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Favourites of 2013 from the Wine2Trade Portfolio

By December 19, 2013No Comments

Raymond Chan Wine Reviews operates as part of ‘Wine2Trade’, my partner’s 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 Pegasus Bay as my pick for 2013), 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. (Click here to see my favourites for 2012.) Here are my ‘Favourites of 2013 from the Wine2Trade Portfolio’. They are listed by the producer’s approximate geographical location from north to south.

Spade Oak – Gisborne
Steve and Eileen Voysey have dramatically increased their Spade Oak offerings this year with three convenient tiers: ‘Vigneron’ as the ‘Reserve-styled’ top level, with ‘Heart of Gold’ as the innovative bottlings, and ‘Voysey’ for their value wines, which can be made from fruit outside Gisborne. There are many new varieties being trialled, such as Albarino, Petit Manseng, St Laurent and Tempranillo, and new tangents, such as a thirst-slaking Sangria, but I must admit, it was a true classic that made the greatest impression.
The Spade Oak ‘Vigneron’ Gisborne Chardonnay 2012 is a minor miracle for what Steve regards as his most challenging vintage ever, but he and Eileen hung the grapes out as long as they could to achieve that extra degree of ripeness. Then they bestowed the deluxe treatment on the fruit in making the wine. This has elegance, concentration and power, and layers of nutty, creamy complexities. Another great Chardonnay in the Steve Voysey tradition.  www.spadeoak.co.nz

Instinct – Hawke’s Bay
The Instinct brand has shrunk in presence this year, due mainly to the lack of suitable fruit following a number of tough vintages in Hawke’s Bay. Also, the focus at Pask Winery has been the reinvigoration of the core brands, with some rather excellent wines coming on stream, especially in the ‘Declaration’ super-premium range. There’s no doubting Kate Radburnd’s fine palate and winemaking abilities, so hopefully there will be some excellent value releases under the Instinct brand in the works.
In the meantime, the Instinct Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet 2009 is still on offer. The wine is made in a style to be relatively accessible. The uptake of Bordeaux-styled wines in New Zealannd has waned of late, and one needs to be reminded of their different flavour and structural profile. Some bottle-age has provided this with some leathery complexities to the redcurrant, mint and savoury plum flavours, and the acidity is a feature. It works really well with roast lamb and harder cheeses.  www.pask.co.nz

Vynfields – Martinborough
This boutique operation of John Bell and Kaye McAulay has a number of distinctive features: the vineyard is on prime Martinborough Terrace land; the focus is on Riesling and Pinot Noir, exploring different expressions; they have the talented Marion Deimling and Kai Schubert as their winemakers; and most significantly, Vynfields is certified BioGro organic and Demeter biodynamic. On sustainability, Vynfields is in the elite.
As classical and beautiful the ‘Estate’ Pinot Noir is, the Vynfields ‘Reserve’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011 is about packing in as much complexity, character and richness as possible, which tends to happen when the vines are cropped at 27 hl/ha. This is a wine that stops you in your tracks. It is fulsome, rich and opulent, with layers of complex dark plum, game, mineral and toasty oak detail to make it a hedonistic, mouthfilling wine that will age up to a decade. No wonder it was rated the ‘Consumers Choice’ winner at the Martinborough Wine Centre tasting. www.vynfields.com

Starborough – Marlborough
Starting out as a Sauvignon Blanc specialist, the Jones family planted grapes in their ‘O’Dwyers Farm’ property in the Wairau Valley and the ‘Starborough Terrace’ site in the Awatere, supplementing this with a further purchase of the ‘Long Lane’ vineyard in the Dashwood sub-region. While the Sauvignon Blanc is right down the middle, it has been the Pinot Gris wines that are beginning to define Starborough. James Jones gets excited about the Pinot Gris he grows, and this enthusiasm is shared by winemaker Dave Clouston.
The Starborough ‘Family Estate’ Marlborough Pinot Gris 2013 is yet another winner, this vintage taking the Champion Pinot Gris Trophy at the International Aromatics Competition. It’s tight and refined, with subtle exotic floral notes to the steely stonefruits. And while it’s already good to drink, I know it will get better, and probably start to plateau in a year’s time. The wine is very consistent in how it behaves.  www.starborough.co.nz

Charles Wiffen – Marlborough
Appearing as conservative and traditional as can be, the wines of Charles and Sandi Wiffen actually deliver far more than one might suppose, and at a price far lower than expected. They are joys of discovery for the wine drinker, and this has seen them gain a strong and loyal following. This is why Charles Wiffen is being increasingly carried by the on-trade. Behind it all are their great vineyards in the Lower Wairau and Southern Valleys, and the thoughtful winemaking by James Rowan and Anthony Ivicevich at West Brook.
The Charles Wiffen Marlborough Pinot Rosé 2013 is the very first of its style for Charles and Sandi. James Rowan approached making it with trepidation, as he used the saignee method, something he’d prefer not to employ. He needn’t have worried, as it’s deliciously juicy and packed with mouthwatering raspberry, red floral and confectionary flavours. The balance and luscious richness is perfect, and the saignee has made the yet-to-be-released table wine Pinot Noir even more concentrated.  www.charleswiffenwines.co.nz

Terrace Edge – Waipara Valley
Take note – Terrace Edge has joined the list of top producers in the Waipara Valley. There are gold medals or 5–star equivalent ratings now for practically every variant of every variety the Chapman family grow in their Georges Road vineyard, and that’s not taking my reviews into account! Standout wines on the show circuit are the Pinot Gris 2012, ‘Liquid Geography’ Riesling 2012, Pinot Noir 2012 and Syrah 2011. Pete Chapman tends to vineyard meticulously and Dom Maxwell at Greystone turns the grapes into magic.
I love comparing the warm vintage 2011 Terrace Edge Syrah with the cooler vintage Terrace Edge Waipara Valley Syrah 2012, the latter with a touch more aromatic beauty with its suggestion of white pepper and spicy violetty florals, and succulently vibrant fruitiness. This just flows seamlessly right through the palate. It depends on your mood and situation which you like the most, as both years have made super wine, but in different styles.  www.terraceedge.co.nz
36 Bottles – Central Otago
I’ve known Wellington wine enthusiast Douglas Brett for over 20 years, as he was one of the most regular attendees at wine tastings that I ran, and he purchased the best bottles from them. When he and his partner Jane Young decided to enter the commercial wine world with their negotiant ‘36 Bottles’ brand, he knew it wouldn’t be easy, realising that a period of preparing the ground would be necessary. That period is over, as he has expanded his portfolio of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris with Riesling and Rosé. And there’s Chardonnay in the works.
The 36 Bottles Central Otago Rosé 2013 is the perfect summer wine, with sweet and succulent summer fruit and candied flavours. It’s off-dry with around 7 g/L RS, which makes it an all-rounder, great as an aperitif and with food. Sarah-Kate Dineen, winemaker at Maude in Wanaka has done a great job fine-tuning and getting it right for Douglas and Jane. Taking No.2 spot in the latest ‘Cuisine’ magazine is great endorsement too.  www.36bottles.co.nz

Lamont – Central Otago
Integrity to his 4.5 ha vineyard on Loop Road in Bendigo is everything to Craig Gasson. He worked with the McLaughlin family in planting the vines in 1999, so they are his babies. Unusually at the time, the different varieties were specifically planted after soil mapping. After a sabbatical overseas and growing his winemaking skills, Craig came back to where his heart is, and the site is now certified organic, achieving that status in 2009. There’s only Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir grown there, and they truly express the vineyard. And that’s all that matters.
The Lamont Bendigo Central Otago Riesling 2010 is a very fine wine. While recognised as such generally, it takes a Riesling fanatic or a winegrower to appreciate how truly fine it is. The dryness can be seen as austerity, the finesse as weakness, and the toasty complexity as unusual, but these are the traits that make it a superior expression. There’s a Bendigo strength of core in the wine and a hint of exoticism that makes it quite delectable.  www.lamontwines.com

Desert Heart – Central Otago
Denny Downie and Jane Gill are dubbed the ‘Turbo Chicks’ in my mind, as the two gals are full-speed and unstoppable. There’s incredible energy and passion, but also a lot of thought that goes into the making of their beloved Desert Heart wines. They’ve seen tough times, and they have been up to the task in seeing them through, being just as tough as their turbo-charged ute that gets them around the Felton Road area of Bannockburn. Once you meet them, you’re seduced and charmed by their great hearts, hospitality, and their strength of purpose.
Their Desert Heart Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 represents what Denny and Jane are all about. There’s a Bannockburn regionality of ripeness, rich density and layers of fruit and terroir interest that are inseparable. Lush and fleshy, there’s also plenty of structure in support. This wine also shows the opulence of the 2009 vintage and it is drinking wonderfully now, but I can also see it continuing to develop and evolve, building further in complexity.  www.desertheart.co.nz

The Writer’s Block – Central Otago
Little lots of individual wine is what Brendan Seal does. He’s his own man, working out of the tiny garagiste-like Packspur wine facility in Lowburn. If he spots a tiny parcel of fruit that looks particularly special, he’ll make a play for it. The Writer’s Block wines will never have a consistency of style, and there will never be very much of it available. Expect the wines to sell out quickly. This will drive any marketing person into despair. But for the wine lover, the wines will be tantalising and exciting. If homogeneity is what you crave, don’t go to The Writer’s Block.
All the numbers are wrong with The Writer’s Block Central Otago Late Harvest Gewurztraminer 2013. The acidity is way too low, and the pH way too high. If you’re a technocrat, this wine is not a good one as it should fall over quickly. But if you just drink wine because it is enjoyable, then this is a super-star. It’s luscious and oily, with honey and spices. It’s not in any way broad or flat. There’s lovely freshness and brightness, and balance for the unctuousness. In non-technical language, it’s truly yummy! www.thewritersblock.co.nz

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