Some highlights from the New Zealand Annual Trade Tasting

I’m off to New Zealand on Sunday. But first, to whet my appetite, today’s New Zealand Annual trade tasting, held at the Lindley Hall near Victoria, with its fabulous natural light. Here were some highlights from what I tasted (and, of course, I didn’t taste everything, and not all wineries were represented, so an omission here should, should not be taken to mean anything).

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First, a new winery for me: Te Pa. The MacDonald family were contract growers with 160 hectares of vines on the Wairau Bar (a spit of land between the beach and the Wairau River) in Marlborough. Liam McElhinney was winemaker with Brent Marris but left in 2012 to work with his childhood buddy Haysley MacDonald (they are both pictured above, with Haysley right) and so the Te Pa label was born. Oke Sauvignon Blanc, made with no sulphur during fermentation and a warm ferment, is a very distinctive Sauvignon of real interest. Pinot doesn’t do well on the bar, so this is sourced from Waihopai. The surprise in the range is the Pinot Noir rose, which is a saignee style after a 7 day cold soak, with wild yeast ferment, and it’s a fabulous, textured dry rose of real class.

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It was nice to catch up with Matt Thomson to talk brett, Pinot Noir and Burgundy. I think the St Clair Pinot Noirs are pretty smart at the moment and I loved their freshness and detail.

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Sticking with Pinot Noir, Brancott’s ‘T’ is pretty smart, too, and for the price (£16) is great value. It’s sweetly fruited but well defined with lovely personality.

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Seckford were showing a few Pinots from Larry McKenna’s Escarpent. The 2010 Kupe, cork sealed (as are all the top Escarpment Pinots) was a real star, showing elegance, richness and some lovely complexity. Real harmony here.

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The Wooing Tree Pinots are also in the Seckford portfolio and I was particularly impressed by this one: very pure and focused with great definition.

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Cloudy Bay isn’t just about Sauvignon. Their Pinots are very impressive. I liked this 2012 a lot.

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I stopped off to taste through the Ara range with Jeff Clarke. He’s doing some good things here: the Sauvignons are really nice, and punch above their price points. So do the Pinots: look out for the Single Estate Pinot Noir 2012, which is excellent value for money and quite serious. Jeff took me through three separate clonal bottlings in the Select Block series, which make it possible to compare Pinot clones 777, 115 and 5 – a really interesting exercise.

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Rimapere Sauvignon: a joint venture between Craggy Range and Baron Edmond de Rothschild, based on 26 hectares of vines in Rapaura. Very smart wine: don’t be put off by the low budget label design, which is a bit of a fail.

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Now this is good. It’s Craggy Range’s high-end Pinot Noir, Aroha, from Martinborough, in the 2011. Structured, fine, elegant, detailed. Lovely.

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Finally, a gem from Pyramid Valley. Some might find the sight of a slightly cloudy, rather pale red Pinot in the glass distressing. But it is just so beautiful, perfumed, textured and delicious. I wouldn’t cellar it for 20 years, but I would really enjoy drinking it now.

3 comments to Some highlights from the New Zealand Annual Trade Tasting

  • Giles

    I’ve just returned from a month in NZ and I agree the 2012 pinot noirs are terrific, pretty much across the board. I felt the Otago pinots are losing some of that “darkness” that usually sets them apart from Marlborough/Martinborough pinots, but maybe that’s just me. I was pleased to see that roses are making a come back, after producers seemed to lose interest in them in the 2007-10 period. To my mind, the best NZ roses come from merlot and malbec rather than pinot, especially those made in Hawke’s Bay and Waiheke Island (I’m thinking Esk Valley, Black Barn, Cable Bay and Elephant Hill in particular).

    Whereabouts in NZ are you going, Jamie?

  • @Giles … when I tasted those 50 Pinot Noir’s at the Prowein last year, I personally was slightly shocked, that a lot of winemakers have turned away from that special very dark style.

    Maybe, it’s because wine critics said that the original burgundy red fruit style is still superior and makes wines that live longer… I currently don’t really believe that because of the screw caps… but nevertheless there have been so many speculations of why an aged NZ Pinot can’t reach the quality of an aged burgundy pinot…

    Well in my opinion it’s got something to do with the age of the vines… and unfortunately also of the composition of the soil…

    I love diversity, I love the potential NZ Pinots will have one day… It just takes time to reveal it…

  • Bob Parsons

    Just to add that I spotted Ara downtown today, entry PN and SB. Will hand sell when helping out at the store.

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