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Tasting Report: Wines of New Zealand 2018

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If wines hitting the market in 2018 are any guide, New Zealand continues its march upmarket, putting out wines of increasingly high quality at a variety of price points. In my tasting of dozens of 2018 releases from NZ, I found that releases of sauvignon blanc are particularly worthwhile, continuing the trend of dialing back that overbearing tropical sweetness and letting more nuanced flavors come to the fore. I was less enamored with this season’s pinot noir releases, but there’s decent progress being made there, too.

Let’s dig into the wines; tasting notes on everything sampled follow.

Tasting Report: 2018 New Zealand Wine Fair

2015 Astrolabe Wrekin Vineyard Chenin Blanc – Heavily herbal. B+ / $25
2017 Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough – Slight herbal kick, lychee notes; tight acidity. A- / $22
2017 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
– Fresh and fragrant, hints of vanilla. A- / $32
2014 Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
– A touch of barnyard, but that funk gives it some nuance. A- / $60
2017 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir Marlborough
– Very dry, a bit dusty; opens up to show some dark berry notes in time. B+ / $40
2017 Cloudy Bay Te Wahi Pinot Noir Central Otago
– Gorgeous depth, cherries and spice, some licorice. A / $99
2017 Craggy Range Te Muna Road Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
– Tropical, but lots of minerals and some brine brighten it up. B+ / $23
2016 Craggy Range Pinot Noir Martinborough 
– Rustic, a bit dusty. B / $25
2015 Craggy Range Te Kahu Gimblett Gravels Merlot Hawke’s Bay 
– Violets, heavy earth; long finish. B+ / $28
2015 Craggy Range Sophia Gimblett Gravels Merlot Hawke’s Bay
– Deep, almost Bordeaux-like, with black fruit and earth in balance. A- / $80
2016 Duck Hunter Pinot Noir Upper Awatere Marlborough
– A bit of graphite, blackberries; slightly sweet finish. B+ / $30
2016 Endeavor Vineyards Catalina Sounds Pinot Noir Marlborough – Fresh, expressive and fruity. A- / $19
2016 Framingham Classic Riesling Wairau Valley Marlborough – Very sweet (15 grams sugar), frizzante style; fit for dessert but uncomplicated. B / $25
2017 Framingham Nobody’s Hero Sauvignon Blanc Wairau Valley Marlborough
– A bit blunt; big mango notes. B / $14
2016 Giesen The Brothers Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
– Slight savory edge; salty but dry. A- / $20
2013 Giesen Single Vineyard Selection Clayvin Syrah Marlborough
– Richly fruity, some chocolate notes; a touch of bacon. A- / $50
2013 Giesen Single Vineyard Selection Clayvin Pinot Noir Marlborough
– Quite savory, bacon heavy. B+ / $50
2017 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
– Bold, fruit and saline in nice proportion. A- / $23
2014 Greywacke Pinot Noir Marlborough
– Dried fruit notes here; slightly vegetal. B+ / $39
2014 Huia Pinot Noir
 Marlborough – Heavily earthy; pungent at times with barnyard notes. B- / $28
2017 Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
– Well structured. B+ / $22
2015 Loveblock Pinot Noir Central Otago
– Intense, with punchy spice and earth. B / $30
2015 Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir North Canterbury
– On the thin side; some notes of bacon jam. B+ / $28
2016 Opawa Pinot Noir Marlborough
– Ample earth, smoky, with some dried fruit. B / $20
2015 Nautilus Pinot Noir Southern Valleys Marlborough
– Gentle, with a flick of licorice and blackberry notes. A / $33
2014 Ohau Wines Selected Vines Sauvignon Blanc 
– Very fruity, quite tart, peachy notes. B- / $NA
2014 Ohau Wines Selected Vines Pinot Gris
– Some meatier notes; a little cheesy. B / $NA
2017 Saint Clair Origin Series Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
– Fresh, quite fruit forward, with a steely finish. A / $28
2015 Spy Valley Pinot Noir Southern Valleys Marlborough
– Fresh, fruit forward, some floral notes. B+ / $30
2015 Spy Valley Envoy Johnson Vineyard Pinot Noir Waihopai Valley Marlborough
– Racier, some pepper, a bit of beef jerky. A- / $55
2016 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
– Lightly frizzante, tropical, hints of earth. B / $NA
2016 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 
– Much bolder, funky at times. B / $19
2014 Villa Maria Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Pinot Noir Marlborough
– Modest body, some vanilla, solid cherry notes. A- / $45
2017 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
– Strong green apple, citrus notes; striking acidity. A- / $20

A special table was also available with a guided tasting through eight syrahs from New Zealand. It’s a grape that, frankly, I didn’t really even know was in significant production in the country — but it turns out some of these wines are really impressive. I’ll definitely give NZ syrah another try down the line. Thoughts follow. (Prices were not provided.)

2016 Te Whare Ra SV5182 Syrah – Some interesting dessert notes; sweet fruit. B+
2015 Fromm La Strada Syrah Marlborough – Intense, Rhone style, bright but smoldering. A-
2015 Tantalus Reserve Voile Syrah Waiheke Island – Nice density, some gunpowder, black fruit, a bit sweet. A-
2015 Elephant Hill Reserve Syrah Hawke’s Bay – Quite bright and fresh, some herbs, lemongrass notes. A-
2015 Bilancia La Colina Syrah Hawke’s Bay – Heavy mint/eucalyptus notes, beefy. B
2015 Vidal El Legado Syrah Hawke’s Bay – Solid body, some greenery, packed earth. B+
2013 Passage Rock Reserve Syrah Waiheke Island – Somewhat earthier, a bit of bacon. B+
2009 Kusuda Syrah Martinborough – Clearly seeing some age, but austere; lightly beefy. A-

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Christopher Null

Christopher Null is the creator and editor in chief of Drinkhacker.com, a veteran technology journalist, and the owner of Null Media, a custom blogging company.

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