Our April tasting was a great success and certainly slightly different from other tastings, given the perspective of our presenter and her knowledge of wines in the current market.
Having someone of Joelle’s experience was certainly a coup for the club and we would like to acknowledge Regional Wines contribution in making this event happen.
The committee will be approaching Regional to see if we can re-establish some permanent benefits for club members and we will advise further if and when this is finalised.
As for the wines themselves, I have already said earlier that I really enjoyed the Montepulciano. But given the number and cross-section of orders that Joelle took away with her, it’s clear that all the wines were greatly appreciated.
Thank you, Joelle, for a very interesting tasting. Hopefully, we can arrange another tasting sometime in the future.
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.
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.
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 industry recognises viticultural excellence at 2017 Romeo Bragato Wine Awards
A Cabernet Franc from Canterbury has come out on top at this year’s Bragato Wine Awards.
Grown by Lindsay Hill, in the Waipara West vineyard located in Canterbury, The Boneline Cabernet Franc 2016 won the coveted Bragato Trophy for Champion Wine of the Show. The wine also picked up the O-I New Zealand Trophy for Champion Emerging Red Wine.
“This Cabernet Franc was a pleasure to judge, but equally an absolute joy to taste, savour and discuss,” said Chair of Judges Ben Glover. “This wine is certainly all about a single site… A real treat”.
Fourteen trophies in total were awarded and the geographical spread was diverse, with four going to Marlborough; three each going to Hawke’s Bay, Canterbury and Otago; and one going to Nelson.
The Bragato Wine Awards recognise the grower for viticultural excellence and acknowledges that growing excellent grapes is the foundation of making wines of true quality. For the first time in the competition’s 23 year history, all wines entered in 2017 had to be single vineyard wines.
“By making the shift to a single vineyard show, we’re allowing our industry to express the Turangawaewae of their distinctive sites,” said Mr Glover.
The Bragato Wine Awards are held each year as part of the New Zealand Winegrowers Romeo Bragato National Conference. The Champion Wine of the Show was announced at the Conference Dinner last night. For more information visit www.bragato.org.nz.
Our journey this month takes us to Waipara and the iconic Pegasus Bay Winery. Pegasus Bay is a top winery from this region, and we are sure this will be another successful event. See you there.
Don’t forget the AGM next month. The meeting will not be onerous and there will be a chance for a little supper and to sample some wines from our cellar. Can we just ask members to be a little circumspect with the size of their tasting at the AGM. There is only one bottle of each wine and we would like as many people as possible to be able to sample the wines. Thanks.
The July dinner will be held at Logan Brown this year. Something of a coup and we are hoping for a good turn-out. The cost is at the higher end but will be subsidised by the Club, and it will be BYO.
Fictional chardonnay swillers, Bridget Jones, and Kath and Kim have a lot to answer for when it comes to one of the world’s noblest grapes, and why, for the past 10 years or so, many of us have stopped drinking it. Not only has it become uncool to drink chardonnay but the product itself has suffered due to the deluge of cheaply produced, homogenised and heavily oak-chipped versions of this most versatile Vinifera. The 1980s and 90s were awash with over-the-top, tropically scented, fat, blousy and nearly chewable renderings of the grape that Australian winemakers went on to conquer the world with.
Back in its hometown of Chablis, France, chardonnay has been revered for more than 500 years. Depending on where and how it’s grown, the grape’s versatility is unquestionable. Great examples can swing from lean, steeled, cold stream refreshment, to sweet late harvest wines of heady line and length, stopping at all stations, good, bad, and ugly, as it goes. Nowadays, a zippy glass of sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, is more popular with your average drinker than a glass of heavy, creamy, chardonnay. In fact, sav blanc accounts for 72% of the total wine produced by New Zealanders, with Aussies being the largest export market.
You could argue that if scenes from Kath and Kim were being written today, these reflective characters would, more than likely, be pouring themselves a glass of Sauvy Bee, instead of “Kar-don-ay”. But chardonnay is timeless, and its ability to match effortlessly with food means phrases like, “ABC; Anything But Chardonnay”, is something you will rarely ever hear spoken, by those in the know.
I love New Zealand chardonnay. In the warmer, sunnier climes of the north, in places such as Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, and Nelson (top of the South Island), chardonnay is scented with fresh tropical fruits and rounded textures, similar to the rolling hills that bound along the horizon. The further south you go, the cooler it gets, and chardonnay grown in the Marlborough, Waipara, and Central Otago regions, here, express their revitalising, snow peaked landscapes, as New Zealand’s alpine country pushes further up, into the sky.
After a recent visit, here are my top picks of New Zealand chardonnay.
James and Annie Millton have been biodynamic before it was cool. Second tier, but by no means second rate, the Shotberry chardonnay is like a safe option gateway drug into the wonderful world of northern New Zealand chardy. A blend from two distinct estate owned sites, Riverpoint and Opou, this wine is like drinking Gisborne in a glass. Ripe yellow fruits and florals, cooled by ocean spray, ripple above a barely noticeable raft of oak, which seems only there for textual protection, rather than full-blown armament.
2013, Bilancia Chardonnay, Bilancia, Hawke’s Bay, 13%, $29
Winegrowers, Lorraine Leheny and Warren Gibson are all about balance. There are six letters in both of their last names, they are both Libran, and their wines taste as if Lady Justice had made them herself, hence the name; ‘”bi’lancia” (be-larn-cha), meaning balance, harmony and equilibrium in Italian. If their La Collina syrah is the rapture, then this chardonnay is like some kind of intense party beforehand. The smell of gunsmoke and soft white flowers mingle with the air inside the glass, carrying with it pear skin, white stone fruit and salted honey aromas, while flavours of crisp green apple, buttery shortbread, like baked apple pie with slices of white peach glazed on top, provide the formula for flavour in this divine example of chardonnay from Hawke’s Bay.
Andrew Greenhough is a man with a masters in art history, who gave up his ambitions of being an art gallery curator – a career which would have seen him showcasing other people’s artistic creations – and instead moved to Nelson with his wife Jenny, where they purchased a vineyard, in a place called Hope. There they set out to grow and create their very own works of art. This wine showcases the real strength of this region’s potential for making great chardy, à la the revered clays hills of the Moutere. Breathe deep, the golden sunlit liquid that possesses fleshy aromas of yellow nectarine, salted buttered popcorn, and green pineapple core. Luscious, not lean, curvaceous, never flabby. This wine is not distributed in Australia, and I have no idea why, but if you are travelling in the region it’s worth stocking up on.
2014, Chardonnay, Te Whare Ra (TWR), Marlborough, Certified Organic, 13.2%, $38
Anna and Jason Flowerday take winegrowing very seriously. After all, their livelihood depends on it. That’s why all their wines have a certain laser-guided precision about them, which is not to say that they lack soul, but rather, drinking a TWR white wine is like listening to a high-fidelity live performance of Daft Punk, circa 2007.
Last year was an outstanding year for the Flowerday’s, and it shows in this vitally brilliant single estate wine. Imagine, butter melting on hot river stones while cool glacial waters that smell like white linen flowers, citrus, crunchy nectarine and other stone fruits rush over them at pace, cleansing and cooling the stones, and leaving behind fine mineral traces of residual adrenaline and joy … well, that would be an understatement.
2014, Home Chardonnay, Black Estate, Waipara , 12.5%, $45
Located in North Canterbury, on New Zealand’s South Island, Waipara valley is home to a number of premium winegrowing estates, including Black Estate, where they grow chardonnay from 21-year-old vines that were last irrigated in 1998. Winegrower, Nick Brown’s meticulous attention to detail has resulted in a wine that is all torque, which is backed up with precise lines and sleek curves. In another life, Nick may have been an Italian carmaker.
Full secondary ferment provides a textual grip that seems to have done nothing to squash the racy acids this wine drives along on. Gunsmoked cheddar, lemon spritz and coconut shavings provide the perfect hook to open wide and drink deep all the angular richness of mango skins, lace, and green pineapple core that’s held inside the glass.
The Central Otago landscape was carved from hyperbole. The mountains, the ranges, the rivers and lakes, the snow, the dirt, and the green, then gold, then red leafed vines. From sunrise to sunset, Central Otago is proof that God is a wine drinker.
Felton Road might just be the most unimaginative name for a wine label, and yet they make some of the most captivating wines in the country. The Block 3 chardonnay is deeply golden in colour and smells like frozen tropical fruits; crisp melon, fleshy pineapple, mango skins – then, soft lime, nuts and spiced honey. Upon each element sits tiny frozen flakes of ice, providing razored tension. Like sails unfurling in the wind, this wine is supple, nimble, and graceful as it goes in a round, around your mouth, down past your heart to, at last, rest in your belly and shine sunlight on your soul.
Some unique situations have arisen and we are having to be somewhat more versatile with our arrangements than we have been in the past. As mentioned earlier both the Waipara and Akarua tastings are being postponed for future evenings at the club. This is not dissimilar to the Central Otago tasting organised for March.
For April however we have managed to obtain the services of Ohau Wines. This is New Zealand’s newest wine area, but I am sure most of you have seen the vines on your way to Levin. We are very pleased to have Chris Morgan to present and are looking forward to a great tasting.
We have been working with Georges Road Winery in the Waipara Valley but have been looking for a broader taste of the features of this region. We have only had one winery from Waipara in the past. The North Canterbury Winegrowers Assn is looking to see if there is a prospect of a broader view of the region.
North Canterbury is just 40 minutes north of Christchurch and is fast establishing itself as one of the premium wine producing regions of New Zealand, particularly in Pinot Noir and Riesling. According to Bob Campbell, the region is ”one of the unsung heroes of the wine industry”.
The programme for the evening is still being developed.