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Negociants NZ 2015 Kiwi and Aussie Winemakers Tour in Wellington

By June 16, 2015No Comments

I’ve had a strong relationship for as long as I can remember with wine distributors Negociants NZ. It’s a combination of many factors including the ultra-strong range of blue-chip imported wine brands complemented with an equally strong range of New Zealand wines. The company is part of the international Negociants business of the Hill Smith family, owners of Yalumba, and hence the Australian brands are also impeccable. The most important aspect of Negociants NZ is the personnel, led by Clive Weston. Their integrity, openness and professionalism put the company in a special place for me, and I know we have conducted good business over the years.

One of the most anticipated trade and hospitality events on the wine calendar is the Negociants ‘Kiwi & Aussie Winemakers Tour’. Recently, it has been opened up to the public, so that wine lovers can taste a superb selection of wines and talk directly to the winemakers of some of Australasia’s best wines. The tour was conducted in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, over 15-18 June. With around two dozen wineries and specialty hospitality producers and just over 120 wines to taste, it’s not overly onerous, but there’s still too much to make full assessments. It’s more an opportunity of getting overall impressions or being selective. Negociants NZ have conducted limited-place masterclasses at the tours to focus of specialty topics and styles as opportunities of more in-depth discussion.

This year, I made the effort of meeting each exhibitor, taking a photo of them on my cellphone camera, asking them to pour only one wine from what they were showing for me to taste. It would have been too easy to show the most prestigious and most expensive wine (which some did). Others showed new release wines, and other something different from the norm. It was a very interesting exercise. Following are the photos any my comments on the wines. I’ve provided provisional scores (in brackets) but have not added them to my database due to the more relaxed and informal tasting procedure. I apologise to Chris Archer of ‘Joiy’ for failing to include him and his unique sparkling Riesling beverage. Next year, Chris! www.negociantsnz.com
New Zealand Winery Exhibitors

Alpha Domus
Paul and Beatrix Ham, and Barry Riwai

Alpha Domus ‘AD’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2014
With Barry Riwai coming on board from Clearview Estate taking over from Kate Galloway, he finished off this wine, and has kept true to the style that the Ham family have developed. Mendoza and clone 15 fruit from select rows, fully barrel-fermented with plenty of lees work, but minimal MLF. Brilliant straw-yellow, this is tight and refined, smelling silky, with white florals and white stonefruits, lifted and aromatic, revealing nutty lees work. The palate combines a rich lusciousness with steel and cut, the textures very fine. Great linearity and a funky toasty note on the finish. (19.0-/20) Jun 2015 RRP $38.00

Vincent Bascou
Auntsfield ‘South Oaks’‘Barrel Fermented’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Every winery in New Zealand should have a French winemaker on the staff. In the case of the Cowley brothers at Auntsfield, they have the very charming Gallic assistant of 4 years Vincent Bascou, who was presenting the ‘South Oaks’ barrel-influenced Sauvignon Blanc 2012. Bright, light straw-golden colour. This has a soft, dense amalgam of green stonefruits melded with asparagus and bean-like secondary development aromas and nutty, creamy barrel notes, the bouquet complex in expression. On palate much more youthful, with vibrant green stonefruit and herbal flavours, he barrel and lees inputs adding considerable interest, but enlivened by excellent acidity and a sense of minerality. (17.5+/20) Jun 2015 RRP $41.00

Black Barn
Dave McKee
Black Barn ‘Reserve’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2013
It’s not surprising that Black Barn’s Chardonnays are outstanding. Dave McKee, has grown the style into sophistication. Bright straw-yellow with depth. Lovely intense ripe citrus fruits with deep and complex layers of oak and lees, creamy and mealy and nuts, with detail galore. Power and retained acidity are key to the palate, with fine textures, drive and a sweet citrussy finish. This shows plenty now with much more to emerge. (19.0/20) Jun 2015 RRP $46.00

Dry River
Wilco Lam
Dry River ‘Craighall’ Martinborough Riesling 2014
This iconic Martinborough winery continues its status with a changing of the baton. If anything the image is more open and accessible, due to winemaker Wilco Lam’s personality. The ‘Craighall’ vineyard dry Riesling from 2014 astounds with its youthful purity and refinement. Bright, pale straw, the aromatics are of pure lime flowers that are elegant and intense in expression. Dry to taste, the textures are soft and seamless, and the mouthfeel perfectly poised with its acidity. Citrus florals, limes, suggestions of honeysuckle and chalky minerality follow a beautiful line. This will age with class. (19.0+/20) Jun 2015 RRP $54.00

Adam Balasoglou
Fromm ‘Fromm Vineyard’ Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013
An iconic single vineyard terroir-expressive Marlborough wine, always paired with the ‘Clayvin’ bottling, but the latter sold out already. The ‘Fromm’ wine is always more backward, but arguably delivers greater complexities. Moderately deep ruby-red colour. Still tightly bound, but great depth of black and red fruits, unfolding minerals and iron-earth in waves of subtle layers. Again, tightly bound on palate, but sweeter fruit expression than I last saw – the benefits of aeration, no doubt. Freshness, vitality and fine acidity, allied to powdery tannin structure. This reveals complexing mineral and savoury game, as well as dried herb, begs the question: whole cluster? There is none, so Abel clone influence – yes. Tight, lingering black cherry finish. (19.0-/20) Jun 2015 RRP $80.00

Richard Ellis
Greywacke Marlborough Chardonnay 2012
It’s wonderful to compare the wines of former Cloudy Bay associates and great friends Kevin Judd and the Dogpoint team of James Healy and Ivan Sutherland. The Chardonnays are at the complex end of the gunflint spectrum with Greywacke richer and fruitier, the Dogpoint more struck match and minerally. My pick for the 2012 comparison is the Greywacke (today). Brilliant straw-yellow. Full, powerful and full of packed layers of yellow stonefruits, citrus fruits, barrel work of lees and toast, marvellously rich. Palate echoes the nose, with sumptuous textures and mouthfeel, but great acid balance and power. Stunning wine, best white wine of the day for me. (19.5+/20) Jun 2015 RRP $42.00

Morven McAuley
Huia Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2014
Proudly espousing their certified BioGro organic certification, Mike and Claire Allan’s ‘Huia’ wines show attention to detail. The technical figures of the Gewurztraminer 2014 belie it’s true drinking balance. Brilliant lemony-straw. Tight yellow stonefruit aromas grow to show the exotic florals and minerally flintiness. Dry, but fruit rich on palate, with plush and lush mouthfeel, and lovely exotic florals, roses and root ginger. Linear, detailed and with good cut. 13.5% alc., 4.5 g/L RS, TA 4.6 g/L only and pH 3.76 (18.5/20) Jun 2015 RRP $27.00

Misha’s Vineyard
Olly Masters and Andy Wilkinson
Misha’s Vineyard ‘Cadenza’ Central Otago Late Harvest Gewurztraminer 2014
A sweet late harvest wine guided naturally to the style of freshness and elegance rather that over-the-top decadence, with 9.5% al. and 120 g/L RS. Brilliant light straw-golden-yellow colour. A distinctive and individual nose of exotic florals entwine with green stonefruits, quince and rose-petals, very intriguing. Very sweet and lighter bodied, resulting in finesse. Tight and crisp, elegant and slender, deliciously sweet but not hugely opulent. Very fine and softly refreshing textures and refined acidity, and medium to medium-dry finish. Well-judged balance and a true delight. (375 ml) (18.5-/20) Jun 2015 RRP $33.00

Mount Beautiful
Chuck Spelman
Mount Beautiful North Canterbury Chardonnay 2014
This is the second Chardonnay release, made from top-grafted Sauvignon Blanc vines. 70% stainless-steel and 30% barrel fermented, the latter aged 7 months with lees work and 50% MLF. 800 cases made. Brilliant even straw-yellow colour. Excellent fruit focussed stonefruits, with concentration and depth. Dry, tight, vigorous and vibrant, as well as full of vitality (all the ‘v’s used up!). Plenty of fruit weight and texture, bold and fresh, with subtle flinty lees detail. Nutty and mouthwatering. This begs the question: Why not also a richer full-barrel wine? (17.5+/20) Jun 2015 RRP $30.00

Clive Jomes
Nautilus ‘Cuvee Marlborough’ Methode Traditionnelle Brut NV
This must be one of New Zealand’s leading sparklings, now made even finer in style, this Lot No. 111 approx. 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, bottled October 2011 and disgorged December 2014. It says so on the back label – bravo! Bright, light straw yellow with some depth, pale edged. Beautifully harmonious nose, complete and refined, tight and refreshingly steely. A fine Noir cor. But a Blanc aromatic lift. Great poise. Fresh and thirst-quenching with creamy mousse, luscious and steel simultaneously, wonderful flow and linearity. Revealing fine bready autolysis all the way through, then a hit of toast. (19.0/20) Jun 2015 RRP $43.00

Brett Bermingham
Opawa Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2004
I rated highly on release, due to its fleshy passionfruit richness. Bright, pale straw-yellow colour. Full and ripe passionfruit and gooseberry fruit, rich and harmonious, pungent and deep, this “smells oily and unctuous”. Rich and lush on palate, with passionfruit, now just showing yellow stonefruits, precursors to bean. And the tell-tale thread of phenolics and drying fruit appearing. Soft, weighty and voluminous, and with balanced acidity. The Nautilus winery is loving the use of their large cuves for fermentation. Is this enabling the wines to soften more quickly? (17.5/20) Jun 2015 RRP $23.00

Palliser Estate
Allan Johnson

Palliser Estate Martinborough Riesling 2014
With the second label Pencarrow wines fulfilling the place for up-front, fruiter expressions, the ‘estate’ Palliser wines ae continuing their inexorable march towards elegance, this a reflection of mature vines and mature winemaking philosophy. The Riesling 2014 is a perfect example of the direction. Pale coloured, with slight lemon-green, fruit purity to the fore, fresh, mouthwatering and cool limes and white florals, epitome of delicacy. Off-dry and florals limes and minerals, pinpoint features, thirst-quenching, refined linearity. 11.5% alc. and 8.5 g/L RS, aged on lees. Is the delicacy a vintage expression too? (18.5-/20) Jun 2015 RRP $23.00


Paul Eastwood
Rippon ‘Mature Vine’ Lake Wanaka Central Otago Pinot Noir 2012
Described as the complete ‘farm voice’. From ungrafted vines up to 30 years old, with 20% whole cluster, aged a total of 17 months in approx. 30% new oak. Moderately deep ruby-red, lighter edged. Full, deep, ripe nose of savoury soft red berry fruits with plenty of whole bunch stalk and herbal lift, game and undergrowth with earth complexities, densely packed and yes, quite complete. Fulsome and rich, with great body and presence, yet not overbearing. Layers of complex flavours, filling the palate and blossoming endlessly. A special wine no doubt from a special vintage. (19.0/20) Jun 2015 RRP $66.00

Saint Clair
Hamish Clark
Saint Clair ‘Wairau Reserve’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014
It really was co-incidental that the Decanter World Wine Awards Trophy winning wine was available for tasting, thus a topical choice. The ‘Wairau Reserve’ Sauvignon Blanc is usually based on the best-performing ‘Pioneer Block’ wine, and for 2014 it was the ‘Cash Block 20’, this making up 62% of the wine with 38% from the ‘Foundation Block 1’. I’ve found many of the 2014 Marlborough wines lighter than the previous two years, and it is so with this wine, but this hasn’t lost anything in the passionfruity thiol expression that Saint Clair is famous for. It’s only more even and harmonious, and just not as punchy. The vintage has given a dry finesse, and the low pH emphasises this aspect, even though the wine is a tad sweeter at 4 g/L RS. A beautifully refined Saint Clair ‘Wairau Reserve’. (18.5/20) Jun 2015 RRP $36.00

Two Paddocks
Bill Carpenter
Two Paddocks Central Otago Riesling 2013
I was struck by the purity of this wine. Clearly a baby with a very long future. Very pale straw and near colourless. The tightness and intensity of citrus and steely mineral aromas is carried through to the palate. Clear-cut, pristine lime and lemon flavours, quite piquant and poised with fine cutting acidity, and balanced phenolic textures and minerality. Thirst-quenching, and wonderful proportions. This has become even more expressive since I tried it in September last year. 12.5% alc., 5 /L RS, TA 8.6 g/L and pH 3.07. (18.5+/20) Jun 2015 RRP $33.00

Angus Thomson and Guy McMaster
Urlar ‘Select Parcels’ Gladstone Pinot Noir 2013
Another wine that I have previously tasted, so another 6 months down the track, and it too looks better. Garnet-hued ruby-red with a paler edge. An elegant wine on bouquet, with complex layers of red fruits and complexing savoury dried herbs, classical whole cluster perfumes, and the beginnings of secondary sous bois. On palate, richer, sweeter and more luscious now, but with a tight core promising much more. A fine, firm tannin line with fresh lively acid and mouthfeel. The 30% whole cluster a serious component, but not dominant. The red fruits and floral are always there. (18.5+/20) Jun 2015 RRP $61.00

Bronwyn Skuse
Vinoptima ‘Reserve’ Ormond Gewurztraminer 2010
The Vinoptima Gewurztraminer has the ability of keeping a decade, as recent tastings of the 2014 vintage has shown. Nick Nobilo is about to release the 2010 vintage, and it’s just coming into its own. Deep, light golden colour, the aromatics are fresh with exotic Turkish Delight and rose petal florals and subtle honied and ice cream soda notes, and only a suggestion of root ginger. Medium in sweetness, this is soft with a good line and core, lifted with exotic fruits and florals, smooth flowing and harmoniously integrated. Lovely layers continually unfolding. It was suggested this may fit in style between the rich 2006 and elegant 2008. (18.5/20) Jun 2015 RRP $101.00

Waipara Springs
Scott Berry
Waipara Springs ‘Premo’ Waipara Chardonnay 2013
While there are a number of brands featuring Waipara in the name, the ‘Waipara Springs’ label has a very strong and loyal Canterbury following in particular. (The company also operated the ‘Waipara Downs’ and Marlborough ‘Bascand Estate’ labels.) ‘Premo’ is the top tier for Waipara Springs and the Chardonnay from Mendoza vines planted in 1982 is given the “full works” with wild barrel-ferment and 12 months in 20% new oak with lees and MLF. Light golden straw-yellow, with full, ripe ciytus and nutty barrel work, this exudes pure power. Fulsome on palate, this has a nutty and citrus amalgam, the mouthfeel one of power with cut from both the 13.5% alcohol and retained acidity. (18.5+/20) Jun 2015 RRP $26.00
Australian Winery Exhibitors

Stuart Horden

Brokenwood Hunter Valley Semillon 2014

Here it was the big temptation to taste the iconic ‘Graveyard’ Shiraz as my only wine from each winery, so I agreed with winemaker Greg Horden to (reluctantly?) try the Hunter Valley Semillon 2014. Pale straw yellow, this is redolent of fresh lime juice and lemon grass, tight, refreshing and a hint of the exotic, quite mouthwatering. Dry and delightfully refreshing, with juicy lemon grass and lantana. The Australian equivalent of a ripe Sauvignon Blanc but with a hint of unctuousness and without searing acidity. Yet this is so light and yes, with acidity. 11.0% alc. (18.0+/20) Jun 2015 RRP $23.00
Oh, I did try the Brokenwood ‘Graveyard’ Hunter Valley Shiraz 2011, with its unique elegance and Rhone pepper and Hunter savoury crossover effect with a mix of minerals. Smooth, lush silky smooth and supple tannins. Easy to underestimate the built-in complexity and balance for longevity. I’m still trying to understand it. (19.0+/20) Jun 2015 RRP $192.00

Toby Porter
d’Arenberg ‘The Dead Arm’ McLaren Vale Shiraz 2010
The sheer individuality of the d’Arenberg wines is their calling card, followed by the clever, unforgettable names. I’ve always seen an element of the country rusticity in these offerings, but greater finesse is being built into them, as seen in the ‘Dead Arm’ 2010. Saturated black-red colour, with a concentrated black berry, liquorice, earth, mineral and peppery nose, tight, yes elegant, and very penetratingly intense. Surprisingly elegant on palate, but still packed with black fruits, earth and pepper, along with a dusty powdery tannin backbone. A degree of suppleness and fineness to its flow and line. (19.0-/20) Jun 2015 RRP $64.00

Jim Barry Wines
Sam Barry
Jim Barry ‘The Barry Brothers’ Clare Valley Shiraz/Cabernet 2013
Again, resisting the call to taste the flagship wine, ‘The Armagh’ 2009, and worthwhile seeing something at the other end of the sophistication/longevity scale. So a wine made for comtemporary, accessible drinking for the easier, younger (?) market. 70% Shiraz and 30% Cabernet with no oaking. Dark deep ruby red. Attractively lifted and aromatic with raspberry and violets, and a confectionary uncrushed berry-like perfume. Inviting and seductive. Lush and juicy, with intense raspberry flavours and a hint of jam. Supple tannin line, totally easy. Already a multiple award winning wine. Are the Aussie judges giving the nod to lightness and beauty? (18.0-/20) Jun 2015 RRP $28.00

Emma Shaw
Langmeil ‘Jackaman’s’ Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
The Lindner family are 6th generation Barossans, caring for the heritage of old vines. The ‘Jackaman’ is from 35+ y.o. vines from a 60 y.o. vineyard, the wine aged 24 months in 50% new French oak. A rare low-yielding clone ‘SA125’ employed. Black-red hearted colour. Very tight and densely packed, and restrained in expression, showing rich Barossa terroir with sweet black fruits first then curranty varietal notes, and sweet oak following. Rich, succulent fruit, black and sweet with earth and even minerals, unveiling the Cabernet Sauvignon in time. Dense, but supple and rounded, but a deep core and line. Magnificent. (19.0/20) Jun 2015 RRP $60.00

Vasse Felix
Scott Baker
Vasse Felix ‘Filius’ Margaret River Chardonnay 2013
Established in 1967, but always with a contemporary style representing the most modern of the Margaret River, Western Australia, and indeed Australia. The ‘Filuis’ brand recently introduced, and more accessible than the ‘estate’ and super premium ‘Heytsbury’ tiers. Straw yellow with light gold hints, classic creamed-corn gunflint reductive sulphide complexities on nose, fresh tight and penetrating aromas. More elegant and less of a statement on palate enabling approachability. Slight grip and firmness, as these styles can have. (17.5/20) Jun 2015 $30.00

Kevin Glastonbury
Yalumba ‘The Signature’ Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2012
One of Australia’s classic representations of the unique blend, sitting alongside the iconic Penfolds ‘Bin 389’ for me, but personal and Barossa expressive. The ‘signatory’ for 2012: Robert Hill Smith, thus this is a true collectible. The 54th release and arguably the best ever. Black red, impenetrable. Packed with ripe black fruits, blackberries and subtle currants, more minerals and earth and an amalgam of pepper and spices too. Liquorice and plums unfold. The fruit purity is sensational. Finesse and linear flow, with richness all around, sleek and concentrated. Building in depth, concentration and density, whilst retaining finesse of tannins and fruit richness all the way. Consistent flow of class and stature. Its elegance and fruit depth will see several decades of superb drinking. (19.5/20)Jun 2015 RRP $56.00

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