The Top Tipple

New Zealand’s wine industry hosts many wine festivals throughout year; Waiheke Wine and Food, Toast Martinborough, Hawke’s Bay F.A.W.C and the North Canterbury Wine and Food festival, to name just a few. The one I look forward to visiting every year is New Zealand’s longest running, the Marlborough Wine and Food festival held at Brancott Estate. A day packed full of delicious local wine and food, amazing music and some very interesting fashion choices, it’s an event not to be missed!

In 2019 the sun was shining and there were hundreds of wine lovers, ranging from the novice to the expert, ready for a day of fun. With over forty brands attending, there is no shortage of wines to taste and as I set out to find my top five wines, I first stopped by the Antipodes Water tent to stock up, hydration is key! Now there are obviously more than five outstanding wines at this show, my choices are wines that are a little different and stood out from the crowd and also highlight the diverse range of wines that come from this region.

St Clair Family Estate Dawn Methode Traditionnelle 2013

St Clair Family Estate was established by Neal and Judy Ibbotson, who have been involved in viticulture in Marlborough since 1978. The first St Clair wine was released from the 1994 vintage and since then they have cemented a solid reputation for producing excellent, award winning Marlborough wines. St Clair is a true family affair with daughters Sarina and Julie working in sales and marketing and son, Tony responsible for the label design.

Created as a tribute to Neal’s mother, Dawn Ibbotson, this Methode Traditionnelle comes from the sand and stone soils of vineyards situated on Rapaura Road. A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from vines that are over twenty years old, the wine is left on lees for 35 months before being disgorged.

Medium lemon with a fine persistent bead. Aromas of crunchy red apple, white peach, hints of honeysuckle and vanilla with a beautiful warming biscuity autolytic character. The full bodied wine has layers of ripe stone fruit, apple and light citrus and finishes dry with a crisp acidity. The extended lees aging is evident in the rich creamy palate and the toasted brioche that remains on the palate.

Fromm Rosé 2018

Winemaker Hätsch Kalberer planted the first Fromm Winery vines in 1992, working alongside the Swiss founders, Georg and Ruth Fromm. A member of The Family of Twelve, a group of twelve of New Zealand’s most recognised and celebrated wineries, Fromm follow organic principles, are committed to sustainable viticulture and strive to produce intense, concentrated wines with texture and balance.

The rise of rosé over the last several years has seen many producers add one to their range but few are like that made at Fromm. Described as “New Zealand’s best rosé” by Australian wine writer Nick Stock, this certified organic wine is a blend of Pinot Noir, Malbec and Syrah.

A pretty pale pink colour, the nose is bursting with strawberry, watermelon, green apple and florals. This wine is deliciously dry and steely. Red berry, watermelon and apple flavours are found on the creamy palate, the finish has an intense mineral quality and a lifted acidity. A serious structured Rose that can be enjoyed on its own but personally I think it is best enjoyed with food. The lovely whitebait fritters at the festival were a great match!

Dog Point Pinot Noir 2016

Since the release of the 2002 vintage of Dog Point Wines, founders Ivan & Margaret Sutherland and James & Wendy Healy have established themselves as one of the top producers from the Marlborough region. Taking the name given to the area in which lost shepherd dogs once roamed, Dog Point focuses on Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Winemaker Murray Cook, who has the biggest smile you’ve ever seen, and Matt Sutherland are the new faces of Dog Point, upholding the ideology and values of this family focused business.

This Pinot Noir is produced from low cropped vines that are over twenty years old and planted on sloping hills of clay soils. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and including a portion of whole bunches, the wine is aged in oak barrels of which 40% are new for fifteen months. This wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered making it vegan and vegetarian friendly.

The colour is vivid medium ruby with aromas of red cherry, ripe plum with dried violets and earthy undertones. On the palate you will find beautiful red and dark fruits blended with subtle toasty oak, baking spices and dusty fine tannins. This wine has a delightfully unexpected savoury character and the wines’ lingering spicy, textural finish leaves you wanting more. This is one of my all time favourite Pinot Noirs from Marlborough.

Mahi Chardonnay 2016

Mahi, meaning ‘our work, our craft’ was started by owners Brian and Nicola Bicknell in 2001. Mahi have a strong focus on single vineyard wines, they are committed to making wine as natural as possible and to produce wines that reflects the vineyards which they come from. Brian Bicknell, who has worked over 20 vintages all over the world, also happens to be one of my favourite humans. He is a funny, intelligent and engaging man whose passion for winemaking and viticulture is contagious.

This Chardonnay comes from four vineyards in the Renwick, Fareham Lane and Rapaura areas. The grapes are hand picked and whole cluster pressed with only the free run juice being used. The wine is then fermented in French oak using natural yeasts and the wine spends 11 months on lees to develop the desired texture and complexity.

Medium lemon in colour, the charming aromas of peach, nectarine and gentle white blossom combined with toasted brioche and biscuit delight the senses. On the palate, the medium bodied wine shows elegance and structure with flavours of stone fruit, apple and nutty oak. It finishes dry with a delicate creamy texture and cleansing acidity.

Giesen The August 1888 Sauvignon Blanc 2014

The three Giesen brothers, Theo, Alex and Marcel embarked on their wine producing journey in 1981, when they purchased their first site. The trio were hands on from the start, doing everything from planting the vines and tending the vineyards to making and bottling the wine. Passionate about sustainability, Giesen use organic fertilisers and continually focus on organic and natural management for vine and soil health as they are committed to the ongoing legacy of their wines and their land.

The August (Aw-goost) 1888 is named after the brothers’ grandfather and the year he was born. August was an adventurer, a restaurateur and a sommelier. This Sauvignon Blanc comes from the Matthews Lane and Dillons Point vineyards in the Wairau Valley. It was hand harvested, fermented with wild yeast and a combination of 1000 litre German oak Fuder barrels and old French barriques used for fermentation and aging.

I’m not the greatest fan of Sauvignon Blanc, but this example blew me away. Pale gold in colour, the intense aromas of passionfruit, lemon curd, baked apple with underlying herbaceous notes jump from the glass. The palate is dry with flavours of ripe tropical fruits intertwined with citrus, it has a mouth watering acidity and a faint toasted note to the finish. This wine is complex, richly textured, and high impact, an alluring example of what Sauvignon Blanc can be.