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Michael Cooper’s top imported wine picks for 2019

Distinctive, good-value wines from Australia, France, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Chile and Argentina.

If you taste a line-up of imported wines, you won’t get far without a corkscrew. I recently tasted about 100 overseas  examples and only 20% were closed with a screw cap.

In Europe, where more than 60% of the world’s wine is produced, the traditional cork closure still dominates.

More than 40% of the wine New Zealanders buy comes from overseas. Much of it sells in the sub-$10 category. But if you are willing to be adventurous, you can find plenty to enjoy. The number after each wine indicates the importer.

  1. Pernod Ricard NZ
  2. Constellation Brands NZ
  3. United Cellars
  4. EuroVintage
  5. Negociants NZ
  6. Planet Wine
  7. Dhall & Nash
  8. Vintners 
  9. Procure Liquor
  10. St Vincent’s Cave
  11. Maison Vauron
  12. Taylor Brown


Chanson Viré-Clessé 2015 ••••½

From Macon, in the south of Burgundy, this chardonnay has great drinkability. Fragrant, with bottle-aged notes adding complexity, it is full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with deep grapefruit and peach flavours, still fresh and lively, and a finely textured, dry finish. $35 (5)

Bogle Reserve Clarksburg Chardonnay 2017 ••••

Described on the label as “decadent”, this California chardonnay is an extroverted style, with the fragrant coconut-like aromas of new American oak barrels. Powerful (14% alc/vol), it has rich, peachy, toasty flavours that show considerable complexity, and a fresh, creamy-smooth finish. $39 (7)

Domaine Chavy-Chouet Bourgogne Les Femelottes 2017 •••••

This impressive chardonnay is from a small plot of 40-year-old vines near Puligny-Montrachet in Burgundy. Barrel-aged, it is fragrant and full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with deep stonefruit flavours, biscuity and savoury notes adding complexity and a very harmonious, dry, lasting finish. Best drinking 2021-plus. $50 (3)

La Croix de Maunay Vouvray 2015 ••••½

This charming, medium-bodied wine (11.5% alc/vol) is from classic chenin blanc grapes grown in the Loire Valley. Attractively scented, it is a demi-sec (gently sweet) style, with strong, lively, citrusy, appley flavours, a hint of peaches, balanced acidity and loads of current-drinking appeal. $24 (11)

Matchbook Old Head Chardonnay 2017 ••••

If you like bold, oaky chardonnays, try this. Grown in California’s Central Valley and matured for eight months in “old heads” (barrels), it is pale-straw coloured, with a fragrant, woody, slightly buttery bouquet. Fresh, smooth and full-bodied (13.9% alc/vol), it is crammed with peachy, toasty flavours. $25 (9)

Le Versant Pays d’Oc Chardonnay 2018 •••½

A good all-purpose wine, this dry, smooth French chardonnay is freshly scented, weighty (13.5% alc/vol) and vibrantly fruity, with plenty of ripe, peachy, slightly toasty flavours. $23 (3)

Moulin de Gassac Viognier 2017 ••••

From France’s Mediterranean south, this enticingly fresh and fragrant wine is medium to full-bodied (12.5% alc/vol), with gentle acidity and good depth of ripe stonefruit and spice flavours. $22 (6)

Pala Stellato Vermentino 2017 ••••½

This powerful Italian white (14.5% alc/vol) is from the sprightly vermentino variety, grown on Sardinia. Fresh, weighty, dry and well-rounded, it is a distinctive wine, with deep peachy, citrusy, spicy flavours. $32 (5)

Vino dell‘Amicizia Friuli Pinot Grigio 2018 ••••½

Well worth discovering, this is a perfect introduction to the delights of Italian pinot grigio (pinot gris). Fresh, lively and medium-bodied (12% alc/vol), it has generous pear, lychee and citrus fruit flavours and a finely balanced, basically dry finish. $25 (3)

Sebastiani North Coast Chardonnay 2017 ••••½

This California chardonnay offers fine value. Grown in Sonoma County, it is fresh and full-bodied (13.5%), with strong, peachy, citrusy flavours, lively acidity, biscuity oak adding complexity and a slightly creamy texture. Already delicious. $28 (4)


Aimery Crémant de Limoux Grande Cuvée 1531 NV ••••½

This characterful, bottle-fermented fizz is a blend of chardonnay, mauzac (a traditional grape of south-west France) and chenin blanc. Lively, it is medium-bodied (12.5% alc/vol), with citrusy, slightly toasty flavours that show good intensity and complexity, and a crisp, dry, sustained finish. $26 (9)

Aimery Crémant de Limoux Grande Cuvée Brut Rosé NV ••••½

Bright pink, this blend of chardonnay, chenin blanc and pinot noir was grown in southern France and bottle-fermented. Full of personality, it is medium-bodied (12.5% alc/vol), with vivacious, strawberry, slightly peachy and spicy flavours, yeasty notes and excellent complexity and harmony. $26 (9)

Divici Prosecco NV ••••

This extra-dry prosecco was grown organically in northern Italy. Pale lemon/green, it is fresh, light (11% alc/vol) and vivacious, with strong lemon and apple flavours. An uncomplicated but delicious sparkling wine. $26 (9)

Vino dell‘Amicizia Prosecco NV ••••

Prosecco, Italy’s favourite fizz, made from the glera variety, is hot around the world. Very fresh, vigorous and lively, this is a classic example. It is light-bodied (11% alc/vol), with crisp, citrusy, appley flavours. $27 (3)


Le Versant Pays d’Oc Grenache Rosé 2018 ••••½

From Languedoc, in the south of France, this fresh, dry, bright-pink, attractively scented wine is lively and smooth, with good body (13% alc/vol) and strong, ripe peach, apricot and spice flavours. $23 (3)

Taylors Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir Rosé 2018 ••••

Currently in full stride, this bright-pink wine is vibrantly fruity, with good body (13% alc/vol), strong strawberry and spice flavours, appetising acidity and a dry, lively finish. $19 (12)


Beronia Reserva Rioja 2013 •••••

This delicious Spanish red is from the classic tempranillo variety, matured at length in French and American oak barrels. Deeply coloured, it is finely fragrant, with mouthfilling body (14% alc/vol) and deep blackcurrant, plum, spice and nut flavours. It is complex, savoury and very harmonious. $35 (5)

Catena Malbec 2017 ••••½

Malbec from Argentina is typically powerful, gutsy and flavour-drenched, but this dark, freshly scented, full-bodied red (13.5% alc/vol) is extremely approachable. It has deep, youthful blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, and gentle tannins with excellent vigour and harmony. $34 (5)

Domaine Alary Tradition Cairanne 2016 ••••½

This powerful Rhône Valley red is a blend of grenache, syrah and carignan. Robust (14.5% alc/vol), with deep, purple-flushed colour, it is packed with berry, plum and pepper flavours that are fresh, rich, spicy and long. If you love Aussie reds, check this out. $31 (11)

Collazzi Bastioni Chianti Classico 2015 •••••

Drinking well now, this classic chianti has deep, moderately youthful colour and a welcoming fragrance. Mouthfilling (14% alc/vol), it is savoury and complex, with rich blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, a hint of liquorice, leathery notes and a fairly firm, lasting finish. $39 (10)

Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Red Label Zinfandel 2016 ••••½

“Zin” is known for its muscular, heady reds in California. More approachable than many, this fragrant, deeply coloured red is full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol) but not heavy. With concentrated flavours of blackberries, spices, liquorice and raisins, it is deliciously ripe and smooth. $37 (7)

Old Hands Joven Organic Wine 2017 ••••

Bargain-priced, this bold Spanish red is from the monastrell grape, known for dark, tannic wines. Deeply coloured, with spicy aromas, it is gutsy (14.5% alc/vol) and fruit-packed, with loads of ripe, slightly raisiny flavour and a firm finish. $18 (10)

Gayda En Passant Pays d’Oc Vin Rouge 2017 ••••

Delicious young, this French red is a 2:1 blend of syrah and grenache. Fresh and full-coloured, it is lively, with mouthfilling body (13.5% alc/vol) and generous, well-ripened, plummy, spicy flavours. $22 (8)

Paxton McLaren Vale Now Shiraz 2019 ••••

Highly approachable for such an infant red, this South Australian wine was grown organically and bottled with “no added preservatives”. Dark and purple-flushed, it is bold (14% alc/vol), rich and smooth, with deep dark berry, plum and spice flavours, gentle tannins and loads of drink-young charm. $30 (9)

Jacob’s Creek Barossa Signature Shiraz 2017 ••••½

This Aussie red delivers top value. American and French oak-aged, it is rich, dark and robust (14.5% alc/vol), with a spicy fragrance and bold plum, black-pepper and liquorice flavours. $20 (1)

La Mascota Malbec 2017 ••••

This impressively dark, easy-drinking Argentinian red was aged for a year in American and French oak casks. Weighty (14% alc/vol), rich and vibrantly fruity, it has ripe berry, plum, spice and liquorice flavours. $30 (7)

Prieto Pariente La Provincia 2015 •••••

This striking Spanish red is from tempranillo and grenache vines that were planted in the 1940s and 50s. French oak-aged, it is deeply coloured, deliciously fresh, rich and smooth, with a spicy fragrance, substantial body (14.5% alc/vol) and dense, ripe flavours. $42 (6)

Maretti Langhe Rosso 2016 •••••

Instantly appealing, this Italian, oak-matured blend of barbera and nebbiolo grapes is from the famous Alpine foothills region of Piedmont. A rich, distinctive, graceful red, it is full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), with an inviting savoury fragrance and deep, vibrant, plummy, berryish flavours. $30 (9)

Matchbook Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ••••

This bold Californian red is from the Dunnigan Hills in the huge Central Valley wine region. Deeply coloured, it is mouthfilling (13.9% alc/vol), with ripe, blackcurrant-evoking flavours, hints of herbs and liquorice, fresh acidity and excellent depth. $25 (9)

Marqués de Riscal Próximo Rioja 2015 ••••

This is an ideal introduction to rioja, the classic Spanish red. Drinking well now, it is full-coloured, with good body (14% alc/vol) and depth of fresh blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours and leathery, savoury notes adding complexity. $20 (10)

Penley Estate Phoenix Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ••••½

Worth cellaring, this distinctly cool-climate cabernet sauvignon was grown in southern South Australia. Deeply coloured, with a fragrant, slightly leafy bouquet, it is sturdy (14% alc/vol) and strongly varietal, with fresh acidity, oak complexity and concentrated, youthful blackcurrant, plum, spice and herb flavours. $26 (9)

Quarisa Q Malbec 2017 ••••

Offering generous, easy, no-fuss drinking, this Aussie red has bold, purple-flushed colour. Rich and smooth-flowing, it is sturdy (14% alc/vol) and packed with fresh, ripe blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours. $20 (9)

Perrin Réserve Côtes du Rhône 2017 ••••½

If you haven’t discovered the flavour delights and great value of a good Côtes du Rhône, try this. Already delicious, it’s a refined, full-bodied red (13.5% alc/vol), with generous, youthful plum, berry and spice flavours showing good complexity and an X factor that keeps drawing you back. $29 (8)

Riseccoli Chianti Classico 2016 ••••½

Fragrant and firm, this youthful red is from the classic Tuscan variety, sangiovese. Dark, sturdy (14%) and sweet-fruited, it has concentrated, ripe, berryish, spicy flavours and shows excellent complexity. $36 (6)

Matchbook Petite Sirah 2016 ••••½

Traditionally cultivated in warm climates, petite sirah (also known as durif) yields dark, tannic wines. A ripe, powerful California red, this example is deeply coloured, with substantial body (13.9% alc/vol) and densely packed plum and spice flavours. A real conversation point. $25 (9)

SC Pannell Dead End McLaren Vale Tempranillo 2016 ••••½

This delicious red is based on Spain’s classic variety of the Rioja region, transplanted to South Australia. Deeply coloured, it is fragrant and full-bodied (14% alc/vol), with deep, vibrant blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours and a gentle seasoning of oak. Fresh and youthful, it is well worth cellaring. $35 (3)

Taylors Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ••••

As a sub-$20 red, this is hard to beat. A powerful young wine, it is full-bodied (14.6% alc/vol), with concentrated ripe blackcurrant, plum, berry and spice flavours. Nutty French oak adds complexity and, with good tannin support, it has obvious potential. $19 (12)

Trapiche Pure Black Malbec 2017 ••••

Made for easy drinking, this Argentinian red is priced very sharply. Deeply coloured, fresh and sturdy (14% alc/vol), it has generous plum, berry, spice and liquorice flavours and is deliciously rich and smooth. $23 (4)

Young & Co Berry Riot French Grenache 2018 •••½

Combining easy-drinking charm with a rustic streak, this southern French red is full-coloured, mouthfilling (14% alc/vol) and sweet-fruited. With plenty of youthful plummy, spicy, slightly earthy flavours, it is ripe and fairly firm. $23 (2)

Zilzie Regional Collection Barossa Shiraz 2016 ••••

This easy-drinking wine is less of a blockbuster than many Aussie reds. Full, ripe and well-rounded but not dense in colour, it is floral (14% alc/vol) and sweet-fruited, with plum, spice and liquorice flavours. $25 (3)

This article was first published in the August 31, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.