New Zealand Wine Tasting London 2017
92 wineries from New Zealand came to London to show off their wares last week, dominated by Pinot Noirs and of course, Sauvignon Blancs. Where are all the Bordeaux varietals we used to see in the past? New Zealanders are still making good kit out of these varietals, but Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons were really scant on the ground at the tasting – there was also one Malbec but no Cabernet Francs as far as I could see. So it’s the really big push on Pinot Noirs and whilst there were a plethora of uninspiring efforts, there were a few which were certainly worthy of extreme merit.
As usual at these tastings, it’s not posible to taste all the wines so I was concentarting on those producers who were either not in the guide or were there in the “Other Wines of Note” section in the hope that I would be able to have suficient information on them to warrent a full entry.
For me, the outstanding wines of the tasting were the two Pinot Noirs from Burn Cottage in the Central Otago district. Moonlight Race 2014 (£34.99) had an enormous amount of finesse and the well integrated oak added to the complexity. Approachable now, but will certainly cellar for up to 10 years. 4 stars. The Cromwell Basin Pinot Noir 2014, (£39.99) is perhaps, made of sterner stuff, but I couldn’t help comparing it with the finest one could obtain from the Côte d’Or. The balance and complexity is enhanced by the judicious use of oak resulting in a seamless experience of drinking pleasure. Again – approachable now, but will not reach its best for some years yet. 4.5 stars but on the cusp of 5 – a decision to be made when I get the chance to taste other vintages. Both wines display true varietal flavours.
Not far behind came a single entry from Prophet’s Rock, again in Central Otago. Their Home Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 (£33.50) also displayed a seamless integration of the oak with soft tannins and restrained plummy fruit beneath them. The 2013 is the current release as they cellar for an extra year after spending 15-18 months in oak before release. 4 stars. They also have a reserve Pinot Noir (not released until 5 years after the vintage), a Pinot Gris and a dry Riesling, but these were not available. But from the evidence of the one wine I did taste, this is certainly an estate to watch.
Tohu Wines are already listed in the 10th edition of the guide in the “Other Wines of Note” section, with their Awatere Valley Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (3.5 stars) and their Rore Reserve Pinot Noir, also from the Awatere Valley in Marlborough (4 stars) and I relished the opportunity to taste their wines again and I was not disappointed. After tasting the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2013 Pinot Noir, these ratings were certainly confirmed. Additionally I had the chance to taste other wines. A méthode traditionelle ChardonnayBlanc de Blancs 2013 was quite fruity and rounded but finished a little short. At £30.00, though, a bit pricey. 2 stars. A single vineyard Albariño 2014 from Upper Moutere, Nelson, was very minerally, perhaps lacking a little flesh, but nevertheless showing true varietal fruit and reasonable complexity. At £15.00 this is reasonably priced. 2.5 stars. Better value, though, were the two regular 2014 Pinot Noirs, one from Awatere Valley, Marlborough and one from Upper Moutere, Nelson. Both displayed typical New World exuberance and whilst lacking the complexity and finesse of the Rore Reserve, they nevertheless proved to be very pleasant bevvies and at £18.00, good value for money.
Also impressive were the whites from Archangel in Central Otago. Both the Pinot Gris 2015 (£21.99 – 3 stars) and the Riesling 2011 (£21.99 – 3.5 stars) showed intense minerality but with plenty of flesh at the same time producing a big mouthfeel. However, I felt that their Pinot Noir 2012 was a bit jammy. (£25.99 – 2 stars). Similarly, the whites from the Marlborough based Mahi also showed more intensity than the Pinot Noir that was on show although the Boundary Farm Sauvignon Blanc 2014 £19.50) was suffering from a bit of oak domination. 2 stars. The regular Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (£15.50) was much better balanced and the Twin Valleys Chardonnay (£19.50) was aromatic, fruity and easy drinking. Both scored 3 stars. The Marlborough Pinot Noir 2014 (£23.99) was well balanced but lacked complexity. 2.5 stars.
Wines from Blank Canvas, Astrolabe, Summerhouse, Man o’ War, Spy Valley and Yealands will also be considered for the 11th edition of the guide either for full entries or Other Wines of Note, depending on how many more wines we can taste from them.
Of course I did check out on a few of the big names, tasting wines from Felton Road, Seresin, Trinity Hill, Cloudy Bay and Te Mata, none of which had lost the skills that had brought them to prominence.
On reflection, it’s no wonder that the emphasis has been placed on New Zealand Pinot Noirs, they are really making their mark as potential world class wines. Following the success of the Sauvignon Blancs, what can we expect to see next?