New Zealand Whites: The State of Play

Rebecca Gibb MW takes a new look at the wines of New Zealand

By Rebecca Gibb MW | November 10, 2020

New Zealand sits in wonderful isolation in the middle of the South Pacific. In an uncertain world that has been gripped by a pandemic, it has become one of the safest places on earth, closing its borders to all but those who are willing to spend two weeks quarantining in a hotel room and pay NZD$3,100 (USD$2,100) for the privilege. As a result, it has recorded just a few deaths and, at the time of writing, life in New Zealand has largely returned to normal.

When New Zealand reopens its borders to visitors and flights resume, the country will go back on the bucket-list destination, and the country’s roads will, once again, be filled with camper vans. Its major attraction is undoubtedly its natural beauty: snow-capped peaks, lush native forests, a movie about a ring and a flightless bird. There’s no doubt that the local wine producers benefit positively from being set in this spectacular country. Still, this halo effect will only glow brightly if its wines offer the depth and purity of its glacial lakes. There are more than 700 wine producers in New Zealand, and it’s fair to say that as few as 10 per cent are truly polishing that halo although the same could be said of other wine regions around the world.

Marlborough is protected from rain and high winds by the surrounding hills and mountain ranges including the 2,885-metre Tapuae-o-Uenuku (often referred to as Mount Tappy by locals).

That doesn’t deny the fact that there are now a lot of high cropped, homogenous Sauvignon Blancs filling the shelves. They are often bulk shipped and bottled in an industrial estate on the outskirts of a nondescript town thousands of miles from the vineyard. They are then given a made-up place name or, worse still, commit an act of cultural appropriation by adopting Māori words and designs purely for profit. This is a relatively recent phenomenon: the rise of the bulk wine market occurred after a bumper 2008 crop of modest quality Sauvignon Blanc. It was a perfect storm coinciding with a global financial crisis leading to an oversupply situation, which created the rationale for increasing bulk shipments. Bulk exports jumped from just 4.3 million litres in 2008 to 18.3 million litres in 2009, and today that figure stands at around 100 million litres, equivalent to 40% of exports. This has been a fundamental shift for New Zealand, and the resulting wines on the shelf are certainly not maintaining its halo.

Within spitting distance of the Pacific, the Supernatural Wine Co. defies convention in Hawke’s Bay, specialising in minimal intervention, skin-fermented Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.

The country’s credentials as a fine wine producer aren’t helped by the fact that the country’s success has largely been based on a grape variety that many wine collectors love to disparage, unfairly, in my opinion. Sauvignon Blanc accounts for 88% of the wine that leaves New Zealand ports but 63% of what’s in the ground, which has led to countless accusations that New Zealand is in danger of being a one-trick pony and over-reliant on one variety. Curiously, there is little concern relating to Sancerre’s Sauvignon-centric status.

However, there’s no escaping the fact that Sauvignon Blanc is also subject to abuse: the variety retains its signature aromatics at audaciously high yields, but there’s no hiding the dilution that such intensive viticulture provides. Supermarket-level wines are commonly cropped at 15t/ha, and yields can go even higher for bulk wines. Master of Wine Steve Smith says, “Sauvignon Blanc should not be denigrated and relegated to a high-cropped, refreshing white. It can be much more than that, and you have to try harder: look at Dagueneau, Pavillon Blanc and Cheval Blanc’s new white.” As these wines show in the right hands, Sauvignon Blanc can offer both finesse, depth and longevity. There is a perception that this is a variety that cannot age and does not deserve a position in the ranks of fine wine grapes, which needs to be corrected.

Our point of origin is our point of difference

In an attempt to protect Marlborough’s reputation and distinguish the quality-oriented producers from the high-cropped, bulk-shipped wines, a group of local producers launched Appellation Wine Marlborough in 2018. Approved wines must be 100% grown in Marlborough with a maximum yield imposed (which, at 15t/ha seems a little on the generous side) before being bottled in New Zealand and approved by a tasting panel.  It’s still a work in progress, but for members like Dog Point, which crops its Sauvignon Blanc at around 8t/ha, it is clear that not all Sauvignons are equal, and that message needs to be conveyed. “We need to protect the tip of the sword, and that’s why we got involved in Appellation Wine Marlborough,” says Dog Point’s Matt Sutherland.

It is the distinctiveness of Marlborough Sauvignon that first won over drinkers in the 1980s. It’s not just marketing: research has shown that the region’s wine can be distinguished by their “fruity and green-perceived characters”. A key component of this distinctive style is the region’s high concentrations of thiols. These sulfur-containing compounds, formed by yeast during fermentation are responsible for some of the variety’s distinctive aromas such as passionfruit, boxwood (cat’s pee) and grapefruit characters. Research has shown that thiol levels in Marlborough are much higher than Sauvignons made in other parts of the world and, in combination with other wine chemistry and this cool climate’s bright acidity, they are truly distinctive.  There’s not yet conclusive proof why Marlborough has such high levels of thiols compared with other Sauvignon specialists. It is likely to be a combination of factors including the climate, soil and potentially the MS clone, which is the source of most Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.  However, scientists have discovered that machine harvesting Sauvignon can increase the level of thiols by as much as five to ten times compared with hand-picking the fruit. The classic style that this creates has attracted many drinkers who know what they’re going to get when they buy a bottle. Success inevitably attracts those looking for a piece of the action.

Chardonnay – Less Is More

Chardonnay shows it is capable of producing high-caliber whites across both the North and South Islands of New Zealand.

New Zealand has stamped its gumboot-clad foot on the world wine map with its idiosyncratic expression of Sauvignon Blanc. However, there’s a strong case that Chardonnay produces New Zealand’s finest white wines. Admittedly, it’s more difficult to build a reputation based on Chardonnay. It is, after all, the world’s second most-planted white wine variety. Grown in more than 40 countries, there is a swathe of ambitious producers across the globe using similar winemaking methods on Chardonnay’s non-aromatic canvas in an attempt to reach the heights of Grand Cru Burgundy. While there are some New Zealand producers having great success with Chardonnay, New Zealand has something truly unique and identifiable in its Sauvignon Blanc – and that’s a concept that’s easier to promote and sell.

That said, nature is on New Zealand’s side: the climate is conducive to making Chardonnay with finesse. Burgundy and Marlborough might be thousands of miles apart, but their climates share several similarities. There is very little to split the two when it comes to growing season temperatures (15.1˚C in Burgundy, 15.2˚C in Marlborough), Growing Degree Days (1068 vs 1118) and annual rainfall (approximately 700mm for both). Admittedly there are many differences too – annual sunshine, UV radiation, soil types, viticultural practices to name but a few – but there are enough indicators to show that Chardonnay has found a home away from home in New Zealand – whether on the South Island or the more temperate North Island.

Indeed, Chardonnay was the country’s number one variety for a short while. It took over the mantle from the hybrid Müller-Thurgau in 1996 and enjoyed pole position until 2002 when the tide of Sauvignon Blanc surged forth. Since then, plantings of Chardonnay have experienced a small decline (to 3,222ha) while Sauvignon Blanc has increased more than sixfold (25,160ha).

Kumeu River has long been the spearhead for New Zealand Chardonnay. However, few overseas wine merchants and collectors venture beyond the point of the spear, making Kumeu River their start and finish line. This is a narrow view of New Zealand Chardonnay that needs to be redressed. While Kumeu must be on your shopping list, you could add the following if you want to go on a journey of discovery around New Zealand Chardonnay without taking the long-haul flight: Villa Maria’s Keltern, Sacred Hill’s Riflemans, Novum, Neudorf’s Moutere, both the Reed and Escaroth cuvees from Blank Canvas and Felton Road Block 2.

However, there continue to be stylistic issues. The days of too much oak are largely a distant memory in the realm of New Zealand Chardonnay, but the reduction is now an issue. A little whiff of flint on the nose and palate can add a layer of complexity, but there are too many examples that are dominated by struck match flavours, overpowering the wine’s fruit and creating a hardness on the finish. It’s not going unnoticed. Tamra Washington, the winemaker at Kelly Washington Wines, was astonished to find so many examples when she participated in a panel tasting for a New Zealand-based food magazine, Cuisine. “We found two camps of Chardonnay: very clean, fruity, one-dimensional style and at the total other end of the scale, wines that have gone past the stuck match into sulfides, which overrides the wines. There are some fantastic Chardonnays all around the country, but a lot of people are trying to find their way stylistically, and they are often chasing a style. It’s about the fruit and the vintage and keeping yourself out of the way of wine not trying to build something into the wine that’s not there.”

On the Fringe

A small but rising tide of so-called ‘alternative varieties’ is creeping on to the New Zealand wine shelves. The country’s cool climate has shown it is well suited to producing vibrant aromatic whites in the form of Sauvignon Blanc, so why not other fresh, fruity white varieties? There’s been a lot of talk about Albariño and Grüner Veltliner waiting in the wings in anticipation of the Sauvignon juggernaut finally getting a puncture. However, Albariño and Grüner collectively represented 0.15% of the national crush in 2020, so news of their ascendancy has been greatly exaggerated. Compared with Australia, where Mediterranean varieties now vie with Shiraz and Cabernet in new vineyards, alternative varieties remain a fringe show. Quality of these new whites is highly variable too although there are some Albariños definitely worth a look from Nautilus, Neudorf and Cooper’s Creek. However, the growers of Rías Baixas don’t need to lose sleep just yet.

Meanwhile, Pinot Gris plantings continue to rise – much to my frustration. From just 149 hectares in 1997, there are now more than 2,500 hectares planted, equivalent to almost 15% of the national vineyard. The country’s first government-appointed viticulturist Romeo Bragato praised Pinot Gris in 1906 and suggested that it might have a home here. At the end of the century, the country’s wine producers finally took his advice on board, but the vast majority of the resulting wines have little to commend them. The wines are often dilute and off-dry with faint aromas of pear or apple. It will be piled high and sold by the container load, but where’s the pride in that? There are, of course, some judicious producers who actually care for their Gris but there are too few of them. The small band includes Prophet’s Rock (made by Paul Pujol, who was the winemaker at Kuentz-Bas in Alsace for three years), Te Whare Ra, Dry River and Ata Rangi.

Pushing Boundaries

During my Master of Wine studies, ‘purity of fruit’ was commonly used as a descriptor to help justify choosing New Zealand as the country of origin in the blind tasting exam. However, this purity and squeaky-clean preservation of fruit can, at times, be a little predictable. I don’t want dirty wines, but a bit more daring wouldn’t be unwelcome. That said, experimentation has increased exponentially since I moved to New Zealand in 2009, whether that’s allowing a spontaneous fermentation or swapping a stainless-steel tank for a foudre or concrete egg, but there’s still a feeling of safety.

New Zealand is considered one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to women’s rights, the environment and employment rights. In a similarly progressive vein, the local wine community has embraced innovation from screwcaps to lighter alcohol research, but science does not imbue wines with soul. It may be too early in New Zealand’s development as a wine nation to find this by the tank load: the first Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc was produced in 1979, and it was another eight years before pioneering individuals crafted Central Otago Pinot Noir. This very new New World country doesn’t have a wealth of old gnarled vines, unlike the producers of Swartland or the Barossa Valley. Yes, vines are maturing, much like the first-generation of producers, many of whom are handing over the reins to their children. This transitional period will not only see personnel changes but new ideas.

The predominance of clean, pure wines could also be a product of an industry that has developed out of a conservative dairy-farming community that possessed an abundance of stainless steel. It is also a product of its own success: the popularity of Marlborough’s naturally fresh and fruity expression of Sauvignon Blanc shows no sign of slowing and if it ain’t broke why producers should fix it? Running a winery is a business, and classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is good for business: it produces abundant crop levels, there’s no need to invest in expensive oak, and the entire vintage’s production can be sold within the year. Accountants in Montalcino can only dream of such rapid returns.

From Deluge to Drought

New Zealand is often on the flight path of tropical cyclones, forging a course from the Pacific Islands towards the country’s wine regions at the same time as pickers are dusting off their secateurs and heading out into the vineyard to pick the crop. In both 2017 and 2018, the remnants of tropical cyclones whipped up winds and lashed parts of the country at the worst time possible. “They were somewhat challenging harvests,” says Clive Jones winemaker and general manager of Marlborough’s Nautilus Estate. “During those two vintages we were making a decision based on pending weather events: it’s going to rain in two days, is this parcel good enough to go? You had to take a pretty pragmatic approach”.

The ensuing pair of vintages couldn’t be more different: 2019 and 2020 were exceptionally dry summers for large parts of New Zealand. In Marlborough, which accounts for around three-quarters of the national production, the start to the 2020 summer season was inauspicious with cool days and significant rainfall between December 16 and 19. Still, it was these spring rains, and a wet winter, that provided the soil, dams and rivers with the reserves that allowed the region’s winegrowers to navigate the dry months leading up to the 2020 harvest. That was not a luxury they had enjoyed the previous season: during the summer of 2019, Marlborough recorded its lowest rainfall since records began in 1930. The Ministry for Agriculture declared a drought across large parts of the country in early March 2019 as just 20mm fell in these months (compared with a staggering 315mm in 2018). Some irrigation systems were cut off in the weeks leading up to the harvest due to low river flows, causing “crippling water stress” for those affected.

With such dry conditions in both 2019 and 2020, there was little disease pressure, particularly fungal disease, which was a marked contrast to 2018. Matt Thomson, the co-founder of wine label Blank Canvas, says: “2019 and 2020 shared low botrytis levels in common. The weather from veraison onwards was very dry in both years. In 2020 we had quite low bunch numbers but spectacular flowering so the bunches were quite full in terms of berry numbers and we were worried that the bunches would be too tight, but it was so dry there were no problems.” In a wetter season, these high berry numbers combined with bigger berries could have led to bursting berries and split skins leading to botrytis infections and bunch rot.

The heat summation of the 2020 season (1344 Growing Degree Days) was a little above the long-term average but well below the figures of the warm 2019 vintage (1464 GDD). In March 2020, the key harvest month, it was dry and dished out cool nights, dipping to a rather brisk 3˚C (37.4˚F) in mid-March, a marked contrast to the warm evenings of March 2019. Kevin Judd, the founder and winemaker of Greywacke, says: “It looked like 2020 was going to be warm and early for the second year in a row, but then it cooled down quite significantly. It was like someone had turned down the thermostat and the acids hung in there. As a result, the 2020s are a little tighter than the riper, slightly lower acid 2019s.”

Taking the temperature of the winemakers and tasting the latest white releases, there seems to be plenty of evidence that the 2020 vintage might usurp 2019, but further 2020 releases will provide a fuller picture. There seems to be a sense of harmony and tranquillity to the emerging 2020 wines. The sense of calm in the wines could be down to the steady growing season: unlike 2019, there were no heat spikes and less water stress on the vines Anna Flowerday of Te Whare Ra Wines says: “2020 was a Goldilocks season: not too hot, not too cold, and even summer with no big heat spikes; dry but not too dry.” In 2019, it did get too dry for some: water stress, which can lead to leaves dropping from the canopy exposing the fruit to the bright sunshine, can be perceived in an angular, phenolic expression and pinched aromatics. That said, the big picture is that 2019 is an outstanding vintage for whites. There’s no shortage of ripeness, but there are several wines, particularly in the more temperate Hawke’s Bay that is riper than their usual selves and, as a result, lack some of the energy and a sense of purpose that makes New Zealand wines so lithe.

2020: The Vintage That Almost Wasn’t

While the vineyards seemed to avoid too much stress in 2020, it was, instead of the growers that were pulling their hair out as a national lockdown loomed in the middle of harvest. The escalation of New Zealand’s response to the COVID pandemic and several days of uncertainty over the possible downing of secateurs and shuttering of wineries meant some rushed to pick Sauvignon Blanc rather than face the prospect of leaving it to the local birds.

The country took the unprecedented step of enforcing a nationwide lockdown on March 25 at 11:59 pm. However, in last-gasp talks, the national wine association convinced its government to classify wine operations as an essential business. The streets were deserted in a scene akin to a post-apocalyptic zombie movie, but the harvest was able to continue albeit with strict rules imposed. Winemakers were forced to leave their families for weeks as strict bubbles were created. Offices became bedrooms; winery car parks became caravan sites and, for the lucky few, the luxury vineyard accommodation normally reserved for wealthy tourists, became their new digs. Wherever you turn, there is a story of sacrifice and separation. This is just one: “Our foreman Grant hadn’t been away from his wife for more than one night in 45 years of marriage, and he had to be away from her for the whole of vintage,” says Dog Point’s Sutherland.

Thankfully, the cool, dry weather meant that there were few complications, and both pickers and winemakers could take their time, unlike 2017 and 2018. “My take on 2020 is that it didn’t matter when you picked – today, tomorrow, it didn’t make a lot of difference. The flavours developed nice and slowly,” says Jones. “I think we picked our Sauvignon Blanc over a period of 20 days and, in non-COVID conditions, we would’ve taken another four or five days. In normal circumstances, you’d say ‘let’s pick tomorrow and go to the pub now’, but we couldn’t go to the pub, so we kept picking.”

While the pubs have since reopened, the borders remain closed to all but those willing to isolate for two weeks and pay the price of their quarantine stay, which leaves a potential hangover for wine producers during the 2021 harvest – who will pick the grapes and work the hoses?

Beyond Marlborough

Marlborough is the powerhouse of New Zealand wine, but there’s a whole lot more to New Zealand than a corner at the top of the South Island. In the country’s second-biggest region, Hawke’s Bay, the vines were on track for an early finish from the starting gun. The 2020 vintage was slightly warmer than the long-term average but cooler than the past three vintages. With just 72mm of rain from January through April, representing less than one-quarter of the average rainfall, drought spread across the North Island including Hawke’s Bay with locals talking of the ‘big dry’ causing misery for farmers. Wine producers suggest that wet weather before the new year (as well as irrigation) was key to keeping the vines going. Warren Gibson of Trinity Hill says:  What I think also is a positive versus say [the hot and dry] 2013 is that it was not so dry leading up to January, so the vines stayed healthier with good canopies. Whilst it is something of a joke to say that we have had four vintages of a generation in eight years [2013,’14, ’19, 20] it really has some truth.” In such warm seasons, picking dates play a large part in preserving the freshness of new release whites: Sacred Hill’s highly regarded Rifleman’s vineyard was picked two weeks earlier than normal in 2020 after a warm February. It seems the case is true with the newly released 2019 Chardonnays from Hawke’s Bay: they display the warm, fruit-filled vintage although, in some instances, lower natural acidities can leave a slightly sluggish impression.

New Zealand Chardonnay virtuosos Kumeu River also have an interest in Hawke’s Bay since buying a vineyard in 2017 to add to its Auckland estate. Rising property prices in the country’s biggest city and urban sprawl meant an expansion in Kumeu was no longer viable. Their focus on Chardonnay on the warmer North Island and early flowering meant that the Auckland fruit was safely in the winery before lockdown hit. While the 2019s have just been released, winemaker Michael Brajkovich MW suggests the best may be yet to come: “2019 was fabulous than 2020 came along and was better. They are so balanced in barrel already.”

While 95% of the country’s vineyards sit within 50 kilometres of the coast and are mainly located on the country’s eastern seaboard, Central Otago is an anomaly. The world’s most southerly wine region is located at a latitude of 45˚S, giving wonderfully long days, which are crucial to its viability as a wine producer. Surrounded by mountain ranges, protecting it from rain-bearing westerlies, it is normally home to New Zealand’s driest spot. Still, normality seems to be a concept that existed in the distant, pre-COVID past. In the summer of 2019, for example, while the rest of the country’s growers faced water restrictions, Central Otago, was having a relatively soggy time. Nigel Greening, the owner of Felton Road, says: “It was way down on sunshine and way up in rain events through the season. People kept saying ‘What a horrible summer we’re having’ but we typically get rainfall at night in Central and in 2019 vintage we had it during the day. The temperatures weren’t particularly low, and the heat summation was about average.” A run of settled weather into harvest kept the disease at bay and, based on my tasting; the Chardonnays are pristine and characterful with full flavour ripeness and a firm line of acidity offering refreshment.

Meanwhile, the 2020 season provided plenty of anxiety for producers on top of the lockdown. The cooler conditions meant that by late March, producers were wondering if the fruit would ever ripen fully – what there was of it, as yields were down almost 30% across the region. However, above-average temperatures in April and early May shunted the grapes to the finishing line. At Felton Road, the harvest took a lengthy 42 days later – one more day and the team would have picked over three months: March, April and May.

You’ve Come a Long Way

If New Zealand wine were a planet, it would just be completing its first orbit such is its youth. In that time, the country has placed itself firmly on the world wine map and made up ground on its European counterparts at lightning speed. I have a developed fondness for the people behind the wines: they are down-to-earth, warm and welcoming and are more likely to receive visitors in shorts and ‘jandals’ (flip flops) than suit and tie. In my new role at Vinous, I will endeavour to bring you closer to this beautiful land at the bottom of the earth, exploring developments on the ground, keeping track of trends and offering praise where it’s due – as well as calling out the duds. On the domestic scene, several cheerleaders dole out high praise to anything that’s been bottled, and that does both the drinker and the maker a disservice. I won’t shy away from offering objective opinion and hope that, as a result, Vinous will become the go-to global site for New Zealand wine coverage.

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Year in review

Well, December already team. It has been a strange year with a few downs to go along with the ups for some of us on a personal level.

       

That is not to say that it has been a bad year for our Cellar Club, quite the contrary in fact. Let’s review our year. By a long-established tradition, we began with our summer BBQ at the end of January. The usual excellent occasion and we continue to appreciate that Derek makes his premises available. February saw us heading to Askerne Estate in Hawkes Bay. The Hawkes Bay wineries never let you down. March was with the very well established Villa Maria presenting. While the winery originated in Auckland, the company has expanded over the years and produces wines from most of the major regions in New Zealand.

April saw something of a coup for the club with Joelle Thomson presenting. Joelle is a well-recognised personality in the New Zealand wine world as an author, wine writer and tutor. Another great tasting. May is the inevitable AGM then in June Simon Bell from Colab Wine Merchants took us on a tour of Europe. Simon brought along some large wine glasses and some time was spent on discussing the virtues and differences that wine glasses can make to your wine experience. On to July for the mid-year dinner at the Trade Kitchen.

Off to Nelson for the August tasting with Waimea Estate. Over the years Waimea has gathered 150+ Gold Medals and 26 Trophies across nine different wine styles. Nelson producers are right up there as a wine region. Cenna Lloyd for Negociants presented in September. She presented wines from two wineries, Misha’s Vineyard and Two Paddocks, both from Central Otago. Much enjoyed by those who attended and really great orders from a smaller group attending.

In October we celebrated the Rugby World Cup with a selection of wines from countries competing in the Cup. Keith Tibble was the presenter. November saw the very early return of Cenna Lloyd for the South American wine and food match evening outlined below. Cenna had been to South American after presenting in September and was keen to share her experience.

It only remains to anticipate yet another December Dinner. We have been to Cashmere Lounge before and we are sure you will not be disappointed.

Best wishes for the festive season.

Cheers
Robin Semmens
Editor

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2019 President’s Annual Report

8 May 2019

It is indeed my privilege to present to club members the Cellar Club’s annual report for the year 2018 – 2019.

I want to stress that the club is first and foremost about you.  It is you as active members who make the club as vibrant as it is.  Maintaining membership at a sound level is the key.   Thank you for your support for events and meetings during the year and attending tonight’s AGM.   Our monthly meetings continue to be well attended, in fact the average number of members attending monthly meetings relative to the club’s subscription membership has perhaps never been better.  Total numbers attending tastings again exceeded 300 during this last year (at 9 meetings) but we have noted that guest numbers were a little down and this may need to be addressed if we are looking to build on our membership.

In particular the numbers attending the two club dinners in July and December 2018 were also at a high (the 2 dinners were collectively over 90) and as these dinners are highlight events for members we will continue to prioritise efforts to choose the right venue, creating a chance for you to share good wines with your table and to enjoy some of the first class cuisine that Wellington restaurants do provide.

May I add that this report, rather than being printed, is posted for your interest on the club’s website.

Keeping the membership levels up and ensuring meetings are well attended is a prime objective to ensure the club remains viable and we can sustain the costs that running the club incurs.   You will see from the financial report prepared for the AGM that the club’s finances are in very good shape thanks particularly to the diligence and astute budget management of our long serving treasurer.

These club’s finances and fixed costs are manageable but do require active attention.  Venue hire, licenses for the club website and the council’s liquor requirements, presenter gifts and the costs of the wines are the key points of focus.   With healthy finances we are able to subsidise the annual BBQ and dinners, sustain a club cellar and provide those cellared wines at dinners and the AGM tonight.  We are fortunate that occasionally the wine presenters either heavily discount the wine or are prepared to donate their wines.  This can be unpredictable but where it eventuates we are grateful and it allows the benefits to flow back to members.

This is often a function of the size scale of the wineries or their subsequent response to your level of orders.  It is worth noting that the presenters cover their own travel, visiting and accommodation costs and for some this is substantial.  In those terms I want to thank members most sincerely for their preparedness to order on the night and many of the presenters particularly comment on both their orders and naturally express a willingness to return to the club.  I know that is not always true of some other wine clubs where they have different arrangements and expectations.  Our club’s operating model is not unique, but where other styles of club operations put some pressure on presenters and wineries, our model ensures good relations are maintained with wineries, our financial viability is ensured and door charges and subscriptions remain affordable.

Therefore, the level of support from members suggests the formula may be right but I want to stress that meeting your interests is paramount.  We would want to hear both suggestions for meetings and ideas and options for events that are planned.   Each member of the committee is only too willing to talk with you to seek and explore ideas to ensure the club remains in good heart and is delivering what members want in terms of wine education, quality wine experiences and a good social atmosphere at meetings and amongst members.

As members you have excelled with the help you provide with meeting logistics.  Looking after the glassware, setting the venue hall up and helping stack tables and chairs away, assisting with pouring when requested, being inclusive at tables and helping with distribution of wine orders does ease the pressures involved in meetings and covering the necessary tasks and it is appreciated.

It is pleasing to reflect that the club continues to thrive as Wellington’s pre-eminent wine society established and operating since 1980 expanding from a local suburban focus to a membership residing from across the city, the Hutt Valley to the Kapiti Coast.  Your continuing involvement has ensured this longevity into our 40th year.

The programme over the last year was varied and well received.  We visited Hawkes Bay [Unison Vineyard, Clearview Estate and Askerne Wines], tasted internationally from France [Maison Vauron with cheeses], Portugal [Confidant Wines] and Australia [Yalumba with Negociants], tasted Marlborough [with Villa Maria], looked at quality wines under $25 with Joelle Thomson and dined at Saigon Van, at Juniper and the traditional January BBQ (courtesy of life member Derek Thompson).

My thanks go also to an outstandingly willing committee.  This is a group that is dedicated, reliable and affable.   The portfolios are well shared and the committee’s focus is sustained membership, managing costs, providing publicity and information, and promoting wine education.   It is pleasing for me to note that the current committee members have all expressed a willingness to continue in their involvement.

This is a group notable for their collective efforts and backing each other up.  The committee deals with a plethora of issues, with finances and organising the annual tasting programme being a focus.   There certainly is an extensive timely email flow amongst the committee and we always have a quorum at monthly committee meetings.   Planning and being flexible are the keys, although occasionally there is pressure on the scheduled monthly programme.  Invariably we manage to come through and frequently achieve stellar presentations.   Our secretarial support, the newsletter and our website as our “shop windows”, licensing and venue realities, catering and balancing our books all require dedication and effort.  For this collective endeavour I am grateful to committee members.

The club is about sociability, extending wine experiences and broadening horizons.   We are always looking for the means to increase our membership.  It is always a pleasure when you bring along guests to meetings and functions as prospective members and we are happy to make incentives for you to do so.  With guest numbers a little down of late there is a real interest to encourage your friends and acquaintances who may wish experience a tasting evening and perhaps to join the club.  Specifically, how we can increase younger membership is one of the challenges going forward.

Thank you for your support and active involvement and hence I raise a glass to you one and all and trust we will continue to do so for the year ahead and to mark the club’s 40th year.

Murray Jaspers
President
The Cellar Club Inc

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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New Zealand wines and the question of age

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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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Villa Maria and George’s cellar


Glengarry’s Sunday ramblings of all things vinous, grain and glorious. Villa Maria and George’s cellar comes from The Sunday Sediment.

Sir George Fistonich
Sir George Fistonich

A true New Zealand original, Villa Maria Wine Estates, is over 55 years old, proudly displayed the Glengarry Wineletters from the early days, front and centre. You do have to appreciate what it has taken over the years to get this world-class, family-owned winery to its prestigious position, and you can put it down to the talent, attention to detail, and sheer determination of its founder Sir George Fistonich and his team.

Nick Picone
Nick Picone

Consisting of Villa Maria itself, plus the Vidal, Esk Valley and Te Awa Collection, we tip our hats to the wonderful consistency of quality that exists across VMs entire portfolio. Nick Picone is Villa Marias Group Chief Winemaker and has been with the company for 18 years and counting. A multiple winner of Winemaker of the Year titles and listed as one of the worlds young winemakers to watch, he is an asset to the New Zealand wine industry.

VM Library release Cab Sauv & Merlot/Cab Sauv

The nowadays iconic George Fistonich (that’s ‘Sir George’ to you mere mortals) decided a while ago to start selecting wines from exceptional parcels with a thought to aging them and releasing them in very limited quantities via the cellar door and through selected retailers (that would be us). The wines are at the ultra-premium level, and having been already aged by Villa Maria themselves, they are good to go, and very favourably priced for what’s in the bottle. Villa Maria, then, at its finest. Read more in the Glengarry Wineletter – #232 August 2017.

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Top 12 2014 vintage wines selected to represent Hawke’s Bay on the world stage

17 March 2017

 

On 13 March 2017, Bob Campbell MW spent the afternoon in Hawke’s Bay, blind tasting his way through a sea of 2014 vintage Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay, Syrah and Merlot Cabernet blends concealed in brown paper bags.  Mr Campbell then selected the top 12 2014 vintage wines to represent Hawke’s Bay, only finding out himself on Wednesday which wines he had selected.

Bob Campbell was the second New Zealander, and is one of just over 300 people in the world to hold the Master of Wine qualification. Mr Campbell is an internationally acclaimed wine judge and is widely regarded as the New Zealand’s foremost wine educator.

Melisa Beight, Executive Officer of Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Association Inc. said that the boards and members were thrilled that Bob Campbell MW had agreed to judge the 2014 Hawke’s Bay Vintage Collection.  “This is the first year we have produced a Hawke’s Bay Vintage Collection and it marks a real milestone for the region.  The Hawke’s Bay Vintage Collection will be judged by Bob Campbell every year from now on, with the top 12 wines representing the best of Hawke’s Bay being sent out to global key opinion leaders, so that they can make their own assessment.”

“The overall standard was very high indeed” declared Bob Campbell MW.  “Clearly 2014 was a truly top vintage. A range of different Chardonnay styles added extra interest, and a degree of difficulty in choosing the ultimate winners. Syrah was stylistically more consistent as well as being the highest performer of the three classes. Blended reds were a pleasure to judge – all of the entries merited selection.”

The 2014 Hawke’s Bay Vintage Collection (in no particular order):

  • Vidal Legacy Chardonnay 2014
  • Te Awa Single Estate Chardonnay 2014
  • Bilancia Chardonnay 2014
  • Church Road Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2014
  • Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2014
  • Te Awa Single Estate Merlot Cabernet 2014
  • Craggy Range Te Kahu, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay 2014
  • Church Road McDonald Series Merlot 2014
  • Vidal Legacy Syrah 2014
  • Church Road Grand Reserve Syrah 2014
  • Sacred Hill Deerstalkers Syrah 2014
  • Craggy Range Syrah, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay 2014

For further information, please contact Melisa Beight, Executive Officer on 06 876 3418 or email melisa@hawkesbaywine.co.nz

About Hawke’s Bay Wine:
Founded in 2006, Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Association Inc. represents all wineries and growers in the region and its mission is to achieve international recognition as one of the great wine regions of the world.

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Wine industry recognises shining examples at 2016 Romeo Bragato Wine Awards

wine-industry-recognises-shining-examples-at-2016-romeo-bragato-wine-awards57c78fee4e31d25 August 2016 | bragato.org.nz

An Auckland Chardonnay and a Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot both shone at this year’s Romeo Bragato Wine Awards.

Grown by Brett Donaldson, the Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Chardonnay 2014 won the coveted Bragato Champion Wine of the Show Trophy – Champion Single Vineyard and the Bill Irwin Trophy for Champion Chardonnay.

“This Chardonnay demonstrated exceptional respect to the variety and is a shining example of what hard graft in the vineyard and soft touch in the winery can achieve. It shows wonderful expression and captures the essence of the Ihumatao vineyard. Simply stunning!,” said Chairman of Judges Ben Glover.

The Villa Maria Reserve Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2014, made from grapes grown on the Vidal vineyard by Phil Holden, won the Richard Smart Trophy – Champion Domaine Wine.

“High quality, perfectly ripened fruit was allowed to shine through in this expertly crafted wine. It had superb balance and respect for the fruit, providing seamless delicacy, acidity and palate weight,” said Mr Glover.

The Bragato Wine Awards are held each year as part of the New Zealand Winegrowers Romeo Bragato National Conference, and recognise the grower for viticultural excellence. The competition acknowledges that growing excellent grapes is the foundation of making wines of true quality. The Trophies were presented at the Bragato Dinner in Marlborough last night.

-ENDS-

Editor’s notes:

To be awarded the Bragato Champion Wine of the Show Trophy – Champion Single Vineyard Wine, a minimum of 95% of the grape juice content must come from a single vineyard.

To be awarded the Richard Smart Trophy – Champion Domaine Wine, a minimum of 85% of the grape juice content must come from a single vineyard.

For further information, please contact:

Ben Glover
Chair of Judges
Bragato Wine Awards
029 520 8288
ben.glover@accolade-wines.co.nz

Bragato Wine Awards 2016 Trophy Results

Bragato Champion Wine of the Show Trophy and Champion Single Vineyard Wine

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Chardonnay 2014
Ihumatao Vineyard, Auckland
Brett Donaldson

Richard Smart Trophy and Champion Domaine Wine

Villa Maria Reserve Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2014
Vidal Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay
Phil Holden

Friedrich Wohnsiedler Trophy Winner and Champion Riesling

Maude, Mt Maude Vineyard East Block Riesling Central Otago 2016
Mt Maude Vineyard, Central Otago
Dawn and Terry Wilson

Brother Cyprian Trophy Winner and Champion Pinot Gris

Aronui Pinot Gris Single Vineyard Nelson 2016
Whenua Matua Vineyard, Nelson
Jonny Hiscox

Champion Gewürztraminer

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Gewürztraminer 2014
Ihumatao Vineyard, Auckland
Brett Donaldson

Champion Other Red Wine

Coopers Creek SV Hawke’s Bay Malbec ‘Saint John’ 2013
Saint John Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay
Wayne Morrow

Champion Sweet Wine

Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Noble Riesling Botrytis Selection 2015
Rocenvin Vineyard, Marlborough
Chris Fletcher

New Zealand Wine Cellars Spence Brothers Trophy Winner and Champion Sauvignon Blanc

Tohu Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2016
Tohu Awatere Vineyard, Marlborough
Mondo Kopua

Bill Irwin Trophy Winner and Champion Chardonnay

Brett Donaldson
Ihumatao Vineyard, Auckland
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Chardonnay 2014

Champion Rosé

Wooing Tree Rosé Central Otago 2016
Wooing Tree Vineyard, Central Otago
Geoff Bews

Mike Wolter Memorial Trophy Winner and Champion Pinot Noir

Black Quail Estate Pinot Noir Central Otago 2013
Keillor Vineyard, Central Otago
Rod and Mirani Kellior

Tom McDonald Memorial Trophy Winner and Champion Classical Red Wine

Villa Maria Reserve Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2014
Vidal Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay
Phil Holden

Alan Limmer Trophy Winner and Champion Syrah

Falcon Ridge Estate Syrah Nelson 2015
Falcon Ridge Estate, Nelson
Alan J Eggers

Judges gearing up for Bragato Wine Awards 2016

(9 August 2016)

wine-industry-recognises-shining-examples-at-2016-romeo-bragato-wine-awards57c78dccd5e83
International Judge Andrea Frost

A 13 strong judging team, including international judges Andrea Frost and Nick Ryan, is gearing up to judge over 600 entries for this year’s Bragato Wine Awards in Auckland on 16 and 17 August.

Andrea Frost is an award-winning wine writer, columnist and author based in Melbourne, Australia. In 2013, Andrea was named Wine Communicator of the Year and her first book, ‘Through a Sparkling Glass, an A-Z of the Wonderland of Wine’, was awarded Best Wine Publication. In 2012 and 2013, Andrea was named Wine Business Monthly’s ‘50 Stars’ of the year.

Fellow countryman Nick Ryan is a wine writer, judge and educator based in Adelaide. Nick used the knowledge he had gained from raiding his father’s wine cellar to land a job with one of Sydney’s leading wine merchants. Realising that writing about it was easier than lifting it has led him to where he is now. Nick is a regular contributor to Men’s Style Australia and Gourmet Traveller Wine and has judged in many Australian and international wine shows.

wine-industry-recognises-shining-examples-at-2016-romeo-bragato-wine-awards57c78dcdde01f
Iinternational judge Nick Ryan

Leading the Bragato Wine Awards team is Chair of Judges Ben Glover, Group Winemaker for Accolade Wines New Zealand.

“This is always a wonderful opportunity and privilege to view, assess and reward our industry peers’ wines”, said Mr Glover. “The Bragato Wine Awards is a unique forum on the wine industry calendar that champions the grape grower, recognises the vineyard and awards viticultural excellence.”

The Bragato Wine Awards, held each year as part of the New Zealand Winegrowers Romeo Bragato National Conference, recognises that exceptional grape growing is the foundation of making wines that express true quality of place. Judging takes place on 16 and 17 August at AUT in Auckland City. The trophy winning wines will be revealed at the Bragato Dinner at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in Marlborough on 25 August.

-ENDS-

Judging Team:
Chair of Judges – Ben Glover
Judges – Rod Easthope, Helen Masters, James Millton, Helen Morrison, Simon Nunns, Barry Riwai, John Saker
International Judges – Andrea Frost (Australia), Nick Ryan (Australia)
Associate Judges – Lauren Swift, Liz Wheadon, Stephen Wong MW

For further information contact:
Ben Glover
Chair of Judges
Bragato Wine Awards
029 520 8288
ben.glover@accolade-wines.co.nz

Angela Willis
Manager – Global Events
New Zealand Winegrowers
021 552 071
angela@nzwine.com

Air New Zealand’s reveals new wine list

air-new-zealands-reveals-new-wine-list579a9c159e2afWine experts have settled on a list of close to 50 wines, some costing more than $100 a bottle, for Air New Zealand to select from for its business class passengers.

Six of the nation’s leading independent wine experts have selected “The Fine Wines of New Zealand” – to serve in planes from September.

A selection panel comprising Masters of Wine Alastair Maling, Michael Brajkovich, Sam Harrop, Simon Nash and Steve Smith along with Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas has agreed on the list for 2016 which includes 47 wines representing seven varietals.

One of the key criteria was consistency, with a wine having had to have been produced to an ”exceptional standard” for a minimum of five consecutive years.

Air New Zealand chief operations officer Bruce Parton says the airline had been a longstanding supporter of New Zealand’s wine industry.

It spends about $6 million a year on wine for passengers throughout aircraft.

“We believe we can help further build awareness and appreciation of these world class wines with international travellers and propel leading New Zealand wineries to even greater commercial success,” Parton said.

The wines would be promoted through its inflight entertainment system, at offshore events and using contacts internationally to help open up key export markets for the wineries should they need this support.

The airline’s specialist inflight wine consultants, who are based in New Zealand, China and the United States, will select wines from the list for serving in business premier cabins. Not all on the list of 47 would make it on board as some do not react well to high altitudes or are available in sufficient quantities.

Parton said it was important that the wines were selected independently of its existing wine programme.

”We look forward to working closely with the wine masters in the coming years to compile this list annually.”

In 2014 Air New Zealand moved to a three-year deal with a single supplier, Villa Maria, in its economy section which upset some in the wine industry, but which the airline said had been part of simplifying the supply chain.

The Fine Wines of New Zealand for 2016:

Aromatics
Felton Road Dry Riesling 2014
Felton Road Block 1 Riesling 2015
Framingham F series Riesling Kabinett 2015
Johanneshof Cellars Gewürztraminer 2014
Stonecroft Gewürztraminer 2015
Te Whare Ra Toru SV5182 2014
Millton Vineyards Clos de Ste Anne Chenin Blanc 2014
Prophet’s Rock Pinot Gris 2014
Dry River Pinot Gris 2014

Pinot Noir
Felton Road Block 3 2013
Burn Cottage 2014
Valli Bannockburn 2014
Rippon Vineyards Tinkers Field 2012
Bell Hill 2012
Ata Rangi 2013
Dry River 2013
Craggy Range Aroha 2013
Kusuda 2013

Bordeaux style
Te Mata Coleraine 2014
Craggy Range Sophia 2013
Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2013
Esk Valley The Terraces 2013
Stonyridge Vineyard Larose 2014
Church Road Tom 2013

Sauvignon Blanc
Cloudy Bay Te Koko 2011
Astrolabe Province 2015
Dog Point 2015
Greywacke 2015
Saint Clair Reserve Wairau 2015
Vavasour 2015

Chardonnay
Kumeu River Mate’s Vineyard 2014
Neudorf Moutere 2011
Sacred Hill Riflemans 2014
Dog Point 2013
Felton Road Block 2 2010
Villa Maria Keltern Vineyard 2014

Sparkling
Nautilus NV
Akarua Vintage Brut 2010
Deutz Blanc de Blanc Vintage 2011
Quartz Reef Vintage 2010

Dessert wines
Forrest Wines Botrytised Riesling 2012
Framingham Wines Noble Riesling 2013
Framingham Wines ‘F’ Gewürztraminer 2014

Syrah
Craggy Range Le Sol 2013
Trinity Hill Homage 2013
Bilancia La Collina 2013
Te Mata Bullnose 2014

6:30 AM Friday Jul 29, 2016 | Read more by Grant Bradley, NZ Herald

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A NZ tipple showcased at BAFTA 2016

Check this out, Villa Maria wine has a place at the BAFTA.

The Villa Maria Private Bin Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon ($14.99 from VM) was served in the same company as Taittinger to the twinkling stars of the screen.

You can understand why after reading what goes into the food and wine matching. Read Megan Nisbet’s exclusive and everything you need to know about the British Academy Film Awards –  EXCLUSIVE: Behind the scenes at the BAFTA Awards 2016.

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Young Winemaker of the Year – In the news

lauren-swift-2It is now official that Ash Ridge has the best young winemaker in the country. Lauren Swift was awarded the Young Winemaker of the Year trophy last night at the Bragato Dinner, by Mike McRoberts of TV3. Obviously we are all absolutely thrilled. Another huge feather in the cap for this extremely talented winemaker, and I think you can see this in the wines that are being made.

And while on the Bragato Awards….

Romeo Bragato Wine Awards 2015

An Auckland Chardonnay and a Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot shine at this year’s Romeo Bragato Wine Awards. Grown by Brett Donaldson, the Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Chardonnay 2013 won the coveted Bragato Trophy – Champion Single Vineyard Wine and the Bill Irwin Trophy for Champion Chardonnay. “The Bragato Trophy went to this beautifully handled Chardonnay because in simple terms – it was exceptional. The wine had a sense of place and it was a pleasure to savour and taste” said Chairman of Judges Ben Glover.

Villa Maria’s Reserve Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2013, made from grapes grown on the Vidal Vineyard by Phil Holden won the Richard Smart Trophy – Champion Domaine Wine. “This was just a beautifully crafted wine – well done to all on allowing the fruit to shine with deft and subtle winemaking” said Mr Glover.

The Bragato Wine Awards, held each year as part of the New Zealand Winegrowers Romeo Bragato National Conference, are awarded to the grower for viticultural excellence. The competition recognises that growing excellent grapes is the foundation of making wines of true quality. The Trophies were presented at the Bragato Dinner in Hawke’s Bay last night.

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From the Editor – Dec 2014

We are fast reaching the end of another year and perhaps it is a time to reflect on what the year has offered.

Following on from the regular BBQ in January we had Wright’s Vineyard and Winery in February, a great start to the tasting year.

March saw Alpha Domus, a well-established Hawkes Bay producer.

April saw Dan Baldock presenting some Penfolds wines, an iconic Australian producer.

We tried something new in May by combining the AGM with a tasting from Wooing Tee in Central Otago, while June saw another Hawkes Bay producer in Moana Park.

July was the mid-year dinner at Cuba Street Bistro, and August was Italian time with Cangrande.

Back to Hawkes Bay in September with Rod McDonald Wines followed in October by Villa Maria.

We followed this with yet another Advintage Festive wines evening leading to the December dinner.

Your committee are pleased with the programme and hope everyone found something to enjoy.

And so to 2015. The programme is coming together very nicely and we hope it will be as successful as this year has been.

We wish everyone all the best for the festive season.

Cheers
Robin Semmens, Editor

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