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New Zealand's top organic wines for 2019

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Organic wines are always popular, especially with people wanting a healthier drop.

Of this country’s 700 wine producers, 45 are fully organic and others have some organic output. BioGro and AsureQuality, the major certifying agencies, insist that synthetic chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides cannot be used in organic vineyards, and no synthetic chemical additives are allowed in organic wines.

So, why are most of our wineries yet to go down the organic route? The viability of organic-wine production is related to each region’s climate. In areas with a reliably warm, dry climate, it is much easier to adopt a chemical-free grape-growing programme, simply because the risk of disease is much lower. In the humid climate of the upper North Island, for instance, growers are naturally more cautious than those in the much drier climate of Central Otago about reducing the use of antifungal sprays.

Macro alias: ModuleRenderer

Aurum Organic Central Otago Pinot Gris Rosé 2018 ••••½

Delicious young, this pale-pink wine is mouthfilling (14% alc/vol), with fresh, concentrated stonefruit and spice flavours, showing excellent delicacy and depth and a dry, well-rounded finish. $28

Black Estate Damsteep North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2016 •••••

This outstanding, youthful red was estate-grown at Waipara. Deeply coloured, it is mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), savoury, ripe and deep, with lovely plum, berry, spice and nut flavours. $45

Carrick Bannockburn Central Otago Chardonnay 2016 ••••½

Still youthful, this barrel-aged wine is full-bodied (14% alc/vol) and tightly structured. It has vibrant, ripe, citrusy, slightly appley flavours that show good intensity, gentle mealy, toasty notes adding complexity, fresh acidity and a long finish. $38

Churton Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017 •••••

Estate-grown in the Waihōpai Valley, this wine was partly (15%) fermented in French oak puncheons. Distinctive, it is fragrant and mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), with intense, ripely herbaceous flavours and subtle, biscuity notes adding complexity and a lingering, fully dry finish. $27

Dog Point Vineyard Marlborough Chardonnay 2016 •••••

A classy, barrel-fermented wine that was grown on the south side of the Wairau Valley. Powerful, it is full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol) and youthful, with intense grapefruit-like flavours, a subtle seasoning of oak, a minerally thread and a crisp, long, harmonious finish. $36

Fancrest Estate Reserve North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2015 ••••½

This distinctive red, with full, fairly mature colour, was aged for two years in old barrels and bottled with “exceptionally low sulphite levels”. A powerful, savoury, sturdy wine (14.5% alc/vol), it has concentrated flavours, ripe and spicy, a hint of liquorice and a long, firm finish. $49

Clos Henri Petit Clos Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ••••½

From this French-owned, Wairau Valley estate’s young vines, this is a great buy. Weighty (13% alc/vol) and sweet-fruited, it has fresh, strong, ripely herbaceous flavours and a long, dry finish. $21

Felton Road Dry Riesling 2018 •••••

Estate-grown at Bannockburn, Central Otago, this stylish wine is well worth cellaring. It is full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol) and youthful, with concentrated, ripe flavours that are dry but not at all austere and a finely balanced finish. $39

Fromm Cuvée ‘H’ Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017 •••••

This lovely red was designed as “a mindful blend of what our single-vineyard wines offer as a composite”. Mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with generous, vibrant, youthful cherry, plum and spice flavours. Finely structured, supple and persistent, it has obvious cellaring potential. $65

Domaine-Thomson Explorer Central Otago Pinot Noir 2018 ••••½

Offering great value, this classy red was estate-grown in the Cromwell Basin. Bright ruby, it is fragrant and full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), with strong, ripe, plummy, spicy flavours. It also shows excellent depth, complexity and harmony. $29

Greenhough Hope Vineyard Nelson Pinot Noir 2015 •••••

One of Nelson’s greatest reds is hand-harvested from mature, low-cropping vines on the Waimea Plains. Deep ruby, it has a fragrant, complex bouquet of strawberries and spices. Weighty (14% alc/vol), it is a powerful yet elegant, sweet-fruited wine, with deep plum, spice and nut flavours that are savoury and lingering. $46

Greystone Waipara Valley North Canterbury Pinot Gris 2018 •••••

Already delicious, this is a powerful, sturdy (14.5% alc/vol) wine with strong personality. Partly barrel-fermented, it has highly concentrated stonefruit flavours, a vague hint of honey, slight sweetness and excellent complexity and harmony. $29

Hans Herzog Marlborough Pinot Gris 2017 •••••

Prepare for something different! This is a thought-provoking wine that is apricot-coloured from long skin contact with the juice. Ripely perfumed, it is weighty (14% alc/vol), sweet-fruited and bone-dry, with powerful peach, strawberry and apricot flavours. $39

Rock Ferry Trig Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 •••••

A bold, still youthful Central Otago red that was grown at Bendigo. Full-coloured, it is a fragrant, powerful wine (14% alc/vol), with fresh, concentrated flavours of plums, spices and herbs, lively acidity, savoury notes adding complexity and a lasting finish. $65

Kaimira Estate Brightwater Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ••••

Estate-grown in Nelson, this full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol) wine has strong, ripe, tropical-fruit flavours to the fore, a fresh, herbaceous undercurrent, a hint of toasty oak and a dry, appetisingly crisp finish. $21

Millton Te Arai Vineyard Gisborne Chenin Blanc 2017 ••••½

New Zealand’s best-known chenin blanc. Pale gold, it is medium-bodied (12% alc/vol), with rich, vigorous, peachy flavours, hints of honey and toast, moderate acidity for chenin blanc and a finely poised, dryish finish. $32

Mount Edward Central Otago Riesling 2017 •••••

This classy wine is lemon-scented, crisp and dryish, with medium body (12% alc/vol), excellent intensity of peachy, slightly spicy flavours, a minerally thread and a long, finely balanced finish. $27

Two Paddocks Picnic Central Otago Riesling 2017 ••••½

Grown near Alexandra, this is an attractively scented, medium-bodied wine (12.5% alc/vol) with excellent intensity of vigorous, citrusy flavours, a sliver of sweetness and a long, crisp finish. $25

Quartz Reef Bendigo Estate Single Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017 •••••

This refined red is deeply coloured and invitingly perfumed, with substantial body (14% alc/vol), strong, ripe, youthful fruit flavours showing excellent complexity, and a long, supple, finely poised finish. Already delicious. $49

Rippon Tinker’s Field Mature Vine Pinot Noir 2015 •••••

An exceptional red from Wanaka that is based on the estate’s oldest vines. Deeply coloured, it is a notably weighty (13.5% alc/vol) and savoury red, with rich plum/spice flavours and impressive complexity. Firmly structured, it should be long-lived. $105 

Seresin Chardonnay Reserve 2015 •••••

This is a powerful, tightly structured Marlborough wine. Pale gold, it has substantial body (13.5% alc/vol), with rich, ripe, peachy, citrusy, slightly toasty flavours that show impressive complexity and a harmonious, lasting finish. $43

Wrights Reserve Organic Gisborne Chardonnay 2018 ••••½

This French oak-aged, softly mouthfilling (14% alc/vol) wine is already delicious. It has deep, ripe, stonefruit flavours, with biscuity, savoury notes adding complexity, and a creamy-smooth finish. $38

Stonecroft Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Viognier 2018 ••••½

Already highly enjoyable, this barrel-aged wine has a floral, slightly buttery fragrance. Full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), it is well-rounded, with generous stonefruit flavours that show good complexity and a dry, softly textured finish. $27

Terrace Edge Waipara Valley Pinot Noir 2016 ••••½

Offering good value, this is a bright ruby, fragrant, full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol) red, sweet-fruited and savoury, with generous cherry, plum and spice flavours that show good complexity and harmony. $30

Walnut Block Nutcracker Marlborough Chardonnay 2016 ••••½

This delicious, barrel-fermented wine is full-bodied (14% alc/vol), with generous, vibrant stonefruit flavours to the fore, skilful oak handling contributing a mealy, biscuity complexity and a dry, slightly buttery finish. $32

This article was first published in the June 29, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.