Kiwi wines impress
It’s a good thing I’m not superstitious. Not only did I fly internationally on 9/11, when I checked into the hotel in Auckland I found I was in room 911. I thought about renting a Porsche 911 to complete the hoodoo.
The occasion was the judging of the 2016 New Zealand International Wine Competition, run by Kingsley Wood of Auckland wine retailer, First Glass. I found myself with a group of high-profile Kiwi comrades in the fine harbourside suburb of Takapuna.
The 28-strong judging panel was a Who’s Who of Kiwi winemakers. Among them were Olly Masters of Misha’s Vineyard, Peter Cowley of Te Mata Estate (tastings), John Hancock of Trinity Hill (tastings), Larry McKenna of Escarpment (tastings), Tony Bish of Sacred Hill, Michael Ivicevich of Delegat’s, consultant winemaker Ant McKenzie, Hawkes Bay winemaker Rod McDonald, wine writer Sam Kim and my colleague Bob Campbell MW, who chairs the judging. A more experienced, highly regarded group of wine professionals would be difficult to find.
At the welcome dinner at The Commons restaurant, many notable wines were provided by the judges as well as our host Kingsley, to accompany the excellent food.
Two Kiwi wines made a big impression. Olly Masters brought his 2008 Misha’s Vineyard The High Note Pinot Noir, a cracking wine with a superb perfume and very good depth of flavour, especially considering the vines were only a few years old in 2008.
Ant McKenzie, who consults to iconic Martinborough winery Dry River, brought a 2015 Dry River Chardonnay, a gloriously fine wine. I often find New Zealand chardonnays over-worked, with lots of artifact nuances in the form of oak, lees and malo characters, while some have strong matchstick reduction. But this was a pure fruit style, rapier-like in its cut and thrust, showing intense, pristine, citrusy fruit with subtle underlying complexity. It will blossom with a few years in the cellar. It tasted like a non-malo wine, and McKenzie confirmed my suspicion. These two wines alone made for a blissful evening.