On Tuesday 11 January I went to the New Zealand Annual Trade Tasting (ATT) at Lords in London. It was the 30th Edition of the NZ London ATT and I guess New Zealand wine has come a long way in the UK since the early beginnings of the tastings… On Tuesday there were around 400 wines from 94 wineries available for tasting.
When I came in I had a stroll around the room first to get a feel for the tasting and I noticed that the room had a real Rugby 2011 feel – most principals were wearing rugby jerseys in support for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in October, there were small rugby ball on the table and big World Cup banners set up around the room. It felt like being back in New Zealand were most people live, breathe and play Rugby:-)
The other thing I observed was that whilst 94 wineries is a pretty impressive number there were definitely less wineries than the last time I had been.This I found a little weird especially since the total amount of NZ wineries has been on the rise these last few years…
I remember my first ATT in 2006, when I was representing Omaka Springs Estates and was looking for a new distributor for the winery. We were at the back of the room, in a draft corridor – the tasting was held over two days at that stage and the trade tended to spread out of the 2 days which meant the large room often felt kinda empty. On Tuesday the room was definitely buzzing!!
I had been asked by Paul Zijlstra from Bula Wines to have a look for a €10 retail Sauvignon Blanc, and my Swedish friends asked me to have a look for anything unusual and outstanding. Since the second request was more challenging than the first I decided to go look for some wines that were slightly different and really surprised me.
Whilst I tasted a lot of very good wines only a few really had the WOW factor, and of those there were only 2 wines that I had not tasted before. The first one was the Clos Marguerite Aged on Lees Sauvignon Blanc 2009 and it really blew me away!! The wine has been aged on the lees for 1 year, but unlike the Cloudy Bay Te Koko, the Clos Marguerite is 100% stainless steel fermented. The result is a very balanced, round, almost creamy wine, with hints of ripe apricots on the nose, a full mouth feel with rich yet delicate apricot, peach and Meyer lemon flavours and a very long finish. It is the most unusual Marlborough Sauvignon I have ever tasted and it was extremely delicious!
Clos Marguerite is a small family owned producer, with vineyards and a winery in the Awatere Valley, south of Blenheim. Jean-Clarles and Marguerite Van Hove, the owners spend a lot of time in France and believe in having a quality estate which produces excellent wines on a small plot of land – their total production is about 5000 cases. They both work in the vineyard, hand pick all their grapes and Jean-Charles makes the wines in the family winery by combining old world wine making techniques and new world technology.
The second wine which was new for me and totally surprised me was the Felton Road Bannockburn Riesling Central Otago 2010 (RRP £15.00 ). On the nose, this Riesling showed traditional characters of lemon, lime and a bit of flintiness, but on the palate the wine showed rich flavours of apricot, peach and even a bit of honey, great weight and good acidity and lovely length and really reminded me of a German had Spätlese. I would be interested in seeing this wine develop over a few years and if it wasn’t for Easjet’s restriction I would have asked for the closest retailer and purchased the wine on the spot!
Felton Road again is a small winery owned by Nigel Greening and based in Central Otago and very well known for it’s excellent Pinot Noirs and their biodynamic vineyards.
Other favourites were Trinity Hill Tempranillo Hawkes Bay 2008 (have drunk heaps of the 2007 so this was to be expected:-)), Neudorf Chardonnay Nelson 2008 (which definitely stood up against the premier Crus Chablis we were comparing to), Schubert Vineyard Block Pinot Noir Martinborough 2008, Man o’ War Dreadnought Syrah 2009 and Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Le Sol Syrah Hawkes Bay 2007.
From the self pour tables the one I enjoyed the most was the Syrah table – the catalogue described this as New Zealand Syrah – the one to watch and I can but 100% agree. I like the cool climate Syrah’s coming from Hawkes Bay and Waiheke and will most definitely be following NZ Syrah category in years to come!!
As always the tasting was very well organised with this year even bus services to other tastings in place. The lunch buffet was delicious and the flat white at the coffee bar I had before leaving is the best coffee I have had since leaving New Zealand:-)