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Negociants N.Z. Tour 2013

By June 26, 2013No Comments
The Negociants N.Z. Tour of the country is one of the best wine distributor roadshows that the wine and hospitality personnel can attend. The depth and breadth of quality of the portfolio makes it an event not to be missed. One can meet principals and winemakers from around the country and from Australia, and taste the latest releases of some of the most exciting wines available in New Zealand. Every once in a while, Negociants N.Z. open the tour up for consumers to attend. This is a move that can be applauded, as the principals always benefit from direct feedback on their wines. The tour events were conducted in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

The Wellington venue was at the Te Wharewaka Function Centre in Odlins Park at the Taranaki Street Wharf. I attended one of three masterclasses conducted before the exhibitors tasting. My notes on ‘Whites Outside the Square’ can be seen by clicking here. I made a concerted effort to visit all the New Zealand wineries and taste a couple of wines on show. This year, I ran out of time to look at the Australian wines, which is a real shame, as the wineries present, d’Arenberg, Henschke, Jim Barry, Langmeil, Peter Lehmann, Vasse Felix and Yalumba all had some special ones on pour. www.nedociantsnz.com

Impressions from the New Zealand Exhibitors
Here I note my impressions of a couple of the wines from each exhibitor. They’re wines that appealed to me. I tasted the different wineries in a random order, but list them here approximately from north to south.

Nick Nobilo – Vinoptima, Gisborne

North Island
Nick Nobilo is arguably the most eager ambassador for wine, even after decades in the industry. His Vinoptima Noble Gewurztraminer 2007 is ebullient as the man and just as spirited, the wine being a rich amalgam of musk, spices, honey and nuts, with a texture built on alcohol power and sweetness. It carries 180 g/L rs.

Recent vintages have been difficult in The Bay, so I specifically looked at Paul Ham’s Alpha Domus ‘Wingwalker’ Viognier 2011; this was lovely with lifted citrus and apricot aromas and a lush, exotic palate. The Alpha Domus ‘Barnstormer’ Syrah 2012 was handle beautifully too, soft and elegant, but clear-cut cracked black pepper and spice fruit at the core. Both are successes.

I’ve recently tried most of the new releases from Black Barn, but Dave McKee had his Black Barn ‘Reserve’ Merlot 2012 in bottle. Excellent sweet, dark plum aromas and flavours and plenty of fruit with fragrance and brightness, but enough seriousness to make it a wine to take note of.

Likewise at Urlar with Angus Thomson’s Urlar Gladstone Pinot Gris 2012, something that’s a little off mainstream with a focus on textures and weight rather than sweetness and lifted aromatics. This is good food wine for sure.

Allan Johnson – Palliser Estate, Martinborough

Palliser Estate remains one of Martinborough’s most consistent at the top level, and Allan Johnson had his contemporary Palliser Estate Chardonnay 2011, racy citrus fruits with flinty lees work for interest, and great length. Equally good is the Palliser Estate Pinot Noir 2010, with intensely rich and savoury tinged fruit enveloped by good structure. This has taken some time to show what it has got, and accordingly will keep very well.

You can’t take away icon status from Dry River. Wilco Lam had the whole current range, but I love the Dry River Pinot Noir 2011, dark and ripe, lush and fine, with plenty of reserves to keep well too.

South Island
Saint Clair is a star in Marlborough. I love the decadent Saint Clair ‘Omaka Reserve’ Chardonnay 2012 with its rich coconutty oak, fat textures and harmonious opulence. It’s not the trendy minerally, flinty style, quite the opposite, but nevertheless great. Also showing well is the Saint Clair ‘Premium’ Pinot Noir 2012, putting on greater generosity and fruit sweetness, as well as showing a little more structure since I saw it last.

I’ve seen the Opawa wines, second label of Nautilus rise in stature. Winemaker Brett Bermingham takes pride in these wines. The latest releases are right up there: a fully pungent, thiol expressive Opawa Sauvignon Blanc 2013, lifted and layered, and a touch of phenolics drying the finish. The Opawa Pinot Noir 2012 may be the best yet, showing lovely varietal clarity with richness and lusciousness.

Clive Jones – Nautilus Estate, Marlborough

Nautilus Estate is one of the stalwarts in Marlborough, but Clive Jones is up with the state of play. The Nautilus ‘Winemaker’s Selection’ Sauvignon Blanc 2012 was 60% fermented in cuves, softer, richer, and considerably more presence than the regular wine, and in the stonefruit spectrum rather than herbaceous. The Nautilus Chardonnay 2012 is tight and elegant with sweet citrus and white stonefruits complexed by flinty lees. A beauty.

There’s excellent wine to be found at Huia. Miker Allen poured the Huia Methode Brut 2006, 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 6 g/L dosage and 5 years on lees. Beautifully tight and fresh, yet with definitive yeasty autolysis, this seems at the start of its life. Also going well was the Huia Gewurztraminer 2009, a dry wine with 4 g/L rs, beginning to show some oiliness to the richness, and with great linearity. Just about fully mature, but no need to hurry.

Three 2011 Pinot Noirs from Fromm were obligatory to taste. The Fromm ‘La Strada’ Pinot Noir 2011 tight with dark, minerally fruit flavours, along with spices, but sweet fruit rules. The Fromm ‘Fromm’ Pinot Noir 2011 classically tight and nearly austere. Black fruits, acidity and detail just waiting to blossom. The Fromm ‘Clayvin’ Pinot Noir 2011 also black fruited, but with the bonus of juiciness and flesh, the acidity lower, but fairly taut as well. These always benefit from time in bottle.

Although Kevin Judd at Greywacke says that he has done nothing differently, the Greywacke Riesling 2012 and Greywacke Pinot Gris are less funky and both are more fruit expressive. He seems to succeed with funky or fine, but I do like these 2012s from him. Likewise, the Grywacke Chardonnay 2011 is tighter than the 2010, and again, it’s a classy number with more subtle expression.

Relative newcomer Auntsfield is a Marlborough must, now. Luc Cowley has a rich, creamy MLF and oak complexed Auntsfield ‘SV’ Chardonnay 2011 and a dark raspberry-fruited, deep and juicy Auntsfield ‘SV’ Pinot Noir 2011 that show a successful story for this vintage.

One of the labels under the radar for me has been Waipara Springs. They’re a significant producer with an output of 40,000 cases, of which 60% is exported. Scott Berry showed me The Springs Pinot Gris 2012, carrying 7 g/L rs. This is attractively aromatic, slightly sweet and well-balanced. At the other end of the spectrum is the Waipara Springs ‘Premo’ Pinot Noir 2010, made from 30 y.o. 10/5 clone vines, given the works with 15% whole bunch and 20% new oak. Much more serious, with savoury fruit, good richness, nutty oak. This is not your pretty, floral and light number.

Representing the Cheviot district in North Canterbury, Mt Beautiful is producing approachable, elegant and textbook varietal wines that please. The Mt Beautiful Riesling 2010 has liveliness and toasty interest developing. The Mt Beautiful Pinot Noir 2011 is a light and pretty wine, marked by fragrance, gentle spices and suppleness.

A chance to taste Misha Wilkinson’s Pinot Noirs. The Misha’s Vineyard ‘High Note’ Pinot Noir 2009 is her premium label, and it shows the sinewy structure under the juicy fruit that will ensure longevity. It’s an expression of the vineyard, I’m sure. The limited release Misha’s Vineyard ‘Verismo’ Pinot Noir 2010 is a rich, powerful and structured wine that nearly earns the moniker of ‘blockbuster’, but it has a sense of style, pretty much like Misha herself.

I think I’ll like the 2012 Rieslings from Two Paddocks as much as I like the 2010 Pinot Noirs, which are first-rate. The Picnic Riesling 2012 and Two Paddocks Riesling 2012 share the traits of delicacy and purity, the former a little lighter, the latter with greater drive and length.

Jacqui Murphy – Two Paddocks, Central Otago


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