Could it be the closures -- NZ wines shine in inaugural UK Great Blind Chardonnay Challenge

Could it be the closures -- NZ wines shine in inaugural UK Great Blind Chardonnay Challenge

Just read this this on Bob Campbell MW Real Review (link to article in title) and thought as a lover of good, buttery Chardonnays that I would share --

"UK chardonnay lovers Keith Prothero and Paul Day (they describe themselves as “obsessive oenophiles”) decided to test the assertion that,

“prices of Burgundy bear no relation to their quality and that the New World has more than enough well-priced prime talent to challenge for Burgundy’s unassailable crown.”

The Great Blind Chardonnay Challenge was born. The idea was simple — they would pitch 10 of the world’s best New World chardonnays against 10 of Burgundies finest with no price limit set for either camp but with wines being drawn from recent vintages, mostly post-2011, and all commercially available in the UK.

The idea was simple — they would pitch 10 of the world’s best New World chardonnays against 10 of Burgundies finest with no price limit set for either camp.

After multiple blind tastings, 10 wines from Burgundy and 10 from the New World were chosen. The wines were randomised and served blind to 12 tasters made up of experienced Burgundy collectors and several trade professionals.

Wines from the New World comprised:

  • NZ x 2
  • USA x 4
  • Australia x 4

The Group’s Top Five Wines (out of 20)

  1. Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet 2014
  2. A. Ente Meursault Clos des Ambres 2014
  3. Kumeu River Mates Vineyard Chardonnay 2014
  4. Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2014
  5. Sandhi Sanford & Benedict Chardonnay 2011

That’s a great result for New Zealand chardonnay and particularly for Kumeu River and Neudorf (I awarded the 2014 Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay my only 100-point score). When Kumeu River had a great success in an extensive comparative tasting against Burgundy a couple of years ago winemaker, Michael Brajkovich said – “I’m not surprised. We use screwcaps, they don’t.”

Did closures give the two New Zealand wines a leg up in this case? It’s entirely possible. As far as I can tell the majority of wines in the tasting were sealed with cork."


Inaugural Top 100 New Zealand Wines of 2017 - James Suckling

Inaugural Top 100 New Zealand Wines of 2017 - James Suckling

Well regarded American wine critic James Suckling has recently published his first Top 100 New Zealand Wines of 2017 listing.

The following is his article which can also be found at James (see link URL link in title above). His selection taps into the impressive evolution of wine style and quality in what is a very young wine-growing nation. he writes -

 "The eye-catching depth of New Zealand wine across a myriad of styles is of significance to wine collectors and drinkers because this is a group of wines that mark a clear step away from the oceans of Sauvignon Blanc that first put New Zealand on the world wine grid. 

New Zealand is a tiny country in global wine terms and of the 253 million liters of wine exported by New Zealand in the year ending June 2017, a staggering 218 million liters was sauvignon blanc. The fact that one single varietal can account for a whopping 86% of a country’s wine exports by volume makes for a precarious position to occupy, in any business terms. Is there any other young winemaking nation so dramatically hedged? 

But there’s a double edge in the detail of quality here because even if the high-water mark for Kiwi SB, the depth of quality in pinot noir, chardonnay, syrah, riesling and Bordeaux-style reds is a blossoming asset. These are the wines that will shape the future of New Zealand’s standing in the global wine market."

It will come as no surprise that the solo sauvignon inclusion in the NZ Top 100 is the top bottling from Dog Point Vineyard, their Section 94. In many ways, it is a wine that has more stylistic overlap with a top-flight chardonnay than it does with troppo sauvignon blanc, but that’s because they stand alone in pursuit of this razor-sharp style. With staggering complexity built into powerful, high-tensile fruit, it is a wine that shows the possibilities for extreme quality and style and one that delivers consistently. 

Joining sauvignon blanc in the singles section of the Top 100 is the Te Whare Ra Gewürztraminer Marlborough 2017 and the famous Millton Chenin Blanc Gisborne Te Arai Vineyard 2017, both of which demonstrate the possibilities of style and quality in much the same way as the Dog Point Section 94. These are great wines crafted by producers that farm with truly sustainable, sensible and biodynamic practices. Pegasus Bay’s mastery of aromatic whites earned their late-harvest pinot gris the other solo listing the year — it’s a wine that also lights the flame of possibility for this often undercooked grape. 

You’d have cleaned up in betting circles if you backed a syrah for our New Zealand Wine of the Year 2017. Yet the Trinity Hill Syrah Hawkes Bay Homage 2015 is a staggeringly great wine from a producer who is chasing down those elusive one-percent margins of the finest quality and nearing perfection. It’s an immaculately fresh and alluringly spicy syrah that holds a mirror to the first division of the world’s greatest producers of the variety, dripping with intense, mind-bending flavors. The finest New Zealand syrah we’ve tasted, it very much deserves the title New Zealand Wine of the Year 2017. 

If the 2015 Homage Syrah is a beacon for the future, the quality of New Zealand pinot noir looms large in the Top 100 NZ list, accounting for seven of the top 10 wines and a staggering 57 overall. The evolution of style and feverish exploration of possibility on behalf of the nation’s best winemakers is impressive and a perfect storm of nature’s gift of opportunity and humankind’s determined curious and capable efforts. 

A special mention to Felton Road, Bell Hill, Rippon, Ata Rangi, Fromm and Escarpment as an elite league of producers crafting pinot noir wines that deliver boldly on the promise of distinctive, consistently high-quality wines. They farm very different landscapes and terroirs but all deliver wines of profound interest that speak of intelligence, soul and complete commitment to quality."

Enjoy this list of New Zealand’s 100 best, and be sure to check back here in 2018 for details about a fabulous wine tourism experience we are currently developing which will feature the Family of Twelve winemakers - who jointly scored a very impressive 38 mentions on this Top 100 NZ wines list.  We expect this exceptional tour to depart in 2019.

The New Zealand Wine Story

The New Zealand Wine Story

Suggest you click on the title above and watch this wonderful presentation featuring one the premium Family of Twelve member's wineries - Kemeu River Wines to learn more about the NZ Wine Story. 

Gourmet Journeys is currently working closely with the Family of XII to craft a fabulous tour of all twelve wineries across both islands - its very tentatively scheduled for Summer 2019.

It promises to be simply - who to ask to escort it?!?!

Got my eye on someone - she resides in the UK......


Luxury Food and Wine Small Group Tour February, 2017

Luxury Food and Wine Small Group Tour February, 2017

Cuisine Culture and Natural New Zealand

With only 4.5 million people, Aotearoa "The Land of the Long White Cloud" as the indigenous Maori call their home, has a distinctly unique blend of European, Polynesian and Pan-Asian influences in its food, wine and cultures.

Join our leisurely group of foodies as we explore local farmers markets and the extraordinary food and wine of the magnificent Sth Island - at the peak of its summer harvest. Fresh, innovative and delicious New Zealand's flavoursome food and world class wines are essential ingredients for any New Zealand experience. 

For many visitors, the wines are their main reason to visit, particularly the famed Central Otago and Marlborough regions, producers of some of the world's finest Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Join our exclusive tours and tastings as we explore behind the scenery to discover a South Pacific gastronomic jewel.

Join us next February on this gorgeous and very leisurely journey visiting the food and wine highlights of this amazing destination.  See our TOURS page for details.

Lonely Planet’s new Wine Trails book

Lonely Planet’s new Wine Trails book

Plots a course through 52 of the world’s greatest wine regions, especially compiled by expert writers, including wine buyers and sommeliers.

No surprise that Central Otago features - here's what they have to say about this intriguing region and why tasting wine in the place it was made can be such a revelation.

Central Otago, New Zealand

Central Otago is famed for sublime alpine scenery, the energetic resort town of Queenstown and, since the 1990s, some world-class winemaking. Its wild landscapes make up the world’s southernmost wine region with vineyards spread throughout the deep valleys and basins. The local soils have proved excellent for Pinot Noir and Central Otago is lauded as one of the best places outside Burgundy for cultivating this notoriously fickle grape.

View our food and wine tours

Some things in life are givens

The sun rises each morning, there's a wind machine at Eurovision and Ata Rangi Pinot blows our minds every vintage.

Jancis Robinson famously quipped that if you weren't drinking DRC, then be drinking Ata Rangi. An icon of world pinot, Ata Rangi is one of only two producers (Felton Rd the other) to be awarded 'Great Growth of NZ' status by peers in the industry at the International Pinot Celebration in Wellington in 2010.

Clive Paton has been tending the Ata Rangi land for 36 years. He is a fanatic. No less a fanatic himself, Grant Taylor (Valli wines) once observed at a seminar that most folk usually carry pictures of their children when working away; Clive Paton carries images of Ata Rangi vineyard soil profiles.

Vineyard notes on vintage 2014: 'Another excellent vintage to follow 2013, the season was characterised by an unusually warm, settled spring. This trend continued through flowering and on into January. February and March were thankfully cooler than usual, stretching out the season and preserving aromatics as the evenly-formed bunches steadily ripened. Interestingly, accumulated Growing Degree Days of 1170 (a measure of heat across the growing season) leading into this harvest were, in the end, almost identical to those for the fabled 2013. Only the oldest and most revered parcels of fruit are used... the fabled Abel clone, allegedly smuggled from Burgundy in the mid 70s, makes up 40% of the blend.

Michele's notes: Glistening but deep crimson hues are a preview to the brooding elements to come. Meaty/licorice aromas mingle with rich plum and dark cherry fruit. And then there's the typical Ata Rangi heightened slate/wet stone, almost floral lift. Crystalline clarity of fruit in the mouth is given depth and texture by ultra fine, perfectly ripe, rounded tannins. A second sip and there's the characteristic yin yang - juicy, slippery, sweeping, lip-smacking fruit set off against earth, mocha and char. An essay in sustained power. It is everything you want.

Raymond Chan Wine Reviews 19.5/20 *****