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New Zealand: Just For Starters

BY NEAL MARTIN | NOVEMBER 27, 2018 

My reports are nearly always based around visiting the country or region in question and getting a bit of vineyard dirt on the soles of my shoes before dipping the quill into the inkwell. Upon joining Vinous, New Zealand came back into my purview for the first time since 2010. Its location on the opposite side of the world meant that finding time to visit this year was not quite as easy as nipping down to Bordeaux or Burgundy on the daily easyJet. With a long-haul trip already booked to South Africa, I decided to wait until 2019 for the 24-hour flight to New Zealand. Nevertheless, I was intrigued to see how the wines have changed in the intervening years. I anticipated receiving up to 100 wines, maximum, for this interim report. Instead, I received over 400.


Sauvignon Blanc vines in Marlborough

Readers should view this article as an update. Yes, some major names are missing, and I realize there is less background information than readers have come to expect. Nevertheless, I take the view that something is better than nothing. Why not update readers with tasting notes from recent vintages? So let’s go ahead with this tranche of tasting notes, because they contain a number of important names - Rippon, Felton Road, Te Mata, Craggy Range, Ata Rangi and Escarpment, to list but a few. One that is intentionally omitted is Kumeu River. This is because I undertook a major retrospective with Michael Brajkovich in London that deserves a standalone article.


Bell Hill was one of my discoveries on my first trip to New Zealand. It was interesting to revisit one of their older vintages, a 2001 in magnum.

For now, I will just offer a general overview. I am sure there is much to discover when I eventually land at Auckland airport. In the meantime, I give you 400-odd tasting notes that include larger commercial brands such as Brancott and Villa Maria, and smaller growers such as Rippon and Felton Road, mainly current releases and one or two older vintages for good measure.

New Zealand, I will see you in the not-too-distant future.

Here, for now, is a selection of wines that caught my eye: 

2016 Chardonnay – Cloudy Bay

2016 Kupe Single Vineyard Pinot Noir – Escarpment

2014 Heipip The Terraces – Esk Valley

2016 Block 5 Pinot Noir – Felton Road

2017 Marlborough Noble Riesling – Framingham

2012 The Fuder Dillons Point Sauvignon Blanc – Giesen

2014 Chardonnay – Greywacke

2016 Holly Pinot Noir – Matahiwi Estate

2016 Chardonnay Opou Vineyard – Millton Vineyards

2016 Single Vineyard “Ghost Town” Bendigo Syrah

2016 Moutere Chardonnay – Neudorf

2016 Virtuoso Chardonnay – Pegasus Bay

2015 Tinker’s Field Mature Vine Pinot Noir – Rippon Vineyards

2013 Coleraine – Te Mata

2016 Waitaki Vineyard Pinot Noir– Valli Vineyards

2017 Single Vineyard Taylor’s Pass Sauvignon Blanc – Villa Maria

2017 Albariño – Waimea

2015 Reserve Syrah – Wairau River

2017 Pinot Gris – Wither Hills

You Might Also Enjoy

New Zealand’s Pellucid Wines: More Light Than Heat, Stephen Tanzer, May 2016

Focus on Gimblett Gravels, Stephen Tanzer March 2015

The Best of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Stephen Tanzer September 2014