NZ Wine Guide 2015

Kiwi Wines Worth Trying In 2015: An Expert’s Tips

To mark the 2015 release of Michael Cooper’s best selling Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wines, Cooper reveals which wines are worth trying in the coming months.

What are some stand out new additions to the 2015 guide?

The Best White Wine Buy of the Year is Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawke’s Bay Viognier 2014 (****1/2, $19.95). A full-bodied, fleshy, rich and dry wine with strong, ripe stone-fruit flavours and complexity from aging in French oak barrels, it’s the sort of wine for which you could easily pay well over $30.

The Best Red Wine Buy of the Year is Brancott Estate Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2013 (****, $17). If you are looking for a delicious, flavour-packed red that slips down easily and is highly affordable (when it’s on promotion, you can pick it up for less than $15), look no further.

Any up-and-coming varieties?

As a white-wine country, in terms of overall output, we grow grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris that are of French origin. But wine lovers who are feeling adventurous should try one of the emerging breed of New Zealand whites based on traditional Spanish, Portuguese, Austrian and Italian varieties. Albarino, from north-west Spain, yields apricot-scented, crisp, mouth-watering wines, usually served with seafood, but also enjoyable with Chinese-style chicken dishes. Gruner Veltliner, Austria’s favourite white-wine variety, produces tangy, slightly spicy, musky wines, good with fish and a stimulating aperitif.

In terms of wine styles, rather than grape varieties, rosé is increasingly trendy and about 100 NZ rosés have been reviewed in the new book.

What about up-and-coming regions, and what varieties are they producing well?

Waipara, in North Canterbury, is increasingly recognised for the high quality of its full-bodied, richly flavoured Pinot Noirs and scented, appetisingly crisp Rieslings.

Arguably the most underrated region is Nelson, the source of some excellent – and often bargain-priced – Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminers, Chardonnays, Rieslings and Pinot Noirs.

Will we be seeing more wines designed to be served with ice, such as Akarua’s Alchemy Ice and Moët Ice Impérial?

Probably not. As it melts, ice dilutes a wine’s flavour. The best way to cool a wine is to put it in the fridge for an hour or so. Serve it gently chilled, rather than cold.

Which stickers or awards on wine bottles are worth paying attention to?

With more than a dozen wine competitions in New Zealand, and lots of magazines organising comparative tastings, consumers are faced with a bewildering array of awards (including over 750 gold medals each year and countless five-star ratings.) Some gold-coloured stickers have nothing to do with gold medals, but simply state in small print things like ‘Established 1965’ or ‘100 per cent estate-grown in Hawke’s Bay.’

The most important guide to wine quality is the reputation of the producer – go for wineries with a long-term reputation for quality.

Is price a good indication of quality?

If all else fails, price can be a rough-and-ready guide to quality. Beware of buying a wine simply because it is heavily discounted. Many wines are ‘priced up to price down’, and those ‘normal retail price’ $25 wines, discounted to $15, “Save $10”, typically taste just like a $15 wine.

For their sheer value-for-money from one vintage to the next, my two favourites ranges of wine are Villa Maria’s middle-tier range, labelled Cellar Selection, and the Church Road range (from Pernod Ricard NZ, formerly Montana.)

Designed to help the buyer to make informed choices about the best value and best quality wines available, Michael Cooper’s Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wines is firmly established as the most authoritative and sought-after guide to New Zealand wines.

Updated yearly with new tasting notes and vintage ratings, including the most current vintage, this is a ‘must-have’ publication for the new initiate and the established wine-buff alike.
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*New Zealand Wines 2015 – Michael Cooper’s Buyer’s Guide (RRP$39.99), published by Upstart Press, is available now, or enter the draw to win one of three copies here

Click here for some notes from this book.