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Tasting Reviews

BK Wines and Vanguardist Wines from South Australia at Cult Wine

Jules van Costello - Cult Wine

Cult Wine on Murphy Street in the Thorndon district is one of Wellington’s smaller wine shops, but it’s big in many aspects. Jules van Costello, an experienced hospitality personality and drinks writer is the front man has a big personality and is full of enthusiasm, passion and knowledge about wine and beer which he loves passing on to his clientele. The range of products carried at Cult Wine is diverse, eclectic and extremely interesting. It supports artisan winegrowers, especially family-owned, and includes "natural wine and undeveloped styles”. There’s a focus on the contemporary and an interest in the different here that is cutting-edge.

While Cult Wine is ostensibly a retailing wine merchant, it also has a strong leaning towards supplying the on-premise side of the trade. And as an all-rounder, Jules has begun importing wines that fit his criteria and offer something truly different to what is commonly seen on shop shelves and on wine lists. Recently, Cult Wine has taken a shipment of BK Wines and Vanguardist Wines from South Australia. Both labels have New Zealand winemakers as owners, and both are small and modern in outlook.

BK Wines is the single vineyard Adelaide Hills operation of Brendon and Kirstyn Keys, established in 2007. Their motto is "Quality and Creativity, Not Conformity”. Vanguardist Wines produces small batch, minimal intervention hand-crafted wines from the Clare Valley, McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills. The three owners are Michael Corbett, Edouard Maurisset-Latour and Alexandra Maurisset. Jules connected with both producers when he was working in Hawke’s Bay. Both brands have been well-received to critical press in Australia and by highly regarded international critics.

I attended a tasting of a selection of wines from both producers, presented by Jules. The wines were served with identity known. The tasting was billed "Kiwi Winemakers Go Wild in South Australia”. My notes on the wines follow, as in the order presented.

Vanguardist Clare Valley Riesling 2016
Light golden-straw colour, a little opaque. The nose has softly full and gentle aromas of lime fruit and chalky minerals with subtle skinsy notes. Very dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate possesses soft and subtle flavours of limes and minerals. The mouthfeel has light textures with ripe, soft acidity, unfolding lifted floral elements. The textures build with the crisp acidity, unfolding a little savoury funkiness, and the wine carries to a soft-textured finish. This is a dry Riesling with some textures and subtle funkiness. Cellar 4-5 years. One-third hand-plunged for 5 weeks, two-thirds settled in tank, all the wine indigenous yeast fermented in old barriques and hogsheads to 11.7% alc. an dryness, the wine aged on lees until November. 17.5-/20 Feb 2018 RRP $50.00

BK Wines ‘Ovum’ Lenswood Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris 2017
Bright straw-yellow colour. The nose is refreshing, bright and lively with aromas of white stonefruits and minerals, unfolding a white floral thread. The aromatics are fine and tightly bound. Dry to taste and medium-full bodied, the palate is crisp and steely, showing white stonefruits and mineral elements along with white florals. The palate has very good drive and linearity, the mouthfeel guided by very fine textures and enlivened by zesty acidity. This has clarity of expression and good energy. Keep 3+ years. 100% Lenswood Pinot Gris all indigenous yeast fermented in a concrete egg to 13.8% alc. 18.0/20 Feb 2018 RRP $35.00

Vanguardist Adelaide Hills Blanc 2017
Bright, light straw-yellow colour. The nose is very fresh and taut with aromas of gooseberries and fresh herbs, the aromatics in the herbaceous spectrum. The aromatics are intense and penetrating. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate is tightly bound with a firm core of gooseberries, cut grass and lantana, with a cool edge. The mouthfeel features high acidity and very fine textures. The palate has intensity and penetrating clarity, revealing a little nutty oak. This is still very youthful, and will benefit from another year in bottle. 30% skin-fermented Semillon, on skins 6 weeks, 30% skin fermented Semillon and 25% Semillon in barrel and tank, with 20% Sauvigon Blanc in demi-muid to 12.1% alc. 17.5/20 Feb 2018 RRP $50.00

BK Wines ‘Skin n’ Bones’ Lenswood Adelaide Hills Skin Contact White 2017
Bright yellow colour with slight orange and golden hues. This has a full soft and voluminous nose with stonefruit aromas entwined with leesy notes and funky skinsy elements. Dry to taste and light-medium bodied, the palate possesses white and yellow stonefruit flavours along with nutty and leesy notes and savoury skin-contact flavours. The fruit has sweetness and is balanced by crisp acidity and a fine-textured line. Savoury stonefruit, skin and lees flavours show with a little salinity as the wine carries to a long finish. This is a rich skin-contact wine with savoury flavours and a fine-textured mouthfeel. Keep 3+ years. 100% Lobethal Savignin wild yeast fermented to 11.5% alc., the wine spending 45 days on skins and aged 9 months in neutral oak, the wine undergoing batonnage. 17.5/20 RRP $35.00

Vanguardist Woodside Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2017
Bright, pale straw-yellow colour with a suggestion of blush. The nose is fresh and tight, with light aromas of white stonefruits with subtle nutty notes, and some white floral elements. Dry ro taste and light-medium bodied, the palate is tightly bound with light flavours of citrus fruits and stonefruits. The fruit has a gentle lusciousness, and is balanced by crisp, zesty acidity. The acidity is a little elevated. The mouthfeel has fine textures and fruit clarity. This is a fruit-expressive style suggestive of Chablis? Give it 2 years to show its personality. Hand-picked foot-crushed fruit indigenous barrel-fermented with full solids to 12.1% alc., the wine aged on lees. 16.5+/20 Feb 2018 RRP $65.00

BK Wines ‘Cult’ Lobethal Adelaide Hills Syrah 2015
Very dark, deep, black-hued purple-red colour, very youthful. The bouquet is very tight and firm with fulsome aromas of savoury blackberry fruits along with black pepper and reductive minerals entwined with a layering of funky game and earthy brettanonomyces. Some whole buch stalk and herb notes add to the detail. Medium-full bodied, the fruit is rich and ripe with succulent blackberries, game and earth, along with dark herbs and stalk elements, complexed by minerally reduction. The flavours are overlaid by animal-like brettanomyces. The flavours are underlined by fine, grainy tannin extraction lending a firmness, with bright acidity. If you can handle the brett, then this has plenty going for it. I’m not a fan personally. Syrah fruit from Lobethal, indigenous yeast fermented with 20% whole bunches to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 11 months in one-third new oak. 15.5/20 Feb 2018 RRP $35.00

BK Wines ‘Mother Moon’ Mt Barker Summit McLaren Vale Syrah 2017
Moderately dark purple-red colour, lighter edged, youthful in appearance. The nose is bright and aromatic with aromas of cherries and raspberries, along with fragrant red floral and whole berry fermentation confectionary notes. Medium-bodied, the palate is elegant in presentation with juicy, fruity flavours of cherries and raspberry confectionary, unfolding a little herbal lift and forest notes. The mouthfeel is supple and easy with light tannin extraction. This is a delicious Beaujolais style. Syrah fruit from a biodynamic vineyard fermented to 12.5% alc. 17.5+/20 Feb 2018 RRP $40.00

Vanguardist Blewitt Springs McLaren Vale Grenache 2016
Moderately deep, light ruby-red colour, pale on the rim. The nose is beautifully elegant with pure and clear raspberry fruit and fragrant florals. Medium-full bodied, the palate is elegant and taut with a fine core of raspberry fruit along with white pepper and aromatic red florals. The fruit is supported by fine-grained tannin extraction and structure, and the mouthfeel is refined with soft acidity, This is a Pinot Noir-esque style with real beauty. Cellar for 5+ years Fruit from the ‘Silver Sands’ vineyard in Blewitt Springs, vines 47 y.o., fermented with a portion of carbonic maceration and some whole bunches, to 13.7% alc., the wine aged on skins 9 months and aged in barriques and puncheons for a year. 18.5/20 Feb 2018 RRP $65.00

A Couple of Conclusions
It’s a credit to Jules and Cult Wine to bring in these modern and contemporary Australian wines. It adds to the diversity of what is available in the market. The wine are generally at the forefront of style development, and interesting if not exciting for that reason.

The BK Wines are more funky and adventurous in winemaking and expression, with wild yeast anf fermentation in barrel or concrete egg for the whites, and given skin contact. It’s a matter of personal acceptance whether you can handle the textures and funkiness. Food is especially useful in matching and drinking.

I found the Vanguardist Wines a little more conventional, but even these push the envelope. They are more elegant in style, and refined with a textural component in the whites. These will find a wider acceptance in the market.
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