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The best wines to drink this autumn

Michael Cooper’s pick of the crop for fine autumn drinking.

Bringing sunny days but chillier nights, the arrival of autumn in New Zealand triggers a change in the wines we enjoy. Refreshing white wines, so popular in summer, still taste delicious, but as the temperatures ease, sturdy, rich reds are increasingly in demand.

Here is a selection of white, sparkling, rosé and red wines to enjoy during the turn of the season. Chosen for offering excellent quality at sharp prices, they’re all great value for money.

From left: Rapaura Springs Reserve Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018, Summerhouse Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Thornbury Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Pā Road Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Main Divide North Canterbury Riesling 2015.


Brightwater Vineyards Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ★★★★
This full-bodied wine was grown at Hope, on the Waimea Plains. It has fresh passionfruit and green-capsicum flavours, showing good intensity, and an appetisingly crisp, dry finish. Fine value. $20

Dashwood Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ★★★★★
Aromatic, fresh and punchy, this finely balanced wine has herbaceous and tropical-fruit flavours. Lively and smooth, it’s showing very good depth. $16

Grove Mill Wairau Valley Marlborough Chardonnay 2017 ★★★★
Delicious young, but also well worth cellaring, this youthful wine was French oak-aged for 10 months. It is fragrant, full-bodied and vibrant, with a slightly smoky bouquet, generous ripe-fruit flavours, showing good complexity, and a dry, persistent finish. $20

Left Field Gisborne Albariño 2018 ★★★★
From a variety long popular in the coastal restaurants of Spain and Portugal, this wine has good intensity of fresh, citrusy, slightly spicy flavours, minerally notes and a racy, dry, appetisingly crisp finish. $19

Main Divide North Canterbury Riesling 2015 ★★★★
Offering great value, this release from Pegasus Bay is full of personality. Delicious now, but also age-worthy, it is a fragrant, finely poised, gently sweet wine, with strong, citrusy flavours, showing a distinct touch of complexity, balanced acidity and a very harmonious finish. $21

Mud House Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 ★★★★
Bargain-priced, this wine is already drinking well. It is attractively scented and full-bodied, with fresh, generous, peachy, slightly spicy flavours and an off-dry, lingering finish. $15

Pā Road Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ★★★
Priced sharply, this wine from te Pā was estate-grown in the Wairau Valley and Awatere Valley. It is mouth-filling and dry, with very good depth of ripe tropical-fruit flavours, finely balanced for early appeal. $16

Rapaura Springs Reserve Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 ★★★★
A fruit-packed wine, full-bodied and smooth. Partly (10%) barrel-fermented, it is instantly appealing, with fresh, ripe stone-fruit flavours and a dryish, well-rounded finish. $19

Starborough Family Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ★★★★
This label offers consistently good value. Estate-grown in the Awatere and Wairau valleys, it is freshly scented and fleshy, with very good body and depth of tropical-fruit and herbaceous flavours, finely balanced and generous. $20

Stoneleigh Wild Valley Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 ★★★★
Well-priced, this fragrant, finely balanced wine is already delicious. It has pear, peach and spice flavours, showing very good vigour, depth and harmony, and a slightly sweet, crisp finish. $18

Summerhouse Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ★★★★
Instantly appealing, this is a full-bodied, fleshy wine, with ripe tropical-fruit flavours, showing excellent delicacy and depth, and a dry, smooth finish. $19

Thornbury Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ★★★★
Highly aromatic, with good intensity of vigorous passionfruit and lime flavours, and a dry, appetisingly crisp finish, this is an irresistible bargain. $14

Vavasour Awatere Valley Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 ★★★★
Partly barrel-fermented, this fragrant, refined wine is very fresh and vibrant, with excellent body, strong peach and pear-like flavours, a hint of spices, finely balanced acidity and a dryish, smooth finish. $20

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2017 ★★★★
A top buy. Already drinking well, this mouth-filling wine was fully barrel-fermented. Sweet-fruited, it has generous, peachy, slightly toasty flavours, showing good complexity. $18

Whitehaven Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2017 ★★★★
Attractively perfumed, this delicious wine is a medium-dry style, with strong, youthful stonefruit and spice flavours, a slightly oily texture and a well-rounded finish. $22


Brancott Estate Brut Cuvée ★★★★
There’s a lot to like about this bottle-fermented blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, including its competitive price. Pale pink, it is lively, with fresh peach and strawberry flavours, biscuity, yeasty notes adding complexity, and a smooth, dryish finish. $14

Lindauer Special Reserve Rosé ★★★★
This non-vintage wine offers great value. Bottle-fermented, it is pink/pale red, with a fresh, yeasty bouquet, lively, strawberryish flavours, yeasty notes and a dryish, finely balanced finish. $15

From left: Redmetal Vineyards Bridge Pa Triangle Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Franc Rosé 2018, Lindauer Special Reserve Rosé, Durvillea D by Astrolabe Marlborough Rosé 2018.


Brightside Organic Blush 2018 ★★★★
Certified organic, this is a light pink, very attractive Nelson wine from Kaimira Estate. Freshly scented, it is full-bodied and lively, with strawberry, watermelon and peach flavours, showing excellent delicacy and vibrancy, and a dry finish. $17

Durvillea D by Astrolabe Marlborough Rosé 2018 ★★★★
Grown in the Awatere Valley, this is a great buy. Pale pink, it is fragrant and full-bodied, with strong, peachy, spicy flavours, hints of watermelon and apricot, very good freshness and delicacy, and a fully dry finish. $15

Georges Road Les Terrasses Waipara Rosé 2018 ★★★★★
This classy wine was made from syrah grapes, hand-picked in North Canterbury. Pink, with a fresh, spicy fragrance, it is medium-bodied and vibrantly fruity, with strong plum and watermelon flavours, a hint of apricot, excellent delicacy and a crisp, dry finish. $22

Redmetal Vineyards Bridge Pa Triangle Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Franc Rosé 2018 ★★★★★
Full of personality, this impressive wine is fresh, mouth-filling and lively. Bright, light pink, it has strong yet delicate flavours of strawberry and watermelon, and a dry, slightly peachy, poised and persistent finish. $22


From left: Akarua Rua Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017, Esk Valley Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Delta Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017, Mount Riley Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017.


Akarua Rua Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017 ★★★★
For a third-tier label, this regional blend is very seductive. Matured for eight months in French oak casks, it is deep ruby and floral, with strong, fresh plum and cherry flavours, rich and smooth. $25

Babich Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet 2016 ★★★
Enjoyable young, this is a full-coloured blend with a berryish, spicy bouquet. A “fruit-driven” style, briefly oak-aged, it offers good depth of youthful, berryish, spicy flavours, fresh and finely balanced. $15-$18

Delta Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017 ★★★★
A great buy in the sub-$20 range, this is a single-vineyard red, grown at the mouth of the Waihopai Valley – and French oak-aged. It is deep ruby, fresh and full-bodied, with vibrant, ripe cherry, plum and spice flavours, showing good concentration, some savoury complexity and the structure to age. $19

Esk Valley Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ★★★★
Offering irresistible value, this merlot-based blend has more muscle, density, structure and complexity than most reds in its price category. Fleshy and savoury, it has strong ripe, plummy, berryish, spicy flavours, showing excellent complexity and harmony.

Mission Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2017 ★★★
Is this the most affordable Hawke’s Bay syrah on the market? Bright ruby, with fresh, peppery aromas, it is medium-bodied, with lively, plummy, spicy, slightly nutty flavours, finely balanced and smooth. $15

Mount Riley Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017 ★★★
Skilfully crafted, this mouth-filling red is fresh and lively, with cherry, plum and spice flavours, savoury notes adding a touch of complexity and a finely balanced finish. Showing good body and depth, it’s also bargain-priced. $15-$20

Terra Sancta Mysterious Diggings Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017 ★★★★
This is an excellent example of the drink-young style. Estate-grown and matured in seasoned French oak barrels, it is bright ruby, fragrant and supple, with a strong surge of cherry, plum and spice flavours. A very graceful and generous red, it offers fine value.

Wooing Tree Beetle Juice Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017 ★★★★
Designed for early enjoyment, this single-vineyard Cromwell red is deeply coloured, with fresh, plummy, slightly spicy aromas. Full-bodied and fruit-packed, it is sweet-fruited and supple, in a “full-on” style, with concentrated cherry, plum and spice flavours, already delicious. $28

This article was first published in the March 2019 issue of North & South.

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