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Vintners N.Z.’s Excellent Wine Roadshow

By May 17, 2011No Comments

For many in the wine and hospitality trade in New Zealand, Vintners N.Z. as a distributor has the ideal look about it. The range of wines is sufficiently broad to cover all the important areas of the world – at least in terms of what is interesting consumers and what is selling in a tight market, but the range is one of quality. The New Zealand wineries that are looked after by Mark Young and his excellent team are blue-chip and among the leaders in quality and style. Vintners N.Z. took their portolio on tour and showed a strong selection of their wares at the Museum Hotel in Wellington. Here are some brief impressions of some of the standouts, noting them roughly from north to south in New Zealand then reporting the imported wines after:

North Island, New Zealand
From the top of the country, Paul Brajkovich was pouring his Kumeu River wines. The Chardonnays are in a league of their own , being close to white burgundy in style. The Kumeu River ‘Coddington’ Chardonnay 2008 was seamlessly rich and nearly sweet, the Kumeu River ‘Hunting Hill’ Chardonnay 2008 with piercing cut and complexity, the Kumeu River ‘Mates’ Chardonnay 2008 a lesson in subtle style and layers of flavour.
In from Gisborne, James Millton was in fine form, always questioning and keen to learn. The Millton ‘Opou’ Chardonnay 2009 may be the best yet, mealy and opulent, but it was the Millton ‘Clos de Ste Anne’ Chenin Blanc 2009 that startled with its classical varietal expression and finesse. The Millton’ Clos de Ste Anne’ Pinot Noir 2009 is the most structured to date, and the Millton ‘Clos de Ste Anne’ Syrah 2009 beautifully refined, perfumed and subtle.

I’ve already rated the latest Craggy Range ‘Prestige’ Gimblett Gravel 2009 releases (click here to see), but without any prompting from Steve Smith, I had to recheck the Craggy Range ‘Sophia’ 2009 which I scored 20.0/20. It’s worth it! The Craggy Range ‘Le Sol’ Syrah 2009 is especially powerful and concentrated and up there as well.

While making top wines at his full-time job as winemaker at Trinity Hill, Warren Gibson and his wife Lorraine Leheney make their own Bilancia label. I loved the rich and weighty Bilancia Reserve Pinot Gris 2008, found the Bilancia ‘La Collina’ White 2008, based on Viognier with some Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer intriguing and more-ish. The Bilancia ‘La Collina’ Syrah 2008 beautifully lively, but packed with flavour and a sensation.

One of the quiet achievers, Paddy Borthwick’s experience shows in the consistency of his wines. The Borthwick Chardonnay 2010 is a young, crisp and just-so-right wine in size and style. It will develop well.

Larry McKenna continues his commanding presence in Martinborough. I found his value wine The Edge Martinborough Pinot Noir 2010 well-ripened and full of positive dark fruit flavours. A cut above in class is his Escarpment Pinot Noir 2009, which I’ve reviewed with the full ‘Insight’ range of Pinot Noirs. Click here to view that report.

South Island, New Zealand
What a pleasure it was to see Andrew Greenhough from Nelson. He’s been active in other areas, but is due to make a return to the domestic scene soon. Everything he bottles is excellent, but I was taken by the Greenhough ‘Hope’ Riesling 2010, surprisingly dry for 32 g/L rs, and unsurprisingly deep in character. The Greenhough ‘Hope’ Chardonnay 2008 has beautiful acidity and tension while the Greenhough ‘Hope’ Pinot Noir 2008 is as good as any super-premium label Pinot Noir in this country.

I was pleased to see winemaker Alana McGettigan, representing Delta Vineyards. While the Delta Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009 may seem petite like Alana, the wine has lovely sweetness of fruit and approachability.

Also Fiona Turner who has her own Tinpot Hut label. She is a very experienced winemaker, and everything says “watch this space”. The Tin Pot Hut Gruner Veltliner 2010, from contracted fruit is a sign of what she can do.

As one of the most thoughtful and pragmatic up-and-coming winemakers of Marlborough, Cath Oates will ensure that the best of Mud House will be outstanding. The Mud House ‘Woolshed’ Sauvignon Blanc 2010 is just starting to drink well, in a vintage where many wines are showing tiredness. The Mud House ‘Home Block’ Waipara Pinot Gris 2009 is right down the line and faultless, a model for all, and the Mud House ‘Golden Terraces’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010, yet to be released, very elegant and classy, just a touch oaky in this youthful stage.

The Quartz Reef wines from Bendigo are made by one of the most wine passionate men I know. Rudi Bauer’s methode traditionnelles are very special. The Quartz Reef Methode Rosé NV is a new release and its great presence makes it a must-buy. Up a step is the Quartz Reef Methode 2006, a tightly bound wine of great intensity and sophistication. Pinot Noir is his love though, as can be seen by the powerful and ageworthy Quartz Reef ‘Bendigo Estate’ Pinot Noir 2008.

Overseas Wines
Our Australian neighbours put on a good show. From the McLaren Vale, the Coriole Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 was rich, dense and one for the future. Impressive stuff. Possibly wine of the day was Leeuwin Estate ‘Art Series’ Margaret River Chardonnay 2007, concentrated, textured, rich, with wave after wave of mealy flavours. Arguably Australia’s greatest example of that variety.

From France, a little, modern pink wine from the tip of Entre Deux Mers, the Chateau de Sours Bordeaux Rosé 2010 impressed with its clear depth and racy fruitiness. A solid Perrin ‘Reserve’ Cotes du Rhone 2007 was gutsy and a perfect winter red meat wine.

The diversity of Italy stood out. Beautifully fine, modern and expressive was the Parusso ‘Piani Noce’ Dolcetto d’Alba 2009, a vibrant and juicy red from Piedmonte. Similar was the Umani Ronchi ‘Poderi’ Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2009 from the Marches, succulent with density here. Much more traditional was the Rocca delle Macie ‘Sant’Alfonso’ Chianti Classico 2007, leathery, earthy and very complex, very Old World Tuscan. .

The excitement of Spain was apparent. Dibon Cava Brut Reserve NV, the perfect sparkler for today’s world, being clean, fresh and subtle. From the Campo de Borja region, the Borsao ‘Tres Picos’ Garnacha 2008 was a bold and spicy, lush and juicy red. However, the Telmo Rodriguez range continues to excite me. I tasted the top-end wines earlier this year (see my report by clicking here), but the more affordable wines Telmo Rodriguez ‘Gaba do Xll’ Valdeorras Mencia 2009 showed why this enigmatic red is creating great interest with its soft red fruit character. More understandable was the Telmo Rodriguez ‘Gago’ Toro 2007, plump with dark fruits and juicy with it.

A couple of brands from the Vintners portfolio were not on show. Maybe next year we’ll see wines from the Taittinger Champagne house…

Inspirational Bottles On Show
One of the more interesting innovations was the showing by each New Zealand winery exhibitor of an ‘inspirational bottle. These wines were personal selections which were significant to the winemakers, and they included the likes of Shaw+Smith ‘M3′ Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2008, Knappstein ‘Late Pick’ Clare Riesling 2006, Hirsch ‘Lamm’ Gruner Veltliner 2006, Weinbach ‘Ste Catherine’ Alsace Pinot Gris 2008, Billaud-Simon Chablis 2009, Stonecroft Syrah 1995, Penfolds ‘Bin 389′ Cabernet/Shiraz 2004, Jamet Cote-Rotie 2007 and a Ch. Pichon-Baron Pauillac 2005. I’m sure all the attendees had a most interesting and enjoyable tasting experience. I certainly did!

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