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Blackboard Wines Trade Show 2014

By September 10, 2014No Comments
Blackboard Wines is one of the smaller wine distributors that makes up for its size with its enthusiasm and energy. The range of wines carried is similar in formula with most others, with a distinctive domestic portfolio which includes several ‘own’ labels that the company makes or has a hand in their production, and exclusive imported wines along with a small selection of beers, ciders and spirits. The company is the wholesale arm of Corporate Direct, which also operates the very successful www.winesale.co.nz on-line retail business.

I attended the Blackboard Wines Trade Show, conducted at The Grand on Courtenay Place, Wellington, but only had a limited amount of time, so decided to visit each of the ‘guest’ New Zealand producers, have a quick discussion and taste a wine of their choice they wanted to show me. Here are my comments and photos in the order that I visited. www.blackboardwines.co.nz


Lee Dobson – No. 1 Family Estate

No. 1 Family Estate – Marlborough
Lee Dobson, assistant winemaker to Daniel Le Brun has been at No. 1 Family Estate for 10 years and loves it. It’s a busy place, not only making the outstanding range of their own sparkling wines, but also the highly specialised work for around 30 clients that come from Waiheke Island in the north to Central Otago in the south. Lee poured the ‘Cuvee No. 1’ Methode Traditionnelle NV, all Chardonnay and lovely with its fine lifted florals and delicate sweetness. There’s a ‘Cuvee No. 1 Reserve’ in the works, with longer time on lees. I can’t wait…


Gary Neale – Brightwater Vineyards

Brightwater Vineyards – Nelson
Although making a successful range of wines, Chardonnay is arguably the flagship. Gary Neale was proud to advise that his ‘Lord Rutherford’ Barrique Chardonnay 2012 had just been awarded the Colin Harrison Memorial Trophy for Best Nelson Chardonnay. Tasting the wine, it exuded the complexity and quality of fine Chardonnay with noticeable oak and MLF, but it’s still tightly bound and a baby. There were only 4 barrels made, that’s 100 cases.


Kate Throp – Margrain

Margrain – Martinborough
The runaway hit for Margrain last vintage was the Rosé. Winemaker Strat Canning replicated the style again, said Kate Throp in making the Rosé 2014. It’s 100% Pinot Noir, spending 24 hours on skins and sits at 10 g/L RS. It too is a deliciously delicate and lifted, fruity number. It seems a tad lighter, as it should, being brand new, but it has zestiness and poise to balance the sweet fruit. If I had time, I would have reacquainted myself with the Chenin Blanc 2013, another star.


Will Kerner – Kerner Estate

Kerner Estate – Marlborough
I’m not sure if Kerner Estate is better known for its range of subtly complex and detailed wines, or for the quality of the fruit, which is contracted out to a small number of well-known wine producers. Either way, owners Bruce and Joanne Kerner can be proud of the work of the vineyard manager, their son Will Kerner. Will takes his work seriously and his recent studies included comparing organic and conventional viticulture and vineyards. He poured the Chardonnay 2010, now beginning to show some bottle-age complexities and oak toastiness, but still with a youthful acid drive on the palate.


Danny Phipps – Whitehaven

Whitehaven – Marlborough
This is the quiet giant of Marlborough, with wines that are understated and stylish, but classical expressions of the region. Danny Phipps, brother of proprietor Sue White, looking after distribution, poured the new Pinot Rosé 2014. It has been made paler, in accordance to the wishes of one of their biggest customers for the wine, who wanted it to resemble the Provencal style even more. And it does, with its delicate strawberry and herb aromas and flavours, and crisp, dry palate.


Peter Hudson – Hudson

Hudson – Martinborough
Pete Hudson is a true artisan, making Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Riesling from his 6.5 ha of vines on the Lake Ferry Road, 8 km south of the Martinborough village. He’s always thinking and improving the breed, showing me his 2013 and 2014 Rosé. Actually, both are pretty and attractive; the 2013 gentle with its sweet fruitiness, whereas the 2014 is a little more structured and linear. This improved palate is the result of the incorporation of some late picked white wine!


Stephanie Henderson-Grant – Ataahua

Ataahua – Waipara Valley
The newest addition to the Blackboard Wines portfolio is Ataahua, the personal winegrowing venture of Stephanie Henderson Grant. It’s personal, because she’s totally hands-on in the vineyard and winery. Making wine for Waipara Springs until 2005, Stephanie left the industry, but was drawn back to her love of winemaking, she and her husband acquiring some mature vineyards along the way. She poured the new Gewurztraminer 2013, at 14.0% alc. and 9 g/L RS. It’s tight and going to live well, showing ginger rather than florals, and a palate that balances phenolic drive with unctuous textures. 6-18 hours skin contact has contributed to its seriousness.


Marilyn Duxson – Maori Point

Maori Point – Central Otago
While John Harris and Marilyn Duxson make classical Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, they’ve begun a little innovation with the Pinot Gris fruit, making a Prosecco-style wine named ‘Gold Digger’ 2013. It’s sparkling, but more frizzante rather than full-blown bubbles, with a proper 11.0% alc. and 9 g/L RS. But to enable accessibility, it is bottled in 330 ml bottles, sealed with a crown cap. Marilyn gave me a taste. Typically Pinot Gris with stonefruit and honied notes, there’s a soft creamy texture leading to a drying finish. I can see this developing a following, especially among the younger, fun-loving market.


Chris Harrison – Beach House

Beach House – Hawke’s Bay
Time has flown by for winemaker Chris Harrison. No doubt running a brewery alongside a winery could make life complex and busy. He’s a Hawke’s Bay fixture with 18 vintages of Beach House wines under his belt, and he now makes 14 different wines from 200 tonnes annually from his vineyards in Te Awanga and the Gimblett Gravels. He poured the Cabernet Franc 2013 for me to try. Beautifully dark in colour, aroma and flavour, showing the ripeness and health of the fruit in the outstanding 2013 vintage. Great concentration, but with bright, sweet fruit, the juiciness encased by excellent structure. Probably the wine of the afternoon for me!


Michael Finucane – Alexander Vineyard

Alexander Vineyard – Martinborough
This is one of the quiet brands of Martinborough, the label and wines carrying a sense of stateliness that befits the nature of the avuncular proprietor Michael Finucane. He’s happy to let his wines do the talking. They have an ability to keep well and develop, as demonstrated by his new release Pinot Noir 2010. Bright and sweet with dark red fruits, this has vibrancy and a mouthfilling palate. Four barrels were made, and two of the barrels were new, but the wine seems quite in harmony without any excess oaking. A very smart wine.

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