How have you been enjoying our trip around New Zealand? If you’ve not yet read the New Zealand Overview, New Zealand North Island, South Island, or about New Zealand Wine Business, I suggest doing so before moving on, as these previous articles will put the following tastings into perspective.
If you have been traveling with me thus far—thank you! And now…we taste!
A brief note about my tasting notes: As per all tasting notes and assessments you’ll find on my website, despite the way the information is presented, all technical information is gathered after my initial tasting assessment so as not to influence my perception or opinion of the wine.
Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2019, Marlborough, New Zealand
About the Wine: From the winery: “The fruit is sourced across the expanse of the Marlborough winegrowing region. This includes our company Woolshed vineyard, in the upper Wairau Valley; along with long established growers in the Awatere and Wairau Valleys.
“Our Marlborough vineyards are on moderately fertile glacial soils. This includes a mix of sandy loam over very deep gravels; fertile loams and clays.”
7.7 g/L TA
Appearance: pale lemon
Aroma: Medium (+) level of intensity, primarily of that passionfruit. Aromas do stay in the primary arena and also include grapefruit, lemon, lime, pineapple, and grass and, perhaps, a hint of white blossom.
Palate: This is a dry white wine with high acidity, medium alcohol, medium (-) body, and medium (+) flavor intensity—the profile of which perfectly mimics those note sensed on the nose. The finish for me was between a medium and medium (+) in length. I ultimately settled on a medium (+) just because that passionfruit is so persistent, but I will add that I was surprised at just how swiftly those strong primary aromas dissipated on the palate.
Conclusion: The Mudhouse 2019 Sauvignon Blanc is a good wine. The high level of acidity does well to keep those primary fruits fresh and vibrant from start to finish. The modest alcohol does not detract from or overwhelm the primary nature of this wine. I was tempted, at first, to call this wine “simple,” as all the fruits do stay in the primary bucket, and there is no evidence of complexity as it pertains to the winemaking. Indeed, I suspect that this wine was kept in a reductive environment to maintain freshness, cultured yeast used to enhance the aromatic expression of the Sauvignon Blanc variety, and fermentation, blending, and (as suspected short time of) maturation would have all taken place in stainless steel. Again, I suspect that this wine would have been released quite quickly, as it’s a wine that’s intended to be enjoyed young and is not suitable for bottle aging—the nature of the fruits is such that they would only dissolve over time, not mature, creating an imbalanced wine.
Despite all this, I am not calling the wine simple because, though all fruit components are in the primary bracket, there are different categories of aromas and flavors within that bracket—citrus, floral, herbaceous, and—of course—tropical. And for this reason I’ve determined that the wine is of good quality.
More Info: $15.99 wine.com
Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 2017, Marlborough, New Zealand
About the Wine: From the winery: “Fruit was sourced from various vineyard sites in the Southern Valleys and the central Wairau Plains, specifically in Woodbourne, Renwick and Rapaura. Soil types vary from the young alluvial deposits of Rapaura and Renwick, which contain high proportions of greywacke river stones, to the older and denser clay-loams of the Southern Valleys. A high percentage of the vineyards were trained using the divided Scott Henry canopy management system, with the balance on two- or three-cane VSP (vertical shoot positioning).
“Some vineyards were harvested by machine and others by hand, all into half-ton bins, which were tipped directly into tank presses. The grapes were pressed lightly and the resulting juice was cold-settled prior to racking into mostly old French oak barriques. The juice was allowed to undergo spontaneous indigenous yeast fermentation, the tail end of which continued for well over six months. The wine had occasional lees stirring and approximately two-thirds underwent malolactic fermentation. It was transferred out of oak prior to the following harvest and left on yeast lees for a further eight months. Released October 2019.
6.4 g/l TA
Appearance: pale lemon
Aroma: Pronounced intensity of aromas: blossom, apple, pear, mango, melon, passion fruit, green bell pepper, grass, dried basil or eucalyptus, biscuit, and toasted bread. Perhaps a small level of ML notes, but very faint to my nose.
Palate: This is a dry white wine with high acidity, medium alcohol, medium body, and pronounced flavor intensity. The flavors confirm the aromas listed above, but also added citrus notes of lemon and lime, herbaceous notes of green bell pepper, and a kind of toasty/smokey essence that encompasses all of these flavors and aromas. The finish is just shy of long at medium (+).
Conclusion: I determined that the Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 2017 is of very good quality. There’s an excellent balance between the primary and secondary characteristics that make this wine, ultimately, a more ‘earthy’ expression of Sauvignon Blanc—especially as compared to the Mudhouse expression above. The Greywacke not only has multiple levels within the primary bracket that include more herbaceous and floral expressions, it also encompasses the toast, biscuit and bread tones associated with lees aging and, I suspect, a touch of oak. Though the wine certainly has texture, it’s not creamy in anyway, so I wonder if the lees aging included any stirring—either way the use of lees and oak both point toward complex winemaking techniques. Further, all of these elements are immediately present both on the nose and the palate, giving the wine a high level of intensity that showcases all of these techniques from start to finish during the tasting.
I noted that the finish was just shy of long, and it really is just shy of long. And because I marked it as such, I could not mark the wine quality as outstanding, but only very good. (But very good it is!)
I also want to note that I do think that this wine could age just a bit further in bottle because of the structural components in the wine. However, if the question is about long-term aging, then then answer is no. The nature of the fruits are still such that they will not develop with any kind of significance and, like the Mudhouse, those primary fruits are at risk for disappearing over time. So, I do think that this wine is best enjoyed within the first few years of release, not intended for long-term aging.
More Info: $28.99 wine.com
Mills Reef Elspeth Chardonnay 2014, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
About the Wine: From the winery: “The grapes for this superior Chardonnay were grown in the Maraekakaho District of Hawkes Bay on alluvial soils of the Riverview terraces, located on the lower reaches of the Ruahine foothills where they flank the Ngaruroro River.
“The grapes were handpicked … lightly pressed and transferred to barrel for alcoholic fermentation with both indigenous and specially selected yeasts.
“The wine was also allowed to undergo 100% malolactic fermentation to develop an enhanced and softened texture. A portion was allowed to maintain diacetyl levels for richness and then aged in quality 100% French oak (32% new) for 12 months sur lie, with frequent stirring to release important flavour components.”
Appearance: medium gold
Aroma: Pronounced aromas announcing primary, secondary, and tertiary characteristics: blossom, apple, lemon, lime, peach apricot, nectarine, mango, wet stones, flinty/matchstick, biscuit, pastry, toasted bread, butter, cream, vanilla, golden raisin, and hay.
Palate: This is a dry white wine with high acidity, medium alcohol, medium (+) body, and pronounced flavor characteristics that include all notes listed above, but on the palate I did get a bit more of those tertiary aromas, which included the addition of dried apricot and hazelnut. The finish was long.
Conclusion: I determined that this Mills Reef Elspeth Chardonnay 2014 is of outstanding quality. The high level of acidity did well to keep the primary fruits fresh in nature—and those primary fruits spanned the spectrum from green and citrus fruits through to tropical expressions. There’s clearly complex winemaking techniques at play here, as evidenced by the biscuit/pastry notes (indicating lees aging), butter and cream notes (indicating the use of ML), as well as vanilla tones (indicating oak usage). Further, the inclusion of an oxygenated winemaking process has allowed the wine to already show indications of age, such as dried fruit, hay and nuts.
Though this wine is already 6 years old, I do believe that it is one that can age further in bottle and will develop more of those tertiary tones while the high level of acidity will maintain a balanced amount of freshness as well. It is structurally capable to keep, as the pronounced aromas and flavors and the long finish indicate.
More Info: $36.99 wine.com
Clearview Estate Winery Cape Kidnappers Syrah 2016, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
About the Wine: From the winery: “Fermented with natural yeast and 20% whole bunches, this wine-underwent regular hand plunging to extract tannin and color. After extended post ferment maceration, the wine was then matured in 10% new French oak and received minimal interventions. The wine was carefully racked from barrel to tank only once just before bottling.”
Appearance: pale ruby
Aroma: Medium (+) level of intensity showcasing primary, secondary, and tertiary characteristics: violet, cranberry, raspberry, red plum, black plum, blackberry, black pepper, charred wood, smoke, prune, leather, earth, wet leaves, forest floor.
Palate: This is a dry red wine with medium (+) acidity, medium level of fine-grained tannins, medium alcohol, medium (+) body, and a medium (+) finish. Flavors confirm notes from the nose.
Conclusion: I determined that the Clearview Estate Winery Cape Kidnappers Syrah is of very good quality. The medium (+) acidity made the wine taste more fresh on the palate than I suspected when simply smelling the wine, as I found the wine to be a bit more prominent on secondary and tertiary aromas on the nose. But the freshness of those fruits are kept alive and in balance from start to finish on the palate. The tertiaries are still present in the taste, but they are light and delicately placed in the back of the palate. The excellent integration of those fine-grained tannins add body, structure, and lift to the wine without detraction or distraction. Indeed, they seem to just melt away toward mid-taste, and are all but disappeared toward the finish. The finish is medium (+) and it is those dried fruit flavors that seem to hang on before the tasting is over.
There’s clearly complexity to this wine, as indicated by the notes of age, the combination of primary, secondary, and tertiary aromas and flavors, the obvious, but refined use of oak.
But because I marked the finish as just medium (+) and not long, I could not mark the wine any higher than very good.
I do believe that this wine has the potential to age further in bottle. The medium (+) acidity, along with the tannins give the wine the structural composition for longevity. Further, there are still enough prominent primary fruits present and strong enough to live longer and, with time, develop further.
More Info: $32.99 wine.com
Craggy Range Winery Te Kahu Gimblett Gravels 2018
About the Wine: A combination of 54% Merlot, 27 %Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot.
All grapes were destemmed prior to fermentation in closed top stainless steel tanks utilizing cultured yeast strains. The wine matured in French oak barriques, 20% new, for 17 months. The wine was fined and filtered before bottling.
5.5 g/l TA
Appearance: medium ruby
Aroma: Medium (+) intensity—violet, red currant, black currant, red plum, blueberry, black cherry, bell pepper, tomato leaf, fennel, licorice, charred wood, smoke, chocolate.
Palate: This is a dry red wine with a medium level of acid, medium (+) level of chalky tannin, medium alcohol, medium (+) flavor intensity that confirms all aromatic notes above, and a medium (+) finish.
Conclusion: This Craggy Range Winery Te Kahu Gimblett Gravels is of very good quality. The ripe nature of the primary fruits maintain a good level of freshness from start to finish. The tannins, though chalky, give the wine texture and structure and the medium level of alcohol provides enough weight and body. There is clearly use of oak on the wine, but it is done so in a well-integrated way so as not to overwhelm the fruit components.
I struggle with whether this wine will age further in bottle, as the acid level seemed quite low (at a medium level to my palate) and a higher level is typically needed to maintain longevity in a wine. However, I do think given the level of tannin from both the fruit and the oak, that this wine can develop, softening those tannins and maturing those fruit flavors over time. So I ultimately decided that this wine can age further in bottle. (But I’m willing to hear and respect the argument to the counter-side.)
More Info: $19.99 wine.com
Amisfield Pinot Noir 2016, Central Otago, New Zealand
About the Wine: From the winery: “Hand-harvested fruit was coldsoaked for four to five days before natural fermentation began. Gentle, selective timing of handplunging and some pulse air during fermentation helped to extract the delicate skin and seed tannins. Approximately 10% whole-bunch clusters were included in some of the ferments. After fermentation, we tasted the wines daily to assess the tannin development and, left the wine on the skins for an extended time. Maturation was 15 months in 20% tight-grain French barriques.”
Harvested at 23.8-24.5 Brix
Vine Age 9-17 years (planted 1999-2007)
Pinot Noir Clones 115, 667, 777, UCD 5, UCD 6
Appearance: pale ruby
Aroma: Medium (+) intensity of aromas showcasing primary, secondary, and even hints of tertiary characteristics: rose petals, “just ripe” fruit flavors of cranberry, raspberry, strawberry, red cherry, black cherry, and dried herbs (like basil and/or oregano); vanilla, clove, cedar, charred wood, chocolate; earth and damp forest floor.
Palate: This is a dry red wine with. high acidity, a medium level of soft, ripe tannins, a medium amount of alcohol, medium (+) body and an overall medium (+) intensity of flavors. Flavors confirm the aromatic notes, but I did add one additional herb—dillweed.
Conclusion: I ultimately concluded that the Amsfield 2016 Pinot Noir is of outstanding quality. The notably high acid maintained the freshness of those primary fruits—all of which were “just ripe” in nature, revealing just a hint of tartness. The tannins, as mentioned, were perfectly ripe, soft, adding body, mouthfeel, and structure. The alcohol too, which borders between medium and high, added a roundness, a smoothness to the mouthfeel. And the finish was long, lingering with those primary fruits and a bit of spice notes from oak just delicately hanging out in the back of the palate. There is clearly complexity to this wine as noted by the notes of oak maturation as well as the small hints of tertiary notes such as earth and forest floor. Though it’s starting to show a bit of age with those last notes, I do believe that this wine can age further in bottle. Indeed, the high acid and medium tannins allow for the structure of longevity. Further, the freshness of the fruits are such that they can—and will—develop and evolve over time. And because of the overall intensity of the aromas and flavors as well as the long, lingering finish, I, again, assert that this is a wine of outstanding quality that is suitable for bottle aging.
More Info: $44.99 wine.com
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