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Notes from New Zealand, 2011

text © 2011 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on New Zealand 2011.


jane hunter I met up with Jane Hunter in her low-key, relaxed restaurant (which serves terrific fish and chips) to taste through the Hunter's range along with winemaker Inus van der Westhuizen and General Manager Peter Macdonald. Founded in 1979, Hunter's is a very proudly family-owned and run company (Peter is Jane's brother-in-law). Jane took over the helm when her husband Ernie died in a motor accident in 1986. Today, Jane Hunter O.B.E. is one of New Zealand's leading wine producers and ambassadors.

Ernie Hunter was a true pioneer when he arrived from Ireland and planted Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Müller Thurgau, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and, most significantly, Sauvignon Blanc in 1979. Today the vineyards have expanded to almost three times their original size and winemaking is shared between Gary Duke and Inus van der Westhuizen. Inus is bright-eyed, very focused young winemaker from South Africa, where he made wines at the excellent Cape Chamonix and spent five years working in the Pfalz area of Germany. His secret passion is for sparkling wine, which is a potential area for growth in the Hunter's portfolio.

This is a really good, solid range of wines at very affordable prices. It does not scale the heights of what Marlborough is doing, but delivers a lot of drinking enjoyment and bangs per buck.

the wines

Hunter's wines are distributed in the UK by Laithwaites, Layton's and Wine Importers Scotland. Prices quoted below were before recent VAT and duty rises, so may have changed. See all Hunter's wines on wine-searcher.

Hunter's Miru Miru NV
Champagne method made from 55% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Meunier. Lovely yeasty nose, with very fine baked apple aromas, lots of soft, rolling bubbles and very nice body and richness. Soft and attractive with lots of fruit and very good length. 89/100. £12.99, Laithwaites.

Hunter's Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Gently peachy fruit, good fruit with not much of the herbaceous fireworks character. The palate has very god acidity and lots of lemon zest elegance and freshness. Very good balance. 87-88/100. £10.99, Wine Society and Laithwaites.

Hunter's Stoneburn Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Mostly in the on the on-trade. More upfront fruit, a slightly more dilute character than the Sauvignon, but not quite the balance or finesse. Though lots of upfront charm and freshness. 86/100. £7.99, Wine Society,

Hunter's Kaho Roa Winemaker's Selection 2009
Barrel-fermented with some lees contact. Nice toffee, honeyed, edge, with, a sense of richness beneath the clean citrus and stone fruit flavours and aromas. Lots of zest and crunch and a really nice, racy finish. 89/100.

Hunter's Riesling 2010
Lovely stony and mineral nose, with lots of lime and lemon peel zestiness, gently aromatic with a touch of waxiness, then a mouth-watering lemony palate with huge length. 90/100.

Hunter's Riesling 2009
Nicely developed slightly more waxy, Riesling nose. The palate has lovely fruit and freshness and still has masses of mouth-watering acidity and delicious length and shimmering clarity. 89/100

Hunter's Gewürztraminer 2010
Nice leafy, geranium and gently lychee nose, with some herby characters and that Turkish delight Gewurz character. Very fresh and bright on the palate, with a luscious background and really nice balance and weight. Tangy and full, with lots of balance and luscious ripeness. 90/100. Sunday Times Wine Club, Layton's

Stoneburn Pinot Noir 2009
Nice beetrooty aromatics, lots of vegetal character and dry, cranberry and rhubarb fruit. Terrific fruit sweetness on the palate, with nice balance and delicious Good length and just enough earthy, briary oak coming through. Long and deliciously focused. 88/100.

Hunter's Pinot Noir 2009
Lovely sense of creaminess and strawberry richness to this, a little more sweet fruit than the Stoneburn, and a little more coffeeish oak underpinning too. More extraction that the Stoneburn, but not at all over-extracted. Long, juicy finish with the creaminess of the tannins and a fine, tangy, long finish. 90/100. £12.00 Wine Society, Sunday Times Wine Club.

Hunter's Pinot Noir 2008
More vegetal, warming, charming charry and earthy quality. Oak is savoury and coffeeish but has a lovely earthy darkness too. Has plenty of sweetness and an open-knit quality that is very attractive, soft and sweet, with lots of berry freshness. Tangy and orangy, with fine structure. 91/100.

See all Hunter's wines on wine-searcher.

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