Waimea Estates preview August 2019

Waimea Estates is one of Nelson’s larger producers with over 140 hectares of their own vineyards. The cool climate and alluvial soils of Nelson’s Waimea plains combined with the highest sunshine hours in New Zealand allow vibrant, fruit-focused wines to be made.

Waimea’s export varieties are based on highly awarded Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, and over the years Waimea has gathered 150+ Gold Medals and 26 Trophies across nine different wine styles – proving the versatility Waimea and the Nelson region provides.  More next month.

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A Colab view of Europe – Review June 2019

Simon Bell, the Representative for Colab Wine Merchants, presented a taste of Europe. There was a good turnout of 33 members and 3 guests. Everyone enjoyed the evening. It was a different style of meeting with lots of member interaction. Simon gave out larger glasses to demonstrate the difference using a large glass versus a small glass. It was an interesting evening with the tasting aimed for the layperson. There were 14 orders with a total of 96 bottles. Simon was pleased with the meeting and is keen to do another meeting. To revisit the wines included:q

Alpha Domus Collection Sauvignon Blanc (NZ)
Vivanco White Rioja (Spain)
Guerrieri Rizzardi Pinot Grigio IGP Veneto (Italy)
Domaine Dupre Bourgogne Chardonnay (France)
Vivanco Rioja Crianza (Spain)
Vivanco Rioja Reserva (Spain)
Chateau Mauciol Cotes du Rhone Villages Red (France)

One of the prospects he discussed, and would be happy to run, would be a non-threatening “Wine Options” evening. Your committee will consider this.

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$1 Margaret River Sauvignon / Semillon, Visit from Mel 

$1 Margaret River Sauvignon / Semillon

I never thought I would have to confess to anything along these lines, but while visiting our daughter in Sydney last week we actually drank a wine that she had only paid $1 for the bottle. To put as rosy a picture on this as is possible, it was an Australian dollar. Our daughter works for Woolworths and they have a staff store at their head office, so it was a staff discount, but still…….

As I wrote the last paragraph I thought to myself, what on earth’s name is the internet for, so I looked. The wine was a Cape Mentelle (Margaret River) Sauvignon / Semillon blend so I visited their website. It is advertised there for A$26. What a bargain, should have got a dozen.

Visit from Mel

Some of those who joined us more recently may not remember Mel Ingalls. Mel was a member of the Club for some time and a committee member with a number of those still on the committee now. He left to return to his native America. It was, therefore, quite an occasion that he was able to join us at the June tasting while he is spending a few weeks back in New Zealand. You are welcome Mel as always.

See you on Wednesday, with a lovely evening in prospect.

Cheers
Robin Semmens
Editor

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Villa Maria – March 2019

Yet another excellent tasting with Marc Udy from Villa Maria, ably assisted by Kirsty Warbrick,  presenting a range of great wines including some from their Platinum Range. Marc is one of the winemakers from Marlborough.  He was a good speaker and the consensus is that the winery has been really easy to deal with.

To reiterate the tasting included the Cellar Selection Rose 2018; Reserve Wairua Sauvignon 2018;  Single Vineyard Seddon Pinot Gris 2018; Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2016; Platinum Selection Pinot Noir 2018; Cellar Selection Grenache 2017, rounded off with the Cellar Selection Late Harvest Riesling 2015.  An enjoyable night.

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Askerne Wines – February 2019

Another great evening with nice wines and an informative presenter. John Loughlin was a pleasure to deal with and kept the meeting running to time. A good level of orders resulted. But that all our tastings were as easy to organize as this one was. John says he would be more than happy to come back and has some interesting wines that we haven’t yet tried. We will keep this in mind.

The wines tasted included; Askerne Sauv Blanc / Sauv Gris / Semillon 2018 as the quaffer; followed by; Askerne Reserve Chardonnay 2016; Askerne Viognier 2018; Askerne Gewürztraminer 2016; Askerne Syrah 2015; Askerne Merlot Cab Franc Cab Sauv Malbec 2015; Askerne 2016 Cabernet Franc; rounded off with the Askerne Dessert Cabernet 2018.

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An international Sauvignon Blanc celebration

NZ Winegrowers – Media Release – January 2019

Visit 2019 Sauvignon NZ website

The ‘who’s who’ of the wine world descended on Marlborough for a three-day International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration kicking off on Monday 28 January.

“We have over 100 international wine producers, experts and key influencers visiting, giving us an exceptional opportunity to shine the spotlight on our diverse Sauvignon Blanc offerings,” said Sauvignon 2019 Chair, Patrick Materman. The event boasted a world-class line-up of speakers who are experts in the fields of science, research, journalism and gastronomy.

Internationally acclaimed wine writer Matt Kramer returned to New Zealand to explore Sauvignon Blanc’s place in the world of wine and speak on the future of Sauvignon Blanc. Nine Masters of Wine from all over the globe were among the speakers, including Debra Meiburg, founding Director of Meiburg Wine Media, and Sarah Heller, Asia Pacific’s youngest MW at 30 years of age, from Hong Kong. From the UK came Justin Howard-Sneyd, buyer and consultant for over 20 years with some of the UK’s leading distributors, and David Allen, originally from the UK and Director of WineSearcher. Dirceu Vianna Junior was the first South American male to obtain the title of Master of Wine and joined from Brazil, and Tim Hanni hailing from the US, where he is Managing Director of eCode.me and HanniCo LLC. Completing the exemplary line up were New Zealanders Emma Jenkins, Sam Harrop and Steve Smith.

Over 350 guests were expected to attend the celebration, which took attendees on a journey exploring the complexity of Sauvignon Blanc, emerging styles, vineyard practices, winemaking influences and future trends. The International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration is built around three themes; Place, Purity and Pursuit. Day one was themed Place and drew on Tūrangawaewae, the geographical places we feel empowered and connected to. Day two, with the theme of Purity, explored topics such as climate, sustainability and flavour. Finally, Day three dealt with what we should pursue domestically and globally, outlining future challenges and opportunities for the New Zealand wine industry.

The spectacular evening entertainment was also a highlight, with the sold-out gala event ‘Blanc’, a dinner-en-blanc theme, hosting 480 guests at Brancott Vineyard on the second evening of the 2019 celebration. Celebrity chef Martin Bosley was the culinary director of the gourmet feast that was matched with older vintages from the cellars of our wineries. The International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration brought this diverse, expressive and sought-after variety to centre stage for three action-packed days in Marlborough.

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New Zealand wines and the question of age

Buy my book
Buy my book

Rebecca Gibb MW- 3 August 2018

These words were uttered by the French-born English wine merchant and author André Simon in 1964 when tasting Hawke’s Bay winery Te Mata’s 1912 red blend.  More than half a century after it was first made – the same year as the sinking of the Titanic – the red wine was still very much alive, so why has New Zealand not developed a reputation for making age worthy wines?

Two words: Sauvignon Blanc.

The New Zealand wine industry is dominated by a grape variety that is typically fermented and put into bottle within months – or even weeks – of being harvested. ‘Picked, pressed and pissed before Christmas’ is the life cycle of Sauvignon Blanc in some winemakers’ view.  Why wait for Christmas when you can drink the wine before Easter?  Moana Park winery has released a Sauvignon Blanc on April 1 and that was no April Fools.  If the previous vintage has been small and stocks are running low, a few blocks might be picked early to produce a wine to bridge the gap between vintages, such as Villa Maria’s Early Release Sauvignon Blanc.

However, there are a growing number of smaller, quality focused producers that are holding back their Sauvignon Blancs before releasing, giving them time on lees and time in bottle.  Having tasted some of Marlborough’s finest Sauvignon Blancs at seven or eight years old, drinkers need not be in such a hurry.  Putting the brakes on wineries releasing wines doesn’t help their cash flow and with grape growers to pay and bank repayments due, accountants can overrule winemakers, putting the onus on drinkers to put the wines in their usually non-existent cellars.

It is partly a matter of wine culture: New Zealand does not have a long-standing tradition of making and drinking wine.  Having rejected Prohibition in 1919, the country continued to operate under a cloud of abstemiousness, promoted by restrictive licensing laws.  Until 1961, New Zealanders couldn’t enjoy a glass of wine with a meal in a restaurant.  The 1960s brought licensing change with more and more restaurant licences granted, a rise in the number of wine shops while a rise in tax on beer and spirits in the 1958 ‘Black Budget’ gave wine an encouraging bump.

The 1950s witnessed the birth of aspirational winemakers and pioneers seeking to move away from fortified wine and hybrids to quality table wine made from vitis vinifera, which gained increasing momentum, culminating in legislation outlawing a sugar and water culture and a state-sponsored vine pull in the 1980s.  In the 1970s, regular wine columns had appeared in several newspapers, catering for an educated population who had done their ‘OE’ (overseas experience), travelling around Europe, experiencing wine and food culture.  From just 174ml of wine per capita in the early 1960s, wine consumption increased to 5.3 litres by the end of the 1970s.  In 2016, the figure stood at 20.2 litres but has remained stagnant for a decade.  (Come on team, get drinking, we have to lift this again – Ed)

Red wines in New Zealand, like whites, are all too often released early and consumed early, meaning there are few older vintages available to purchase and enjoy.  There are relatively few wine collectors and fine dining restaurants with cellars and mature stocks of New Zealand wine and thus some wineries are starting to take responsibility for ageing their wines until they approach their drinking window.  Judy Fowler, owner of Puriri Hills Vineyard in Clevedon, Auckland, which specialises in Bordeaux blends, has a Brunello di Montalcino approach to releasing her reds.  “My late release policy is based on the fact that we attempt to produce Bordeaux-blended wines made in the longstanding traditions of Bordeaux.  The great Bordeaux generally benefit from ageing five to 10 years or longer. Our wines are built to age well. However, we are a small, newer vineyard [established 1998] with perhaps another 300 years to earn the reputation for quality that the grands crus of Bordeaux have.  As such, we do not expect our customers all to want to wait for five or more years to taste our wines at their best, so we do the ageing here at the vineyard before release.”   While Fowler is not alone, most wineries don’t apply the release-when-ready-to-drink policy across the entire range, as it can leave suppliers wine-less and raise the prospect of delisting.

It is difficult to judge the ageability of New Zealand wines with so little precedent. In the past decade, young vines have matured, viticulture has evolved, winemaking has become more refined: a Pinot Noir produced 10 years ago from young vines by winemakers that were still getting to know their site will be quite different today than a current vintage opened in a decade’s time. When asked to provide drinking windows for a recent Central Otago Pinot Noir or Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon, it is a case of pinning the tail on the donkey.

However, there’s no doubting the country’s best wines have the components to age gracefully: intensity of fruit, richness of ripe tannins, acidity (and pH), alcohol and magic all play their part in the development of a red wine. In whites, high levels of acidity and flavour precursors elongate their shelf life.

There’s also a small matter of the closure: screwcaps are omnipotent in New Zealand. Although a small but significant number of producers continue to seal their top Bordeaux blends under cork (while putting the rest of their range under screwcap), it is likely that the wines will age more slowly, because of the lower rate of oxygen ingress compared with a natural cork.

What is clear, is that far too many New Zealand wines are being consumed before they are out of nappies. It’s time to let them grow up.

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RSVP, Local beer over NZ wine, Next trip

RSVP

We would be grateful if you could give Anne an indication as to whether or not you are likely to be attending the tasting. This will ensure that we can share out the very nice cheeses as evenly as possible. You wouldn’t want to miss out now, would you? Anne’s email address is ammegget@gmail.com.

Local beer over NZ wine

As I prepare this newsletter our President is also trying for some balmy weather, though in Bali rather than France. What he will not be doing though is matching the warmth with some good New Zealand wine. He reports that at a restaurant a bottle of Matua Sauvignon Blanc (generally available for about $13 a bottle on our supermarket shelves) was on offer for the NZ equivalent of $80.00 phew. He and Dinah have been reduced to drinking the local beer.

Next trip

We will be visiting the wines of France, Australia and Portugal over the latter part of the year. Much to be enjoyed.

Cheers
Robin Semmens
Editor

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Saigon Van, Seifried Zweigelt

Saigon Van

As you will note from the “looking back” item we have taken on board the complaint from a number of those attending the July dinner re the quantity of food provided. We will be taking this up with Saigon Van.

Seifried Zweigelt

You may remember tasting the Seifried Zweigelt at the Seifried tasting back in August 2017.

You may be interested that the wine has been mentioned by Jancis Robinson in an article about some of the different wines now being tried by New Zealand producers.

The accent on Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir is well established but there is an increasing move towards different varietals and the article comments on a number of these. Anne Seifried was rapt to get a message from Jancis telling her how good their Zweigelt is.

Cheers
Robin Semmens
Editor

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Unison Vineyard – Terry Horn – June 2018

Yet another great tasting from a Hawkes Bay winemaker. The night was cold and wet but we were well pleased with the attendance.

Terry from Unison presented a selection of their wines which the committee felt were brilliant. Terry gave a very informative talk with a great pitch.

The wines presented were well received with good orders arising from the night. Terry enjoyed the evening as did the members attending.

The wines included:

  • 2016 Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2016 Reserve Chardonnay
  • 2017 Rose
  • 2015 Rocky Red
  • 2012 Reserve Merlot
  • 2013 Classic Red
  • 2013 Syrah

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Montana Wines dumps Kiwi grapes in favour of Australian

Belinda Feek | NZ Herald reporter based in Hamilton | belinda.feek@nzherald.co.nz | @ought2bee

A top Kiwi wine brand has ditched its award-winning Marlborough grapes for some of its wines – in favour of those from Australia.

A Kiwi wine reviewer has slammed one of the country’s best-known wine labels for its decision to start using Australian grapes in some of its wines.

Montana has ditched its award-winning Marlborough grapes for those from across the ditch to keep it cheap for consumers.

And many consumers looking for a well-priced New Zealand wine will not be aware of the change unless they check the back of the bottle.

At this stage, the move is just for its Montana Classic 2017 sauvignon blanc and Montana Classic 2016 pinot noir. Wine aficionado Bob Campbell wrote about his disgust in the move in his latest column online.

He dubs the move legal but “deceptive” and says the Montana brand is “as Kiwi as Buzzy Bee, Jaffas and Fred Dagg”.

Montana was bought by alcohol distribution giant Pernod Ricard in 2010 and eventually renamed Brancott Estate to avoid confusion in the United States.

An image of a Montana Sauvignon Blanc from 2010 proudly boasts that it’s from Marlborough. The company is using grapes from Australia for its 2017 wine.

Montana’s classic range has been selling for $9.99 recently, a price Campbell believed now justly depicts the quality of the wine.

Campbell said that although he is yet to taste the drop, there was a reason for the price difference.

“Australian sauvignon blanc is, by and large, inferior.”

Campbell told the Herald Montana wine was close to his heart as he was working for it in 1973 when it planted its first grapes.

“I began my wine industry career in 1973 as an accountant with Montana so I guess it’s kind of personal. I might be overstating the case but it’s just that, to me, Montana and Marlborough are inextricably linked.”

The sauvignon blanc was due to be released this month, he said.

He described Marlborough sauvignon grapes typically producing “punchy, aromatic, zesty, tropical” flavours, as opposed to Australian grapes having “much less” character.

He’d been in touch with Pernod Ricard, which had confirmed the company had been trialling Australian grapes for two of its wines last year. It was also keen to keep delivering good wines in the under-$10 category.

Pernod Ricard New Zealand managing director Kevin Mapson said increased demand and the rising costs of New Zealand grapes meant it was increasingly challenging to produce New Zealand-sourced wine that could be sold for under $10.

“By sourcing grapes from Australia, we can continue to make wines of the quality that Montana consumers expect at the same price point. This sourcing transition only applies to the Montana Classics and Montana Affinity ranges. All the other Montana ranges will continue to be made from New Zealand grapes,” Mapson said.

He said the company had worked hard to minimise the change in style but said it was true Australian sauvignon blanc was less “aromatic” than that from Marlborough so would seem more “subdued” but disagreed the grapes were inferior to New Zealand’s.

Mapson said the company had adhered to all the legal requirements for labelling so consumers were aware of the country of origin and were communicating the change to trade customers.

Over time most of the Montana Classic and Affinity wines would be made from Australian grapes, he said.

But he maintained the company was committed to its Kiwi heritage and had recently invested in the Montana Reserve range and that, along with its Montana Festival Block and Winemaker Series, would all continue to be sourced from New Zealand grapes.

Marcus Pickens, the general manager of Wine Marlborough, said they were aware of the move and it would be discussed at their next board meeting.

He said there were rules in New Zealand around the labelling of wine, which Montana would be aware of, as there was evidence it caused confusion for customers.

NZ Wine Growers Association declined to comment.

When Montana wines made with Australian grapes will hit the shelves:

  • Montana Classic pinot noir 2016 – December 2017
  • Montana Classic sauvignon blanc 2017 – January 2018
  • Montana Classic chardonnay 2017 – August 2018
  • Montana Classic merlot cabernet – August 2018
  • Montana Affinity sauvignon blanc 2018 – November 2018
  • Montana Affinity pinot gris 2018 – November 2018

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NZ wine exports hit record high driven by strong US sales

The beer and wine aisle of a 365 by Whole Foods Market grocery store is pictured ahead of its opening day in Los Angeles. New Zealand sauvignon blanc has found a ready market in the US.
The beer and wine aisle of a 365 by Whole Foods Market grocery store is pictured ahead of its opening day in Los Angeles. New Zealand sauvignon blanc has found a ready market in the US.

New Zealand’s wine export values continue to rise thanks to strong United States demand, reaching $1.66 billion for the year, up 6 per cent on the year before.

While the percentage increase is lower than the average yearly growth of 17 per cent for the last 20 years, the industry was still on track to reach $2b worth of exports by 2020, chairman of New Zealand Winegrowers Steve Green said.

The latest NZ Winegrowers annual report shows to the end of June this year, the US market is worth $517 million, up 12 per cent. New Zealand wine became the third most valuable wine import into the US, behind only France and Italy.

NZ wine, a 2017 snapshot.
NZ wine, a 2017 snapshot.

Green forecast next year’s export volumes would be “more muted” because of the smaller harvest of 396,000 tonnes, down 9 per cent on 2016, but wineries were confident quality would remain high.

While the US provided the best returns, more litres of wine (74 million) were exported to the United Kingdom for a much smaller return of $389m. Traditionally more bulk wine has been sent into the UK market. Behind the US and the UK came Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and China.

Former US ambassador to New Zealand Mark Gilbert, along with many of his countrymen, has a nose for a good wine. He attended a tasting of New Zealand and French pinot noir last year.
Former US ambassador to New Zealand Mark Gilbert, along with many of his countrymen, has a nose for a good wine. He attended a tasting of New Zealand and French pinot noir last year.

The most exported variety was sauvignon blanc, followed by pinot noir and chardonnay.

The recently passed Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act would offer improved protection of New Zealand’s regional identities. The industry had also launched the sustainable winegrowing New Zealand continuous improvement extension programme to enhance the reputation of wines.

Of a total growing area of 37,129 hectares, sauvignon dominates at 22,085 ha, an increase of 685 ha from the year before. The second most popular variety was pinot noir, with 5653 ha, followed by chardonnay at 3203 ha and pinot gris (2469 ha).

Marlborough is overwhelmingly the largest region with 25,135 ha planted in vines, followed by Hawke’s Bay (4694 ha), Central Otago (1896 ha) and Canterbury/Waipara (1425 ha).

The number of wineries was 677; they reached a peak of 703 in 2012.

New Zealanders drank 40 million litres of imported wine during the past year, most of it Australian (29m litres), with the next two most popular French and Chilean.

The November Kaikoura earthquake damaged an estimated 20 per cent of Marlborough’s tank capacity, but by harvest time all of the lost capacity had been restored or replaced.

Green said the industry consulted with members on possible changes to export tasting requirements, with responses suggesting a rethink of export requirements was needed.

“We continue to believe more needs to be done in our export legislation to ensure that the same standards apply to every bottle of New Zealand wine, no matter where it is bottled,” Green said.

NZ Winegrowers were concerned at the Ministry for Primary Industries’ plan to take part of New Zealand Winegrowers’ wine export certification service contract in-house.

“We fought hard to retain the status quo, which has served our members well, and are disappointed with the level of industry consultation in MPI’s decision making process. If the service changes, we will be seeking guarantees from the government that the current speedy issuance of export eligibility statements will be protected, at no additional cost to members,” Green said.

In June the New Zealand Grape Growers Council and the Wine Institute of New Zealand finished as entities, replaced by a unified New Zealand Winegrowers.

New Zealand is now the only major wine producing nation with a single industry body, representing and advocating for the interests of its entire grape and wine industry.

The industry and the Government are working through a Primary Growth Partnership on research into lighter wine production and marketing. Last year retail sales reached $33.5m. The programme runs through to 2021, by which time $16.97m would have been spent on the partnership.

Organic wine production continues to flourish with more than 60 New Zealand wineries now making fully certified organic wines, and more still in the organic conversion process.

Wine is New Zealand’s fifth largest goods export.

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