Notebook: New Zealand
Tasting thrills new and old
Unable to welcome international buyers and industry professionals to tour and taste, wineries in New Zealand have mobilized to offer a week of virtual activities to raise awareness. New Zealand Wine Week activities, including discussions, tastings and workshops, will run February 8 to 12 online at nzwine.com (https://www.nzwine.com/en/events/new-zealand-wine-week/)
The event will also see the launch of a catalogue of New Zealand wines with a search function to see which wineries have product available in market or are looking to export, with tasting notes and other relevant information. With its borders closed, the country’s wineries need to rethink their sales and marketing efforts.
The virtual activities inspired this roundup tasting of currently available wines. Not surprising the majority of the reviews are sauvignon blancs. The mega star represents almost 80 percent of New Zealand’s wine exports to Canada. (While popular, chardonnay and pinot noir combine to contribute 10 percent of the total.)
From riper examples from Hawkes Bay or Nelson to more refreshing styles from sub-regions in Marlborough, large volume labels and more premium selections, there’s a reason sauvignon blanc from New Zealand continues to be such a thrill
Photos courtesy of Tourism New Zealand and Yealands Estates.
Babich Sauvignon Blanc 2020
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $17.95
Consistently one of the most crowd-pleasing New Zealand sauvignon blancs on the market, Babich offers generous fruity intensity with some herbal notes. Made in an easy to appreciate soft and round style, this is fresh but less zesty and intense than other expressions. Simple and standard issue; a little more refreshment would help to counter that juicy fruit character without losing its mass appeal. Available in Ontario at the above price, $19.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $20.99 in Saskatchewan, $17.99 in Manitoba, $23 in Nova Scotia.
Cirro Pinot Noir 2018
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $30
Made in the juicy and approachable Marlborough style, this offers a nice array of cherry and berry fruit with some earth and spice notes. The aromas and flavours are nicely in sync and the finish is long and spicy. Chill slightly for best enjoyment. Drink now to 2024. Available at the above price in private wine shops in British Columbia.
Cirro Sauvignon Blanc 2019
SCORE: 87 PRICE: $23.39
Simple, enjoyable style, with ruby grapefruit, citrus and herbaceous aromas and flavours. Ready to drink, commercial. Decant for best enjoyment. Available at private wine shops in British Columbia.
Crowded House Sauvignon Blanc 2020
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $19.99
There’s a lot to like about this bright and citrusy white. Led by grapefruit and lemon zest notes, it’s vibrant yet nicely balanced. A touch tropical, subtly herbal, with nice texture and persistence. Refreshing, elegant character. Drink now. Available in Ontario as a case of 12 bottles, direct from Stem Wine Group.
Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2019
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $27.95
Made from estate vineyards in the Wairau Valley region of Marlborough, this fresh and focused white finds Dog Point serving up its typically complex and concentrated version of sauvignon blanc. There’s appealing richness and refreshment on offer, with a core of juicy fruit that’s nicely rounded out by a lingering finish. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario at the above price, $33.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta.
Eradus Sauvignon Blanc 2019
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $19.95
A longstanding champion of the cooler Awatere sub-appellation of Marlborough, Eradus can counted on to deliver a vibrant and concentrated style of sauvignon blanc. There’s a grassy and herbal edge to the proceedings that makes it distinctive, especially as other sub-regions increasingly look to coax riper flavours out of their grapes. Intensely aromatic and mouth-watering, this is ready to drink now to 2022. Available in Ontario at the above price (Feb. 20, 2021 release)
Marlborough Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2020
SCORE: 87 PRICE: $13.95
Here’s a fairly simple yet agreeable expression of Marlborough sauvignon blanc that’s less intense and vibrant than more zesty examples. There’s a pleasant mix of citrus and tropical fruit notes, with some sweetness that makes the finish more cloying than refreshing. Drink now to 2021. Available in Ontario at the above price, $16.99 in British Columbia ($13.99 until March 3), various prices in Manitoba.
Matua Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2019
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $16.95
Founded by Bill and Ross Spence, Matua prides itself as the first winery to plant sauvignon blanc in New Zealand. A pleasantly fruity wine, this offers tropical and tree fruit flavours with some floral and grassy notes. Drink now to 2021. Available in Ontario at the above price, $17.99 in British Columbia ($15.99 until March 3), $18.49 in Saskatchewan, $15.99 in Manitoba, $21.49 in Newfoundland, $19.99 in the Yukon.
Paddy Borthwick Wairarapa Sauvignon Blanc 2018
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $19.95
Expressive and enjoyable sauvignon blanc, with typicity plus texture that makes it truly enjoyable. Balance, length and intensity make this a cut above. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario at the above price or direct, nicholaspearce.com, $26.98 in British Columbia.
Paddy Borthwick Chardonnay 2018
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $24.95
Like the sauvignon blanc, this delivers intensity of flavour and texture that make it complex and really enjoyable to drink. This is richer and riper, without losing its freshness or focus. Nice mix of fresh citrusy and ripe tree fruit flavours, with secondary oak contributing to the richer character. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in British Columbia
Peacock Sky Vineyard Waiheke Pure Merlot 2014
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $56
Estate grown on Waiheke Island, this rich red wine offers a nicely polished texture with a mix of ripe and savoury developing flavours. It’s rich and vibrant character impresses. Available direct from Apparition Wines in Ontario.
Peacock Sky Vineyard Waiheke Merlot Malbec 2014
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $56
The addition of malbec injects more vibrant and juicy fruit notes into this nice bright and intense red. Truly enjoyable style that promises to develop over the next two to four years. Available direct from Apparition Wines in Ontario.
The Supernatural Wine Co. Sauvignon Blanc 2018
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $34.95
A ripe and richer style of sauvignon blanc from an organic/biodynamic estate producer in Hawkes Bay. Skin contact and indigenous yeast fermented (and natural malolactic conversion), with extended lees contact and stirring for 12 months results in an inviting and textured fuller-bodied white that complex and persistent. Bottled unfined, with only a coarse filtration, under a crown cap, this is an individual, thoughtful and expressive wine. Available in Ontario direct, thelivingvine.ca, $26.70 in Quebec.
Te Awanag Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2019
SCORE: 89 PRICE:
Family-owned estate. Fruit grown in Hawkes Bay and extended lees contact contribute to this richer, riper expression of sauvignon blanc. Marked by tropical fruit, tree fruit and some anise and elderflower notes. Integrated and elegant approach. Drink now to 2025.
Te Henga Sauvignon Blanc 2020
SCORE: 87 PRICE: $12.95
From Babich Wines. Simple fruity expression, soft texture, sweetish fruit, touch herbal, but mostly watery citrus and pear, candied finish. Less intensity and verve than I remember. Available in Ontario at the above price, $16.49 in British Columbia.
Sacred Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2019
SCORE: 87 PRICE: $16.95
Simple, touch sweet fruit, some herbal (lemongrass). Enjoyable, commercial style candied Sweet tart finish. Decent value. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
Sacred Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2018
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $21.95
Sacred Hill’s reserve label is a nicely concentrated and rewarding version of sauvignon blanc that’s still fresh. This gains more weight and flavour from the 60 percent portion of the blend that was fermented in French oak barrels, mostly older barrels to add texture to the finished wine without obvious vanilla or spice flavours. Concentrated sauvignon blanc flavour shines through in the form of baked apricot, citrus oil and grassy notes, with a lingering refreshing finish. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario.
Sileni Lodge Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2018
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $26.95
This rich and flavourful chardonnay from Hawkes Bay offers concentrated citrus and honey flavours, with forward toasted oak and nutty notes that add complexity. It offers appealing complexity, concentration and structure. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario.
Spinyback Sauvignon Blanc 2020
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $17.95
A straightforward and enjoyable white, marked by citrus and honeyed aromas and flavours with a slight leafy/jalapeno edge. Simple. Enjoyable. Available at the above price in Ontario (Feb. 20 release at Vintages), $17.49 in Manitoba,
Trinity Hill Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2019
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $19.95
Located in Hawkes Bay on the North Island, Trinity Hill is one of New Zealand’s leading syrah producers. This is a richer style of sauvignon blanc with terrific texture and weight. Attractive citrus and stone fruit notes are nicely integrated and balanced by bright acidity to make for a refreshing dry and complex white wine. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario at the above price,
The Hunting Lodge Expressions Vibrant Sauvignon Blanc 2019
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $19.95
This classic and refreshing sauvignon blanc truly is vibrant. It’s also fruity, fragrant and easy to appreciate. An edge of green, with a mix of lively and bright citrus and tropical notes. Drink now to 2023 (longer, but let’s make the most of that vibrancy!) Available in Ontario direct from Nicholas Pearce Wines, npwines.com
Vidal Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2020
Vidal Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2019
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $19.95
Fun mini vertical from Vidal Estate, part of Villa Maria Estates portfolio. These show a bright and zesty yet approachable house style. Like the mix of citrus and tropical notes that give the 2020 a real yin-yang character. Drink now to 2022.
Waimea Sauvignon Blanc 2019
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $19.95
Made from two vineyards in the Waimea plains area of Nelson on New Zealand’s South Island, this is refreshing and flavourful white wine. Its citrus and green apple flavours are nicely enhanced by some herbal and tropical notes. The fruity intensity and fresh character make this truly enjoyable. Vegan friendly. Drink now to 2022. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta,
Whitecliff Sauvignon Blanc 2020
SCORE: 87 PRICE: $14.95
Made by Sacred Hill. Reductive at first, blows off. Decent fruit and concentration, grapefruit, green bean and green pepper dominant, zesty and decent length and value. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Saskatchewan and Alberta, $15 in Quebec,
Yealands Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $16.95
Tasted again and this review from January 2020 holds true. Yealands Marlborough sauvignon blanc offers enjoyable and concentrated tropical and stone fruit flavours. That ripe character is nicely countered by mouthwatering acidity that makes this a terrific aperitif or partner for any dish that would benefit from squeezing some lemon overtop. Vegan friendly. Available in Ontario.