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Notes from New Zealand, 2011

text and photographs © 2011 Tom Cannavan

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


bottles A broad cross-section of wines and styles, and the sheer number of oak-influenced Sauvignons and other grapes varieties compared to the "traditional" Marlborough Sauvignon styles shows the direction in which the industry is going. Some indicative prices and UK importers were given and these are quoted below, but there is also a wine-searcher link to stockists of the wines.

Pinot Gris

Half of the Pinot Gris was in Burgundy bottles, half in Alsace-style flutes. Does that say something about a failure to yet identify a Marlborough style for the wine inside?

Greywacke Pinot Gris 2009
Southern Valleys. 14.5%. Kevin Judd's Pinot Gris has an attractively aromatic nose with a touch of dried apricot and a slight yeastiness, with a lime peel freshness and some spice too. The palate is just off dry, with lots of juicy, lemony, orange and citrus punch that really punches through to leave it dry and savoury, tangy and really appetising. 90/100. wine-searcher.

Saint Clair Godfrey's Creek Reserve Pinot Gris 2009
Wairau Valley. 14.0%. Very fresh, with ripe apple and ripe pear aromas, a touch of creamy, richer character that is almost tropical. The palate is just off dry, with a deliciously full fruit, but a certain lift and lightness through the clear acidity. Deliciously tangy, lots of orange against the peachy sweetness. 90/100. wine-searcher.

Seresin Pinot Gris 2009
Regional . 14.5%. Biodynamic wine, whole bunch pressed and spending six months in French oak with battonage. Deep colour, rich, nutty nose, a touch of vanilla and a glimpse of bruised apple. The fruit comes through beautifully on the palate, with a lot of tropical, rich, vibrant fruit that has a sweet edge, but huge concentration too. The tang and decisive concentration of the finish means it needs food, but what a mouthful of wine. 91-92/100. £18.40 Armit. wine-searcher.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Gris 2010
Awatere. There's a lovely pear fragrance to this: fresh pears, but also a hint of a pear tart, pastry note, with a lift of almost spearminty brightness. The palate is pretty dry and relatively lean compared to a wine like the Saint Clair, with shimmering acidity set against tropical fruit tones of guava and mango - a more obvious nod to Marlborough Sauvignon style, but has lovely weight and definition. 89-90/100. £9.99 Hatch Mansfield. wine-searcher.

Two Rivers Wairau Selection Pinot Gris 2010
13.5%. Less expressive than the Villa Maria aromatically, with apple and melon notes and a hint of something herbal. On the palate this is in the same, leaner style as the Villa Maria, with a scything cut of lemony acidity and plenty of mineral crunch to offset the mid-palate fruit sweetness. 90/100. wine-searcher.

Whitehaven Pinot Gris 2009
14.%,. Quite rich, seems quite leesy and creamy with ripe pear and melon fruit and a slick of creaminess. The palate is quite full and rich, off-dry with lovely luscious fruit and great pear and apple pie ripeness and zest. There's a spice and pepperiness too, as well as charming residual sweetness and good balance. 90/100. wine-searcher.


Whitehaven Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2009
Wairau Valley. 14%. Lovely Gewurz nose, with lots of lychee and spice and an expressive toastiness. The palate has luscious weight and is perhaps just off dry, with that full, sweet fruit set against nice acidity and a delicious, if relatively simple balance. A terrific, balanced, beautifully made wine. 89/100. wine-searcher.

Johanneshof Cellars Gewürztraminer 2010
13.5%. Wairau Valley. DIAM cork. Masses of spices and exotic fruits in an open and very expressive wine. Palate is medium-dry, with a beautifully composed palate of sweet, peach and exotic fruit and that terrific tension of that lime and mineral acidity that focuses this through into a very long finish. 91/100. wine-searcher.

Grüner Veltliner

Forrest The Doctors Grüner Veltliner 2010
13.5%. Gorgeous nose - bright and aromatic with a lovely but discreet floral lift and fine peppery and nectarine and tropical notes. The palate has lovely focus, the fruit very pure and fresh, notes of lime and peach combine to give a lush but fresh character and the finish has great brightness and food-friendly zest and zing. 92/100. £15. Adnams. wine-searcher.

Konrad Grüner Veltliner 2010
Southern Valleys. 14%. Vineyard planted after comparing the Waihopai and Kremstal regions according to the back label. Much leaner and more mineral than the Forrest, with lime and a certain peppery, spicy character coming through. The palate has an uncompromising dryness, with great verve and authority, the dry, herby, mineral finish long and savoury. I'd love to see how this develops over a few years. 89/100. £9.00 Bin Cellar. wine-searcher.

Tinpot Hut Grüner Veltliner 2010
13.5%. Wairau Valley. Nicely aromatic and spicy, with some floral and peach down aromas joining spices and a touch of white pepper. There's plenty of interest here, touching on an almost Sauvignon-like pungency. The palate has the same picture of juicy clarity and grapefruity punch of fruit and acidity, into a long, tangy finish. 91/100. £14.99, Liberty Wines. wine-searcher.

Sauvignon Blanc - Awatere Valley

Pronouned "Awah-tree", one of the two distinct Valleys along with the Wairu, that are part of the drive towards defining sub-regional styles.

Astrolabe Discovery Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Fabulously capsicum pepper nose, masses of spice and intense, sparky green herb and pepper qualities. The palate has a lovely salty minerality too that carries through with lots of sourness and savoury quality of preserved lemons and limes and a terrific sense of verve and precision. Slaty and stony, and has terrific clarity. 92/100. £15, Ellis of Richmond. wine-searcher.

Matua Paretai Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Nice pyrozene nose, with herbs and pepper and a lovely pungency. The palate has fine, racy fruit too and a delicious dryness, with a long, balanced finish and plenty of tang. 89-90/100. £11.99, Treasury Wine Estates. wine-searcher.

Te Whare Ra Sauvignon Blanc 2010
13.5%. Capsicum and leafy green herbs. A touch of gooseberry, and a fairly restrained, peppery style. The palate has a real leanness and savoury, dry, lemon and lime character, with terrific . Precision and length. There is roundness and weight here, but also a gorgeous core of finesse and minerality. 91/100. £16, Hallowed Ground. wine-searcher.

Sauvignon Blanc - Southern Valley

Brancott Estate Letter Series 'B' Brancott Sauvignon Blanc 2010
13%. Subdued spice and pepper nose, with some green bean and pepper, but all the fruit nicely focused and pure. The palate has a nice salty lick of minerality and that forma a nice, lean framework for the peachier, riper fruit to hang off of. A nice, well-tempered wine. 89/100. £11.99, Pernod Ricard UK. wine-searcher.

ToiToi Marlborough Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2010
13%. Lifted, perfumed, slightly talcum nose with bright gooseberry fruit if a slightly tight impression as it hits the palate. Certainly more restrained and tight than some here, and that impression of tight, fine, focused mineral and lemon fruit drives this into a long, clear finish. 90/100. wine-searcher.

Sauvignon Blanc - Wairau Valley

Goldwater Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Nice green fruit notes on the nose, with a limey freshness and touches of passionfruit and greengage in a typical but delightful Marlborough style. The palate has great zest and life too, lots of punch and thrust and a lean, taut sense of precision in the finish. Terrific stuff. 90/100. £7.99 - £9.99 D and D Wines. wine-searcher.

Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Deliciously punchy stuff, with a touch of that sweaty character, but not too much as it has plenty of green, bright, herby aromas too and the palate displays masses of tropical fruit and richness, set against a big pithy core of lemon and grapefruit acidity. In many ways the most 'typical' so far of the classic Marlborough style, but extremely well done. 90/100. wine-searcher.

Wairau River Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2010
A touch of the sweaty, elderflower nose here too with lots of lift and pungency, and deliciously tangy lime flavours. The palate has all the tang you could ask for, but also a clean, fresh, dry and savoury finish. 90/100. £13.99, Ellis of Richmond. wine-searcher.

Sauvignon Blanc - Regional Blend

Mount Riley Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Flat and insipid with barely discernable fruit. Very poor, dilute and a travesty of the style. 79/100. £7.50, Patriarche Wine Agencies. wine-searcher.

Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Nicely punchy, lots of verve though in the end a little bit too text book and safe. Balanced. 87/100. wine-searcher.

Oak influenced Sauvignon Blanc

Huia Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Fairly discreet, but has lovely bright acidity on the palate with clear apple and tropical tones, though it is a perhaps a little too discreet for its own good? 88/100. £12, Bibendum Wines. wine-searcher.

Blind River Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Fabulous smoky minerality, a lot of green bean and herby punch, very appealing. The palate has that ripeness and crunchy freshness, with delicious tang, real lime and grapefruit peel and zest and a long, shimmering finish. Deliciously moreish. 91/100. wine-searcher.

Greywacke 'Wild Sauvignon' Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Huge brazil nut French oak nose with masses of green fig and bold, tropical fruit. The palate has that huge presence too, the super-sweet fruit set against a decisive core of minerality, hints of coffee and charry oak just adding a supporting layer beneath. 93/100. wine-searcher.

Astrolabe Experience Taihoa Kekerengu Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Full barrel fermented, wild yeast and lees-stirred recipe. More subtle oak than the Greywacke, with a lovely mealy richness and sense of precision to the wine - the oak definitely in the background. The palate has Graves-like poise and white fruit crispness, lovely length and a certain sense of minerality. 92/100. £29.95, Ellis of Richmond. wine-searcher.

Rock Ferry Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Fermented in French oak (70%) with wild yeast. Subtle mealiness to this, lovely sense of slightly herby, cabbagey, almost Burgundian aroma. That weird dislocation of place is somewhat dispelled on the palate, as this has the juicy verve of Sauvignon, with the green tones and pith acidity kicking in. Lovely stuff at a good price, and bone dry in the finish. 91/100. £12.99, Vintage Roots. wine-searcher.

Wither Hills Rarangi Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Wairau Valley. Complex, buttery, Brazil-nut nose with the ripe pineapple fruit beneath. Spearminty and bold. The palate has lots of verve and punch too, the minerality and taut, lemony acidity overpowering any more flamboyant tendency. A reserved, steely and decisive wine. 92/100. wine-searcher.

Dog Point Vineyard SECTION 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Southern Valley. Natural cork. Lots of wild, yeasty, mineral and salty aromas. Ripe, slightly Burgundian character, with a certain vegetal character. Lovely Brazil nut oak and deliciously tangy, huge masses of lemon and orange fruit and acidity, but just tremendous length with such tang and life about it. 93/100. wine-searcher.

Auntsfield 'Reserve' Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Southern Valley. Fabulous cabbagey nose, with beautifully ripe tropical fruit powering through with huge ripeness. The wild, yeasty and creamy character set against the super sweet fruit on the palate and the huge, sour cherry and grapefruit acidity of the acidity powering through the finish. 92/100. £14.50 New Generation Wines. wine-searcher.


Rapaura Springs Chardonnay 2008
Quite a deep buttercup colour. Nicely wild and herby nose with some nutty notes and an open sense of generous, creamy character but the fruit staying quite tight and focused. Lovely palate, the fruit very precise, very refined, the acidity just kicking through beautifully with that sweet fruit constrained by fine, lemon and mineral acidity. 91/100. wine-searcher.

Jules Taylor Chardonnay 2009
Regional. Very restrained and composed (very Burgundian) with a nice balance of minerality and ripe cabbagey aromatics showing herb-tinged melon fruit. The palate is wonderfully tight, balanced but also has that ripe apple and pear opulence, just wrapped in a tight minerality that gives this huge class and a long, orange and grapefruit tang in to the finish. Fabulous stuff. 92/100. wine-searcher.

Vavasour Chardonnay 2009
Awatere . Nice chardonnay, with an orangey and lightly nutty character, though it undoubtedly lacks the concentration and verve of the best here. Great balance, and the lemony acidity and lime of this really is very beautifully balanced and offers an intelligent, delicious mouthful of balanced chardonnay at a great price. 89/100. £7.99 - £9.99 D and D Wines. wine-searcher.

O'Dwyers Creek Chardonnay 2010
Wairau Valley. Bright, focused, very lightly oaked wine with a decisive edge of acidity and bright fruit. Racy and fine, with lots of cutting edge, the acidity bright and focused and staying very refined and crunchy in the finish. 88/100. wine-searcher.

Pinot Noir

Vavasour Pinot Noir 2008
Awatere. Delicious, stalky, beetrooty freshness. Lovely fresh, crunchy palate too with lots of berry sweetness but also has a real edge of acidity. 89/100. £10.99-£12.99 D and D Wines. wine-searcher.

Highfield Pinot Noir 2008
Regional Blend. Hugely leafy and fresh, with lots of earthy, mineral character and a delicious sense of earthy terroir. The palate has delicious ripeness and freshness, with a berry sweetness but also am undertow of mocha and fudge giving that lurking sense of depth and richness. 93/100. £23.95 Morgenrot in Manchester. wine-searcher.

Jackson Estate Gum Emperor Pinot Noir 2008
Well, no sign of 'gum' or eucalyptus which is a delight! Plenty of new oak here, with a shiny, ripe quality and a touch of coffee, lots of ripe berries and though it does not have the complexity of the Highfield, lovely wine. 90/100. wine-searcher.

Nautilus Pinot Noir 2009
Mellow, creamy, but has a delicious berry richness and rounded, sweet fruit quality. The palate has gorgeous richness and creamy, rounded fruitiness too, with the acidity staying very tight and the tannins adding a lovely bit of grip. The finish is extremely long, and this has fabulous style and elegance. 93/100. £17 - £19 Must Wines. wine-searcher.

Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Noir 2009
Regional Blend . Tight, quite a lot of minerality, with a touch of mint and plenty of briary, full, ripe red berries. But this retains its freshness and its focus, with lovely balance and a cherry ripeness, the classy, fresh character pushing through into a long, long finish. Delicious and fresh. 91/100. £15.99 Hatch Mansfield. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

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