Food, wine, travel, music
A recent tasting of New Zealand wines in Dublin was preceded by a tutored masterclass on Chardonnay for trade and press given by Master of Wine Martin Moran (on right of pic with Warren Gibson of Trinity Hill). He was right: We do tend to be shocked when some of these wines cost over €30, despite giving a decent Meursault, (often considered the ultimate in rich, white Burgundy, for at least that price), a run for its money. Somehow we are not tuned in to paying even over €20 for a new world Chardonnay, or any new world wine for that matter. While constantly being explored and experimented with, devining new tastes, Chardonnay continues to develop and display its versatility, often in the New World. See how just a smidgen of oak changes the character (indeed far more than a smidgen in the old days), how a few plots of land in even one hectare of land can have different soils, a few rocks, some stones scattered on the surface influencing flavours from mineral qualities to heavy, rich mouthfuls.
New Zealand is proud of its young, dynamic winemakers who are open to ideas about trellissing vines and canopy management. They took up screwcap closures soon after they took wine seriously in the 1970s.
Sauvignon Blanc is still its top crop taking up 22,903 hectares, Pinot Noir 5,569, Riesling 787, Gewurtztraminer 332. Chardonnay is still low on 3,211 hectares. Syrah takes up 1,256 hectares of the islands. Marlborough has the greatest space under vines with 22,903 hectares.
Indigenous yeast alway make for interesting drinking and in New Zealand they are being used more and more instead of imported versions. Ageing on the lees is more commonplace now too for further interest in the glass.
With its wine growing regions stretching 1600km from sub-tropical north to the mountais down south, a tour of New Zealand’s wines takes us on a tour of this lush, green country. Use the wines as an opportunity to look the areas up on line to virtually travel as you sip.
The importers mentioned below are mainly based in Ireland. See websites for other importers ad the shops they supply.
Seifried Estate Old Coach Unoaked Chardonnay Nelson 2014 €15.99
Imported by Classic Drinks this is a good example of a light style. With a soft orange flavour, the fresh finish makes it a good wine for food.
Felton Road Bannockburn Chardonnay Central Otago 2013 €21
In the south of the southern island, where the days are hot, the nights cold, this vineyard has an ethos of sustainability, a theme coming through in conversations about New Zealand wines. Indigenous yeasts and batonnage result in complexity with a soft, lightly creamy texture like Burgundy. A lovely beautifully made balanced, elegant wine with a delicious taste. Worth this price. From May/June will be imported by JN Wines.
Nautilus Chardonnay Marlborough 2013
From Hawkes Bay and imported by Cassidy Wines, there is lots going on here. The nose starts with some oak, a reminder of toasty brioche. Swirl it in the glass for a few minutes and that will disappear and then watch for light almond hints, then some peach. Lots of fruit flavour with a little mineral hint in the mouth, medium weight and a great, long finish – count to ten and it’s still there! I fancy it with a goats cheese tart. There is enough fruit to make it last a few years and it will deepen in weight and flavour, if you can hold back.
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2013 €29.99
Matured for 12 months in puncheons, 500 litre barrels, double the size of many oak barrels, the result is a more subtle oak flavour, and nothing of it on the nose. This makes for a delicious combination of fresh, lively fruit, deep flavour and smooth, slightly weighty mouthfeel. My favourite of the tasting. Imported by Liberty Wines.
Vidal Legacy Chardonnay Hawke’s Bay 2013
This is quite different to the Trinity Hill to again show this grape’s potential to taste vastly different when treated in a variety of ways. This one has lots of oak on nose, from spending 11 months is oak barrels. In the mouth it’s complex and interesting, perhaps from the use of local yeasts. Imported by Barry & Fitzwilliam, so should be widely available.
John Forrest Collection Chardonnay Waitaki Valley 2011
Fresh acidity, fermented in used oak, this has pretty good fruit with orange notes. Slightly overpowered by the oak, a little time will help to integrate it and bring the fruit forward. Imported by JN Wines.
Felton Road Pinot Noirs
Imported by JN Wines,with a typical savoury flavour from the Cornish Point range, my favourites were their Block 5 Pinot Noir Bannockburn Central Otago 2013. A delicious, full mouthful with ripe fruit. In contrast the Block 3 has more grippy tannins and none the worse for that for with food. It was an interesting exercise in the difference in terroir.
Perhaps even better was the rich berried fruit with silky tannins from their Calvert range 2013.
As the wines will be available in May/June so prices are not yet decided on. Expect upward from €30.
Cloudy Bay has been variable for me over the years and the Polorus Marlborough NV sparkling made from Pinot Noir has delicious fruit, a fresh, long finish. Imported by Edward Dillon & Co. About €20.
A mousy fizz with loads of fruit, this one is made in the north of the southern island from Chardonnay grapes with flavours from lemon to toasty brioche. Good with creamy fish dishes as well as on its own.