Wine column week commencing 8th July, 2017

So we’re into the first week of July and typically it’s this time of year that the first wave of new wines from the 2017 vintage start pouring across my desk.  Normally it’s an exciting time and I do that really uncool, gleeful little dance that (according to my teenagers anyway) makes me look alarmingly like Rumpelstiltskin every time I taste a new bottle.

However things have been a bit more reserved, less hiss-and-roar this year.  A wet and weird 2017 vintage had many winemakers wearing heavier lines on their foreheads and sprouting a few more grey hairs, because wet and weird weather at harvest time isn’t fun.  There’s so much at stake – you only get one shot each year to get the grapes in and get them in good.  With the exception of fruit for sparkling wine base, and some early-ripening vineyards in the far North, grapes are generally harvested in New Zealand in April and May.  So growers are always hoping to have no late frosts in Spring (which can damage the new buds and shoots) followed a long, warm, dry summer and finally a dry, even, Autumn. Warm days and cool nights are what’s needed to bring the sugar levels in the grapes to gorgeous ripeness, while still retaining fresh, clean and crisp.  If the clouds open up in those crucial weeks and days before harvest, there’s an increased risk of flavour dilution in the grapes (when the thirsty vines suck up more moisture than is desirable), and an increased likelihood of pesky fungal outbreaks.  Plus, muddy vineyards make for tricky work where machinery and manpower is concerned.

I’ve heard varying accounts of how different producers dealt with the weather, some have said 2017 was brilliant and others have said it was a load of clacker and really tough.  But most have hedged their bets by saying “Yep, she was a challenging harvest, but we’re really happy with what we’ve got in tank.”

Across the country though, talk is that volumes will be down for 2017 and that’s not a entirely a bad thing.  Most growers were able to work around the wobbly weather, carefully choosing what fruit to keep and what to ditch, and ensuring that what ends up in the bottle will be the best they can make.  The two wines I tasted from 2017 this week were more than up to scratch.


Matawhero Gisborne Pinot Rose 2017 $23 (4stars)

Elevated scents of creaming soda, raspberry, strawberry, soft cherry and apple rise out of the glass and what follows are layers of ultra-tangy, crunchy-crisp, fruit-soaked flavours. Despite 2017 being a challenging vintage in Gisborne, this pinot noir was grown in the Tietjen vineyard grew nicely and got to good ripeness levels, resulting in rose with real charm and character.

Aotea Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2017 $29 (5stars)

If this is any indication of how Nelson’s sauvignon blancs are going to be from 2017, then I’m a giddily happy girl.  Crafted by the talented team at Seifried, it’s an incredibly aromatic example that erupts with sweet lawn clippings, tomato leaf, a hint of man-sweat, passionfruit and peachy notes.  Saturated with citrus, it’s magically mouthwatering and has sexy, sugar-snap pea and lime curd loveliness on the finish.  Love it!


On your marks for a momentary lapse of riesling….

Ataahua Waipara Riesling 2016 $26

There’s a really intense, lemon-pith, lime zest, honeysuckle and apple skin character on the nose of this mineral-driven, chalk-and-citrus laden riesling. With a whiff of crushed seashells and a whack of acidity in the mid palate, it’s a bottle of niceness from North Canterbury. Cheek-slappingly dry and citrusy to taste, the texture is the thing I really love, zingy, prickly and precise. It’s a wake-up call in a glass.

Chard Farm Central Otago Riesling 2016 $25

How do I love thee Chard Farm riesling? Let me count the ways. For starters your honeysuckle, baked apple, mandarin and seriously slamming citrus flavours are mouth puckeringly perfect. Then it’s the twang of toffee which combines with awesome acidity to give me goosebumps. And THEN it’s the sneaky splash of lime that lingers on the finish that really seals the deal. It’s a little bottle of Gibbston gloriousness that rocks with candy beetroot and pancetta tagliatelle.

Sugar Loaf Marlborough Riesling 2016 $20

This such a lovely riesling I just had to tell you about it pronto! Crafted by genius young winemaker Kate Acland, this deliciously juicy riesling has a splash of natural sweetness, luscious lime and crunchy granny smith apple characters. This is modern Marlborough riesling at it’s best. Beautifully structured and ultra zesty, it’s one of those whites that can’t help but inject a jingo of joy into Spanish prawns a la plancha with Nam Jim dressing.

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