25 top organic wines in New Zealand

by Michael Cooper / 03 August, 2017

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Photo/Carrick Winery

Small to medium-sized vineyards, especially, are being drawn into going organic.

“My family lives in the middle of our vineyard,” says Steve Green, founder of the organically certified Carrick winery at Bannockburn, in Central Otago, “so the vineyard environment is also our environment.” He reports growing interest in organic wine from restaurants and consumers.

About 6% of this country’s vineyard land is certified organic, according to a 2016 report from Organics Aotearoa New Zealand. BioGro and AsureQuality, the major certifying agencies, insist that no synthetic chemical fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides can be used in organic vineyards, and no synthetic chemical additives are allowed in organic wines.

Organic wine producers tend to be small or medium-sized, according to Organics Aotearoa, “driven by wine quality rather than quantity”. Villa Maria is singled out as a notable exception.

Aurum Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014 ••••½

Estate-grown in the Cromwell Basin, this deeply coloured, mouthfilling (14% alc/vol) and supple red has concentrated, ripe plum, cherry and spice flavours, with well-integrated oak adding complexity. $35

Babich Family Estates Headwaters Organic Marlborough Chardonnay 2015 ••••½

This youthful, fleshy wine (13% alc/vol) is invitingly fragrant, with a slightly creamy, nutty bouquet. It has generous, peachy, citrusy, slightly spicy flavours, showing good complexity and excellent vigour and harmony. $27

Carrick Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Gris 2016 •••••

This classy wine was estate-grown and partly fermented and matured in old French barrels. Fleshy and rich, it is sturdy (14% alc/vol), with strong, peachy, slightly spicy flavours, showing good complexity and a dry, well-rounded, persistent finish. $27

Churton Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ••••½

Estate-grown on an elevated site, hand-picked and partly barrel-fermented, this mouthfilling (14% alc/vol), weighty wine has ripe grapefruit/lime flavours, showing excellent concentration and harmony and a tight, dry, lingering finish. $27

Fancrest Estate Waipara Valley Pinot Noir 2011 ••••½

Is this the best vintage yet? Fragrant, ripe and rounded, with substantial body (13.5% alc/vol), it has generous, plummy, spicy, nutty flavours, showing excellent complexity and a long finish. $45

Felton Road Bannockburn Central Otago Chardonnay 2015 •••••

This classy, distinctive wine was estate-grown and barrel-aged for a year. Already delicious, it is a mouthfilling (14% alc/vol), distinctly cool-climate style, with fresh, pure, grapefruit-like flavours, a subtle seasoning of biscuity oak, and lovely delicacy and length. $43

Fromm La Strada Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015 ••••½

Made for early drinking, this multi-site blend is full-coloured, mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol) and youthful, with concentrated, ripe plum/spice flavours, showing good complexity, and gentle tannins in a “serious” but approachable style. $40

Gibbston Valley La Dulcinée Bendigo Single Vineyard Pinot Gris 2015 •••••

Hand-picked at altitude in Central Otago, this beauty was fermented and matured in stainless-steel barriques and French acacia puncheons. A powerful wine, it is full-bodied (14.5% alc/vol), with concentrated pear, lychee, peach and spice flavours, a distinct touch of complexity and a dryish, lasting finish. $39

Greenhough Nelson Chardonnay 2015 ••••½

This is a top vintage, barrel-fermented and oak-aged. Full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), it has peachy, citrusy flavours, integrated oak, good complexity and a finely balanced, tight, lengthy finish. $24

Hans Herzog Marlborough Pinot Gris 2016 •••••

Prepare for something different! Made in a dry style, this is a very characterful pinot gris – sturdy (14% alc/vol), with a light apricot colour and a scented bouquet. Fresh and lively, with concentrated, ripe peach, apricot and spice flavours, hints of watermelon and strawberries, and a slightly oily richness, it’s a memorable mouthful. $39

Kaimira Estate Brightwater Viognier 2014 •••••½

Hand-picked and fermented in seasoned oak casks, this is a fragrant, full-bodied wine (13% alc/vol), with concentrated stone-fruit flavours, hints of oak adding complexity, and a rich, dry finish. $25

Loveblock Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ••••

This lively wine was estate-grown in the Awatere Valley. The bouquet is ripely aromatic; the palate mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with good intensity of vibrant tropical fruit and green capsicum flavours, and a lingering finish. $21.95

Millton Opou Vineyard Gisborne Chardonnay 2015 ••••½

This impressive, barrel-fermented wine has a fragrant, complex bouquet. It is full-bodied (13% alc/vol), rich, peachy and biscuity, with a slightly oily texture and excellent depth, ripeness and harmony. $29

Muddy Water James Hardwick Waipara Riesling 2015 ••••½

This slightly sweet wine is from grapes harvested with a hint of botrytis (“noble rot”). The bouquet is scented; the palate is medium to full-bodied (12.5% alc/vol), with rich, citrusy, peachy flavours, a hint of passionfruit, a minerally streak and excellent depth. $28

Quartz Reef Central Otago Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 •••••

This classy red was estate-grown at Bendigo and matured in French oak barriques. Deep ruby, with an invitingly scented bouquet, it is mouthfilling (14% alc/vol) and savoury, with rich, vibrant cherry, plum and spice flavours, showing excellent complexity and lovely harmony. $45

Richmond Plains Nelson Chardonnay 2015 ••••

Handled in barrels and tanks, this is a lemon-scented wine, with substantial body (13.5% alc/vol), vibrant, citrusy, slightly buttery flavours, a subtle seasoning of oak and good persistence. $25

Rock Ferry 3rd Rock Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 •••••

This stylish wine was estate-grown and partly barrel-fermented. Ripely scented and weighty (13% alc/vol), it is vibrant and intense, with tropical-fruit flavours to the fore, good complexity and a crisp, lasting finish. $25

Seresin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ••••½

Full of personality, this lively, partly barrel-fermented wine has an aromatic bouquet, with hints of melons, limes and nuts. Full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with strong, dry flavours, it’s a minerally style with good complexity and a lingering, slightly flinty finish. $25

Stonecroft Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Reserve Syrah 2014 •••••

This very classy red was harvested from estate-grown vines, including the region’s first syrah plantings in 1984. Barrel-aged, it is dark and mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), with concentrated, beautifully ripe blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, showing lovely texture, harmony and length. $65

Te Mania Reserve Nelson Pinot Noir 2014 ••••

This age-worthy red was hand-harvested and French oak-aged. Deep ruby, it is sturdy (14.5% alc/vol), with strong, plummy, spicy, slightly toasty flavours, good complexity and a fairly firm finish. $36

Terrace Edge Liquid Geography Waipara Valley Riesling 2015 ••••

Produced in a delicious, gently sweet style, this light-bodied wine (10.5% alc/vol) has strong, fresh lemon, lime and passionfruit flavours, lively acidity and excellent balance and depth. $19

The Darling Marlborough Pinot Noir 2014 ••••

Ruby-hued, this supple, mouthfilling red (13% alc/vol) has ripe cherry, plum, spice and nut flavours. Savoury and finely textured, with good complexity, it’s drinking well now. $33

Urlar Select Parcels Gladstone Pinot Noir 2013 •••••

This finely scented red was estate-grown in the northern Wairarapa and matured in French oak barriques. It is mouthfilling (14% alc/vol), silky-textured, savoury and complex, with ripe plum, spice and nut flavours that build well across the palate to a long, well-rounded finish. $60

Villa Maria Private Bin Organic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ••••

Crisp and dry, this is a freshly aromatic, mouthfilling wine (13% alc/vol), sweet-fruited, with appetising acidity and strong, lively, ripely herbaceous flavours. $17

Walnut Block Nutcracker Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ••••½

This delicious wine was hand-picked and partly barrel-fermented. It is full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), sweet-fruited and dry, with excellent delicacy and depth of fresh tropical-fruit flavours, finely balanced acidity and a smooth finish. $24

This article was first published in the July 22, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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