Tue 25 Jun 2013

An evening of Kiwi delight


For Stephanie Searle of the Tastings and Events Team, the New Zealand tasting is the highlight of her year. She wasn’t disappointed

Matt Sutherland of Dog Point pouring his wine

Matt Sutherland of Dog Point pouring his wine

Every year The Society’s Tastings team hosts approximately 114 wine-centred events both within the UK and close to our French operation in Montreuil. From wine dinners, tutored tastings and informal walk-around tastings through to lunches, masterclasses and workshops, the opportunity to try wonderful wine is always there. Just like our members, we all have our favourite wine regions and styles so through the year there is always somebody within the team who is looking forward in anticipation to particular events taking place.

Last week my own delight knew no bounds when the team, along with Society buyer Pierre Mansour, hosted two informal, walk-around tastings that showcased the delicious, unusual and often truly exquisite wines from New Zealand.

With 27 wines to try, a tasting booklet and a glass in hand, and a host of winery representatives there to answer our questions as we tasted, our senses took the lead as we were able to glide the room experiencing, enjoying, comparing and contrasting the wines.

Choosing to start to with pinot gris, I headed for the Kumeu River table where their just off-dry, aromatic, succulent and well-balanced Kumeu River Pinot Gris, 2011 showed both richness and length. It was good to try it alongside the Prophet’s Rock Pinot Gris, 2010 which was more floral on the nose. One member described the aroma as ‘rich lilac hand cream’. I could taste cream soda and Cornish ice cream!

In total there were six chardonnays to try – the Kiwi style is broadly flavoured, round with a touch of oak for creaminess and lemon bursting through. The Wither Hills Chardonnay 2011 was a good example and at only £7.95 a bottle, it is excellent value for money.

Two chardonnays stood out for me as they revealed multiple layers of complexity and depth. Dog Point Chardonnay, 2010 had hints of spicy biscuit that in no way overpowered the fresh lemon notes. The Neudorf Chardonnay, 2011 was also delightful, unleashing the freshness of lemon sorbet with vanilla pod and cream.

Greywacke Wild Sauvignon

Greywacke Wild Sauvignon

The seven featured sauvignon blancs all had something slightly different to offer. Some were in the style that made New Zealand so famous: heady aromas of grass, gooseberry and nettle. Slightly more restrained was the Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard, Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 which revealed peach and apple fruitiness, and the Greywacke Wild Sauvignon, 2011 was a true revelation for me. By skilfully using indigenous yeasts and old oak barrels, winemaker Kevin Judd has created a delightfully distinctive and complex Sauvignon which is perfumed, smooth and enticingly rich. At £23 a bottle it isn’t cheap but in my view, it is definitely worth it!

Two very different rieslings were also available for tasting. The Hunter’s Riesling, 2011 was lively and dry yet crisp. It showed the first notes of emerging petrol aromas and will continue to age well for another few years yet.

Tim and Judy Finn from Neudorf

Tim and Judy Finn from Neudorf

Winery owners, Tim and Judy Finn received many positive comments about their Neudorf Brightwater Riesling, 2010. With lots of flora on the nose and palate, this wine was dry with great length and richness. A lovely wine – this one will definitely be going in my rack!

The pinot noir wines that I tried were ALL delicious and it was a joy to be able to glide from table to table tasting so many of them. Seresin Estate’s Momo Pinot Noir, 2011, made using organically grown grapes, is keenly priced at just £12.50 a bottle and Prophet’s Rock Pinot Noir, 2009 offers such depth and sophistication that it really is a ‘must try’ wine. Dog Point Pinot Noir, 2010 was gloriously fragrant, pure and plummy – Pierre Mansour’s description, not mine, but one with which I heartily agree.

Holding its own on the Te Mata table was the Te Mata Woodthorpe Cabernet-Merlot, 2009. Fragrant yet clear, it was a thoroughly enjoyable blend with cedary aromas and suppleness. It was exceptionally easy to drink with good length.

My final wine of the evening was Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah, 2010. Closer in style to the Rhône than to other new world examples of the grape, this syrah would perfectly partner sizzling red meats on the barbeque.

Of course, having tried all of the wines, the great temptation was to do a second tour of the tables but like a good wine, I showed restraint!

Categories : Miscellaneous


  1. Bentley Robinson says:

    It would be great to get a New Zealand wine tasting in Belfast, maybe with Jane Hunter present (her late husband was from Belfast). Too often we seem to get the more generalist wine tastings over here. Pity.

    • Simon Mason says:

      Dear Mr Robinson,

      I am very conscious that recent tastings in Belfast have been of the more general variety and so I currently have a New Zealand or Australia tasting in both Belfast and Dublin pencilled in for the first quarter of next year. Unfortunately most growers will be busy in the vineyards but we shall, most importantly, bring along a strong selection of their wines. The dates and details will be in our tasting brochure out towards the end of this year.

      Kind regards

      Simon Mason
      Tasting & Events Manager

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