The latest results in Cuisine magazine’s wine tastings appear to embrace diversity. The range in styles, labels and prices of the successful wines is the feature, and it makes for interesting reading and recommendations. It’s easy for judges to fall into the trap of endorsing styles they personally like or are familiar with, and there’s the ongoing encouragement for them to be open-minded and appreciate styles that are outside their comfort zone and appraise them accordingly. The judging panel led by regular chair and wine industry doyen John Belsham, had James Rowan, winemaker at West Brook and Sam Kim, writer, both very experienced show circuit judges, along with Cuisine’s writer John Saker who also tastes very widely, worked through New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé and Dessert Wines for the January 2014 Issue 162.
Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and 2012
Cuisine suggests that New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc may be going through a re-birth with the 2013 vintage, seeing a “style change”, as expressed by John Belsham, who saw “a more honest approach” which resulted in more international styles rather than the “formulaic, flamboyant versions”. I’m not quite sure about that, but if true, then it’s a good thing. The more well-known pungent of gooseberryish styles are still very valid for me and the world-wide market, I reckon, so we can’t lose sight of that.
Probably just as important is the topic of how good the 2013 vintage is. Already it is being lauded as an outstanding one, especially in the North Island, and this praise is now being applied to the South Island, including Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. A number of wine producers in Marlborough are saying 2013 is better than 2012, due to the greater ripeness, and the wines will show well later in life. Others are concerned about the high crops, and in some cases, earlier picking. 2013 was a very condensed Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc vintage which meant there were pressures on tank and winery space, thus some fruit was left to over ripen or get affected by rain. These producers see 2012 as being more classical in expression and thus better. There’s no simple answer and “results will vary” as they say in the advertisements. My experience with what I’ve tasted is that there were more successful Sauvignon Blancs in 2012 at this comparable stage of releases and development. I am tending towards the 2012s as generally better, but will be very pleased to see my thoughts change.
The Cuisine results show a full and broad mix. The top wine, the Mud House 2013 is a classical passionfruity style, whereas the Mount Riley ‘17 Valley’ 2012 in place #9 is a complex barrel-influenced style. These are two of the ‘premium’ labelled wines. Then the Mount Fishtail 2013, at #2 is a second label of ‘Konrad’ as the ‘Ribbonwood’ 2013 in spot #10 is a second label of Framingham. Prices in the ‘Top 10’ wines range from $12.00 to $26.00. There also appears to be a leaning towards a high proportion of ‘second tier’ labels. Is this because of the increased quality across the board? Or is it because these wines are more approachable at this youthful stage? Whatever the reason, there’s the benefit of good value for the consumer.
For the record, the ‘Top Ten’ are, in order: Mud House 2013, Mount Fishtail 2013, Kuru Kuru 2013, Muddy Water ‘Growers’ Series’ 2013, Tuatara Bay 2013, Framingham 2013, Sanctuary 2013, Ara ‘Single Estate’ 2013, Mount Riley ’17 Valley’ 2012, Ribbonwood 2013, these all being 5-star in quality. Interestingly there were 14 wines awarded 5-star, with the Lawson’s Dry Hills 2013 and Mount Vernon 2013 being in the main body of text, but the Jules Taylor 2013 and Stoneleigh ‘Rapaura’ 2013, also 5-stars, relegated to the list at the end of the article, which is difficult to fathom why! Cuisine states there were 67 wines from 217 tasted that were rated 4-star or more.
Rosé and Dessert Wines
“This is the best line-up we’ve seen for some time” reported John Belsham as the panel awarded 3 of the 54 rosé wines 5-stars, these being the Two Rivers ‘L’Ile de Beauté’ , 36 Bottles and Hunters, all from 2013. Rounding off the ‘Top 5’ were the Terra Sancta 2013 and Kate Radbirnd ‘Berry Blush’ 2013, these two at 4 ½ -stars. It’s a good time for rosé as the number of purpose-made wines is prevalent well over that of wines made as a by-product of table red production. Good to see is the diversity of styles being endorsed, from the pale, delicate and dry, to more bight, fruity and confectionary-hinted and sweeter wines. They all deserve to be there.
A similar situation is happening with sweet wines, which impressed the panel. Of 44 wines tasted, there were 4 rated at 5-star, these being: Villa Maria ‘Reserve’ Marlborough Noble Semillon 2011, Akarua ‘Alchemy Ice’ 2012 (a Gewurztraminer ice wine), Saint Clair ‘Godfrey’s Creek Reserve’ Noble Riesling 2013 and the Framingham Noble Riesling 2013. Joining this in the ‘Top 5’ was the Cloudy Bay Late Harvest Riesling 2008, rated 4 ½ -star. Again, one can see the range in varieties, styles and ages.
So a job well-done by the panel in promoting quality with diversity. For full results, one should go to www.cuisinewine.co.nz