Wine: Michael Cooper’s best buys

by Listener Archive / 24 November, 2012
For two top-value wines, look no further.
Spy Valley vineyard

Psssst … here’s a bargain! After tasting and reviewing 3260 wines for the new 2013 edition of my annual Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wines (Hodder Moa, $39.99), I chose two irresistible buys, white and red.

For the first time in a decade, a chardonnay wins the award for Best White Wine Buy of the Year. “Chardonnay is back in fashion,” says Blair Gibbs, manager of one of Marlborough’s most successful family-owned wineries. That should be no surprise, given chardonnay’s status as one of the world’s two greatest white-wine varieties, rivalling riesling.

For its moderate price, Spy Valley Marlborough Chardonnay 2011 ($19.95-$22.95) is unexpectedly classy. Highly fragrant, it is fresh and finely poised, with strong citrus-fruit and peach flavours, hints of nuts and butterscotch adding complexity, lively acidity and a deliciously long finish. Awarded a gold medal this year at the Spiegelau International Wine Competition, judged in Blenheim, Spy Valley Marlborough Chardonnay 2011 is enjoyable now, but also a definite candidate for the cellar. Spy Valley’s premium chardonnay, labelled Envoy, sells for $40. “The grapes for both wines are grown to the same standard,” says Gibbs. (5/5)

In 2011, some barrels earmarked originally for the Envoy label were blended into the mainstream Spy Valley bottling, elevating its complexity and richness.

Looking for a top-flight Central Otago red at a sharp price? The Best Red Wine Buy of the Year award goes to Bannock Brae Estate Goldfields Pinot Noir 2010 ($29.95). This beauty was rated five stars by Winestate and has been awarded gold medals in two competitions – yet you can buy it for just under $30. A very stylish wine, it is invitingly deep in colour with bold cherry, plum, spice and slight licorice flavours, earthy, smoky notes adding complexity, and a lingering finish. A serious yet sexy wine, it is better than many $45 reds. (5/5)

Crawford and Catherine Brown bought their Bannockburn property – then a barren block supporting “a few rabbits and even fewer sheep” – in 1996, convinced it was grape-growing land. They were right. Since the debut 2002 vintage, Bannock Brae has emerged as one of this country’s mostawarded single-vineyard pinot noirs. So, what should you drink this hard-to-resist red with? Catherine Brown cuts to the chase: “You can serve it with everything or anything – or nothing.”


Spy Valley Marlborough Chardonnay 2011
A five-star chardonnay at a three-star price. Grab it. $19.95-$22.95 (5/5)
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