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General Blog




Favourites of 2018 from the Wine2Trade Portfolio


24-Dec-2018
Raymond Chan Wine Reviews operates as part of ‘Wine2Trade’, my partner Sue Davies’ wine distribution business. We keep the two operations separate and to account for any conflict of interest in my assessing the wines from her portfolio (click here to see), I have a disclaimer on any review stating the connection. Of course, I believe my reviews of the wines are as objective as they can be, and it may be a case of my rating and assessment subjectively being a little harder! I trust that readers see the reviews of the Wine2Trade wines as being as credible as any of the other reviews.

The Wine2Trade wines are not eligible for my ‘Winery of the Year’ award (click here to read about Greystone Wines as my pick for 2018), so in some way of compensation, I have my annual selection of ‘Favourites from the Wine2Trade Portfolio’. Here, it’s about which wines from each of the wineries that appealed on a personal, drinking and enjoyment level. It’s a little biased to the styles that work for me. I’m lucky in that I have the opportunity of seeing many of the wines over time so I can gauge their true character. Also, I’m privy to new releases before they are available for the market. I take advantage of these factors in my selections. A wine selected one year might be chosen again the next, as it may have developed particularly well. (You can click here to see my favourites for 2017.)
 
The 2018 Year
This year continues what we have experienced since the start of 2015, with Sue supporting me through the various treatments and procedures as we live with the diagnosis of the cancer returning. There are a lot of hospital appointments which take up a lot of time. Sue manages to fit her distribution business around them, and it always surprises me how much she actually gets done with her work! Being one of the most experienced representatives working in the market, Sue gets the credibility she deserves, and the orders for the wine she distributes keep on coming in! As mentioned many times, the Wellington market is tight and smaller than most people realise, and it has many very knowledgeable operators, so Sue’s success is a sign of the respect she garners.

As mentioned two years ago, 36 Bottles is being wound down; but there are still stocks of the delicious Rieslings, but these are fast dwindling. However, Sue has taken on Domaine Rewa from Central Otago, and she has had instant success with this excellent brand. And just recently, Sue has begun distributing wine from Mondillo Vineyards, also in Central Otago. This is also a premium brand with an impeccable track record in shows and tastings. Joining these labels is Ruru from The Immigrant’s Vineyard in Alexandra. The ‘Wine2Trade’ portfolio is very strong in Central Otago representation, all the labels offering a point of difference.

Here are my ‘Favourites of 2018 from the Wine2Trade Portfolio’. They are listed by the producer’s approximate geographical location from north to south. For this year, I have included wines that may not be available yet, but I have tasted as reviews. There are a couple of wines that I repeat from last year, because they are very good and deserve another mention, especially with some more bottle-age on them. Or else they are new vintages of the wine listed last year and impress!

 
Spade Oak – Gisborne
Steve and Eileen Voysey have a mind-boggling portfolio of wines, from the reserve-styled ‘Vigneron’ range to the innovative ‘Heart of Gold’ tier, to the very accessible ‘Voysey’ range. Steve and Eileen have grown grapes for many years, but Steve has a penchant for fine-tuning his wines to guide them into the styles he wants them to be. The latest project is working with the Glera grape to make authentic Prosecco wines. Steve has proven himself with method traditionnelle, and he will no doubt be a success with the growing Prosecco category.

As mentioned above, Steve has this unique ability to fine-tune and tweak wines to the styles he wishes, without seeming to force anything. It’s all about balance, proportion and harmony of the componentry. I love the accessibility and varietal expression of the Spade Oak ‘Voysey’ Gisborne Syrah 2017. Dark raspberries and pepper with supple, fresh mouthfeel. The Gisborne wine is about to run out, so he has fashioned a near-identical wine from Hawke’s Bay fruit to allow for market continuance. If you come across either, you can depend on it. www.spadeoak.co.nz

Red Barrel – Hawke’s Bay
The Red Barrel vineyard, winery and cellar door show visitors that it is a true boutique operation. It’s the way that John and Juliette Lockie want it, so they are aware of everything going on. They are by no means ‘control freaks’ as the 2.5 ha vineyard is kept immaculate by their team of gardening ladies, and winemaker Dave McKee from over the road at Black Barn rules in the winery. The cellar door and function area is where the Lockies show their style. It’s very popular.

The Red Barrel Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2014 was a pretty bold wine with loads of ripe fruit and spicy oaking to match. It has sold out now, and the Red Barrel Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2015 has taken its place. It’s not as exuberant, but a more stylish fruit-focussed wine with subtle savoury complexities to the plum and berry flavours with some herbal detail. There’s the appropriate balanced structure and the oak is pulled back. It’s fresh and the wine is all there and complete, and better with food. No-one is going to argue. www.redbarrel.co.nz
 
Vynfields – Martinborough
As part of the refocus at Vynfields since Harry and Zinder Gou purchased the business at the start of 2014, the wines are all Pinot Noir based, with the red table wine being the export driver in China. Unfortunately for the domestic market, there is no Riesling – including the very popular ‘Bliss’ Sparkling, and there will be no more ‘Mad Rooster’ as phylloxera has affected the performance of these varieties. Production levels have been adjusted and the vineyard under consultancy care.

The Vynfields Martinborough Pinot Noir 2014 is what Vynfields is all about now. It is an archetype Martinborough Pinot Noir with ripe, dark-red and black berried fruits, with savoury complexities in the dark and dried herbs, earth and nutty oak elements. The tannins are supple but lend positive structure and the acidity integrated which enables accessibility. From a good vintage, this will continue to develop another 5 years easily. As with all the Vynfields wines, it was made by Marion Deimling at Schubert. www.vynfields.com
 
Pond Paddock – Martinborough
The introduction of the ‘Zarathrustra’ Sauvignon Blanc and ‘Zoee’ Rosé, named after owner Daniele Alemagne’s son and daughter respectively has been a real success for the Pond Paddock brand that only had Pinot Noir before. There is Chardonnay in the works too, having been planted at the Te Muna Road site. Daniele has Simone Amorese, originally from Italy, but working several years in Martinborough now, as his winemaker; he also tends to the viticulture.

The new Pond Paddock ‘Zoee’ Martinborough Rosé 2018 is a deliciously delightful wine. Made from Pinot Noir fruit from the ‘Pond Paddock’ vineyard in Te Muna Road it has sweetly rich flavours of strawberries and cream, and it flows with good linearity and is mouthwatering. It has pretty much got everything that you’d be looking for in a warm-weather rosé. Rosé has become such an important category that if you don’t have one, you’ll miss out on what a major part of the market craves for. www.pondpaddock.nz
 
Charles Wiffen – Marlborough
The Charles Wiffen brand is a major part of Sue’s sales. It is interestingly so, as the label is quite conservative, but clearly the reseller and consumer know how good the wine is in the bottle. The Charles Wiffen wines are generally elegant and stylish, and usually released with a little bottle-aged on them, so the wines show their real colours. Most of the winemaking is handled by James Rowan at West Brook in Auckland, but Rebecca Wiffen, at Lawson’s Dry Hills is more involved now.

Although Charles Wiffen is arguably best known for its aromatic whites, last year, I put forward the Chardonnay 2015 as my favourite. The new Charles Wiffen Marlborough Chardonnay 2016 is even better. It is as the Charles Wiffen wines are, very elegant and stylish, but this has wonderful harmony and balance. The rich stonefruit flavours are enhanced by creamy barrel-ferment textures lending an ultra-smooth flow and linearity on the palate. It’s another gold medal winner for the Wiffens, and I totally agree with that. www.charleswiffenwines.con.nz
 
Caythorpe – Marlborough
Over 5 generations, the Bishell family have become part of the fabric of Marlborough with 190 ha of property next to the Woodbourne aerodrome. Being farmers, they’ve had to diversify, and contract grape-growing became the major part of the business (they also have gorgeous cherries!). With the 2015 vintage, they introduced their own label – Caythorpe. They have the services of award-winning Jeremy McKenzie at the nearby Isabel facility making the wines.

Of the 110 ha of vines, the most planted is Sauvignon Blanc, supported by Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay. The new Caythorpe Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 will follow on from the 2017 vintage soon. It’s very similar, with lovely elegance of passionfruit and tropical fruits, herbs, florals and mouthwatering minerals, along with perfect acid cut. It’s the classic style of Marlborough that is appreciated here and all over the world. The Bishells grow top fruit, and Jeremy McKenzie respects and guides it accordingly. www.caythorpe.nz
 
Terrace Edge – Waipara Valley
The Chapman family are not your typical grape growers (if there is anything typical about any of them!). Their vineyard on Georges Road in North Canterbury is immaculately maintained by Pete Chapman. Pinot Noir and Riesling is supported by Pinot Gris and Syrah, and these are proven performers for the district. But they have now added Albarino, Viognier and St Laurent, and the first wines from these vines are looking exciting. The vineyard is Biogro certified organic.

The Terrace Edge wines certainly have an individual style, a result of the vineyard site, the full fruit ripening as achieved by Pete Chapman, and the winemaking by Gavin Tait at the Muddy Water facility. This is clearly seen in the Terrace Edge Waipara Valley Pinot Gris 2017, deemed a lighter year. This has fulsome yellow stonefruits with exotic florals and honeysuckle and a surprising unctuousness from which flow minerally detail. It’s in the modern Alsace style and a revelation for a vintage that delivered lighter wines generally. www.terraceedge.co.nz
 

36 Bottles – Central Otago
It was a shame that Douglas Brett and Jane Young decided to close down their 36 Bottles Central Otago brand, due to family, work and lifestyle pressures a couple of years ago. Knowing Douglas and Jane, and their love of wine and connections with Central Otago, it must have been a difficult decision. The wines of their negociant operation made real inroads into the market, as Douglas and Jane had an eye for quality.

Interestingly enough, the residual stocks to still sell are the Rieslings from the 2013 and 2014 vintages, both gold medal winners at the New World Wine Awards. If there’s one variety to keep to develop with bottle age, it is Riesling! Again, I’ve chosen the 36 Bottles Central Otago Riesling 2013. It’s developed a tad more over the last year. Dry, it retains its tautness and precision, but with the lime fruit enriched by a little more honey and toast. The mouthfeel is fine-textured and shows no sign of drying. Yes, good Riesling can age a decade. www.36bottles.co.nz
 
Domaine Rewa – Central Otago
Domaine Rewa is a strong quality-focussed winegrowing venture run by a strong quality-focussed owner Philippa Fourbet. The 5.5 ha vineyard was established in 1997, and it is now certified BioGro organic and run to biodynamic regimes with Grant Roulston and Gary Ford of Vinewise tending to the viticulture. The highly respected Pete Bartle of VinPro makes the wines. Talking to anyone in the know in Central Otago, Domaine Rewa is highly respected.

The Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are all achievers, with arguably the Chardonnay the most highly awarded, but the Domaine Rewa Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 is probably the most representative of the Lowburn site. Gorgeously sweet and rich dark red cherry and berry fruits with some liquorice and spice, and subtle nutty oak. Mouthfilling with fine-grained tannins and fresh underlying acidity. Everything is in its place, making for a wine that’s deliciously drinkable now, but will develop over the next 5 years. www.domainerewa.com
 
Desert Heart – Central Otago
You’ve got to admire the determination of the Desert Heart girls, Denny Downie and Jane Gill. Having established their dream vineyard at the end of Felton Road in Bannockburn, they unfortunately lost control of it. When sorted, the girls sold the vineyard to Sam Neill of Two Paddocks who makes his super-premium ‘The Fusilier’ Pinot Noir from the fruit. Denny and Jane are developing a new site down the road with cellar door, serving wonderful food platters.

This year’s favourite from Denny and Jane is the Desert Heart ‘Mackenzies Run’ ‘Reserve’ Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2013, the last wine for the girls from their original vineyard. It’s a classic Bannockburn wine with ripe black cherry and berried fruits intermingling with notes of thyme herbs, revealing complexing spice and earth detail on a very fine and well-structured palate. It’s a real keeper and deserves to be served with the finest cuts of lamb, beef or venison, which is exactly how Denny and Jane would do it. www.desertheart.co.nz
 
Mondillo Vineyards – Central Otago
The 12 ha Bendigo vineyard of Domenic and Ally Mondillo is devoted to Pinot Noir with 10 ha and Riesling with 2 ha. The vineyard is immaculately kept by Domenic, the viticulturist and his team, and whatever the Mondillos do not use in their wine is snapped up by keen buyers. The Pinot Noirs do not have the hardness and need for aging as many Bendigo wines, making them immediately appealing. And the Rieslings have an exoticism which is beautifully intriguing.

In 2016, coinciding with their good winemaker friend Matt Connell taking over the winemaking reins, the Mondillos introduced a rosé wine. I rated it 5-stars, and the follow-up 2017 5-stars as well. The Mondillo Central Otago Rosé 2018 gets my nod again. I believe Dom has grown the fruit perfectly, and Matt has preserved its quality and character. It has good colour, and up-front aromas and flavours of raspberries and cream, fresh herbs and mouthwatering acidity to match the fruit. This isn’t a pale Provence-style; it’s a rich, flavoursome rosé. www.mondillo.com
 
Ruru – Central Otago
Ruru is the wine brand of Lucienne and Roland van der Waal who established their Immigrant’s Vineyard venture in 2012 when they acquired a 20 ha vineyard on Airport Road between Clyde and Alexandra. Pinot Noir is the predominant variety with some Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. They both tend to the vineyard and have engaged Antony Worch of Alexandra Vintners to make their wines, though Pete Bartle makes the Gewurztraminer. They have tasted show success already!

The Ruru Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 is of a more elegant style than most other Central Otago bottlings, and the wine shows some reductive complexities with the black cherry, dark raspberry and dark herb-nuanced fruit. Finely structured, this is a wine that will grow nicely into itself given a little bottle-age. All of the Ruru wines are styled this way, and no doubt reflects the European preferences that the van der Waals have. www.immigrantsvineyard.co.nz

The Writer’s Block – Central Otago
Most wine distributors would tear their hair out trying to work with the limited-production and diversely styled wines that Brendan Seal makes. Not so Sue, as she thoroughly enjoys making available to adventurous resellers exclusive bottlings of eclectic character that once are gone, are gone. It makes life exciting. Brendan has now moved from Central Otago to a heritage building in Dunedin city where he makes his Central Otago wines at his URBN VINO winery.

At present, there is only the Urbn Vino Dunedin Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 available, and this elegant and deliciously supple wine is dedicated to one wine list. Supplies are nearly gone, but Brendan has good quantities of a 2017 Urbn Vino Pinot Noir in the works, which he says looks really good, and a much tighter 2017 The Writer’s Block Central Otago Pinot Noir which he’ll hold back until it’s a bit more approachable. You know that if your drinking any of these labels, it’s rare and interesting. www.thewritersblock.co.nz www.urbnvino.nz

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