Published on February 15th, 2012 | by ladyparker0
Report: What’s in store for New Zealand wine in 2012?
A quick note on the New Zealand Annual Trade Tasting and Vintage 2012.
A buoyant and enthusiastic crowd of trade and press met hundreds of bottles of New Zealand wine at the end of January at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London. The New Zealand Winegrowers UK team put on a great display of the wares of this island wine-growing nation, which evidently was hugely popular amongst trade, press and consumers alike. Organisation and professionalism was inherent.
Here are some observations about the event and indeed how New Zealand wine in general is progressing. This years new initiative self-pour wine flights were very popular, allowing a real traversing of the country across a particular variety. Tables for this year included Bordeaux blends, sparkling wines and the highly publicised Riesling Challenge. One of my favourites was the Chardonnay table, demonstrating that stylistically there is a diverse and profound future for the variety, which has undergone a quiet Renaissance since the squeamish ABC syndrome of the 1990s. They exude grown-up sophistication, and while not all completely polished they show a great deal of promise.
Very good examples from the Chardonnay selection included Michael Brajkovich’s Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2008 – demonstrating that enchanting struck match character and a complex array of ripe stonefruit notes and mineral chalkiness. Neudorf’s Moutere Chardonnay from Nelson is always very consistent, and this vintage was abound with a stonefruit, melon fruit spectrum, integrated spicy oak and a lovely acid backbone. Although not on the self-pour educational table the Mountford Estate Chardonnay 2008 from Waipara was surprisingly exceptional, it also had the looked for struck match notes, along with leesy complexity and well integrated oak.
I was particularly interested in the Syrah wines from Hawkes Bay and found for all the names out there, the Crossroads Hawkes Bay Syrah 2010, channelling Northern Rhône, is worth a special mention. It whispers nuances of black pepper, bacon, and dark plum, while the ripe fruit tannin sets the scene on the palate and leads in to a lengthy finish. No overt oakiness masks the fruit, and it expresses itself exquisitely. Elephant Hill’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 emulates this cool climate style also. Interestingly the fruit comes from estate vineyards in Te Awanga, Hawkes Bay – a cool, coastal area.
The words hot on everyone’s lips at the tastings was Grüner Veltliner, assisted by a popular masterclass held at the event, which considered where New Zealand is at with production of this Austrian variety and appraising its prospects. While there are currently only 30 hectares of this variety planted in New Zealand it looks to have taken well to the climatic conditions and soil types of the country, particularly Marlborough. Typically you’ll see expressive orange, mandarin, and tangerine-type notes which combine with a white pepper fragrance. As vines mature and bottle age begins to feature we are likely to start seeing the ‘looked-for’ oily development in bottle.
There are currently about 12 producers of Grüner Veltliner, but expect this number to quietly grow in the future.
Sauvignon Blanc standards in general were very high and we are continuing to see consistency as well as diversity of style – whether that involves use of judicious oak and wild ferments (good examples include Astrolabe Taihoa Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Yealands Reserve Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009 and Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Blanc 2009), lees-contact, or that classic looked for thiol expression – think blackcurrant, passionfruit and sweat (good examples being Spy Valley, Saint Clair‘s Pioneer Block Sauvignon Blanc wines and Villa Maria’s Single Vineyard Southern Clays Sauvignon Blanc), there is something for everyone. I would love to see more comprehensive championing of Marlborough’s distinctive subregions and the labelling of wines accordingly as it is evident there are more subregional styles emerging. A universal subregional map would be ideal to set this in motion.
Pinot Noir continues to outwardly improve. It appears a dichotomy of styles are in production due to individual winemaking intent, and also is partly due to region: they are the mid to high-toast oak example which focuses on ‘big-ness’, dark plum fruit and sweet oak spice, while a Burgundian-like low-toast, red-fruit and gamey style entails a complete opposite. 2010 Pinot Noir from Marlborough are the ones to snap up now with many winemakers professing to me it was the best red vintage they had seen for decades. With their ample fruit tannins they’ll be happy for many years in your cellar.
I would have to comment that the 2010s from the Hawkes Bay, particularly Syrah, demonstrate this same amazing aromatic expression, power on the palate and ageing potential – though it is still a matter of choosing well to ensure you are content with the style.
The quality of New Zealand wines is overwhelming, it is just frustrating to see that our high dollar coupled with increased tax and duty in the UK has lead to a scenario where it seems that New Zealand producers are demanding more for their product. I can assure, in most instances, that this is not the case – it is the ancillary duties and the strong Kiwi dollar giving this impression. The encouraging thing is that it has not deterred the continued growth of New Zealand wine in these markets. As a final note, seeing as the weather gods have been very spiteful to most of the country over summer (Marlborough recorded the coldest December in history, with maximum temperatures in the vicinity of 13° celsius), the outcome of the 2012 vintage will certainly be interesting for export markets.
Due to this weather a spectacularly poor flowering occurred in Marlborough across all varieties, so expect to see some of the cheaper, opportunistic brands disappearing as producers scramble to get enough fruit for the climbing consumption of New Zealand wine. I hope there will be enough to satisfy demands – I’m hearing accounts that crop is down 30 – 50% down on the 2010 vintage for Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand, equating to approximately 100,000 tonnes of fruit. The good news is with looser bunches and less vine stress the quality could be outstanding.
Central Otago has had a beauty, recording the only normal temperatures over summer. They had a not-uncharacteristic snowfall in between but they have frequently been in the high 20’s – mid 30’s temperature range. Hawkes Bay and Gisborne have both advocated they have experienced normal temperatures and are expecting a typical, quality vintage.
I have the distinct feeling we’ll have an Indian summer – the past few days have resembled more of what we are used to here in Marlborough, just as the first signs of veraison are occurring. It is safe to say 2012 will be small, but it could be an exceptional vintage for New Zealand wine.