The start of the new year in London coincides with the arrival of our sun-kissed antipodean producers for a busy January of tastings. The New Zealand contingent attended back-to-back events, with the NZWG ‘Flavours of New Zealand’ tasting following our annual Portfolio tasting, while the Australians went on to attend the three Australia Trade Tastings at the end of the month. Hundreds of screwcaps were unscrewed. Marloes Klijnsmit, Australian and New Zealand Brand Manager, shares her top picks.
Premium cool-climate Australian Chardonnays are a hot topic. We’ve seen more restraint and elegance with each new vintage and Shaw + Smith’s flagship Chardonnay is no exception. Sourced mostly from their Lenswood property at a cool 500 metres above sea level, it shows delicate white nectarine and grapefruit alongside savoury toast and brioche notes. I love the texture – fruit from this part of the Adelaide Hills has a racy acidity which is expertly balanced with winemaker Adam Wadewitz’s use of French oak.
Of the two unoaked single-vineyard Grenaches from Willunga 100, ‘The Hundred Clarendon’ has always been my choice. On a recent visit to the peaceful century-old vineyard, where I saw the rows of gnarled bush vines, I was further captivated by this Grenache. It’s so graceful in style, with soft tannins and perfumes of red fruit and violets; McLaren Vale’s answer to Pinot Noir has a freshness that disguises the variety’s higher alcohol content of 14.5%.
Sometimes in the shadow of Charlie’s better-known ‘Nine Popes’ GSM blend, his Shiraz really stood out last week. It’s seductive in its intensity, with complex, brooding dark fruits and sophisticated oak influence, but mostly, its abundance of very fine tannins. There was a heat wave in the Barossa just before the 2014 harvest, resulting in very spicy Shiraz. Charlie chose to soften the spice by keeping this particular vintage in oak for 24 months (a third new; 60% American, 40% French) and the outcome will warm you perfectly through the rest of winter.
Just 2% of New Zealand wine exports is Pinot Gris, so it’s a delight to have several examples in our portfolio. The Kim Crawford Pinot Gris is a refreshing, dry style with juicy orchard fruits and a touch of orange blossom which I felt really held its own among the lineup of powerful Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs and aromatic Rieslings. A great aperitif and should be on by the glass around the country!
We had the lovely Warren Gibson over so plenty of chance to quiz him about his fantastic wines. Warren says, ‘If there is one variety that says “I’m from Hawkes Bay” it is Syrah. This comes largely from the combination of free draining gravel soils, a relatively warm climate by New Zealand’s standards and the historical link and usage of heritage clonal material. The result is an exotic mix of spice, pepper, blackberry and red liquorice with a palate driven by mouth-watering, savoury tannins. We are always striving to encapsulate these attributes from the vineyard to the bottle. This means a light winemaker’s hand is essential.’
2017 was a tough vintage across New Zealand, and it is to Helen Masters’ credit that the latest release of ‘Crimson’ is one of the best yet. A combination of the vines maturing and Helen’s hard work to create the best wines from a hard year have produced a concentrated, sophisticated Pinot Noir that is nearing in style to its renowned big brother, Ata Rangi’s Martinborough Pinot Noir. Congratulations again to Helen for winning Gourmet Traveller Wine’s 2019 NZ Winemaker of the Year last week!