The vignerons of Nelson hide well that they consider themselves the smaller cousins of the neighbouring Marlborough growing region. In some ways, they have missed out on the amazing growth and recognition that Marlborough has experienced, but also the angst that the region is experiencing following the bumper 2008 harvest. For the consumer, Nelson either does not figure as significantly or strikingly different when it comes to wine style, or else the wines are difficult to pin down when it comes to regional style.
After tasting a selection of newish releases at this annual event, it could be said that the wines could be somewhat more subtle in expression, but no less in quality than those of Marlborough. A certain ‘homeliness’ can be felt, if empathy is your thing. ‘Rusticity’ would be too harsh a word, as professionalism and investment has certainly raised the bar in the Nelson winegrowing areas over the past several years.
The differentiation of the Nelson wine area into the ‘Plains’ and the ‘Hills’ is a positive step, matching such identification of terroir to the same happenings in the other regions. Nelson is certainly becoming recognised for the aromatic varieties, but Chardonnay in the whites and Pinot Noir are certainly equally exciting.
Some observations from the tasting follow:
I was impressed by the pungency and depth of the Brightwater Sauvignon Blanc 2010. The premium-tier wine, the Brightwater ‘Lord Rutherford’ Pinot Noir 2008 was softly red fruited with good oak backing. The 2010 Sauvignon Blancs show cool ripening flavours with their Awatere Valley-like steel and herb notes infused with minerals, the Golden Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2010 showing this with good even palate textures.
From Kahurangi, I went directly to the ‘Reserve’ wines. The Kahurangi ‘Reserve’ Riesling 2009 showing excellent depth and fruit weight in a stylish style at 11.5% alc. and 23 g/L rs. More classical in proportion was the Kahurangi ‘Mt Arthur’ Chardonnay 2009, intense and fine featured. New labels that stand out better are the feature of the latest Kaimira wines. My picks were the Germanic Kaimira ‘ITI Selection’ Riesling 2010 at 10% alc. and 30 g/L rs, plus the luscious, high-toned Kaimira ‘Brightwater’ Gewurztraminer 2009 at 14.5% alc. and 30 g/L rs. A slight departure including sweetness has been successful here.
The Neudorf Vineyard wines from Tim and Judy Finn are always beyond reproach, as they must figure among the country’s best. The aromatic wines were extremely stylish and pure, but I was taken by the Neudorf Nelson Chardonnay 2008, with its richness and mouth-filling flavours. The 2009 Pinot Noirs looked very elegant and tight, but the star at the Neudorf table, and for the whole tasting was the Neudorf ‘Moutere – Home Block’ Pinot Noir 2009, a wine in a different league.
The wines of Richmond Plains and Te Mania were grouped together, both under the care of Lars Jensen. As certified organic and biodynamic, Richmond Plains is gaining a very good reputation. As with the Te Mania wines, a soft, accessible elegance marks the style. Going up a step for me were the Te Mania ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay 2008 and Te Mania Reserve Pinot Noir 2008, both with extra richness, concentration of fruit and balanced wood treatment.
The jovial Patrick Stowe of Rimu Grove was on hand to pour his wines. The Rimu Grove Pinot Gris 2009 was weighty and still to unfold more pleasure, and his Rimu Grove Pinot Noir 2006 drinking beautifully as it enters its plateau. Both are worth seeking.
The delightful Agnes Seifried introduced her wines. The ‘Winemakers Collection’ wines were sporting the ‘Aotea’ label, but they were no different because of it. Soft and unctuous in texture was the Seifried ‘Winemakers Collection’ Gewurztraminer 2010. Gorgeous. Even better was a stunningly powerful and complex, oak-infused Seifried ‘Winemakers Collection’ Chardonnay 2009. And you can’t pass by the multi-trophy winning Seifried ‘Winemakers Collection’ ‘Sweet Agnes’ Riesling 2009, tight, refreshing, yet decadently slippery with its sweetness.
One of Nelson’s large producers, Waimea is also one of the most consistent with exciting quality. The Waimea Rose 2010 is bright and intensely fruit from excellent Pinot Noir grapes, its gentle sweetness will appeal to many. The Waimea Viognier 2009 is drier than earlier versions with 7 g/L rs, and more complex too. However the Waimea Chardonnay 2009 is a star. Elegant, beautifully handled and a textbook example.
A winery to watch out for is Woollaston Estate. The lower tier Tussock Sauvignon Blanc 2010 with full pungency, but lovely softness. The Woollaston Pinot Noir Rose 2010 was delightful with its gentle purity. As is the Woollaston Pinot Noir 2008, coming together nicely and a lovely medium-bodied soft red.