New Zealand New Release Tasting

New Zealand New Release Tasting

Part 1 – Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough

This last week saw the New Zealand new release tasting in London. Held on October 31st in the Penthouse in the New Zealand High Commission with panoramic views of a somewhat grey autumn day in central London a range of wines were shown at retail price points ranging from £8.99 up to £66.00 a bottle. A broad assembly of wineries were represented from industry leaders like Cloudy Bay and Villa Maria, to small high quality boutique operations as well as four newcomers to the UK. Here then is a selection of wine and winery highlights, which includes only wines that will be newly added to the upcoming 11th edition of Wine behind the label. Part one covers the two major wine regions in New Zealand; Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay. Part two includes wines from Martinborough/Wairarapa, Nelson, Canterbury/Waipara as well as Central Otago and in particular Pinot Noir.

Craggy Range vineyards

In Hawke’s Bay the Vidal Estate winery is a part of the substantial Villa Maria empire which also includes Esk Valley. The top wines here take the Legacy brand label. A very impressive 2014 Syrah Legacy comes from vines planted in the Gimblett Gravels. Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Cabernet Merlot are also made under the premium Legacy banner. The Syrah comes from what was a very fine vintage in Hawke’s Bay and offers a rich medley of black fruits, black pepper and restrained hints of oak.

Craggy Range is now well established as one of New Zealand’s very finest premium wine producers. From the firm’s Hawkes Bay base a range of very good to exceptional wine is produced. This includes red benchmarks Le Sol, Sophia and the Quarry. As well as a regular Pinot Noir Te Muna Road, Craggy Range now makes a limited edition Pinot Noir Aroha Te Muna from this vineyard in Martinborough. The 2015 proved to be a very good example, if not cheap, at the top end of the prices of wines shown. Complex, intense and loaded with a mix of floral, violet and dark fruit notes this is right up with New Zealand’s very finest Pinot’s.


Sacred Hill is one of New Zealands largest family owned wine operations. As well as their Sacred Hill winery, Marlborough based Cairnbrae, Gunn Estate, Wild South and Hawke’s Bay based Whitecliff are under the same ownership umbrella. At Sacred Hill, also based in Hawke’s Bay, vineyards are owned both in Hawkes Bay and Marlborough. There are four separate ranges, Orange Label, Reserve, Halo and the premium Special Selections, with 21 wines released in all. The 2014 Helmsman red from Hawkes Bay combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc in a stylish Bordeaux modelled blend with rich hints of chocolate with an elegant background of cassis and cedar pulling it all together. Will develop for a decade and more. Also among the Special Selections is one of three Chardonnays, the 2015 Hawkes Bay Rifleman’s, is a richly expressive example sourced from own rooted vines with a spontaneous barrel fermentation which is then followed by the malolactic in a rich citrus infused style.

A further impressive Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay comes from the Elephant Hill winery in the guise of their 2016 Reserve. The winery is scenically located right on the Te Awanga coastline. 14 wines are now made across three ranges, Estate, Reserve and Icon. The Chardonnay Reserve is the top of the tree for the variety here, it is only released in the best years which have also included 2012, 2013 and 2015. Fruit comes from the home Te Awanga coastal vineyard and the wine is barrel fermented and aged for 12 months but with a restraint on the extent of new wood. 30% new barrels along with lees enrichment provides sufficient weight and a rich texture with a fine piercing as well as refreshing citrus fruit intensity.


Astrolabe are Marlborough based and all the wines are sourced from local vineyards. They make a fairly extensive range, which includes Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay as well as Pinot Noir. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Awatere Valley is crisp and fresh with attractive hints of green and white fruits and a zesty, citrus quality. 2015 Pinot Noir Province, takes the Marlborough region banner. Attractive dark fruits are well balanced by subtle oak.

Most readers will know Cloudy Bay is a mainstay of the Marlborough region. Their flagship 2014 Pinot Noir Te Wahi is sourced from Central Otago. Coming from schist soils in the Bendigo and Lowburn sub regions this is a rich and concentrated, opulent Pinot enjoying five days of cold soaking prior to fermentation. Marlborough is also proving an excellent source of top Pinot Noir and the 2013 Sun & Moon is the top release from the Seresin winery. Similarly priced to the Cloudy Bay (just over our £G level) it is not cheap but is elegant and very stylish with more red than black fruits and really good persistence and intensity.

The top labels from the Giesen family continue to impress. They make an extensive range and although headquartered just outside Christchurch they are now well established in Marlborough. Some very well crafted Sauvignon Blanc is made here. There were two really classy Fuder labelled examples shown, 2013 Sauvignon Blanc The Fuder Dillons Point and 2013 Sauvignon Blanc The Fuder Matthews Lane, the latter being barrel fermented and aged in new barrels, the former seeing a mix of new and second fill oak and the tighter more structured of the two. Giesen also offer fine Marlborough Pinot Noir. The 2015 Bothers label offers vibrant and attractive berry fruits while the 2014 Single Vineyard Selection Ridge Block is finely structured with real depth and a rich and brambly dark fruit quality.

Two other producers had impressive Sauvignon Blanc presented offering good quality and value. As well as their excellent Sauvignon’s Rapaura Springs make Pinot Noir from Marlborough and Central Otago, as well as Marlborough Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough is crisp and fresh with zesty gooseberry and hints of citrus, a classic cool fermented Marlborough style. The 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve is also from Marlborough and a range of blocks from the Wairau Valley, Dillon’s Point and the Waihopai Valley. It is full of intense green, herb scented fruit with a zesty citrus edge and a hint of minerality. A further excellent Sauvignon Blanc producer is Blank Canvas, owned by wine consultant Matt Thomson and his wife Sophie Parker-Thomson. The 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Dillon’s Point comes from the Holdaway family vineyard, which is sustainably farmed. Green fruits, a hint of minerality and opulent passion fruit notes are apparent in this crisp, tank fermented example.

The Marlborough region is also notable for sparkling wine both the Cloudy Bay Pelorus and Hunters Miru Miru Brut are well known. The No 1 Family Estate makes exclusively wines by the Méthode Traditionelle. The property is owned by the Le Brun family, whose origins are in Champagne. Veteran winemaker Daniel Le Brun is one of New Zealand’s pioneers of the style. A total of eight separate cuvées are made, including white and rosé. The white Estate Assemblé NV is a crisp and fresh style, it spends 18 months on lees in bottle. The Estate Rosé NV spends just a couple of months longer on its yeast. It is a vibrant, red berry fruited wine coming from 100% Pinot Noir. The No 1 Cuvee NV is a step up, a fine and intense Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) with citrus and a creamy complex yeast quality emerging after two years on lees. The wines are marked by a noticeable dosage.




Vidal Estate –

UK Agent – Hatch Mansfield

USA Agent – NZ Wine Navigator

Wine Searcher shopping links


Craggy Range –

UK Agent – Bibendum

USA Agent – Kobrand Wines & Spirits

Wine Searcher shopping links


Sacred Hill –

UK Agent – seeking distribution

USA Agent – contact winery direct

Wine Searcher shopping links


Elephant Hill –

UK Agent – Corney & Barrow

USA Agent – K & L Wine Merchants

Wine Searcher shopping links


Astrolabe –

UK Agent – Armit Wines

USA Agent – Cannonball Wine Company

Wine Searcher shopping links


Cloudy Bay –

UK Agent – Moet Hennessy UK

USA Agent – Moet Hennessy USA

Wine Searcher shopping links


Seresin –

UK Agent – Louis Latour Agencies

USA Agent – The Sorting Table (Email)

Wine Searcher shopping links


Giesen –

UK Agent – Ehrmanns 

USA Agent – Pacific Highway Wines & Spirits

Wine Searcher shopping links


Rapaura Springs –

UK Agent – MMD Ltd

USA Agent – contact winery direct

Wine Searcher shopping links


Blank Canvas –

UK Agent – Liberty Wines

USA Agent – contact winery direct

Wine Searcher shopping links


No 1 Family Estate –

UK Agent – Amathus Drinks

USA Agent – NZ Wine Navigator

Wine Searcher shopping links


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