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Power wines for winter: Michael Cooper's seasonal selection

Michael Cooper’s flavourful, seasonal selection.

Refreshing, vibrantly fruity, appetisingly crisp white wines and rosés hit the spot in summer – but when the weather cools, more substantial, rich, smooth wines leap back into favour. Robust reds and full-bodied whites are natural partners for hearty winter meals.

Now may be the time to explore weighty, barrel-fermented sauvignon blancs that can taste more like chardonnay than the light, zingy sauvignons, so popular in summer. Chardonnay itself tastes great at this time of the year, as do the more powerful styles of pinot gris and sturdy, flavour-packed reds, such as merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinotage and shiraz.


Askerne Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris 2017 ★★★★
Ripely scented, this is an Alsace-style pinot gris, made in a full-bodied, medium-dry style. Rich and smooth, with good concentration of stonefruit, pear and spice flavours, a hint of ginger, and gentle acidity, it’s already drinking well. $23

Astrolabe Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ★★★★
This regional blend was made in a fully dry style. Mouthfilling, finely balanced and clearly herbaceous, it has strong, vibrant melon, green capsicum and lime flavours, a slightly salty streak, and a crisp, long finish. $23

Brightwater Vineyards Lord Rutherford Barrique Nelson Chardonnay 2015 ★★★★★
This classy, estate-grown wine was fermented in French oak barriques. Fragrant, full-bodied and savoury, with concentrated grapefruit and peach flavours, and mealy, biscuity notes adding complexity, it has notable vigour, delicacy, harmony and length. $40

Clos Marguerite Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ★★★★★
Well worth discovering, this estate-grown, Awatere Valley wine was mostly handled in tanks; 12% was barrel-fermented. Full of personality, it is weighty and fleshy, with generous, vibrant, ripely herbaceous flavours, slightly minerally notes, and a lasting, bone-dry finish. $29

Framingham Jack Frost Marlborough Riesling 2016 ★★★★
From a season when Framingham lost its riesling crop to frost, but was able to buy grapes from neighbouring growers, this is a full-bodied, very easy-drinking wine, with generous, ripe, peachy, vaguely honeyed flavours. It’s delicious right now. $20

Greystone Sauvignon Blanc Barrel Fermented 2017 ★★★★
Sauvignon with a difference. This Waipara wine was fermented and aged in old French oak barrels. Fresh and crisp, with concentrated, ripe, tropical fruit flavours, showing excellent complexity, it’s a drink-now or cellaring proposition. $25

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Hawkshead Central Otago Pinot Gris 2017 ★★★★★
This classy wine was grown mostly at Gibbston. It has a full-bloomed, gently spicy bouquet, leading into a mouthfilling wine with generous, ripe stonefruit flavours, hints of pears, lychees and spices, a slightly oily texture, and a fully dry, finely poised finish. $29

Johanneshof Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2017 ★★★★★
Already delicious, this hand-harvested Wairau Valley wine is fleshy, with strong, peachy, gently spiced flavours, showing lovely depth and harmony, and an off-dry, well-rounded, lasting finish. $31

Linden Estate Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2016 ★★★★
Offering great value, this hand-harvested, barrel-fermented wine is weighty, with peachy, slightly buttery and toasty flavours, revealing excellent depth, complexity and downright drinkability. $25

Misha’s Vineyard Dress Circle Central Otago Pinot Gris 2017 ★★★★
This attractive, youthful wine was estate-grown at Bendigo. Made in an off-dry style, it is highly fragrant, weighty and strongly varietal, with pure pear, lychee and stonefruit flavours, showing impressive freshness, delicacy and length. $28

Neudorf Rosie’s Block Nelson Chardonnay 2017 ★★★★★
Offering good value, this classy wine was hand-picked, mostly at Upper Moutere, and barrel-fermented. An elegant wine, with a highly fragrant, complex bouquet, it has intense, citrusy, appley flavours, a slightly creamy texture and a crisp, tight, lasting finish. $33

Smith & Sheth Cru Mangatahi Chardonnay 2015 ★★★★★
Full of personality, this stylish wine was hand-picked from mature vines in the elevated, inland district of Mangatahi, in Hawke’s Bay. Drinking well now, it is a beautifully fragrant, weighty, concentrated wine with layers of grapefruit, peach and biscuity oak flavours, showing lovely delicacy and depth. $60

Staete Landt Duchess Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ★★★★★
Priced sharply, this deeply satisfying wine was hand-harvested at Rapaura, barrel-fermented and oak-aged for 10 months. Already delicious, it is fleshy and well-rounded, with deep, ripe, tropical fruit flavours, balanced acidity, and a rich finish. $25


Alpha Domus The Fox Moth Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2015 ★★★★
Drinking well now, this barrel-aged red was estate-grown in the Bridge Pā Triangle. The colour is full and bright; the palate is mouthfilling with fresh, ripe plum, spice and nut flavours, generous and smooth. $24

Babich The Patriarch 2015 ★★★★★
Babich’s top red is this boldly coloured blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec, grown in the Irongate Vineyard, in the Gimblett Gravels. Enticingly fragrant, it has concentrated, ripe blackcurrant, plum, spice and nut flavours, complex, savoury, finely textured and sustained. $70

Bannock Brae Goldfields Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 ★★★★
Hand-picked at Bannockburn and Bendigo, this fragrant, full-bodied red has satisfying depth of ripe cherry, plum and spice flavours, savoury notes adding complexity, fine-grained tannins and good cellaring potential. $30

Cloudy Bay Te Wahi Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 ★★★★★
Te Wahi (“The Place”) is estate-grown at Bannockburn and Northburn, on the east bank of Lake Dunstan. Deep ruby, this is a powerful, sturdy, complex red, still youthful, with concentrated, well-ripened cherry, plum and spice flavours, nutty and savoury, good tannin backbone, and a long life ahead. $105

Coal Pit Tiwha Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 ★★★★★
Estate-grown and hand-harvested at Gibbston, 400m above sea level, this is a deeply coloured, fragrant red, with concentrated, ripe cherry, plum and spice flavours, well-integrated oak, supple tannins, depth and harmony. $49

Elephant Hill Reserve Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Malbec 2015 ★★★★★
Already delicious, this merlot-based blend was matured for two years in French oak casks. Deep and youthful in colour, it is full-bodied, sweet-fruited and lush, with concentrated blackcurrant and spice flavours, hints of dark chocolate and nuts, and a long, smooth-flowing finish. $54

Fromm Cuvée H Marlborough Pinot Noir 2016 ★★★★★
This organic red is labelled in honour of Hätsch Kalberer, Fromm’s winemaker. Promoted as “the best pinot we feel we can make”, it is a blend of grapes from five sites, and was “very much built with longevity in mind”. A generous, youthful, deep ruby red, it is classy and complex, ripe and savoury, with gentle acidity and an underlying structure that suggests strong cellaring potential. $65

I am George Shiraz/Cabernet 2016 ★★★★
This powerful young red from Wyndham Estate was deliberately crafted in a “bold, robust” style. Grown in South Australia, it’s a 3:1 blend of shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. Dark and rich, it has strong, youthful blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, gentle tannins, and excellent depth and harmony. $23

Kaapzicht Stellenbosch Pinotage 2015 ★★★★
Kaapzicht (“Cape View”) is renowned for pinotage. French oak-matured for 18 months, this is a deeply coloured red, with a fragrant, slightly earthy bouquet. Weighty, it has fresh, plummy, spicy flavours, showing good complexity, and a long, savoury finish. $35

Mondillo Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 ★★★★★
Deep ruby, this attractively scented, powerful red was grown at Bendigo, in the Cromwell Basin. Sturdy, with rich, ripe, plummy, spicy flavours, and savoury, earthy notes adding complexity, it’s full of personality. $45

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 17 Plateau Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2016 ★★★★★
Still purple-flushed, this deeply coloured red is delicious young. Fragrant and vibrantly fruity, it has deep plum, blackcurrant, red berry and spice flavours, gentle tannins and a smooth, rich finish. $38

Wither Hills Single Vineyard Taylor River Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015 ★★★★
Offering good value, this is a bright ruby, softly mouthfilling red with a fragrant, slightly earthy bouquet, ripe cherry and plum flavours, showing good complexity, and a well-rounded finish. $26 

This article was first published in the July 2018 issue of North & South.