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Negociants N.Z. Fine Wine Tour 2016

By June 22, 2016No Comments

One of the highlights on the vinous calendar is the annual Negociants New Zealand Fine Wine Tour. Primarily targetting the hospitality and wine trade, Negociants have in recent years opened the tasting to the public. The tour features the New Zealand and Australian wineries from the portfolio, and the proprietors and winemakers pour and discuss their wines. This year, there were 20 New Zealand exhibitors, and 6 Australians on show, and thus well over 100 wines to taste. The exhibitors feature some very high profile names, as well as some lesser known, but the quality of the wines offered is extremely high. In addition to having the wines to taste, the tour runs masterclasses which focus on selected varieties or styles. It’s a very valuable event to attend. This year, the tour was held in Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch. www.negociantsnz.com

Some of the attendees try to taste all the wines on offer, to get an overview, while others are very selective and taste the styles or varieties they are interested in. My approach nowadays is to spend some time talking to each of the principals, and taste one wine, a wine of their choice. The wine poured is not often the most expensive or the flagship, but one that offers a certain degree of interest. I record my notes and assign a score, though due to the fairly casual nature of my tasting, and greater external distractions, I do not add the notes to my website database. I also like to take a photo of the principal behind the stand. This year, I was slower in my work, so only managed to visit the New Zealand exhibitors. Following are my photos and wine notes.

Barry Riwai – Alpha Domus

Alpha Domus ‘The Foxmoth’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2014 
This is a new wine to the Alpha Domus range, priced to sit under ‘The Navigator’, made by Kate Galloway, winemaker previous to Barry Riwai. Dark ruby-red with garnet hues. This has a full, soft and voluminous nose, showing savoury and earthy plum aromas, along with spices and cedar. The fruit is in the more complex secondary phase. On palate, the mouthfeel is vibrant and lively, the acidity a counterpoint to the secondary, savoury and spicy plum flavours. There’s plenty of richness too, to work with the acidity and the e-/traction lends a robustness to the wine. The spiciness of the oaking plays a part and will appeal to many. It’ll be a match for heartier lamb dishes. 17.5+/20 RRP $24.00

Luc Cowley – Auntsfield

Auntsfield ‘Cob Cottage’ Marlborough Chardonnay 2014
The oaking on the serious Auntsfield wines is pretty sophisticated, and lovely on this Chardonnay. Bright, light straw-yellow colour. Quite complex on bouquet with an amalgam of citrus fruits, nuts, stonefruits, a suggestion of flint and rich oak. Not quite settled and together yet. But on palate undeniably good. Vibrantly sweet, rich and succulent citrus, stonefruit and mealy flavours, excellent lifted oak, all held together by a fine-textured structure. The fresh acidity adds to the richness and liveliness, as well as the length. This will come together well with a little more time. No need for reductive flinty complexities to add any more interest here! 18.5/20 RRP $52.00

Apologies – No photo of Dave McKee of Black Barn
I can assure you he is a good looking chap

Black Barn Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2014
A blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. Winemaker Dave McKee has been reducing the amount of oak in his wines, to allow the fruit speak more clearly. Dark, deep, black-hued ruby-red colour. This is elegant and balanced on the nose with bright dark plum and ripe red berry fruits. The expression is primary, and refreshing, with some redcurrant and dark herb interest. Medium-full bodied, the wine speak of elegance, balance and proportion, with a tight core of ripe black plum fruit along with herb, redcurrant and spice detail. The fruit is underlined by fine-grained structure, and is carried a little by acidity to the finish. This is classical medium-bodied claret-Bordeaux-style, Right Bank of course, to me. 17.5+/20 RRP $29.00

Heather Stewart, Saint Clair, representing Delta

Delta ‘Hatters Hill’ Marlborough Pinot Noir 2012
The Delta wines are now made at Saint Clair, not surprising as Neal Ibbotson is a shareholder with Matt Thomson and David Gleave MW. I’ve reviewed that at 5-star previously, but with some big wines either side, it looked a little lighter today. Deepish garnet with some depth. Very soft, smooth and finely presented on bouquet with red fruits, lifted florals, dark herbs and a touch of liquorice at the deep core. Lovely elegance on palate, with vibrant and sweet red fruits, the acidity lending a zesty mouthfeel. Fine-grained tannins provide a sinewy line, and the wine finishes on the acidity. Still very fresh, maybe I’m being a bit hard on it? 18.0+/20 RRP $35.00

Wilco Lam – Dry River

Dry River Martinborough Pinot Gris 2009 
The Dry River motto is “fine wine takes time”, and admittedly most of the older bottles I’ve tasted are pretty good. This wine was presented at the Pinot Gris masterclass by winemaker Wilco Lam, so I got to taste it afterwards. Bright, pale straw-yellow colour, youthful appearance. The bouquet is very soft, gentle and harmoniously presented. The aromas of yellow stonefruits and honey are complexed by a little nutty secondary detail, but essentially this has got ages ahead. Medium-dry to medium in taste, this has weight and presence, with soft yellow stonefruits and honey, now laced with a touch of toastiness. This has a subtle richness, moderated by a little dry texture and grip. The acidity is soft, allowing the fruit weight and phenolics carry the wine to the finish. This is starting to dink beautifully now. 18.5+/20 RRP $N/A

Adam Balasoglou – Fromm

Fromm ‘La Strada’ Marlborough Syrah 2013
The ‘La Strada’ wines have been a godsend for Fromm, making the iconic ‘Single Vineyard’ wine styles made by Hatsch Kalberer a little more accessible. Dark, deep, ruby-red colour. The bouquet is densely packed with a core of black bruits, complexed by minerality and subtle savoury earth and game aromas. Surprisingly delicate and poised on palate, the fruit is lusciously rich with spices and black pepper, along with white pepper, all enlivened by bright and active acidity. The wine is guided by a line of fine-grained tannins, and the elegant, piquant black fruits carry through sweetly. I’ve reviewed this a couple of times in the past, but the freshness and intensity features strongly. My score has gone up a bit. 18.0/20 RRP $39.00

Richard Ellis – Greywacke

Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Noir 2014 
Something about Kevin Judd’s wines get to my soul. They can be as funky as any out there, but they always have fruit richness and sweetness. This is dark ruby-red colour with a dark heart. On the nose, seemingly elegant but the concentration quickly grows and the multi-layered nature becomes revealed. Dark red berry fruits complexed by savoury herbs, spice notes and maybe some whole cluster stalk perfume. There’s a steely freshness of youth underneath it all. The palate is tightly bound, but the fruit succulence is clear. The fruit is vibrant, the mouthfeel lively and finely balanced by fine-grained tannins. Complex liquorice and spicy oak flavours unfold. Classic Pinot Noir, I’m not sure, but I love this youngster. 19.0-/20 RRP $48.00

Morven McAulay – Huia

Huia Marlborough Chardonnay 2014 
Mike and Claire Allan’s wines show their quiet confidence of years of winegrowing and winemaking experience. It’s subtle complexity at the heart of the wines that gives them their style. Occasionally, there’s something that breaks the mould and can be pretty edgy. Bright, light golden-hued straw-yellow. This has a rich and concentrated nose of considerable presence and layers of complexing aromatics. Ripe and savoury stonefruits, mealy and biscutty notes, nuts, oak and a burgundian oxidative element. The palate reflects the nose, with layers of fruit, oak, lees, and oxidative flavours. The fruit is rich and vibrant and the palate lively with plenty of drive and energy. If you can handle the nutty, oxidative complexity, then this is a star. I like it very much. 18.5/20 RRP $39.00

Andy Wilkinson – Misha’s Vineyard

Misha’s Vineyard ‘Dress Circle’ Central Otago Pinot Gris 2015 
I reviewed this at the start of the year when it was released earlier than planned, due to high sales of the 2014 vintage. Bright pale straw-yellow, this has a full, softly rich aromatic nose of yellow stonefruits with honeysuckle and some nuances of nuts at the core. Off-dry to taste, the palate has grown in richness, depth and power, still showing stonefruits, pears and honeysuckle, maybe at the expense of the exotic detail I originally saw. It’s a fair trade-off today, as it’s all about finesse, depth and texture. The mouthfeel is brilliant and bright, fresh and crisp, with a very fine, concentrated core, and very long finish. 18.5+/20 RRP $29.00

Erin Harrison, Business Development and Fin Grieve, Vineyard Manager
Mt Beautiful
Mt Beautiful North Canterbury Riesling 2015 
Riesling has probably been the variety with the most potential for Mt Beautiful, and this 2015 is arguably the best yet, fulfilling the promise. Bright, pale straw-yellow with slight lemon hues. This has lovely lime, sherbet and honeysuckle aromas, along with beautiful (no pun intended) exotic florals, the backbone being fresh citrus fruits. Off-dry to taste, the palate is crisp, zesty and tight, pure and clean with linearity and purpose. There’s a fine balance between the refine phenolic libe and acidity, the fruit still tightly bound. This is focussed and intense. It will develop well. 11.5% alc., 14.8 g/L RS, TA 9.5 g/L and pH 3.02. 18.5/20 RRP $26.00

Clive Jones – Nautilus

Nautilus Marlborough Chardonnay 2015
Clive Jones has long crafted Chardonnays of elegance. For the casual drinker they are clean and refreshing with subtle flavours that please. On the show circuit, they can be hit or miss. Sensitive judges will see the detail and quiet complexity of the wines, but often they get lost in the crowd or are placed next to a more up-front wine. I’ve fallen into the trap regularly. Brilliant straw-yellow. The nose is very tight, very refined and very elegant in expression with restrained citrus and white stonefruits. There’s no lack of concentration, and the detailing of oak, barrel-ferment and lees emerges quietly. The palate has richness and succulence, but with fine proportion. Citrus fruits, stonefruits, nuts and balanced oaking. A beautifully fine linearity and soft, crisp acidity. Sheer elegance. 18.5+/20 RRP $35.00

Brett Bermingham – Opawa

Opawa Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 
Brett Bermingham, Clive Jones’ right hand man at Nautilus is responsible for the second label Opawa wines. As the fruit resource has improved, so has the quality risen. The style is more open and friendly, a bit like Brett. Straw-yellow colour. The nose shows soft, broad and voluminous aromas of easy tropical fruits harmoniously melded with savoury stonefruits and gooseberries and yellow capsicums. It’s not a searing green style. Still fresh and crisp on palate, the acidity is countered by the soft tropical fruit and cooked gooseberry flavours, and yellow capsicums. The palate is guided by a fine phenolic line, but the acidity keeps the wine flowing. 17.5/20 RRP $15.00

Allan Johnson – Palliser Estate
pointing to where he thinks is the best place to make wine
Palliser Estate Martinborough Pinot Gris 2009
Presented by winemaker Allan Johnson at the masterclass. Showing an interesting side of bottle age towards power, intensity and dryness. This is 13.5% alc. and 8-9 g/L RS. Bright pale golden colour with some depth. The nose is firmly concentrated and tightly bound with yellow stonefruit aromas along with nutty secondary development and savoury minerals. There are only vestiges of florals and honey. Dryish to taste and full-weighted, this has power and drive on the palate, with real presence and linearity. The mouthfeel possesses fresh acidity, the textures beginning to dry a/little, but the finish s soft, with honied notes emerging. This will be good food matching wine. 18.0/20 RRP $N/A

Pete Eastwood – Rippon

Rippon ‘Rippon’ ‘Mature Vine’ Lake Wanaka Central Otago Riesling 2013
I don’t get to see the rare Rippon wines often, but they impress, especially those with vine age. This ‘Mature Vine’ Riesling is 11.5% alc. and 8.2 g/L RS. Bright straw-yellow colour with pale golden hues. The bouquet exudes presence and richness, allied to freshness. Lime fruit, stonefruits and plenty of minerality, very harmonious in presentation, with a warmth and generosity, while retaining its essential Central Otago cool edge. Dry to taste, and tightly bound with a substantial core, but on the side of elegance rather than size. Crisp acidity enhances the lime expression and minerals, and the palate is simply rich, but mouthwatering. This has remarkable opposites which work together so well. 18.5+/20 RRP $37.00

Stewart Maclennan – Saint Clair

Saint Clair ‘Pioneer Block 10 – Twin Hills’ Marlborough Chardonnay 2015
Clone 95 and Mendoza from Omaka, aged 8-10 months 45% new French oak. We tend to forget that Saint Clair’s most successful wines initially were the Chardonnays. They remain as flavoursome as ever. Pale golden yellow. The nose is soft and somewhat ethereal in expression, unfolding rich aromatic layers of vanilla oak, creamy barrel-ferment, butter, then ripe tropical fruit. Rich flavoured, but subtly so, on palate with stonefruits, citrus fruits and tropical fruits, laced with vanilla-like oak. This is still very tight, and the acidity features as a component. Just you wait, this is going to get pretty serious in a year or two. 18.0+/20 RRP $32.00

Jacqui Murphy – Two Paddocks

Two Paddocks ‘Proprietor’s Reserve’ ‘The First Paddock’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011
Served from 1.5 L magnum, clone 5 fruit planted in 1993, ungrafted, in the Gibbston Valley. Even garnet red colour with some depth, a little lighter edged. The bouquet is soft and deep, with the componentry harmoniously integrated, showing savoury earth, game and cedar, subtle dried thyme herbs. This is quite complete on the nose. On palate, the cooler Gibbston site is revealed in the crisp acidity and leanness of proportion. Complex, savoury and secondary in taste with red fruits, herbs, game. There is harmony of flavour, but the acidity and tannins are firm and prominent. There’s no doubting the depth and core of this wine. It will continue to keep. Here, sub-regionality has taken hold. 18.0+/20 RRP $173.00

Carol Bunn – Urlar

Urlar ‘Select Parcels’ Gladstone Pinot Noir 2013 
New winemaker Carol Bunn was assisting proprietor Angus Thomson pour the wines, those currently available made by Guy McMaster. Deep garnet-red colour with traces of youthful purple. The nose is full, deep and firmly packed with layers of complex secondary savoury aromas, with red berry fruits, dried herbs and game. The fruit is still the hero though. On palate deceptively sweet and rich after the savoury aromatics, quite lusciously spicy, then the savoury dried herbs emerge. This has considerable structure and the mouthfeel a sinewy flow. This is constructed seriously and will keep well. A very valid expression of high class Pinot Noir. Asked what she’d do differently, Carol would see some more fruitiness come through. So some tweaking ahead. 18.5+/20 RRP $61.00

Nick Nobilo – Vinoptima

Vinoptima ‘Reserve’ Ormond Gewurztraminer 2010 
With an illustrious winemaking background stretching back 55 years, one can only expect special wines from Nick Nobilo. This Gewurztraminer is indeed that. Bright, light golden yellow. This has a full and opulent bouquet with ripe aromas of exotic fruits, honey, musk and lychees. The aromatics have a density which shows there’s still more to come. Medium in sweetness, the palate is rich and powerful, the mouthfeel the result of considerable phenolics, but balanced by the sweetness. This is integrated and balanced, with attractive honey, savoury musk of secondary detail and exotic florals providing complexing detail. All the while, the phenolic power drives the wine. This is in the classical Alsace style. 13.5% alc., and 21 g/L RS. 18.5+/20 RRP $74.00

Scott Berry – Waipara Springs

Waipara Springs Waipara Pinot Gris 2014 
Winemaker Scott Berry is another seeing the bright side of fruit expression, rather than trying to trick everything up into complexity. Some wines just look better when the fruit is on the pedestal. This Pinot Gris, presented at the masterclass is unworked and 12.5% alc. and 4 g/L RS. Bright, light straw-yellow colour with some gold at the heart. The nose is rich and voluminous with exotic tropical fruits along with honied notes. It’s up-front and uncomplicated, and a delight. Very clean, clear and crisp on palate, there is a tight core, but sufficient sweetness to lend a lusciousness. White and yellow stonefruits, florals, honeysuckle and tropical fruits show. The mouthfeel is zesty and refreshing, with fine textures and acidity. Drinking well now, but no hurry. 17.5+/20 RRP $N/A

What I Missed Out
As I always the case, it is difficult to do justice to every exhibitor. Each had a range of wines to show, and as mentioned earlier, some of the wine I could have tasted were flagship or the more prestigious wines. Instead, the winemakers selected what might be interesting or new. As can be seen from my comments and ratings, the quality was still very, very high.

This year, again, I failed to visit ‘Joiy’ the successful Rieslings made by Chris Archer. These wines and innovative mixers are becoming very popular on the global market. I was also remiss in visiting ‘Antipodes Water’, the official partner to the Negociants wine portfolio. The Antipodes story is a positive New Zealand one too, and the product is first class.
The Australian wines in the Negociants N.Z. portfolio is extremely strong, so I missed out tasting the likes of Brokenwood ‘Graveyard’ Shiraz 2013 (RRP $192.00), Henschke ‘Mount Edelstone’ 2012 (well, I lie here, I did have a little sip – and gorgeously rich and elegant, with spice and mint), (RRP $182.00), Jim Barry ‘The Armagh’ 2012 (RRP $273.00), Langmeil ‘Orphan Bank’ Shiraz 2012 (RRP $74.00), Vasse Felix ‘Heytesbury’ Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (RRP $96.00), and the Yalumba ‘The Virgilius’ Eden Valley Viognier 2013 (RRP $54.00).
I wish I had another half day, or had worked a bit quicker, instead of talking too much!

Johann& Angela Henschke – Henschke

Acknowledgement must be given to the exhibitors and Negociants N.Z. team for organising such a terrific event for the wine and hospitality trade and also for the public. I’ll be looking forward to it next year.

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