Working through the varieties reviewed, I rated the Moutere Pinot Gris 2011 19.0-/20. The Moutere Dry Riesling 2011 and sweeter Moutere Riesling 2011 were scored 19.0/20 and 19.0+/20 respectively. I believe the Neudorf Pinot Noirs are among the country’s very finest. The ‘Tom’s Block’ Nelson 2010 I assessed at 19.0/20, the Moutere 2010 at 19.5/20, and the ‘Home Block’ Moutere 2010 at 19.0+/20, noting the requirement for some time in bottle. The Pinot Noirs are as much a flagship for Neudorf as their Chardonnays in my opinion, but Chardonnay has a longer track record, stretching back a quarter of a century. I rated the Nelson Chardonnay 2011 18.5+/20 and the Moutere Chardonnay 2011 a perfect 20.0/20. This latter wine deserves mention on how it has supremely sensitive expression of the complex sulphide reductive complexities that are all the rage in modern Chardonnay. The sophistication and refinement of this wine makes drinking it an emotional experience.
Tim and Judy Finn established Neudorf Vineyards in 1978 and their operation quickly became recognised as the leading producer in the Nelson region. Its reputation has grown such that it is now a globally recognised brand for extremely high quality wine. This is due to the unfaltering vision and drive of the Finns, and their goal of attaining the very highest standards possible. They’ve always believed in the potential of the Nelson vignoble, and the terroir of the Moutere Hills as being able to deliver world class wines. Their stringent viticultural regimes and detailed winemaking clearly preserve what the land gives them. Being a family and small business, it’s hands-on from the start for Tim, Judy and daughter Rosie. They’ve had some outstanding staff helping them on their journey. Richard Flatman the viticulturist is guiding Neudorf Vineyards to organic certification, even though they’ve followed organic and biodynamic practices for a number of years in respect for the environment. Todd Stevens has just taken over the winemaking role from John Kavanagh, these two, and their predecessors all extremely talented and working brilliantly with Tim and Judy.
There was an amazing choice of wineries that could be considered for the ‘Winery of the Year’ award for 2012. Following are the producers that were also considered worthy of the title, working from north to south in each of the growing regions. Based in Auckland, Villa Maria continues to turn out benchmark examples with everything they make. The Villa Maria ‘Reserve’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2010 was my other 20.0/20 wine of the year, so far not mentioned. Sacred Hill had a mind-blowing set of ‘Special Selection’ 2010 reds, which Tony Bish and Jenny Dobson crafted. The wines are bold statements of Hawke’s Bay. Working through a very difficult year, Larry McKenna and Huw Kinch of the Escarpment Vineyard released a magnificent collection of 2010 Pinot Noirs under the ‘Insight’ series and ‘Kupe’ label. Martinborough Pinot Noir doesn’t get much better than these single-vineyard wines. A host of Marlborough producers put their hand up, and my pick, a most unenviable one due to the closeness of the choices, would have to be Greywacke. Kevin Judd is pushing the boundaries with his wines, building in wonderful layers of complexity and texture. The wines are reminiscent of great European styles. From the Waipara Valley region, the stand-out this year was Pegasus Bay. For sheer hedonism and crowd-pleasing wines, you can’t go past what the Donaldson family make. This applies to the ‘Main Divide’ tier, the ‘estate’ wines and the ‘Reserve’ bottlings. From Otago, the clear contender was Grant Taylor’s Valli Vineyards. His 2010 sub-regional Pinot Noirs from Gibbston, Bannockburn, Bendigo and the Waitaki Valley brought tears of joy to my eyes and the largest smile ever.
- No. 1 Family Estate ‘Cuvee Adele’ Methode Traditionnelle 2009 (19.0+/20)
- Cloudy Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (19.0/20)
- Ata Rangi ‘Lismore’ Martinborough Pinot Gris 2011 (19.0-/20)
- Neudorf Moutere Nelson Pinot Gris 2011 (19.0-/20)
- Babich ‘Family Estates’ ‘Individual Vineyard – Gimblett Gravels’ Hawke’s Bay Gewurztraminer 2011 (18.5+/20)
- Dry River ‘Lovat’ Martinborough Gewurztraminer 2011 (18.5+/20)
- Auburn Bendigo Central Otago Riesling 2011 (20.0/20)
- Auburn Bendigo Central Otago Riesling 2012 (20.0/20)
- Clos de Ste Anne ‘Les Arbres’ Gisborne Viognier 2010 (19.0-/20)
- Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2011 (20.0/20)
- Auburn ‘BDG’ Central Otago Riesling 2012 (19.5/20)
- Burn Cottage Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010 (19.5+/20)
- Neudorf Moutere Nelson Pinot Noir 2010 (19.5/20)
- Palliser Estate ‘The Great Marco’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2009 (19.5/20)
- Valli ‘Gibbston Vineyard’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010 (19.5/20)
- Craggy Range ‘Le Sol’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2010 (19.0+/20)
- Sacred Hill ‘Deerstalker’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2010 (19.0+/20)
- Villa Maria ‘Reserve’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2010 (20.0/20)
- Sacred Hill ‘The Helmsman’ Hawke’s Bay Cabernet/Merlot 2010 (19.5-/20)