The Landing and Helio Chardonnays

posted by Emma

It’s always fun when new faces and places cross one’s path. This week, the Landing Chardonnay made for the first entry of a Bay of Islands wine into my tasting spreadsheet, and Hawke’s Bay producer Helio was also a new name to me.

The 2019 Landing ‘Boathouse’ Bay of Islands Chardonnay ($27.00, 13.0% abv) might be from a less-commonly known wine region but it’s got a familiar pair of hands at the helm – Hawke’s Bay’s Warren Gibson. Gibson has undertaken a consultant winemaking role for The Landing, a 1000-acre luxury accommodation estate on the Purerua Peninsula in the Bay of Islands. There’s a 23-acre vineyard, mainly clay soils, planted in a mix of red and white varieties, so far with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Rosé and Port produced. The 2019 vintage will see the release of their red varieties. All wines are made on site and the winery has a cellar door – in a rather spectacular setting as one might imagine from the location. So, what of the wine? As you’d expect from Gibson, it’s a smart wine, showcasing the ripe Northland fruit with just enough clever winemaking to add decent depth and balance. There’s lots of nectarine, white peach and a touch of Meyer lemon on the open and ripe-fruited nose, with a pleasing lick of oak spice and sizzled butter. The palate is neatly put together with crispness added to the ripe fruitiness by a line of juicy citrus-bright acidity and a more savoury, dry finish than the fruity nose would lead one to expect. Good concentration and length. This is not super complex but it’s a well-made and enjoyable fruit-focused expression of chardonnay. Given Northland was the birthplace of New Zealand winegrowing (the 200th anniversary of the first vines being planted at Kerikeri by the Rev. Samuel Marsden has just been celebrated) it’s rather satisfying to see its capabilities represented in this smart new label.

Hawke’s Bay has a well-established pedigree for good Chardonnay and the fruit for this wine is from the Heretaunga plains. The baby of distributor Dave Nash and his wife Amy, and winemakers Mat and Sarah Kirby (Mat is well-versed in chardonnay being winemaker at Clearview Estate), the 2019 Helio Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay ($35.00, 13.5% abv) is a low-intervention wine that was whole bunch pressed into old barrels and left to do its thing. The result is definitely from the reductive end of town with struck match leading the nose, but there is plenty of fruit present too – grapefruit, ripe peach, rockmelon and yellow apple. The palate is equally ripe fruited with a generous rounded softness, a touch of flintiness and a burst of lemony acidity on the finish. Just moderate in concentration and length but also textural and balanced, making for enjoyable drinking now. The 2019 vintage is now sold out, but the 2020 is available en primeur on their website, presumably a pretty helpful way of generating cashflow for a nascent brand. 

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