Wednesday Wines – Episode 186 – New Zealand New Release Tasting 2023

I attended the New Zealand New Release tasting yesterday, so this information is bang up to date.  I have picked out 20 wines from the 146 on tasting for your consideration.  No stockist information was provided, and the prices quoted below look relatively accurate.  Still, unlike my usual pieces, I would ask you to fire up the internet to search for relevant retailers so you can load up with your preferred wines. Here is my list of the very best.

Whites

2023 Felton Road, Riesling, Bannockburn, Central Otago, South Island £27

This was the finest Riesling on display, and I urge you to buy it, but only if you like off-dry styles. Spätlese in feel, with stunning balance and pristine fruit, this is a heavenly wine and one of the most lip-smacking vintages I can remember.  18.5/20

2020 Carrick, Pinot Blanc, Bannockburn, Central Otago, South Island £26.50

While Pinot Blanc is somewhat of a rarity in NZ, this is a startlingly good wine with decent, pithy acidity under a languid, juicy green apple and pear fruit core. It is perfectly balanced, and unlike some of the very young wines on tasting, it is already drinking nicely.  18/20

2020 Lawson’s Dry Hills, The Pioneer Gewürztraminer, Southern Valleys, Marlborough, South Island £18.00 

This has always been a successful wine, and while I rarely drink Gewurz, Lawson’s manages to perfectly capture the hallmarks of this variety without any of the oiliness or sweetness that puts so many off.  Bright, clean, stunningly perfumed and light on its feet, this is a terrific wine and well worth a fling given the value afforded here.  17.5/20

2023 Emma Maris, Sauvignon Blanc, Marisco Vineyards, Marlborough, South Island, no price listed

This was one of the finest of the 58 Sauvignons (and blends) on tasting. While it sticks to a time-honoured Kiwi Savvy framework of bright citrus fruit and refreshing acidity, there are no unwanted tropical fruit notes or raw herbals found here, making this a professional piece of winemaking with a universally appealing flavour.  17.5/20

2023 Forrest, Sauvignon Blanc, Wairau Valley, Marlborough, South Island £14.95

Nice perfume, mid-palate, length and balance; this is a typically assured piece of winemaking by the ever-reliable Forrest family. The value is spot on, and it stays clean, elegant and composed throughout.  17.5/20 

2023 SPOKE, Awatere Sauvignon Blanc, Awatere Valley, Marlborough, South Island £14.50

While the two preceding wines are safe and correct, this beauty pushes the grape further and bolts on some character. There is just that little more amplitude of flavour and distinction here, and the length is impressive. There is discernible talent here, with a firm mineral backbone allowing the fruit to fully express itself without overstepping the mark. Delicious.  18/20

2023 Nautilus, Sauvignon Blanc, Wairau Valley, Marlborough, South Island £17.00

I love this wine’s calmness and gentle, melodic release of flavour. It is smooth, holistically refreshing and nicely weighted, and while it doesn’t feel the need to make a fuss on the palate, there is a quiet composure and elegance here that is subtle and impressive. A stony minerality here does a lot of the work behind the scenes, allowing the citrus notes to glide unimpeded across the palate.  18/20

2022 Rimapere, Plot 101 Sauvignon Blanc, Wairau Valley, Marlborough, South Island £35.00

This wine has shown too much raw oak in the past, and what little oak imprint here is very carefully managed, making this a long, cool, sophisticated wine. It is not cheap, but there is plenty of fun to be had here, particularly if you open it with richer dishes and give it some robust flavours to work with.  18/20 

2022 Pyramid Valley, Sauvignon+, Wairau Valley, South Island £25.00

This is a fabulous wine with a lot more weight and impact than many. The bold fruit is set against pithy acidity, and the whole experience is rather grand! This is not an aperitif style, so be sure to reserve it for more challenging dishes, especially if they involve spice or heat.  18.5/20

2022 SPOKE, Amped Chardonnay, Marlborough, South Island £23.00

A second brilliant SPOKE wine and one with the same intensity of flavour as the Sauvignon, but just a different ‘taste’. This is a superb all-purpose, modern, engaging Chardonnay with high-quality fruit perfectly matched with expressive but controlled winemaking.  18/20

2021 Delta, Hatters Hill Chardonnay, Marlborough, South Island £22.00

This is a fascinating wine. It is hard-edged, mineral, firmly fruity and bereft of overt flesh. It is challenging, stern and captivating, and I love how it keeps every element of its being trussed up and brittle. This bodes well for the future and is a classic example of an ultra-modern, mesmerising Chardonnay.  18+/20

2020 Pyramid Valley, North Canterbury Chardonnay, South Island £37.00

Grand, swaggering and not backwards coming forwards, this is a showier style with aspirational detail and a superb texture. The oak is undoubtedly present and bolsters the fruit with considerable panache.  A lot is going on here, and it is all good.  18.5/20

Reds

2020 Escarpment, Pinot Noir, Martinborough, North Island £25.00

Mineral-driven, beautifully restrained and seriously classy, this is a demure Pinot, yet it has only started on its path. There is so much to admire in this £25 wine it is amazing, and the story has only just started.  18+/20

2021 Escarpment, Kupe Pinot Noir, Martinborough, North Island £45.00

This is a wickedly detailed wine with more volume of fruit than the estate version and so much poise and elegance woven into its make-up. Under the beautiful exterior is an engine of fruit that hums with power and sophistication. I cannot wait to see what happens but don’t expect to see the full picture for a few years. This is a Grand Vin, and it demands respect.  18.5+/20

2021 Pegasus Bay, Pinot Noir, Waipara, South Island £28.00

Darker, more exotic and more plummy than the Escarpment duo, this is a silky, hedonistic Pinot, and it encapsulates all that is great about this terrific estate. It is more forward than one might expect at only two years of age, and yet the tannins will keep it upright for 5-8 years, I imagine.  18+/20

2020 Pyramid Valley, Pinot Noir, North Canterbury, South Island £37.00

This wine is the precise twin of its Chardonnay sibling, and it is made with the same care, attention, and spectacular detail. Classy and balanced, with smoky oak and pert acidity balancing the lush Pinot fruit.  This is a fabulous wine that continues to point a massive arrow toward North Canterbury for Pinot fans to follow.  18.5/20

2022 SPOKE, Rudimental Pinot Noir, Central Otago, South Island £24.00

As this wine clearly shows, the SPOKE folks can work their magic in Central Otago and Marlborough. Bold mulberry fruit and nice mid-palate weight make it a classic Central Pinot, but its competitive price point means it does what many wines from these climes fail to do – offer sublime value for money!  18/20

2022 Felton Road, Calvert Pinot Noir, Bannockburn, Central Otago, South Island £55.00

My favourite 2022 Felton Road Pinot is not Block 3 or 5 in 2022, but the deliciously enticing Calvert. Pure, willowy, bright and pricked with lip-smacking acidity, this is a thrilling wine that will bloom slowly, so there is no hurry to unscrew a bottle. In time, this will be an enchanting creation.  18.5+/20

2019 Smith & Sheth, CRU Heretaunga Syrah, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay, North Island £37.00

I love this wine with its iodine, seaweed, and cracked black pepper details. The core is bold, ripe, glossy and proud, and it is already drinking well, so you can wallow in its lustrous flavour now!  18.5/20

2021 Te Mata Estate, Bullnose Syrah, Hawke’s Bay, North Island £40.00

Downright gorgeous, this is a brilliant Bullnose, and it easily maintains this wine’s peerless reputation. It is much more expressive than the estate cuvée and is easily worth the price tag. Grab this wine, throw it into a pile of Northern Rhônes, and then sit back and watch this ninja do its job.  18.5+/20 

FIN