The Independent Wine Monthly

wine reviews and forthright opinion

Month: April 2019

Element Wines

2016 Gimblett Gravels Syrah, Hawke’s Bay
2016 Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Hawke’s Bay

Element Wines is a (relatively) new venture from Dominic and Rachelle Smith. The main focus is on red wines and the latest two releases are both interesting to drink and well-priced. A producer to keep an eye on. 2016 Syrah ($30.00) shows more than a passing nod to the wines of the Northern Rhone with its lovely aroma of raspberry, plum and red cherries interwoven with lots of ground black pepper and violets. This creates a perfumed rather than powerful character which is very attractive. The palate is medium bodied with a vibrant fruit character, some supple tannins in support and a moderately lengthy finish. With only 12.5% alcohol this is not a blockbuster style of Gravels syrah but instead a strongly appealing delicious wine; not one to cellar away but to enjoy over the next couple of years. In contrast the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot ($30.00) is a denser, meatier wine that shows blackcurrant and dark plum with red liquorice, black olive and a little graphite. French oak has given some cedar spiciness and whilst there are some tannins it is ripe and fairly subtle. Again, not a wine for the long haul but over the next 2-4 years it should provide charming drinking.

Jenny Dobson Wines

2017 Fiano, Hawke’s Bay

Jenny Dobson is one of New Zealand’s most experienced red winemakers and to date her focus has been firmly on the classic French varieties that seem to do so well in Hawke’s Bay. It is therefore interesting to see her look further afield for inspiration and explore an Italian variety.
Sourced from New Zealand’s oldest plantings of Fiano, the 2017 Jenny Dobson Fiano ($35.00) is a restrained, chalky wine with a strongly appealing lemon rind, chamomile flower and wet stone aroma. Bone dry with a mouth-watering line of acidity it has plenty of concentration and length. An unusual yet appealing wine that would suit those looking for a drier, less ‘fruity’ white wine.

Novum Wines

2016 Chardonnay, Marlborough
2016 Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2016 Syrah, Marlborough

Novum is the new venture from William Hoare (who sold his interest in Marlborough Fromm Vineyard last year), and his wife, Rachel Jackson-Hoare. Hoare has an ebullient, witty personality which belies a very serious love of wine. A very impressive set of wines. Sourced from Will’s parents’ vineyard, the 2016 Novum Wines Chardonnay ($40.00) is 100% wild ferment Mendoza fruit. Lovely, expressive nose with fruit sitting firmly in the citrus spectrum but with some delicate white peach, lemon curd and white flowers too. There is a touch of gunflinty reduction which gives a smoky edge but this doesn’t overpower, instead adding interest. Some new oak adds a lovely digestive biscuit, sizzled butter note. The palate is at once both taut and focussed (more of the citrus notes) but also has a touch of fleshiness and weight that gives rather a come hither quality, a fresh line of acid tying it all together. The 2016 Novum Wines Pinot Noir ($40.00) is sourced from four parcels in the Southern Valleys. Bucking the whole bunch trend, this is 100% destemmed, though not showing any lack of aromatics, structure or finesse for this choice. Plenty of pure red fruits, especially strawberry, on the nose and a lovely savoury, textural palate. Nice lick of spice on the finish, rich and ripe but balanced and pleasingly dry on the finish. From a mass section vineyard in the Brancott Valley, with 4% viognier and just 12.5% alcohol, the 2016 Novum Wines Syrah ($40.00) is a vibrant, expressively varietal wine with violets, crushed red berry fruit, damson plum and peppery spice. Silky texture, touch of fine oak, it’s deliciously fresh and offers great drinking now, though should look even better in a couple more years. With the current tiny production, this wine is already sold out so that’s probably a moot point now alas.

Mahi Wines : New Releases

2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
2017 Chardonnay, Marlborough

Mahi’s owner and winemaker Brian Bicknell is a thoughtful producer whose wines may not be the most exuberant but rarely disappoint. The 2018 Mahi Sauvignon Blanc ($22.00) was quite shy at first with a touch of struck match reduction sitting alongside some subtle bran biscuit and flinty aromas. The wine seemed quite buttoned down but with a little time in the glass it opened up beautifully with a precise pure red capsicum and snowpea character. Unmistakeably sauvignon but with nuance and detail that made it a really interesting glass. The 2017 Mahi Chardonnay ($29.00) is lovely too; some just-ripe stone fruit, a little grapefruit, a silky texture with some sizzled butter, a touch of reduction, subtle oak and a pleasingly dry finish. This is a wine with a great deal of appeal in an unforced way.

The Doctor is In

I am happy to state that I am one of those people who grimaced and rolled eyes at the substantial investment made by the MPI and NZ Winegrowers into the ‘lighter wines’ category (even typing this brings on minor clenching of body parts). Surely it’s better to encourage people to either drink naturally low alcohol wines – after all, there’s plenty of delicious riesling looking for a home – or to drink less, but better. Apparently I’m in the minority with this view as evidently consumers are very keen on them, with NZ sales already eclipsing a target set for 2024. Also, I can’t maintain too much grump in the face of someone as lovely as Dr David Jordan, who is always very enthusiastic and interesting on the research behind the project.

I was therefore pleased to chat to Dr John Forrest at the recent Sauvignon Celebration. He explained the vineyard work behind his The Doctors’ series of wines, which is indeed a clever and encouraging system. It is based on selective leaf removal; having established which leaves are delivering the most sugar to the grapes, these are duly removed and the vine is encouraged to ripen the grapes in a balanced fashion with usual phenolic expression. The end result is lower sugar levels, and thus lower alcohol while still tasting like actual wine. The process has so far been over a decade of trial and error across different varieties. Most satisfyingly it is one leading towards a genuine product based on the vineyard, rather than winery technology such as spinning cones.

2018 Forrest Wines The Doctors’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 9.5% $22.00
Pretty textbook nose with pineapple, fresh herbs and citrus. Light, crisp and very citrussy palate, veering a little sour lemon on the finish but they’ve done a pretty smart job of capturing a medley of methoxy and thiol elements of Marlborough sauvignon delivering a classic style in a lighter frame.

2018 Forrest Wines The Doctors’ Marlborough Rosé 9.5% $22.00
This was the least satisfying of the trio for me. Slightly herbal strawberries, with a lift of orange zest, rounded out with notes of cherry and watermelon (but not a very ripe one). Very light bodied, it’s a little flat and unfocused, lacking the zip and balance of the SB.

2018 Forrest Wines The Doctors’ Marlborough Pinot Noir 9.5% $25.00
Very obviously Pinot Noir, spiced cherry and rhubarb nose, a touch of florals, smooth, slightly sweet palate, soft and open with little tannin. Juicy and fresh, slightly creamy texture on the mid-palate and moderate length. It’s little bit odd if your mindset is ‘normal’ pinot but all in all, it’s a pretty smart effort, achieving 9.5% alcohol in what is clearly recognisable and balanced Pinot Noir. And given what a hash some producers make of full strength pinot, it’s all the more impressive.