Wines of the year 2015: top 10 reds

December 24th 2015

My favourite Kiwi reds don’t include the Canterbury Crusaders, although a few of them do look particularly tidy in tight red shorts. Nor are all my favourite Kiwi reds Pinot Noir.

In 2015, I opted not to do a Pinot Noir masterclass, as expected, at the behemoth wine fair that is Vinexpo in Bordeaux. Instead, I conducted a Bordeaux blends tasting because there’s some damn good Merlot and Cabernet produced on these shores that barely gets a second glance.

For those bargain hunters, I’ll hold my hands up now and say my selection doesn’t include any cheap vino but you could have several bottles of most of these wines for the same price as a single bottle of first-growth Bordeaux.

Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir 2013, Martinborough

Showing lots of vanilla oak at the moment but it’s encasing the dark fruits, licorice and cinnamon sticks like Christmas wrapping. Ripe and round, it sits like a perfect circle in your mouth, as if you’ve just sat down in an incredibly comfortable seat after a long day on your feet. Excellent concentration of fruit with sticky mouthcoating tannins. An absolute pleasure. Sigh.

Te Mata Coleraine 2013, Hawke’s Bay

At the risk of this being a cliché, this Coleraine would give Bordeaux classified growths a run for their money. It is a powerful and intense wine yet remains elegant and precise. Richly aromatic, giving ripe, black sweet fruit on entry and an attractive herbal note. Densely fruited on the mid palate followed up with abundant sinewy tannins. There’s lots of new French oak used in the making of this wine, but it’s integrated, adding Christmas cake spice flavours to the mix. Long persistence. This is a baby and is going nowhere fast and will continue to develop for 10 years plus. Blend: 56% Cab Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 14% Cab Franc

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2013, Martinborough

Draw the curtains, pretend you’re not home, and get cosy with this Pinot Noir because this is a wine you want to nestle into and get to know over the course of an evening. Light and delicate with fine, drawn out tannins (could that be the 30% whole bunch?), it is one of those complete: wines, where you can’t separate the start, middle and end to the wine. Savoury notes combine with plum fruit, Christmas spices and lovely tea leaf tannins. Long length. This has all the hallmarks for growing old gracefully.

Black Barn Vineyards Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2013, Hawke’s Bay

Aromatic, appetising, varietally-classic Cabernet Franc. Much riper than a Loire Valley example but still offers piquant herbal note, hint of florals and ripe red cherry fruit encased in new oak-derived vanilla. Light to medium bodied with linear finish and almost chalky tannins. A little more length would be nice.

Rippon Estate Rippon Mature Vines Pinot Noir 2013, Central Otago

Depth and weight on the nose and palate. Full body, richness of fruit with abundance of chalk-like tannins. Nice drive and focus on the finish. Long and precise.

Sacred Hill Helmsman 2013, Hawke’s Bay

This wine shows real class. It is a ripe expression of the Helmsman yet remains elegant with lovely poise and fine acidity. Complex nose, displaying many layers that you expect from a good Bordeaux blend: cassis, dark cherry fruit, violets, herbals, pencil lead, plus integrated oak flavours. Bags of concentration on the palate indicative of low yields in the vineyard. Fine grained tannins and a thread of mouthwatering acidity. This shows a lot of promise but it is a baby. Be patient and it will become a beautiful butterfly.

Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2013, Central Otago

This is a delightful Pinot with a fine, floral nose yet great aromatic intensity. Focused and elegant on the mid palate with fine tannins and mouthwatering acidity, leaving a lingering, linear, and long finish.

Dry River Pinot Noir 2013, Martinborough

Dry River Pinots are known for aging well yet this is very friendly already. On entry, it’s forthcoming with vibrant fruit on the front palate. Nevertheless, it’s not bold and brash; delicacy is the key to its allure. An intriguing combination of aromas from plum fruit and spice to herbal notes and even blackcurrant pastille. Easy to like.

Rippon Tinkers Bequest Pinot Noir 2013, Central Otago

Grown on its own roots on Rippon’s schistous soils for 25 years, this $100 Pinot Noir is immediately attractive on the nose. It’s pure, fine and almost saline in texture. Long nutty length on the finish. Very elegant, next level shit, but at a price.

Greystone The Brothers Pinot Noir 2012, Waipara

A voluptuous, elegant Pinot that caresses the palate. It is expressive and complex with oodles of savoury aromas ranging from meat, blood, and iron shavings to smoke and spice. It’s rich on the mid palate yet retains a delicacy of touch. Long length. Very impressive stuff. My only minor complaint would be a smidgen of alcoholic heat on the finish.

In my next blog, I’ll find you some brilliant value wines of the year.

*Image courtesy of Muddy Waters/NZWG

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