New Zealand Syrah masterclass, with four imposters

new zealand syrah

Peter Cowley (Te Mata), Warren Gibson (Bilancia and Trinity Hill) and Steve Smith

These are my notes from the first tasting At the Hawke’s Bay Symposium on Classic Reds, held at Trinity Hill, Hawke’s Bay, 4 February 2017. This flight looked at New Zealand Syrah tasted blind, with four imposters from other cool Syrah regions to give some context. The wines were tasted blind and these are my notes as written, completely blind. It’s interesting to see which wines did well. The lowest score I reserved for an expensive Chapoutier Hermitage that just wan’t very good. The two top wines were from Hawke’s Bay.


Fromm La Strada Syrah 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
Highly aromatic peppery nose. Very bright with lots of fresh raspberries. Juicy, bright and supple. Light bodied and crunchy. Peppery edge. A light, supple style. 89/100

Elephant Hill Airavata 2013 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Spicy, tarry edge to the black fruits nose with some pepper. Woody and spicy on the palate. The oak is a bit too strong but there is a core of sweet fruit and a nice peppery edge. 88/100

Wairau River Reserve Syrah 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
Lovely weight here with generous but fresh peppery black fruits. Has a lovely grippy, peppery core to it. There’s a balance and some harmony to this dense wine. Some olive. 93/100

Copain Hawks Butte Syrah 2012 Anderson Valley, California
Fresh nose with some pepper and iodine notes. Floral cherry fruits too. Fresh, quite supple, slightly sappy and with some detail. There’s warm spiciness on the finish. Nice weight, finishes tannic. 91/100


Te Mata Estate Bullnose Syrah 2014 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Ripe, warm and generous with lush spicy fruit and a bit of cedary oak. Fresh, lush, peppery palate with nice generosity. This has a nice ripe personality but it’s elegant, too, and a bit bloody. 92/100

Church Road McDonald Series Syrah 2014 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
This is bold and powerful with a core of sweet blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. It’s a big, lush wine with some spicy tannins. Has plushness and generosity, but it’s not overdone. Rich with a tannic finish. 93/100

M Chapoutier Les Granits St Joseph 2013 Northern Rhône, France
Tarry and spicy on the nose with some roast coffee character. The palate is savoury and grippy with an edgy personality. Olive, iodine and spices. Distinctive and quite challenging, but with character. 92/100

John Forrest Collection Syrah 2013 Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Spice, tar and olive nose. Fresh, vivid and peppery on the palate with ripe black fruits and some woody, spicy notes. Maybe too much oak here. 89/100

Chloe Somerset (Cable Bay), Matt Stafford (Craggy Range)

Chloe Somerset (Cable Bay), Matt Stafford (Craggy Range)

Bilancia La Collina 2013 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Beautifully floral meat, olive and bacon nose with sweet black fruits. Lovely lush, ripe black fruits with warm, meaty, spicy framing. This has great balance and appeal. Lush and delicious. 94/100

Trinity Hill Homage Syrah 2013 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Lively black cherry and plum nose with a slight olive lift. Fresh, taut, balanced palate with sweet but tightly wound in black cherry fruit and nice peppery detail. This wine has substance and balance. 94/100

M Chapoutier Ermitage Les Greffieux 2013 Northern Rhône, France
Tarry roast coffee nose. Fresh, vivid, reductive palate with grippy black fruits. Angular and reduced at the moment. 87/100

Craggy Range Le Sol Gimblett Gravels Vineyard 2013 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Open, fresh cherry and berry fruits with a juicy citrus peel character, as well as a hint of pepper. Nice open fruit here. Supple, balanced and a bit savoury. 91/100


Man O’ War Dreadnought 2014 Waiheke Island, New Zealand
This has a distinctly medicinal edge to the sweet peppery black fruits. It’s a real outlier: the mint and medicine frame the fruit. Juicy and focused with a nice core of fruit. Unusual. 90/100

Passage Rock Reserve Syrah 2013 Waiheke Island, New Zealand
Open, ripe and supple with sweet blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Some peppery notes here with a hint of raspberry freshness on the finish. Really ripe and generous, and quite attractive. 90/100

Shaw and Smith Shiraz 2014 Adelaide Hills, Australia
Open and berryish with a hint of olive and pepper and ripe, slightly jammy fruit. Open and easy with nice fruit sweetness. 88/100

Villa Maria Reserve Syrah Gimblett Gravels 2013 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Generous, ripe and seductive with a nice harmony to the lush blackberry and black cherry fruit. Nice depth of fruit here. Quite stylishly done with a smooth core of fruit and a bit of peppery framing. 93/100

The New Zealand Wine Flight, over four wine regions


Yesterday we had a great experience, courtesy of New Zealand Wine Growers and Air New Zealand. It was a specially chartered flight over four wine regions, beginning in Wellington and ending in Hawke’s Bay. Along the way we took in Nelson, Marlborough, Martinborough (now re-badged as Wellington Wine Country) and Hawke’s Bay.


We began flying over the Marlborough Sounds


This is the town of Nelson


The Waimea Plain of Nelson


The Moutere Hills of NelsonOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Heading over the Richmond Ranges to the Marlborough region


This is a great view of the Wairau Valley, Marlborough, heading inland from left to right.


This is looking outwards over Blenheim airport, the town of Blenheim, and the sea


This is looking the other way, inland, with the airport in the foreground


This is a great view of the Southern Valleys, where a lot of the Pinot Noir is grown. The Wither Hills are on the left, and beyond these lies the Awatere Valley


This is the Awatere Valley, looking inland


This is the Awatere Valley, looking out to see. On the upper right is the large Yealands Estate.


Another view of the top of the Awatere


A wider view of the Awatere


Then it was over to Martinborough, now part of Wellington Wine Country, which is the new name for Wairarapa




Hawke’s Bay, the final stop



Here’s a short film of the flight:


What is greatness in a wine?

Chateau Latour

What is greatness in a wine? This was the subject of a session at the Pinot Noir symposium, where we were encouraged to discuss this question among ourselves. These are some of my thoughts.

We’re entering the realm of aesthetics here. Greatness is not simply one person’s preference. Nor is greatness the notion that a simple wine drunk in a special location with special people ‘great’. This is a great experience, but it doesn’t confer greatness on a wine.

Greatness is conferred on wine by a community of judgement. When we, as the wine community, taste wines together, we recognize the great wines. It’s an aesthetic system, where we form a judgement together, by tasting together, discussing, listing, buying, consuming.

There’s no definition that we can apply to determine whether a wine is great or not. Nor is a score by a single critic, however influential, enough to make a wine great. If, however, a wine is consistently recognized to be exceptional – by critics, merchants and consumers – then it can emerge as a great wine.

For example, if you were to ask a group of wine professionals which were the truly great New Zealand Pinot Noirs, then I imagine there would be a degree of agreement among them. Whether or not these are great wines in the global setting is a question that would require the agreement of a broader community who have tasted widely Pinot Noirs from around the wine world.

Of course, if you are a wine producer, you want to sell your wines for a profitable price. That’s the major concern. But greatness is different to commercial success.


Does it matter whether a wine is great or not? Yes. It’s important that we as a wine community have a notion of what constitutes a great wine. We need benchmarks. These benchmark wines give us something to aspire to. These are guideposts, directing us to the destination. You can be the most skilful winegrower around, but if you are heading in the wrong direction, you’ll just get there faster and end up in the wrong place sooner.

Then we come to the notion of different aesthetic systems. We don’t all agree. Back in the 1980s Robert Parker began the era of the American critic, rating wines on a 100 point scale. This was quite a shift in the world of wine. Previously, the world of fine wine was strictly defined: the influential UK wine trade decided that serious wines came from Bordeaux and Burgundy. Some great wines also came from Champagne, Port and the top German vineyards.

Parker’s approach was a hedonic one. His scoring system created a separate aesthetic system where the standard for greatness was the deliciousness of the wine, to Parker’s palate. The Wine Spectator critics followed suit. With these scoring systems, the world of fine wine was opened up. Any wine could be great, if it was delicious enough. As a result, a new aesthetic system emerged.

More recently, and perhaps more dramatically, the latest aesthetic system has been the emergence of natural wine. Natural wines are judged very differently to the established norms for fine wine. The standard of greatness in natural wine doesn’t overlap so much with the established aesthetic systems, and it is fascinating to see some of the discourse that has emerged from this clash of systems.

So, that’s my view. Greatness is conferred on wines by a community of judgement among those connected in some way with wine. We operate within an aesthetic system that orientates us and provides us with benchmarks, helping us on our way.

New Zealand Gewurztraminer

Nick Nobilo

This masterclass was led by Nick Nobilo, who is the expert on this variety, and one with some experience: he’s now completed 56 vintages. He began making wine when his father let him experiment in the 1960s. He grew lots of different varieties, but Gewurztraminer was the the one that he fell for. It’s history goes back 1000 years, beginning as Traminer in southern Tyrol, in the north of Italy. As it moved westwards it found itself in Alsace. As a variety prone to mutation, Traminer changed colour to pinkish/garlic, and they noticed it had a nice spiciness. For years the name Gewurztraminer (‘spicy traminer’) wasn’t used, but in 1973 it became the official name for this variety.

Nick pointed out that while Riesling relies on acidity, Gewurztraminer relies on phenolics. ‘It is a white grape trying to be a red,’ he says, ‘and this is where the phenolics come in. It is very important that the flavour just under the skin is extracted in the winemaking process.’ For Nick, the skins are the most important part. ‘I do skin contact for up to 20h to extract those flavours.’ Phenolics, though, give a bit of bitterness. ‘Bone dry Gewurztraminers don’t really work,’ he says. ‘It’s essential to have a bit of sweetness.’

Nick loves Gewurztraminer. ‘For me it is the best of the white varieties,’ he says. ‘It is a shame that it doesn’t have a following in the market place or the interest – it’s time will come, so we are all waiting.’ And he thinks that New Zealand does a good job of this. ‘Outside of Alsace not many peopke produce Gewurz as well as we do.’

To make good Gewurztraminer, you need what Nick describes as the perfect triangle of phenolics, sugar and alcohol. ‘I place no importance on pH and acidity,’ says Nick. He refers to the analysis of good Alsatian Gewurztraminer as 4 by 4 – pH 4 and 4 grams of total acidity. Skin contact is important, but it needs to be cool skin contact, with the must chilled down before the skin contact takes place.


We tried nine wines, and these are my notes.

Ruru Gewurztraminer 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
Powerfully flavoured with a savoury, spicy, smoky edge to the sweet grapey fruit. Some Turkish delight character. Stony and quite linear with good acidity. Tastes dry, but there’s a hint of sweetness. 91/100

Mud House Gewurztramuiner 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Sweet jelly-ish lychee nose. Fresh palate has tangerines and spice with sweet grapey richness. Honeyed and finishes sweet. 88/100

Millton Riverpoint Gewurztraminer 2014 Gisborne, New ZealandPowerful, spicy and savoury with some ginger, pepper and green tea, as well as bold ripe pear fruit. Such a distinctive wine with real depth of flavour. Long spicy finish. 92/100

Villa Maria Single Vineyard lhumatao Gewurztraminer 2014 Auckland, New Zealand
Fresh and fruity with some grape and spice notes. Open, with a bit of clementine and pear fruit. Light and delicate with not so much varietal character. 87/100

Blackenbrook Gewurztraminer 2014 Nelson, New Zealand
Lovely aromatics here: sweet, perfumed lychee and grape notes. Very delicate framing to the rich, broad palate. Grapey, smooth, spicy and off-dry. 90/100

Zephyr Gewurztraminer 2015 Marlborough, New ZealandNice fruit and spice drive to this. Lychees and table grapes with lovely balance between the sweetness, the soft texture and the slightly spicy, fruity finish. 89/100

Te Whare Ra SV5182 Gewurztraminer 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Very pure, linear, fruity nose. Fresh, clean, fruity palate shows grapes, pears, lemons and a bit of lychee. Nice length and focus here, carrying the sweetness really well. 90/100


Lawson’s Dry Hills The Pioneer Gewurztraminer 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
Powerful and bold with sweet lychee and conference pear characters, as well as a bit of green tea baked apple character. Has a long, spicy finish. Nice weight and balance, with some sweetness. 91/100

Vinoptima Gewurtztraminer

Vinoptima Reserve Gewurztraminer 2004 Gisborne, New Zealand
Powerful and intense with a lovely spicy edge to the sweet tangerine, apricot and table grape fruit. There’s some toasty development here, too. Nice contrast between the sweet and the savoury. Showing a lot of development here. Really nice, and very distinctive and powerful. 93/100

Find these wines with

Pinot Noir 2017: the International Pinot Noir Tasting


This was the headline International Pinot Noir tasting at Pinot Noir 2017 in Wellington. In this session, rather than focus on New Zealand, it was time for the panellists to look further afield. Each of the four chose two wines that they felt represented greatness in Pinot Noir, and then explained their own views on greatness in wine. It was a meaty, intriguing session. We tasted them blind, knowing solely who had chosen the wines. These are my notes and scores as written blind. I didn’t try to guess where the wines were from, and instead tried to focus on what was in the glass.

pinot 2017 panel

This was a really interesting selection.

Chosen by Marcel Giesen

Marcel chose two of my favourite Californian producers. ‘To me, these wines exemplify balance and purity,’ says Marcel. I really liked both wines. ‘You can hear the voice of the land, but you have to listen,’ he observed. ‘Power isn’t size, it is like persistence, like wingrowers who don’t give up.’

Au Bon Climat Larmes de Grappe Pinot Noir 2005 Santa Rita Hills, California
Sweet, supple, lovely refined red cherry fruit. Has a little development and a core of sweet fruit with real finesse. Supple, elegant and very smooth with fine-grained tannins. 94/100

Domaine de La Côte Bloom’s Field Pinot Noir 2014 Santa Rita Hills, California
Fresh and detailed with fine, sappy red cherries and plums. Real elegance here with delicate, fine raspberry notes. Light and ethereal and really elegant. Lovely weight in the mouth. 95/100


Chosen by Mike Bennie

Among other things, Mike talked about how fault finding is often at championship levels at Australian wine shows, yet in the evening the judges would drink classic European wines which displayed the sorts of faults that had been so soundly criticized during the day.

‘Quality is often a set of group-think principles,’ Mike says, ‘ignoring winemaker intent. I believe that there are some canons that need re-assessing.’

Reputation and expectation both blinker assessments of quality. ‘I want my wine unbalanced,’ he added, pointing out that sometimes the edges in a wine provide interest.

He mentioned winemaker intent as an important attribute of the wine. ‘How the wine gets to bottle is more important than subjective assessment.’ Mike’s choices were thought provoking and smart.

Mythopia Illusion Pinot Noir 2013 Arbaz, Valais, Switzerland
Sweet, malty and a bit spicy with some earthy hints. Tastes quite natural with lively, slightly lifted acidity and some notes of tea leaves and herbs. Grippy tannins on the finish. Thought-provoking and natural, and flirting with funkiness. 91/100

Mount Pleasant Mother Vine Pinot Noir 2014 Hunter Valley, Australia
Distinctive with a Ribena edge to the sweet cherry and plum fruit. Grippy unresolved tannins. Very direct fruit with a fresh but sweet jammy finish. A bit strange and very tannic. 90/100


Chosen by Ken Ohashi

The view of Pinot Noir quality I am about to present may strike you as somewhat different from what you are familiar with,’ says Ken. He says that until recently Japan was quite a self-referential culture. Ken tried to explain the Japanese mindset. ‘Great Pinot Noir is transparent with the best qualities of premium water: it is smooth with a completely clear aroma and taste.’ According to Ken, transparency is the cornerstone of great Pinot Noir. ‘It means the wine has a pure aroma and palate, a finish suited to the focus of harmonious aroma and palate, and a silent and understated sensation.’ Ken’s choices demonstrated this.

Timo Meyer Dr Meyer Pinot Noir 2014 Yarra Valley, Australia
Fresh and juicy with bright, sappy red cherry fruit and some herbal overtones. There’s an elegance to this wine with a juicy, herb-tinged quality and some green tea in the background. Beguiling and delicious. 94/100

Meyer Näkel G Spätburgunder 2014 Ahr Valley, Germany
Forward, direct, fresh red cherry and raspberry notes here: lively and supple, with a bit of tannic grip as well as fresh, ethereal red fruits. Youthful and elegant with nice acidity, but also some tannic grip. Potential for development. 95/100

jancis robinson speaking

Chosen by Jancis Robinson

Jancis began by noting that had this conference taken place in the last century there’d be far more mention of Burgundy in a seminar like this. But the world of wine is a big one, and good Pinot is being made in many different locations these days. Some trivia: As a student Jancis drank a Chambolle Musigny Les Amoureuses 1959, and this was the wine that did it for her.

She pointed out that just 0.1% of the tasting notes on her website are on non-Burgundy Pinot Noirs that have scored over 18 (which is a very high JR score). This makes up 140 wines, of which 18 are from Oregon, 37 from Australia, 38 from California and 46 from New Zealand. Jancis’ choices were, as you’d expect, very good.

Mark Haisma Morey St Denis 1er Cru Les Chaffots 2013 Burgundy, France
Fresh and detailed with a bit of lift and some cedar spice under the fresh red fruits. Very pretty, sweet red fruits here with freshness and a savoury twist. 92/100

Tolpuddle Pinot Noir 2015 Coal River Valley, Tasmania
Green and sappy with a sweet red fruit core and a lush liqueur like quality. Sweet and green at the same time. Sappy and bright with nice focus and an easy-drinking quality. 93/100

Pinot Palooza: a great consumer Pinot event in Wellington

pinot palooza

Yesterday afternoon I popped into Pinot Palooza, a consumer Pinot Noir event that hails from Australia but which has been transplanted to New Zealand for the day before the Pinot 2017 event in Wellington. 117 producers from all over New Zealand were present, and it had a great vibe. I wandered around chatting to people and drinking some lovely Pinot Noir. It was a great way to begin this Pinot-focused week. Here are some pictures (credit: some were taken by Hannah Burns who stole my camera).



Dan Sims, right, organiser of Pinot Palooka


Chatting to Nat, winemaker at Yealands



Angela Clifford with Lynette Hudson, Tongue in Groove- Clive Dougall photobombs


With Tim Kerruish, Folding HillOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Clayton twice


With Jo Mills, Rippon

Chuck Hayward

Angela Clifford, Tongue in GrooveOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hannah Burns with Rudi BauerOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA




Andrew Hedley, Framingham


Theo Coles, Kalex and others

New Zealand Riesling masterclass, with Andrew Hedley

riesling masterclass

This masterclass focused on the variety that’s the darling of the trade but which is sadly not loved so much by consumers: Riesling. It was led by Andrew Hedley of Framingham (left), and Bob Campbell (right), leading Kiwi winewriter. Andrew is arguably New Zealand’s leading proponent of this grape variety, and he explained the sorts of winegrowing decisions that go into producing good examples of this variety.

There are 753 hectares of Riesling in New Zealand, with Marlborough (308 ha) and North Canterbury (285 ha) the key regions.

The ratio of acids in New Zealand are such that pH in the final wine can be very low, even if the total acidity is less extreme, and Andrew reckons that you can taste this. ‘You can feel pH in your mouth,’ he says, and this makes it problematic if you want to make dry Riesling: you want to avoid sweet and sour characters in the wine. So for making dry styles, which he thinks require a lot of attention to detail, dry extract and ripe phenolics are a good starting point. With German and Austrian Riesling, hang time gives a lot of the flavour, and the best wines benefit from dry extract from physiologically ripe grapes. Andrew points out that for vines, the canopy drives ripening and if you have a big canopy it drives ripening fast. So smaller canopies delay the ripening, and result in the balance being on the side of the fruit not the canopy. An alternative route to longer hang time is to load the vine up with more crop but this is risky. Another intervention that can be beneficial is leaf removal in the fruit zone, which helps manage the ripening of the phenolics. The timing of this is important.

In the winery, skin contact can help moderate high acidity. You can achieve a reduction of 1 g/l by 48 h skin contact, but the down side is that the phenolics also go into the juice. Sulfur dioxide use will also alter the extraction of the phenolics and how they are oxidised in the juice. Another winemaking decision is whether or not to clarify the juice. Fermentation with grape solids can be beneficial in developing flavour, but this is a personal preference. It can help develop mouthfeel.

Traditionally in New Zealand Riesling ferments have been inoculated in stainless steel, and this results in pure, fruity wines. But allowing grapes to ferment spontaneously can have a lovely effect on the overall mouthfeel and aroma. There are commercial non-saccharomyces yeast available now for those who want wild ferment character without risk. The use of residual sugar is a key decision, too, and sweetness is achieved by chilling the must as fermentation slows and/or adding SO2.

Then there’s the stabilization process, where interventions are made to get tartrate and protein stability. These can affect wine flavour. ‘In the new world we tend to over-stabilize our wines,’ says Andrew.

Then followed three flights of Riesling.


felton road riesling

Felton Road Dry Riesling 2016 Central Otago, New Zealand
Dry and linear with fresh citrus fruit. Stony and tart with some lime and lemon. Shows delicacy as well as intensity, with no rough edges. Refreshing, primary and juicy, with lots of potential. So lively and intense and nervous. 90/100

Seifried Estate Riesling 2016 Nelson, New Zealand
Very pretty with a bit of grapefruit and also some melony richness. Nice texture to the fruit: this is deliciously open and fruity, with moderate acidity. Such pretty aromatics. 90/100

black estate riesling

Black Estate Damsteep Riesling 2015 Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand
Nutty, appley edge to the nose, with a hint of honey. There’s ripe apple and citrus fruit on the palate with a deliciously stony, slightly oxidative character. This has substance, and is made in a distinctive style. Lovely texture. 92/100

Spy Valley Envoy Johnson Vineyard Riesling 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
There’s real breadth and depth to this wine which shows rich, slightly nutty fruit. Ripe citrus and pear here with good depth. Made in a bold, fruit-forward style. Not as lemony as most. 89/100


Maude Mt Maude Vineyard Dry Riesling 2016 Central Otago
Fruity and appealing with a juicy grapefruit and lemon personality. It tastes dry but it’s got some sweetness countering the very high acidity. Juicy finish. Lots of flavour here. 89/100

Terrace Edge Classic Riesling 2016 Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand
Lovely texture here with some generosity to the lemony fruit. A bit of honey and some floral perfume, too. Lovely focus and generosity. Tastes dry but there’s some sweetness too. Harmonious. 91/100

Two Rivers of Marlborough Juliet Riesling 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is very fruity and fine with a tangerine and melon richness. There’s lovely citrus fruit driving the flavour, with some sweetness building texture. Long finish: lovely fruit quality here. Off-dry. 91/100

Mahana Riesling 2015 Nelson, New Zealand
Just off-dry with a waxy, nutty edge to the honeyed citrus fruit. Quite lively and bright. Pithy on the finish. 88/100

Fruit Sweet

pegasus bay riesling

Pegasus Bay Riesling 2015 Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand
Very textural and fruity with bright citrus and pear fruit, and a bit of melony richness. Tastes quite dry even though there’s some sugar. Lovely pure fruit. Linear and with great potential for development. 92/100

Mt Difficulty Target Riesling 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
Lovely fresh grapefruit with some melon and honey richness. High acidity is nicely countered by the sweetness. Lovely purity here: mouthwatering and juicy with nice weight. A hint of spiciness. Just off-dry, carrying 40 g/l sugar very well. 90/100

Giesen Riesling 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is a large production wine that sells at a great price. So pretty and lively with lovely purity of fruit. Fresh and tangy with lovely purity of fruit. Bright and focused with some tangerine and grapefruit. So pretty. 89/100

framingham riesling


Framingham Select Riesling 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Honeyed, slightly marmalade-like edge to the lemony fruit. Detailed and pure with a bit of nuttiness and lovely ripe apple richness as well as some spicy notes. Delicious stuff. 91/100



Albariño: a new grape for New Zealand


There’s a bit of buzz about Albariño in New Zealand. But it’s early days yet: there are currently just 27 hectares in the whole country. Gisborne, where it was first planted, has 8.5 hectares, Hawke’s Bay has 6.9 hectares, and Marlborough has 3.9 hectares. But on this trip so far I’ve tried some good ones. It’s a variety that seems to hold on to its varietal character even when it’s transplanted across the world. As an example, Marlborough producer Nautilus has just 1 hectare, and produces 300 cases, most of which are sold at cellar door. ‘It’s a vigorous variety, and we grow it in stony soils,’ says viticulturist Michael Collins. ‘I grow it like Pinot Noir. It’s the only variety I leaf pluck, trying to drop the acidity,’ he says. Their vines were planted in 2014. ‘It’s the weirdest variety I have grown in 20 years of viticulture.’

Todd Stevens, of Neudorf, says that they have half a hectare. ‘We had a spare bit of land, and thought it was time to look at other varieties,’ he says. ‘It has very good Riesling-esque acidity. It’s bullet proof. Riesling melts on the vine but this fellow stays clean. It seems like it has quite thick skins.’

There are four clones available in New Zealand. One clone have come out of Spain, and three have come from Portugal (where it’s Alvarinho).

The first plantings were 2009 and Simon Nunns of Coopers Creek made the first wine in 2011. He says that the pH tends to be low, at 3.2 or 3.3 in the bottle. ‘The pressing component has a very high pH,’ says Nunns. ‘The difference between free run and pressing pH is one of the largest I’ve seen: pressings are 3.7-4. They have an enormous amount of flavour and character, but they have high phenolics and they age fast. You generally want to exclude the pressings if you want to make a wine that ages.’ Nunns adds, ‘Winemakers in New Zealand are quietly confident about where Albariño is heading.’

Coopers Creek SV Bell-Ringer Albariño 2015 Gisborne, New Zealand
Lovely stone-fruit aromatics with some pear and almond kernel notes. The palate is fresh, lively and fruity with nice grip and keen acidity. Very linear with a stony quality and a bright finish. 90/100

Nautilus Albariño 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Very fresh and linear with a bit of grape pith character. Bright with grapefruit and lemon notes, as well as some tangerine. High acidity. Juicy. 90/100

Waimea Estates Albariño 2016 Nelson, New Zealand
Lively, bright and very lemony with a bit of white peach and some pear notes. Some lemony brightness with a hint of marmalade and citrus pith. Distinctive. 91/100


Neudorf Moutere Albariño 2016 Nelson, New Zealand
Very stony and linear with high acidity. Bright and lemony with lovely focus. Juicy, bright and fresh with a tart, limey finish. Focused wine. 90/100


Astrolabe Vineyards Sleepers Vineyard Albariño 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is from the Kekerengu Coast, with limestone soils. It’s very linear, bright and stony with pure lemony fruit. This is aromatic with nice minerality and brightness. 91/100

Aronui Single Vineyard Albariño 2015 Nelson, New Zealand
Very lively, bright and fresh with lemony fruit and good acidity. There’s a stony personality here with good focus and freshness. 91/100

The Marlborough Pinot Noir Safari


The Pinot Noir Safari. It’s the second time this has taken place. Various winegrowers take international guests through the back-country and off-road routes, taking in some special vineyards across the Marlborough region. We make several stops, where they explain what it is that makes each vineyard important, and we get to taste some Pinot Noir in situ. Marlborough is by far the biggest region in New Zealand now, with some 27 000 hectares in the Wairau and another 7000 hectares in the Awatere. It’s an interesting region, and this is a great way to understand how the various subregions differ, and the effect of soils on the quality of the Pinot Noirs that result.

Here’s a film of the event:


There are eight or nine 4×4 vehicles, including a couple of Land Rover Defenders, which look the most rugged. But it’s these that got stuck in the Awatere River last time, presumably because they weren’t being driven the right way. No one got stuck this time.

Calrossie Vineyard

Calrossie Vineyard

We began in TerraVin’s Calrossie Vineyard, which is just tucked behind the Wither Hills. So it’s not quite Awatere: more sort of the extreme end of the Southern Valleys. Here we start with some fizz. Appropriate for 10 am.

Villa Maria's Seddon Vineyard

Villa Maria’s Seddon Vineyard

Next stop was the Awatere, and Villa Maria’s Seddon Vineyard. We also looked at Nautilus’ Awatere River Vineyard, which is nearby, and stopped here to taste a few wines.

Helen Morrison introduces the Villa Maria Awatere Pinots

Helen Morrison introduces the Villa Maria Awatere Pinots



After a coffee and pie break on the banks of the river, it was back over to the Wairau via the Taylor Pass. Here we stopped at Auntsfield, at their Southern Valleys vineyard. We tasted here inside their historical barn: wines were first made here at the end of the 19th century, but wine growing in Marlborough ceased in 1905, and was only begun again 70 years later.






Mel Brown and Clive Dougall



Matt Sutherland, Dog Point


Bree Boskov and Kat Wiggins

We next headed over to the Brancott Valley, where we had a nose around, and stopped at Dog Point. Here we tasted wines made from the Dog Point vineyards, and also Greywacke and Fromm, who have vineyards nearby.


Section 94, Dog Point




Ivan Sutherland, Dog Point, explaining the place

Next stop was the Omaka Valley, where we looked at vineyards owned by Spy Valley and Nautilus, as well as tasting their wines.



Clive Jones, Nautilus



Seresin’s biodynamically managed Raupo Creek vineyard, also in the Omaka Valley, was the next stop. We tasted a few wines here and got wind blasted.

Clive Dougall, Seresin

Clive Dougall, Seresin



The tour finished at Churn’s vineyard in the Waihopai Valley (actually, it’s not Waihopai, according to Sam Weaver, the proprietor, who thinks it should be called Omaka Valley). Here we tasted more wine, including some Fromm and Churton, and finished with a beer. It was a lovely day, and it was so good to see the stylistic diversity of Marlborough Pinot, and how this relates to place and soil type. A film to come!

Hatsch Kallberer, Fromm

Hatsch Kalberer, Fromm



See also: some great examples of Marlborough Pinot Noir

Two interesting NZ wines at Shop Eight, Christchurch

Cambridge road naturalist

Had a lovely evening with a few colleagues at Shop Eight in Christchurch. These two wines were really interesting. The alternative face of New Zealand wine.

Cambridge Road The Naturalist 2016 Nelson, New Zealand
11.5% alcohol. This pet nat is made from organically grown grapes from Nelson. It’s cloudy and beautifully expressive with a bit of spicy bite. Fresh with nice citrus, pear and ripe apples. There’s a bit of grapey sweetness and it finishes fresh. Lovely. 91/100

black star field blend

Black Star Field Blend 2016 Waitaki, New Zealand
This is co-fermented Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer from the cool region of Waitaki in north Otago. Served chilled, this has lovely mellow sweet cherries and plums. There’s some spiciness and herb and tea leaf notes. Lively and spicy with nice texture and fruit sweetness. Smooth and fresh with nice smoothness. Lots of interest here. 90/100