New Zealand Wines

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours…

Confused about imported wines? At least these ones have the least “food miles”
and therefore are good for the environment. Non-AFL coach (“I’m a chick, actually”)
Lee Matthews and career drunk Stewart Dawes review a selection of New Zealand’s
best new wines…


Central Otago’s Gibbston Valley has become synonymous with producing some
of the world’s most unique pinot noir. Located at the eastern end of this valley is
Mt Rosa, a legendary merino sheep station and one of the largest wine producers
in this dynamic region. Mt Rosa’s vineyards produce a range of wines including
the region’s flagship, pinot noir. This is a perfect cafe wine: dried herbs, thyme,
oregano, redcurrant and bramble aromatics, a warm rich round mouth feel and
an elegant soft finish. The night we got stuck into it, we found an amazing affinity
between this pinot and salt and pepper prawns! Terms like cheerful, very
quaffable, and thoroughly chuck-it-downable flowed off our happy tongues.


Bondi’s Beach Road Hotel may not be highest turret on the urban map as far as its
wine collection goes, but when a disillusioned Melbourne actress friend decided to
move up to Sydney last year, we found ourselves regularly sampling their wine list due
to the fact it was the watering hole closest to her apartment … and also that in the middle
of winter it’s pretty much the only place in Bondi that’s guaranteed open. The actress
stayed in Sydney about a year before a Frenchman stole her away to live in Marseilles,
but in that time she latched herself onto the Giesen Sauv Blanc as pretty well the best
wine on the Beach Road Hotel’s list – and truth be known we took pretty keen interest in it
also. The intrigue deepened when we discovered a more upscale Giesen, also a Sauv
Blanc but a savvy bling-bling version of the drop we’d already admired. This flashier
version is known as “The Brothers”, and they’re the kind of brothers who you would
want getting you into trouble. This wine is representative of the season’s premium
grapes and displays lifted, ripe and pure sauvignon blanc characteristics. Intense
aromas of sweet gooseberry and tropical paw-paw blend with complex, pungent
sweaty notes and a touch of herbaceousness. Succulent palate, elegant structure, as
we say in this country, “it’s all good, mate”. And as for the actress, as the bishop
said, thanks for the tip-off darlin’.


What a dreamy drop!! It achieves all you would ask of a New
Zealand pinot, having that divine warm leatherette texture on first bite.
And so it sails on, made with organic grapes which somehow lend a
minerally elegance – the kind of earthiness which is inherent in the very
finest Atlantic Salmon. They reckon it’s the stony soils of their vineyard, we’re
just tremoring for our organic vigneron pals here in Oz who, for all their great
work, may not wish for such a challenge to their progressive niche to be
heralded on this website. Ah well, what can we say? We already liked
New Zealand wine, so if we can have it certified organic as well, we’re
gonna roll over and let those kiwis scratch our collective tummies.


This graceful riesling just gets better by the glass. We could finally give away our
inclinations past semillon and into verdelho and return to riesling forever if they’re
all like this. Savoured it over a few nights, first casually with roasted wasabi green peas,
then over salmon sashimi while listening to David Sylvian during the latter days of his
Japan phase, and finally on a fine cheese night soaked with Malcolm McLaren’s “Jazz
is Paris” irresistibly romantic album – ’twas truly di-vine (no vine pun intended) all the
way. Mount Rosa pride themselves on delivering instinctive, handcrafted wines
born of New Zealand’s breathtaking Central Otago high country. Once prime merino
territory, the rugged slopes of Mount Rosa (4500 ft), now nurture their specialist
cool climate vineyards. Elegant yet spunky, smooth and very fresh, close to and in
fact may be the best riesling we’ve ever had.


First sip is a slap of impudence – cheeky and fruity, says our inner west
friend who visits for the chance of some free piss. He’s a debonair chap
from Albany, WA, who has stooped to working for the Daily Telegraph, but
it’s a step up from early adulthood working as a croupier. It settles into a
nice aftertaste with a hint of berries, he adds, suddenly lapsing into the
laconic belief that his contributions to the wine review are done. We demand
one more lunge at meaning from our mate, but all he can add is that it goes
beautifully with the Japanese squid crackers we’re munching between
mouthfuls. Winemaker Simon Waghorn deserves better than this, as he’s
delivered a very praiseworthy drop, which shows maturity beyond its months
(it’s a 2006 wine after all). We’re already dedicated converts to the freshness
and quality of New Zealand whites, so a Sav-Blank from Marlborough
is heaven’s gate material for me. The 04/05 versions of this have already
won 11 trophies, say no more.


What Beez Neez is to beer, the Amor Bendall 2004 Gisborne is to chardonnay.
A dominant honey overtone greets us on first encounter, a slippery almost
treacle-rich greeting. Originally started like most Kiwi projects in the shed,
Amor-Bendall has now matured into a serious wine producer concentrating on the
very best grape varieties in the Gisborne region. A fresh vibrant wine displaying
varietal characters of peach and pineapple. The palate is rich and
mouth-filling with exceptional length. The accent is on ripe fruit characters
providing a wine to complement most dishes.

We are currently collating NZ wine reviews – if you’re a NZ winemaker or a
distributor and want your NZ wines reviewed on this page please
email Stewart Dawes via


+ OK, here’s all you ever need to know about white wine:

viognier – best
riesling – used to be worst, now 2nd best
verdelho – made a strong case for best, but then lost the plot
semillon – used to be best, but lost out to verdelho about 12 months ago
sauvignon blanc – a good sensible standard across the board esp if from New Zealand
chardonnay – absolute shit



Usually we’re terribly biased here at against
anything that comes out of Victoria. It’s not that we’re state-ist, it’s just a
response to the fact that they think they’re better than us! The fact that some
of our more dynamic buddies are actually currently moving from Melbourne to
Sydney will not tempt us to comment further, except to say that once in a while,
we can transcend our general distaste for Victorian wines and be very
pleasantly surprised by the encounter. Such has it been with this excellent
shiraz, and our view is shared by everybody’s favourite wine companion
James Halliday, who noted the “clean raspberry, cherry & blackberry fruits; some
spice; subtle oak, fine tannins; true finesse” in giving it 90/100. A muscular palate,
with the nose exuding black plum and prune with a strong hint of savoury
licorice. Lovely deep opaque rich purple colour too. They recommend you drink it
in 2011 – too late, we devoured it in 2007 with pure delight. $19.95


A pleasant, feminine label may give a first impression that Jane Moss is going
to be a wallflower of the wine world. Graceful, but nothing to get passionate about.
Well the four red-blooded males who partook of Jane on a recent picnic in Sydney’s
Nielsen Park were stunned by her elegance and complexity. This is a wine to
quietly fall in love with, and a few have – judging by the gold already awarded in the
Peter Forrestal ‘Quaff’ 2007 edition. Even the notes on the label are unassuming:
“Sauvignon blanc contributes beautiful fresh aromatics of sweet herbs and
tropical fruit. The semillon fills out the palate with rich flavours of herb and spice.
The two varieties have historically proven to complement each other.”
Charmingly humble statement which masks the mystique emanating from
within, Jane Moss is well worth taking on a second picnic. $22.00


Some blends end up being far too much of a mouthful – and remembering or
pronouncing the full name of this drop may be beyond anyone who has gone beyond
that first mouthful. But what a mouthful! Seduction is the verb we should add
to all those nouns. Silky smooth deep red in colour with a beautiful lifted minty
cabernet bouquet which has been complemented with 12 months of maturation
in French oak barriques. The palate is rich and full with great length and flavour,
think smoky, think chocolately, think sour plum meets wildberry. The label is
classical and rustic, typically Victorian as it’s out of historic Bendigo, while at
15% alc/vol, this is a wine to solidly befriend – and to share with quality friends.
Can be enjoyed now but will improve with further maturation.
Drink now thru ’til 2014. $26.00+


As an Aussie of 30 years who suddenly becomes a Pom whenever the
Ashes occur, I mistakenly thought I had something big time to celebrate when
new recruit Monty Panesar was belatedly brought into the team and proceeded to
claim five wickets on his first day of the Perth 2006 test. Glued to the telly, I drafted
in a mate who had finally realised that having his beloved Aussies lose a match
or two might be “good for the game”. Keen to seduce him into supporting Monty’s
heroics even further, I cracked this Macedon Ranges sparkling – and the two of us were
in heaven. The great Shane Warne lost his wicket to Monty, and we were bubbling
over with enthusiasm. The Romsey Brut matched the occasion brilliantly as my buddy
declared, “this is truly a five-wicket-haul bottle of bubbly”. A blend of very slow
ripening Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with often a substantial proportion of reserve
wine to ensure that the authentic house style of Cope-Williams is maintained
year after year, this is one of the most delicious bruts on the market. Of course
the Brits lost that test as well as the rest five-zip. Thanks God for good
wine that can lift any occasion. $39.00


Robinvale Wines Demeter 2005 Auslese Lexia

Robinvale Wines have been operating since 1976, and for many years when people thought organic wine, they were the first brand, and sometimes the only brand, that spilled out of people’s mouths. Now there are so many new organic wine producers in Australia, it’s good to see that Robinvale aren’t resting on their laurels, but continue to be innovative, leading the way with interesting new varieties. First out of the case, we decided to chill their 2005 Auslese Lexia Sweet White, and once out of the fridge it didn’t last long. This is just so drinkable, very enjoyable, it tastes of fun and not taking life too seriously. This luscious drop’s palate features ripe and delicious tropical fruit with honeyed muscat characters. Suitable for vegans and vegetarians, it’s non-cloying and balanced with fine cleansing acid. As a Certified Demeter Biodynamic wine, it’s been produced using environmentally friendly, ecologically safe biological methods to activate and nurture the life of the soil, without the use of artificial or synthetic chemical pesticides, fungicides, weedicides, fertilisers and other unnecessary additives. That’s fantastic of course – and in this case, even better, because it’s a tasty aromatic drop and a very accessible way to begin a journey into the healthy realm of organic viticulture.

Captains Creek Organic Wines 2001 Chardonnay

This family-owned and operated vineyard in Daylesford, Victoria produces hand-crafted premium quality certified organic wines from the Burgundian grape varieties Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Their 2001 chardonnay has a gorgeous, fresh taste with hints of honeydew melons and cashew nuts persisting within subtle but classy oak characters. Barrel fermented with natural malolactic fermentation, it’s a full-bodied, well-balanced wine with great intensity. No chemical additives are used throughout the wine-making and the essential preservative sulphur dioxide has been kept to a minimum.

Kalleske Wines 2004 Clarry`s Barossa Red

In South Australia`s celebrated Barossa Valley, the Kalleske family have been farming and growing grapes since the 1800s. A blend of Grenache (80%) and Shiraz (20%), this is one of the best organic reds we`ve tasted. Already critically acclaimed, this rich ripe fruity drop has a quality of density which makes it a delicious delight to appreciate, with very soft tannins but an overall muscularity to the shiraz. The nose shows uplifting aromas of ripe raspberry, cloves and sweet spice, an appetising prelude to a delightfully mouthwatering genuine family estate wine.

Lark Hill Riesling 2004

Sweet beginning, herby nose, lemon and citrus, well made, clean, dry and quite refreshing. A good wine, rather delicate, with a long finish, not too dry, not too sweet. Very drinkable. Lark Hill makes their wines in an environmentally-friendly way from old growth (over 25 years) low-yielding vines with a minimum of additives. This wine is ready to drink right now.

Carlei Green Vineyards Biodynamic Sauvignon Blanc 2004

Creamy, woolly sort of smell, dry, clean with also a citrus smell and long finish. Well made. This Sauvignon Blanc is made in the French style and not only is it 100% organic it is biodynamically grown as well! The wine maker, Sergio Carlei, a lovely bear of a man, is passionate about wine and is eager to convert all who cross his path. When we met, on a late autumn afternoon in The Rocks, there was more than the whiff of Bacchus about him. His hands were stained purple from the recent crush and he spoke energetically about producing biodynamically “living” wine.