Hancocks is one of New Zealand’s strongest wine distributors, run by the Jakecevich family from their Auckland base, but with a very proficient and efficient nationwide operation. The brands that are represented are so diverse that there is truly something for everyone who is in the hospitality and liquor industry. While the Jakecevich businesses also include the Glengarry retail chain, Hancocks is run as an independent enterprise which enables business to be conducted with retailers who might see the sister company of Glengarry to be competitors. It’s an unusual situation that has worked well for decades, where brands are respected and not used as discounting tools, thus resulting in a level playing field.
The Hancocks Tour came to Wellington on a date that clashed with a function I was running in the corporate sector, so I only managed a quick visit to say ‘hello‘ to the New Zealand wine exhibitors, and talk in a little more in-depth with three of the producers – Te Pa, Rockburn and Akarua. Just to give you an understanding of the breadth of the portfolio carried by Hancocks, and what I missed, there were 29 wine stands for New Zealand brands, 11 for Australian exhibitors, 7 for France, and stands for wines from Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Argentina. Two cider stands, 5 beer and two glassware exhibitors were also operating, and even then, not every agency was represented. The tour filled out the very large Shed 6 venue. www.hancocks.co.nz
Tasting the Wines from Three Exhibitors
As mentioned above, I was able only to taste wines from three exhibitors. My impressions follow:
te Pa – Marlborough
te Pa is a relatively new label with its first release of its Marlborough wines from the 2011 vintage. However the proprietors, the MacDonald family claim an intimate association with the land for 800 years, especially in the Wairau Bar. Haysley MacDonald has 140 ha of vines, planted there on the coast since 2003. Their contract supply for Pernod-Ricard enables the te Pa wine to be made at Brancott Estate by Liam McElhinney, and industry veteran Scott Wilson looks after the marketing. Scott was pouring the wines. The Sauvignon Blanc 2012 is pungent and intense with passionfruit and nettles, reminding me of the Awatere. This follows on from the Cuisine No.1 2011 vintage. The Pinot Gris 2012 is pink tinged with aromatic pear-like fruit, honeysuckle and some red fruit hints. This is texturally gentle and soft. And very interesting was the Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc 2012, the fermentation in new 500 L puncheons, and spending 8 months on lees. The oaking is very discreet and the palate features a rich and lush mouthfeel. Only 400 cases were made. The Pinot Noir 2011 comes from Awatere Valley fruit, the variety not as successful on the home site as the whites. This is light with very attractive and pretty aromatics and cherry lift, the fruit fading to a delicate finish.
Scott Wilson – te Pa Wines
Scott Wilson – te Pa Wines
Rockburn – Central Otago
This seriously funded operation is a bit of a ‘rock’ star for Central Otago, winning more than its fair share of gold medals and trophy awards. Working in the modern winery, Malcolm Rees-Francis is a most thoughtful winemaker who is not afraid of pushing the boundaries with some of the limited release wines, but gets it spot-on with main label wines that are more generally exposed in the market. Malcolm and the affable general manager Paul Donaghy were on hand to talk me through the wines. First up was the Gemanic-styled, lighter alcohol, higher residual sugar ‘Tigermoth’ Riesling 2012 at 8.6% alc. and 61 g/L RS. Beautifully elegant and slim line, with a combination of honey and toast, the wine more medium to medium-dry in style. Quite remarkable in restraint. Next the new release Pinot Gris 2013 at 12.6% alc. and 10 g/L RS. Classic varietal lifted stonefruit aromas and flavours, clean and crisp, yet with fruit sweetness a feature. The fine phenolics show skill in handling the variety. Malcolm is making Sauvignon Blanc in the more complex, oak-influenced style in Central Otago as a point of difference to the mainstream Marlborough expressions. The Sauvignon Blanc 2012 with 45% barrel-ferment does this with great sensitivity, the nectarine fruit prominent and supported by dark herbs and grass notes. It’s the integration and texture that is the benefit. The Fume Blanc 2011 ramps up the input, being a barrel selection, the wine spending 18 months in oak and undergoing plenty of batonnage. This is ‘out there’ with its flinty reduction and complexity, piercing fruit depth and mouthwatering acidity. Last was the award-winning Pinot Noir 2011, lighter than most Central Otago Pinot Noirs with an ethereal floral personality and finesse in structure. Malcolm sees subtle earthy elements, but I was taken by the perfume and delicacy.
Malcolm Rees-Francis and Paul Donaghy
Malcolm Rees-Francis and Paul Donaghy
Akarua – Central Otago
The Akarua wines made in Bannockburn are becoming considerably more sophisticated and also showing a lighter touch. Winemaker Matt Connell made a statement Pinot Noir in 2009 which reminded pundits of the superb terroir that Akarua enjoys, the wine in the mould that Matt has become well-known for. However, he’s achieved more elegance in the vintages following, through a combination of intent as well as the vintage conditions. The changes are subtle to me, but definite, and significant for Matt. Akarua has branched out with method traditionnelle wines and sweet wines as well, and these have been hugely successful. The second release Methode Rosé Brut NV, with 74% Pinot Noir and 7 g/L dosage has gentle autolysis and gentle red fruit character, whereas the Methode Brut NV, also the second release, with 71% Pinot Noir and 8 g/L dosage is tighter, clearer and crisper. Both spend 18 months on lees, and I wondered about extending this. The answer came in the Methode Vintage Brut 2010, to be released next month. 54% Pinot Noir and 6 g/L dosage, this was on lees 36 months, giving it more body, volume, bready autolysis and a creamy, refined texture. A lovely wine. Moving onto the still wines, the Pinot Gris 2013 is fresh in the bottle with aromatic esters an a crisp, light, fine-textured palate. It sits at 13.0% alc. and 7 g/L RS. The ‘Rua’ Pinot Noir 2012 is all oaked with 10% new, and has excellent fruit definition and clarity, the fruit the feature. We didn’t taste the Bragato Champion 2011 vintage, but the following Pinot Noir 2012, and it is still very tightly bound, but showing real promise with its concentration and richness. I reckon it could equal or even better the 2011. Matt and marketing manager Kathryn Pettit discussed the new ‘icon’ wine ‘The Siren’ Pinot Noir 2012 which will be released next month too. It will be a real departure from what has been made to date, showing the input of Matt’s experience in Burgundy. It’ll be far more elegant and I can’t wait to see it! It will carry a $100.00 price tag, but based on what Akarua has made so far, it should be worth it!
Matt Connell and Kathryn Pettit – Akarua