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The best wines to drink this spring

Michael Cooper’s bunch of winners.

Yes, the average temperature is higher than in winter, but spring brings cold and frosty weather as well as days that are sunny and warm. Those robust, rich, well-rounded reds that slipped down so easily in winter are still in demand, while lighter, vibrantly fruity, appetisingly crisp whites start to taste good again, too.

White wines

Akarua Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Gris 2018 ★★★★

This youthful, partly barrel-fermented wine is attractively scented, with mouth-filling body, good intensity of vibrant peach, pear and lychee flavours showing a distinct touch of complexity, and a fractionally off-dry finish. $29

Delta Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ★★★★

This single-vineyard, lower Wairau Valley wine is an intense, “full-on” style, offering fine value. It has a punchy, slightly leafy bouquet, leading into a tightly structured, vibrant wine with a salty streak. Fresh, pungent tropical fruit and herbaceous flavours, and a dry, crisp, lengthy finish. $20

Jules Taylor Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 ★★★★

Grown in the Awatere and Wairau Valleys, this attractively scented wine is full-bodied, with good concentration of vibrant peach, pear, apple and lychee flavours, gentle spicy notes, balanced acidity, a distinct touch of complexity and a dry, smooth, lingering finish. $23

Hāhā Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris 2018 ★★★★

Offering excellent value, this smooth, easy-drinking wine is a dry style. Fragrant and fleshy, it is vibrantly fruity, with generous depth of ripe stone-fruit flavours, balanced acidity, and very good delicacy, harmony and depth. $18

Hawkshead Central Otago Pinot Gris 2018 ★★★★★

Grown in the elevated Gibbston sub-region, this wine was mostly handled in tanks, but 15% was barrel-fermented. Already delicious, it is invitingly fragrant and fleshy, with concentrated, ripe, peachy, slightly spicy flavours and a very harmonious, dry, lasting finish. $29

Mahi Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ★★★★★

Drinking superbly now, this freshly scented, weighty wine was mostly handled in tanks; the ripest, hand-harvested fruit was barrel-fermented with indigenous yeasts. It has ripe, tropical fruit flavours to the fore, a herbaceous undercurrent, good complexity, and excellent intensity, delicacy and poise. $23

Main Divide North Canterbury Gewürztraminer 2018 ★★★★★

This delicious wine from Pegasus Bay is an irresistible buy. Fermented in old oak puncheons, it is richly perfumed and full-bodied, with concentrated, peachy, spicy, slightly gingery flavours, an oily texture and a slightly sweet finish. $21

Mount Brown Estates North Canterbury Riesling 2018 ★★★★

Delicious young, this vibrantly fruity, gently sweet wine has good intensity of citrusy, peachy flavours, hints of apricot and honey, and appetising acidity. Great value. $16

Vidal Reserve Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2018 ★★★★

This middle-tier label is a consistently good buy. Barrel-fermented, it is mouth-filling, fresh and generous, with a slightly smoky fragrance and citrusy, peachy, slightly toasty flavours, showing excellent richness, delicacy and complexity. $20

Wither Hills Marlborough Riesling 2018 ★★★★

Instantly appealing, this scented, youthful, vibrantly fruity wine has very good depth of fresh lemon/lime flavours, a sliver of sweetness, appetising acidity, and excellent delicacy and harmony. $18

Smith & Sheth Cru Heretaunga Albariño 2018 ★★★★★

Currently compelling, this very powerful albariño was grown in the Bridge Pā Triangle. Highly fragrant, it is weighty, with fresh, deep, citrusy, peachy flavours that build to a dry, resounding finish. Still youthful, it’s full of personality. $28

Spy Valley Single Estate Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 ★★★★

Drinking well now, this fragrant, full-bodied wine was hand-picked and fermented in tanks and old oak vessels. A very harmonious wine, it has rich, ripe stone-fruit flavours to the fore, a hint of ginger, a distinct touch of complexity and a smooth, off-dry finish. $25

Stonecroft Gimblett Gravels Viognier 2018 ★★★★

Certified organic, this Hawke’s Bay wine was fermented and matured in seasoned French oak barrels. Already highly enjoyable, it has a floral, slightly buttery fragrance. Full-bodied and sweet-fruited, it is well-rounded, with generous, ripe, stone-fruit flavours, showing good complexity, and a dry, softly textured finish. $27

The Boneline Sharkstone Waipara Chardonnay 2018 ★★★★★

This striking North Canterbury wine is already a lovely mouthful. Hand-picked from mature vines and barrel-fermented, it is fragrant, tightly structured and intense, with searching, grapefruit-like flavours, gentle biscuity and buttery note, and a long, seamless finish. $45

Toi Toi 8.5 Lower Alcohol Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ★★★

Designed as a “no glass option”, this non-vintage wine released late last year is a low-alcohol (8.5% alc/vol) style, packaged in a 250ml can. Highly aromatic, it is strongly varietal, with appetising acidity and fresh, punchy passionfruit, lime and green capsicum flavours. $8

Sparkling wines

Cloudy Bay Pelorus Rosé NV ★★★★★

This classy, non-vintage bubbly is a blend of pinot noir (mostly) and chardonnay. Pink/very pale red, it is a mouth-filling, rich, “serious” yet vivacious wine, with a strong surge of strawberryish, yeasty, complex flavours and a dryish, very harmonious and persistent finish. $40

Te Hana Reserve Cuvée NV ★★★★

Bargain-priced, this non-vintage wine is a Gisborne bubbly, blended from chardonnay (mostly) and pinot noir. Pale straw, with a yeasty fragrance, showing good complexity, it is vivacious, with strong, citrusy, biscuity flavours and a crisp, dryish finish. $17


Nockie’s Palette Georgetown Pinot Rosé 2018 ★★★★★

This strikingly packaged Central Otago wine is very classy. Showing lovely delicacy and harmony, it is pale-pink, mouth-filling and fully dry, with vibrant strawberry and spice flavours, a hint of apricot, and a long finish. $39

Sugar Loaf Harriet Marlborough Pinot Noir Rosé 2018 ★★★★

Vivacious, with strong, peachy, spicy aromas, this pale-pink wine is very fresh and lively, with excellent intensity of peach, strawberry and spice flavours, a sliver of sweetness balanced by appetising acidity, and a long finish. $20


Elephant Hill Airavata Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015 ★★★★★

An emerging star, this very stylish red was estate-grown in the Gimblett Gravels (mostly) and at Te Awanga, and barrel-aged for more than two years. Deeply coloured, with a beautifully fragrant, fresh, spicy bouquet, it is full-bodied, graceful and supple, with concentrated, plummy, slightly peppery and nutty flavours, savoury notes adding complexity, and a very harmonious, finely textured, persistent finish. $120

Jacob’s Creek Barossa Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ★★★★

This barrel-aged Aussie red has surprising flavour density for a $20 label. Deeply coloured, with a slightly minty fragrance, it is sturdy, with concentrated, ripe blackcurrant-like flavours, slightly spicy and nutty notes adding complexity, and a firm finish. $20

Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017 ★★★★★

Still very youthful, this great-value red was grown in the Waihopai Valley and matured in French oak barriques. Deep ruby, it is mouth-filling, concentrated and fruit-packed, with deep, plummy, spicy flavours, a firm underlay of tannin and the structure to mature well. $30

Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017 ★★★★★

This stylish blend of Cromwell Basin (mostly) and Gibbston grapes has a very inviting, fragrant bouquet of plums, spices and nuts. Full-bodied and sweet-fruited, with deep, well-ripened plum, cherry and spice flavours, it is savoury and complex, with lovely harmony. $50

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels “The Gimblett” 2016 ★★★★★

Hawke’s Bay in a glass, this rich, age-worthy blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and malbec was barrel-aged for 16 months. Deeply coloured, fresh and full-bodied, it has vibrant, pure blackcurrant, red berry and spice flavours, good tannin backbone, and excellent concentration, vigour, complexity and length. $40   

Babich Winemakers’ Reserve Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2015 ★★★★★

Likely to be long-lived, this classy, full-coloured red was estate-grown in the Gimblett Gravels. Fragrant, with a ripe, savoury bouquet, it is mouth-filling, with good tannin backbone and deep, plummy, spicy, nutty flavours, showing excellent structure and complexity. $35

Greystone Waipara Valley North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2017 ★★★★★

Certified organic, this deep ruby red was partly fermented in the vineyard and barrel-aged for 10 months. It has a highly fragrant, savoury bouquet, leading into a mouth-filling, notably complex wine with strong, spicy, nutty flavours, rich and firm. Full of personality, it’s very age-worthy. $43

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

Certified biodynamic, this refined, youthful red was estate-grown at Bendigo. Deeply coloured, it is invitingly perfumed, with strong, ripe fruit flavours, vibrant and supple, excellent complexity, and a long, finely poised finish. $49

Redmetal Vineyards Bridge Pā Triangle Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2018 ★★★★

An excellent example of the drink-young style, this medium-bodied red has peppery aromas and very good depth of fresh, plummy, spicy flavours, lively and smooth. A graceful young red good for immediate drinking or for cellaring. $24

Te Awanga Estate Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2015 ★★★★

Estate-grown near the coast, this is a full-coloured, mouth-filling red with strong, ripe berry, plum and spice flavours, a hint of herbs, fresh acidity and very good complexity. Still youthful, it’s a drink-now or cellaring proposition. $28

Terrace Edge North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2016 ★★★★

Certified organic, this attractive, youthful Waipara red was hand-picked and matured in French oak casks. Bright ruby, it is fragrant, full-bodied, sweet-fruited and savoury, with generous cherry, plum and spice flavours, showing good complexity and harmony. Priced sharply. $30

This article was first published in the September 2019 issue of North & South. Follow North & South on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and sign up to the fortnightly email for more great stories.