Tasting Notes: ‘New Zealand, and not Sauvignon Blanc!’ presented by Brian Davis AWE, 22 November 2017

Brian Davis is a keen advocate of New Zealand, but agrees with us that there’s more to it than Sauvignon Blanc! However well-made and drinkable these are, there’s more to discover, and during the evening we sampled nine wines to persuade us to explore! Wine growing in New Zealand takes advantage of the wide variety of climates throughout North and South Island, resulting in a variety of styles.

Felton Road, Riesling, Central Otago 2013:  Felton Road makes two Rieslings and this is the very dry one. The Central Otago is in the south of South Island ie cooler, but the area has a sheltered microclimate with cool nights but warm days, suiting grapes used in the more northerly areas of Europe. Felton Road makes wine ‘biodynamically’ ie organic farming but also treating the process rather more esoterically with planting and harvesting using astronomical calendars. Whatever, this was a beautiful wine, the Riesling petrol on the nose but not unpleasantly so and a long mouthful of citrus.  (Stone Vine & Sun £20)

Mount Difficulty Roaring Meg Pinot Gris, Central Otago 2015: A nose of aromatic fruit, perhaps lemons and apricots. An unexpected sweetness follows (off dry rather than really sweet), emphasising the fruit. Brian suggested a good pairing with mild curry or Thai food.  (Ellis of Richmond approx. £15)

Greywacke Pinot Gris, Marlborough, 2015:  An interesting contrast to the previous Pinot Gris, this had a bit more body and more minerality, perhaps a result of the warmer growing conditions in Marlborough. Flavours of pear, still a little residual sweetness, and a long finish.  (£18 Wine Society)

Seresin Reserve Chardonnay, Marlborough 2014:  Seresin is a good quality wine producer, so this Chardonnay was disappointing, and perhaps not a fair representative of what the grower usually produces. A little oak, probably from chips rather than barrel, and enough to give body. Some pineapple flavours but rather too ‘flabby’ to be appealing at the price. But so unlike Seresin quality that this may have been a one-off, possibly not settled after travelling. (£17 Wine Society)

Mission Syrah, Hawkes Bay 2009:  Some deep aromatics on the nose, and a lovely full ‘rhone-like’ Syrah – liquorice, plums, peppery and very well-balanced and not heavy. Very good value. (£10- £11 Sainsburys)

Wither Hills Pinot Noir, Marlborough 2014: An industrial scale producer, but this is not to denigrate Wither Hills wines, which are of a good, reliable quality. This is a nice, entry-level Pinot Noir, not much on the nose but nice cherry fruit and a long finish, possibly violets. Not obviously 14.5%, so well-made. (£10.50 Wine Society)

Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir, Central Otago 2010: From the cooler Otago, this PN was a more serious wine. Dark red with the start of a brown edge from the bottle age. Some PN farmyard on the nose, and raspberries and blackberry fruit and a long finish. A good wine with venison perhaps. (£32 Stone Vine & Sun).

Felton Road Calvert Pinot Noir Central Otago 2012:  The next level of PN from Felton Road, from the Calvert vineyard, to be compared with the last wine, from the same Calvert vineyard but different winery. (£43 Stone Vine & Sun)

Craggy Range Calvert Pinot Noir Central Otago 2010: Made by Craggy Range. More developed than the Felton Road, but this may be simply the extra 2 years in bottle. Both wines showed the best of New Zealand PN wines, although this is also reflected in the price tag! (approx. £40)

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The tasting aimed to show the variety and quality of New Zealand wines, without recourse to Sauvignon Blanc, which we assumed most of the members would already know. The range of growing conditions result in a variety of styles, which everyone enjoyed. Unlike many tastings, the vote for the favourite was very split, showing the general quality level and also that there is something for most palates!

Notes by Sally Harris