With the amalgamation of the Red+White and Cellar wine distribution companies several years ago came a strong and significant player in the New Zealand market, combining a broad, diverse and quality portfolio with an effective team. Even in the current tough economic climate, Red+White Cellar continues to flourish with a relatively tight and interesting range of wines to offer at all price points. While Australasian brands dominate, there are important labels from around the world. Red+White Cellar took their wines on a roadshow for the hospitality trade in the form of a tasting of a selection of the wines in conjunction with a lawn bowls competition. Fancy dress was de rigueur and the emphasis was on fun and enjoyment. This oblique approach let the wines ‘speak for themselves’ and there were plenty to ‘bowl you over’. I tasted through most of what was offered, generally lined up alphabetically by producer, and here are some highlights for me:
Amisfield continues to make excellent Central Otago wines, and Stephanie Lambert has seamlessly taken over from Claire Mulholland in the winemaking duties. The Dry Riesling 2010 combined distinct minerality with subtle lime lusciousness. I also like the Pinot Noir 2009, supple with sweet plum, herb and spice flavours. I haven’t tried many Bird in the Hand wines from the Adelaide Hills, but was surprised by the delicacy of the Sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé 2011. At the other end of the scale are the rich, concentrated and densely packed Mount Lofty Shiraz 2010 and Adelaide Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, which seem more in the archetype, warmer climate (compared to N.Z.!) style. It was good to meet Peter Jackson, the new winemaker of Catalina Sounds and Crowded House, especially as I’d just reviewed some of the current wines. The Catalina Sounds Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 shows good passionfruit pungency with a bit of stylishness. It was a pleasure to reaffirm the quality of the latest Dog Point wines, also from Marlborough, especially the Chardonnay 2010 which I rate among the best of that variety from that year I have tasted to date. It has great depth, drive and complexity.
One label I had not caught up with for a long time was Heron’s Flight. This Matakana producer is devoted to Sangiovese and Dolcetto only. The Sangiovese/Dolcetto 2009 premium blend, 50/50 of each combines the two with excellent rich harmony and the sweet fruitiness is well countered by lithe tannins. The ‘Unplugged’ Sangiovese 2010 is a fruit-driven, fleshy, blood-rich wine, whereas the Sangiovese 2010 premium is more oaky, higher in extract and with refined mouthfeel. Tanya Orchard is a bright and bubbly person, ideal to show the Lawson’s Dry Hills wines. They are benchmarkers for Marlborough. A new release is the Riesling 2009, dry, soft and smooth in mouthfeel, with a little toastiness appearing. An approachable vintage and appealing for it. The regular Gewurztraminer 2009 is exotic and nearly ‘over the top’, and a full-blown example, whereas ‘The Pioneer’ Gewurztraminer 2010 is beautifully poised and silky with its lusciousness. New to the Red+White Cellar portfolio is Brian Bicknell’s Mahi label. Brian is the master of building in textures into his Marlborough wines to give depth and length without any coarseness. Try the ‘Boundary Farm’ Sauvignon Blanc 2010 or ‘Twin Valleys’ Chardonnay 2010 and you’ll understand.
The tiny Porter’s Pinot brand of Martinborough was on show. These little seen wines have a style of their own and should not be overlooked. The Pinot Gris 2011 has excellent aromatic lift and a delicate, soft palate. Similar is the subtle, ethereal Pinot Noir 2010, which has similarities with a fine Chambolle-Musigny. Superbly perfumed, but with fine tannin line, this is beautiful. It’s no secret that one of Marlborough’s great success stories is Spy Valley. My reviews of the aromatic whites are very favourable. I was impressed with how the Chardonnay 2010 has developed, richer and more together, showing signs of potential complexity. This will surprise. And most people wouldn’t expect the Merlot/Malbec 2010 to shake off the cooler spectrum nose, but judging by the palate sumptuousness and suppleness, this may well be a bit of a cracker. The viticulturist/winemaker play label of Spy Valley, Envoy is always interesting. The ‘Outpost’ Pinot Noir 2008 is seriously complex and savoury, showing significant whole-bunch work. Sandwiched between New Zealand wine labels was RockBare, based at Hahndorf, the beautiful German-settled Adelaide Hills township. It’s location is ideal for working with fruit from the McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley and the Adelaide Hills. The wines are ‘Mod-Oz’, real Aussie-flavoured, but modern, shiny and with elegance. The second tier Mojo Barossa Valley Shiraz 2011 has bright, juicy primary fruit that is delightfully lush and easy. The RockBare McLaren Vale Shiraz 2010 is rich with eucalypt-infused fruit and underlined by fine tannin grip. To keep RockBare company was Tahbilk, stalwart of N.E. Victoria. The Marsanne 2011 shows lime, wax and honeysuckle characters that make it a crisp, zingy palate cleanser now. But we know this can age a decade plus to become much more complex. Also clean, refreshing and uncomplicated was the Four Sisters Chardonnay/Pinot NV sparkling, based on two-thirds Chardonnay, with 15 g/L rs. Light, frothy and fun. The sad news was that Trevor Mast, Four Sister’s founder, and mastermind of Mount Langi Ghiran had recently passed away.
It’s good to see the TW Wine brand of Paul Tietjen and Geordie Witters find a place in Red+White Cellar. These two Gisborne mates have slowly built the range to something pretty solid. Their Viognier 2010 is steely in texture but classically exotic in fruit. The Chardonnay 2010 is a mouthfilling and comple amalgam of tropical fruit and nuts. The outstanding wine from them is the ‘Dr Rod’ Malbec 2010, a tribute to the late Dr Rod Bonfiglioli of Riversun nursery who backed this variety in Gisborne. Intense and spicy black fruits, match by lush new oak, but a wine with proportion and even elegance. The Botrytis Viognier 2008 is another noteworthy wine from TW. Golden and on its plateau, this is softly hedonistic if not decadently OTT. 10.8% alc. and an incredible 320 g/L rs, but in no way cloying. A good way to see off the N.Z. wines was with the Wild Earth offerings from Bannockburn’s Felton Road. A minerally, gently sweet and perfumed Pinot Gris 2011 is archetype Central Otago for me, and the Pinot Noir 2009 combines sweet fruit with tight, fine tannin grip in excellent balance. A very smart wine, that is more elegant than the heartier Felton Road style usually seen.
The last on show were two French brands in the Red+White Cellar range. The newly-arrived Schlumberger Alsace wines from the 2010 vintage could be tasted. I liked the clear spiced pear and stonefruit characters of the ‘Les Princes Abbes’ Pinot Blanc 2010, so good it could have been a Pinot Gris to me! And the ‘Les Princes Abbes’ Pinot Gris 2010 subtle and with hints of oiliness to the palate texture. Still youthful for sure. The piece de resistance was Laurent-Perrier Champagne. The ‘Brut L-P’ NV typically fine and elegant, but with more pronounced citrus and white floral fruits. The ‘Brut Millesime’ 2002 tight and delicate, great vibrancy and cut, sharing the house style of elegance. Another delicious example of a wine from an outstanding vintage, and a lovely way to finish the tasting. www.redwhitecellar.co.nz