Friday, February 26, 2010

New Zealand in a Glass

I always thought the best thing about New Zealand wines is that their worst wines are better than the worst from pretty much any other country. And so it was at this general tasting. The overall standard of winemaking is very high.

I am not a huge fan of Sauvignon Blanc, but it seems there is a bit of change happening here. My sense is New Zealanders are getting nervous about the 'industrial' output of this wine. Also, new wineries need to do something different to differentiate themselves. Following on from my positive view of the Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc (see post below), I particularly was impressed by the Sauvignon Blancs from Saint Clair. Their 2009 SB is very balanced with lime and some restrained tropical flavours. The acidity is very much in the background, delivering an elegant finish. The 2009 Saint Clair Pioneer Block 6 SB is a more concentrated wine, quite full on, with the tropical flavours more prominent. The two SBs from Blind River were also interesting. There is no aggressiveness , nor any gooseberry in these flavours. The Sisters Single Vineyard wine was a bit sweet for me, but I enjoyed the blend, a more complex wine, which also sees a bit of oak.

I did not taste any Rieslings or Pinot Gris, which people seemed to be keen on, and the Chardonnays from Villa Maria did not impress me. On to the reds.

As to be expected, the Pinot Noirs were interesting. Unfortunately, the best producers were not represented. Therefore I did not find any real stand-outs. Generally, there seems to be a trend towards less fruit and more length on the palate. I consider this a good development. Typical for this would be Carrick from Central Otago. I had some of their 2005 Pinot Noir in my cellar, which was very rich, dark and fruity. The 2007 and 2008 Pinots I tasted yesterday were lighter, and the 2008 had a long finish. They also showed the 2006 Excelsior, their reserve wine, which was quite outstanding: very dry, with fine grained tannins, and a super long finish.

The 2008 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir is a bigger style, with good length and a silky finish, but a bit uneven mouthfeel. In contrast, the Muddy Water wines, from the Waipara Valley also, were softer and prettier. The Hares Breath showed good fruit concentration.

Mt. Difficulty disappointed with the 2008 Estate Pinot Noir. This winery has lost its focus, in my opinion. Other interesting Pinots came from Seresin and Wooing Tree, the latter overpriced.

The wines I tried from Hawkes Bay, a 2007 Stonecroft Syrah, the 2007 Unison Classic Blend, and the 2007 Te Mata Awatea left me somewhat cold. I have been critical of Te Mata before, and the Unison, which I enjoyed many years ago, was very sweet and lacked complexity.

Finally, an interesting discovery were the Man o' War wines from the Waiheke Island in the North. They have extensive vineyard holdings, and I particularly enjoyed the 2008 Ironclad Bordeaux blend.

By the way, most of the wines mentioned here are available for purchase at

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