast lees in oak. Fleshy and vibrant with a fragrant, complex bouquet, it has concentrated, ripe, peachy flavours, with toast and butterscotch notes adding richness, that build across the palate to a long, well-rounded finish. $27

    3. Fromm La Strada Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (5 stars)
    Certified organic, this outstanding wine was hand-picked and fermented with “natural” yeasts in tanks (mostly) and seasoned oak casks. Light lemon/green, it is fragrant and weighty, with ripe, tropical fruit flavours, good complexity, layers of flavour and a finely textured, dry, lasting finish. $28

    4. Greystone Waipara Pinot Gris 2015 (4.5 stars)
    This is typically one of the finest pinot gris in the country. Estate-grown and hand-picked, it is mostly handled in tanks; about 5% of the blend is barrel-fermented with indigenous yeasts. The latest release is a mouthfilling, Alsace-style wine, medium-dry, with rich peach, pear and spice flavours, a slightly oily texture and excellent concentration, complexity and harmony. Best ¬drinking 2017+. $25

    5. Neudorf Rosie’s Block Nelson Chardonnay 2015 (4.5 stars)
    From a top chardonnay producer, this fragrant, weighty wine was grown in the Moutere hills, barrel-fermented and given a full, softening malolactic fermentation. Mouthfilling, it has a slightly minerally streak, with generous, ripe stonefruit flavours, overlaid with smoky, nutty complexities. Drink now or cellar. $33

    6. Spy Valley Marlborough Pinot Gris 2015 (4.5 stars)
    This label is consistently a great buy. Richly fragrant and mouthfilling, the latest release was hand-picked and fermented in small oak vessels. Delicious young, it’s an intensely varietal wine with rich, peachy, spicy, slightly toasty flavours, a sliver of sweetness and strong personality. $22

    7. Te Awanga Estate Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2015 (4.5 stars)
    This wine was harvested from mature vines, partly barrel-fermented, and given a full, softening malolactic fermentation. Mouth¬filling and finely poised, it has strong, vibrant grapefruit/peach flavours, a subtle seasoning of toasty oak, slightly buttery notes and excellent harmony and drink-young appeal. $25

    8. Taylors Clare Valley/Padthaway Chardonnay 2015 (4.5 stars)
    Outstanding value, this finely balanced wine was grown in South Australia and mostly barrel-fermented. Pale lemon/green, it is full-bodied and vibrantly fruity, with strong, ripe peach and grapefruit flavours, lively acidity and mealy, toasty notes adding complexity. It’s already delicious. $19

    9. Stoneleigh Wild Valley Marlborough Chardonnay 2015 (4.5 stars)
    Priced right, this new label from Pernod Ricard NZ was grown at Rapaura, on the north side of the Wairau Valley, and fermented with ¬indigenous (“wild”) yeasts in a 50/50 split of tanks and French oak barrels. Mouthfilling and smooth, it has ripe, peachy, slightly toasty flavours and gentle acidity, in a moderately ¬concentrated, creamy-textured style, already highly enjoyable. $19

    10. Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2014 (5 stars)
    This outstanding, ageworthy Hawke’s Bay red was hand-picked and matured for 16 months in French oak barriques. Dark and purple-flushed, it is mouthfilling, with densely packed, ripe plum and black pepper flavours, a distinct hint of dark chocolate and a long, spicy finish. $32

    11. Sottano Reserva de Familia Argentina Malbec 2012 (5 stars)
    This classy, full-blooded red was grown at high altitude in Mendoza and aged for 18 months in new French and American oak barrels. Bold and still youthful in colour, it is muscular (15% alcohol), with blackcurrant, plum, spice, nut and dark chocolate flavours, seductively rich and smooth. Full of personality, it’s drinking well now. $43

    12. Babich Irongate Gimblett Gravels Cabernet/Merlot/Franc 2014 (4.5 stars)
    Estate-grown in the Irongate Vineyard and matured in small French oak barrels, this elegant, firmly structured red is typically a stylish wine in the classic Bordeaux mould. This is a full-bodied, generous, concentrated red, with youthful black¬currant, plum and spice flavours, savoury and complex, finely integrated oak and obvious potential. $35

    13. Brightwater Vineyards Nelson Pinot Noir 2014 (4.5 stars)
    Delicious young, this wine was grown at Hope and matured in French oak casks (25% new). Bright ruby, it is floral and vibrantly fruity, with concentrated, ripe cherry, plum and spice flavours, gently seasoned with nutty oak and lots of drink-young appeal. $35

    14. Taylors Clare Valley Shiraz 2014 (4.5 stars)
    Skilfully crafted for early enjoyment, this generous South Australian red was aged for a year in American oak casks. Deep and youthful in colour, it is sturdy and sweet-fruited, with strong, ripe plum and spice flavours, showing good complexity, and a slightly peppery, well-rounded, sustained finish. A great buy. $19

    15. Vidal Reserve Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (4.5 stars)
    Grab this. Grown in the Gimblett Gravels and matured for a long spell (20 months) in French oak barriques, it is fragrant and dark, with concentrated, ripe plum and blackcurrant flavours, enriched by hints of dark chocolate and spicy oak. A drink-now or cellaring proposition. $20

    16. Akarua Rua Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 (4 stars)
    Akarua’s third-tier label is often remarkably good. Grown at company-owned sites, including two at Bannockburn, this red was matured for six months in French oak barriques. Delicious in its youth, it is floral, sweet-fruited and supple, with strong, plummy, cherryish, slightly nutty flavours, showing good complexity. Fine value. $25

    17. Lagarde Guarda Argentina Malbec 2011 (4 stars)
    This deeply coloured red was grown more than 850m above sea level in the Mendoza region, in the foothills of the Andes. From mature vines – the oldest were planted in 1906 – it is powerful (14.5% alcohol) but not heavy, with generous, ripe plum/spice flavours, gently seasoned with nutty French oak, and lots of current-¬drinking appeal. $27

    18. Lake Hayes Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014 (4 stars)
    From Amisfield, this drink-young style was estate-grown and partly barrel-aged. Deep and bright in colour, it is mouthfilling and vibrantly fruity, with plum/spice flavours showing -excellent ripeness and depth. A generous, savoury wine, it’s ready to roll. $30

    19. Sacred Hill Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet 2015 (4 stars)
    This bargain-priced red has excellent depth and drinkability. Full-coloured, it has strong, ripe blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, with a hint of mint chocolate and a rich, smooth finish. $20

    20. Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (4 stars)
    For a sub-$20 New Zealand red, this is hard to beat. A merlot-based blend, matured for 20 months in French oak barriques, it is fragrant, dark and smooth, with a gentle seasoning of nutty oak and rich, ripe plum, spice and dried herb flavours. $18

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