See some of our winning 2019 lists - Entries open for 2020 on 1st Feb
Two of our judges, Sophie Otton and Andrew Graham joined the trail and have shared their highlights below:
WINE HIGHLIGHTS, BY SOPHIE OTTON
ST HUGO 2018 RIESLING 2016 CABERNET
True to form, restrained, measured fruit, built to evolve. Scintillating 2018 Riesling and 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon. Old school execution, beautifully managed allowing the integrity of the fruit to shine.
TELLURIAN GSM 2017
This Grenache blend from Heathcote shines bright. Loving the freshness, savoury composure and fruit tuning.
CRAGGY RANGE GIMBLETT GRAVELS SYRAH 2016
Evocative aromatics, plush red berries, briar and spice tailored with complex layers of compressed fruit.
FREEMAN SANGIOVESE 2017 & NEBBIOLO 2015
Love the tannins in Brian Freeman’s red wines. They give you something to work with and guide the mouthfeel of the wines. The Sangiovese is savoury and structured, capturing the variety in its Australian landscape (not easy to do). Also, his 2015 Nebbiolo captures this grape’s inherent autumnal characters that come with some welcome bottle age.
VILLA MARIA RESERVE MERLOT 2017
A luxurious example that holds its own. Brimming with blue fruit and plush mulberry characters. Deep set, supple flavours retaining freshness, shape and length.
TE KAIRANGA PINOT GRIS 2017
Spiced pears, quince and yellow apples. Terrific palate, honeysuckle, honeydew succulence. Made in a richer, more opulent style that rolls in the mouth, finishing on a waxy, textural note.
WINE HIGHLIGHTS, BY ANDREW GRAHAM
CORAVIN VS ATA RANGI PINOT
In a short few years, Coravin has helped transform by-the-glass lists dramatically. Now, we see a wonderful situation where icon wines are available almost on tap at our best establishments.
Today, it was the turn of a 2016 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir to showcase the Coravin benefits (and fool me in the process).
This is already a beautiful, highly fragrant Kiwi Pinot – so no surprises about the quality. But what floored me, yet again, was how exuberant a glass of this Pinot looked from a bottle accessed by Coravin 3 weeks ago – I couldn’t pick it from a sample poured from a fresh bottle.
Magical Coravin strikes again!
EVOLUTION OF LE SOL – CRAGGY RANGE
The personality of Craggy Range has changed remarkably in recent years, the wines transforming from heroically proportioned (for NZ) whites and reds, into grown-up, sophisticated drinks.
The 2016 Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah is a prime example. Weighing in at just 13% alcohol it’s a picture of moderation. A ripe, but still carefully modulated, Hawke’s Bay Syrah that has this core of blueberry fruit and finessed tannins, sacrificing little in the quest for vitality and complexity.
A statement wine, as ever, but more for balance than alcohol and extract.
REAL NEBBIOLO – FREEMAN WINES
Brian Freeman’s Hilltops vineyard has an amazing fruit salad of varieties planted covering everything from Corvina to Furmint, Sauvignon Blanc to Aleatico.
But it is the Italian varieties that are the focus, and the 2015 Freeman Nebbiolo captures so much of the classic Piedmont Nebbiolo style, just with an Aussie accent. Varietal, generous and generously tannic, it shows the cherry fruit and the edge of rusticity that marks it as a real Nebbiolo.
FEELING THE FLOWSTONE – FLOWSTONE
Stuart Pym’s Flowstone label remains a small scale project, but the quality far outweighs the quantity. There’s a level of detail here that isn’t unusual for Margaret River, but with an emphasis on interesting textures too.
The 2014 Flowstone Queen of The Earth Cabernet Sauvignon remains a wonderfully detailed, carefully made red that combines fruit robustness with finely integrated oak and sculpted tannins.
Handmade is a cliche in the wine world, but you feel like the barrels for this Cabernet might have had a hug each morning – it’s that well put together.
It’s always great to check in on a wine from your early wine days and find it’s still going strong, and I have fond memories of drinking mid-90s Fox Creek reds and falling for their sheer depth of flavour.
The 2015 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz is as lavishly oaked (and lavishly fruited) as I remember too. The appeal is the all-encompassing mid palate, which is so generous and weighty that you feel like you could fall in. Here’s a wine that showcases exactly what made Australia’s reputation internationally in the first place – Shiraz that is overflowing with everything.
MATSO’S NOT WINE – MATSO’S BREWERS
At the end of a long tasting you don’t want to just have another wine, you’re looking for a change in flavour. Something that isn’t necessarily wine-based at all, and likely comes from either a brewery/distillery.
At this juncture I’d normally steer clear of something like alcoholic ginger beer as the sweetness/ginger balance is rarely right (i’d prefer a pint of IPA thanks), but the Matso’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer did sway me.
It’s gently sweet, but with the right amount of gingery tang to even things out, making for a change of pace. We’re talking chilled refreshment, not contemplation and dissection, and perfect at the end of a long day.
NOT IN DIFFICULTY – MOUNT DIFFICULTY
With more than twenty vintages to its name, Bannockburn’s Mt Difficulty can rightly claim to be one of Central Otago’s most established players. While Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and even Chenin Blanc can be found here, Pinot Noir remains far and away the champion variety.
What marks the Mt Difficulty style is a firmness of structure and intent. These are wines to be aged, to be admired, to mature not just soften, and even now the 2015 Mt Difficulty Mansons Farm Pinot Noir looks youthful. There’s a push of purple red fruit, before a palate that lingers long, it’s impact impressive for Central Otago. Quality Pinot Noir with much to give.
THE SAINT KEEPS MARCHING IN – ST HUGO
Now with its own dedicated winery in the Barossa, the St Hugo label has expanded in size and footprint in recent years at a pace. Curiously, however, the wine styles haven’t evolved to match.
The most recent releases serve to change that, as typified by the high quality 2016 St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon.
What I like about this classic Coonawarra red is the extra layer of polish. The tannins are less raw, the oak folded in, the acid better integrated too. I can’t remember a more accessible – yet traditionally structured – St Hugo Cabernet release in my time. Fans of the brand are going to love this 2016.
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