Even with a multitude of Burgundy en primeur tastings across the capital, last week’s annual New Zealand trade tasting was a pretty busy rave – set overlooking the Thames at the OXO 2 in South London. Roger Jones, our soon-to-be-retired former Michelin star chef but even-more-roving reporter for The Buyer, has a look at the New Zealand in a Glass tasting and picks out the wines he thinks will do best in the premium on-trade.
“Good to see Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels, Les Beaux Cailloux Chardonnay, 2017 back, this is quite simply superb up there with the finest New World Chardonnay.”
Although I did not make any of Rebecca Gibb MW’s sold out master classes, I did get a private viewing with her in the stock cupboard, where she highlighted the age-ability of many iconic New Zealand wines. Highlights here included the Te Mata Coleraine Hawkes’ Bay 2005 against the recent 2017 vintage. Jancis calls it a “national treasure,” a rarity and sought-after wine that is made to age, being a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The 2005 to me still had great potential to evolve and age for at least another decade – brambles, dark cherries and fresh rosemary and thyme – whilst the 2017 is very forward with luscious ripe fruit, violets, bilberries and a touch of cedar perfume.
I also tried Neudorf’s 2009 Moutere Chardonnay, a superb, evolved, restrained Chardonnay with perfect purity, Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2009 which showcases Kevin Judd’s maverick skills with Sauvignon Blanc and the 2009 Pegasus Bay Riesling. Pegasus Bay produces Rieslings that still have some residual sugar but with age they evolve beautifully giving a citrus-inspired wine full of peaches, nectarines and lychees.
Moving back to the main room, where I met one journalist who was bemoaning the lack of food, I did highlight that there was a fruit bowl at reception with plenty of bananas and grapes, he did not seem amused.
A fabulous vineyard in Hawke’s Bay with a magical light casting over it throwing vivid colours throughout the day. I enjoyed the Elephant Hill ‘Sea’ Sauvignon Blanc 2016 which is different to their standard SB; this had a lovely purity, saline freshness, with a juicy lime-enhanced palate, very moreish.
Two Chardonnays highlighted the quality and finesse that can be achieved with Hawke’s Bay, the Elephant Hill Chardonnay, 2016 had a lovely fresh purity and seamlessly glided across the palate whilst the Reserve (again 2016) was restrained, elegant and certainly a wine to keep to see its full potential. I congratulate them on keeping the wines back, and release later.
Craggy Range certainly has been at the forefront of putting Hawke’s Bay on the map; this family-owned winery was established in 1998. Grapes are also sourced from their estates in Martinborough and Marlborough.
Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, 2019, bright and forward, white peaches, exotic citrus and limey, fresh and uplifting a great modern style Sauvignon, whilst the Te Muna Road is more restrained and more in the Pouilly-Fumé style.
Good to see Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels, Les Beaux Cailloux Chardonnay, 2017 back, this is quite simply superb up there with the finest New World Chardonnay.
Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir, Martinborough, 2017 is a dream, I gave this a mark of 98 in a recent tasting of New World Single Vineyard Pinots for Decanter Magazine. The balance between savoury and luscious fruit with perfect acidity, gives a near perfect silky Pinot.
Always good to see how New Zealand Sparkling Wines compare to English and clearly there are top producers from both stables, my favourite at the show was Hunter’s Miru Miru Sparkling, Marlborough NV, this had a beautiful pearly and beady focus with a lovely concentration and depth but with a balanced acidity that aligned it to a multi-vintage Champagne style.
I also like the fresh, crisp, clean Huia Blanc de Blancs Rapaura, Marlborough, 2016, this vintage wine certainly had the finesse and freshness to match some lovely shellfish.
Nautilus Cuvee Brut Sparkling Marlborough NV is famous for its Late Disgorged emblem on the bottle and rightly so – three years on lees and this textured, fine-bubbled wine is evolving well, I do find that the quality goes up another level with a extra 12 months of holding.
So what was new?
Warren Adamson and Kate Sweet are representing The Hunting Lodge Winery. I loved the wines’ quirky labels, and their colourful, matching shirts and the diversity of wines available. The winery is looking for a distributor, this multi-hospitality business set just outside the centre of Auckland has a true pasture-to-plate ethos.
Out of the three Sauvignons, The Hunting Lodge Homeblock Waimuku Sauvignon Blanc, Auckland 2018 was a beautiful, grown-up, serious Sauvignon Blanc, textured, controlled with lots of rich restrained fruit. I also loved The Hunting Lodge Lagrein Single Vineyard Awatere Valley, Marlborough 2018, this subtle, light, red-fruited juicy little number was awash with freshness, balance and excitement and the Lagrein grape is not renowned for that.
Escarpment Pinot Gris
Always a joy to taste at the Seckford table, Larry again delivers with his Escarpment Pinot Gris Martinborough 2017, I am sure in years to come people will think that Pinot Gris was a New World grape.
Looking after the big portfolios of Villa Maria, Esk Valley, Vidal and Leftfield, Hatch delivers a huge cross section of price, value and the variety available from New Zealand.
I was pleasantly surprised by the value and quality from Leftfield, from the Nelson-sourced Leftfield Sauvignon Blanc 2019, gushing with stone fruit, to the restraint and freshness of Leftfield Albarino 2019 from Gisborne which was bright, fresh, windswept, textured and layered.
I have always admired Vidal’s Chardonnay range with the exceptional value Vidal Reserve Chardonnay Hawke’s Bay 2018 showcasing beautiful restraint and harmony, whilst the new release Vidal Soler Chardonnay 2018 was a nutty, fragrant wine with some steely background reminiscent of a Chablis Grand Cru, and then finally the stunning Vidal Legacy Chardonnay 2016, which at this quality offers one of the best value prestige wines from New Zealand.
Fells’ New Zealand band wagon is growing and, besides the glorious Te Mata Coleraine already mentioned above, I loved the Te Mata Bullnose Syrah, Hawke’s Bay 2018 which was rich and delicious with hints of farmyard but with the purity of dark fruit that carried it well, the Te Mata Alma Pinot Noir Hawkes’s Bay 2018 was very clean and pure on the first taste then on the palate there was a lovely savoury and delicate, light, red fruit mix.
Nautilus The Paper Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2017 was my top Sauvignon Blanc of the show, sourced from the Renwick region, textured and savoury, delicate stone fruit, wet stones and a little nutty expression, so elegant.
Last but not least, with numerous winemakers, agents, friends and family all behind the stand, Liberty even had Peter Allen Finlayson there at one stage.
Here are a mere few highlights from a stunning stable.
Framingham F-Series Old Vine Riesling Marlborough 2017, this has to be one of the best Rieslings from New Zealand, the texture and purity is stunning, the fruit to sugar balance, the aromatics and the moreish-ness of the wine goes on and on.
Greywacke Pinot Noir, Marlborough 2017, another sublime Pinot, but to be fair everything Kevin Judd makes is pretty spectacular.
And the final word must go to Trinity Hill ‘Homage’ Syrah 2017 from Hawke’s Bay 2017, a rare treat and what a treat, of course this needs time but the vines are getting more mature now and producing superb juice. Blueberries, aromatics, gentle perfume, silky smooth, plums, spice it has it all.
For those of you who missed Rebecca Gibb’s master classes or want more of her, you can buy her latest book The Wines of New Zealand and get a 35% discount using this code NZTASTINGS35 when you log into here.