Best red and white wines for winter

by Michael Cooper / 24 June, 2017

Photo/Getty Images

The winter chill has us instinctively reaching for bold reds and sturdy whites.

When temperatures plummet, we pile on the clothes, eat heavier food – and look for wines that will warm us up. That rules out the gently chilled, appetisingly crisp white wines that taste so refreshing in summer. Winter demands weighty, rich wines.

At this time of the year, we instinctively reach for red wines, including pinot noir, a sort of red for all seasons. Bolder reds also soar in appeal – cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah (the Aussies call it shiraz). White wines are still in demand, but winter calls for sturdy, well-rounded whites, such as chardonnay.



Clearview Coastal Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2016 ••••

This great-value wine was briefly barrel-aged. A fruit-driven style, it is fresh, vibrant and smooth, with mouthfilling body (13% alc/vol), strong, peachy, slightly appley flavours and a real sense of youthful drive and vigour. $19

Domaine Rewa Central Otago Chardonnay 2014 ••••

Estate-grown and barrel-fermented, this is a very classy wine. Fragrant and youthful, it is full-bodied (14% alc/vol), with deep, grapefruit-like flavours, mealy, biscuity notes adding complexity and a finely poised, lasting finish. $38

Elephant Hill Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2015 ••••½

Invitingly fragrant, this estate-grown wine is weighty (13.5% alc/vol), with peachy, citrusy, slightly nutty flavours, a minerally streak, barrel-ferment complexity, and excellent vigour and depth. $29

Mahi Twin Valleys Vineyard Marlborough Chardonnay 2015 •••••

Hand-picked and matured in French oak barriques, this is a classy wine. Mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with rich grapefruit and stonefruit flavours, a subtle seasoning of biscuity oak and fresh acidity, it has obvious cellaring potential. $39

Neudorf Rosie’s Block Nelson Chardonnay 2016 ••••½

Already drinking well, this is a stylish wine, estate-grown at Upper Moutere and barrel-fermented. Full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), with strong, vibrant fruit flavours, woven with appetising acidity, it shows very good complexity, with a long, slightly biscuity finish. $33

Omaka Springs Falveys Single Vineyard Marlborough Chardonnay 2016 •••

Offering good value, this fragrant wine was estate-grown in the Omaka Valley, inland from Blenheim, and French oak-aged. Mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), with very satisfying depth of peachy, slightly creamy flavours, enriched with biscuity oak, it’s already enjoyable. $23

Pegasus Bay Chardonnay 2015 •••••

This outstanding North Canterbury wine has a fragrant, smoky bouquet. Weighty (13.5% alc/vol), it is sweet-fruited, with intense, peachy, mealy, slightly spicy and buttery flavours, a subtle oak influence and a long, savoury finish. $41


Ataahua Waipara Gewürztraminer 2015 •••••

Exotically perfumed, this is a sturdy wine (14% alc/vol), packed with peachy, gingery, spicy flavours. Made in a dryish style, it is deliciously rich and oily textured, with loads of personality. $27

Whitehaven Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2016 ••••½

Offering fine value, this delicious wine is a medium-dry style. Highly scented, mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol) and ultra-smooth, it has lychee, pear and spice flavours, showing excellent delicacy and richness. $22

Grüner veltliner

Bannock Brae Marlene’s Central Otago Grüner Veltliner 2016 •••••

Finely balanced for current drinking, this distinctive Bannockburn wine was fermented in old barrels. Mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol) and dry, it has strong, ripe, peachy, citrusy, spicy flavours, slightly toasty notes adding complexity, fresh acidity and a persistent finish. $24

Jules Taylor Marlborough Grüner Veltliner 2016 ••••½

This stylish, partly barrel-fermented wine is fragrant, full-bodied (13% alc/vol) and vibrantly fruity, with good intensity of stonefruit and spice flavours, showing a touch of complexity and a fully dry finish. $22

Pinot gris

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

Certified organic, this fleshy, smooth wine is drinking well now. Partly barrel-fermented, it is a full-bodied pinot gris (14 % alc/vol), drier and more complex than most, with impressive depth of ripe, peachy, gently spicy flavour. $27

Fairhall Downs Single Vineyard Marlborough Pinot Gris 2016 ••••½

Delicious young, this is a highly fragrant, mouthfilling (14% alc/vol), dryish wine, with concentrated peach, pear and lychee flavours, finely balanced acidity and plenty of personality. $24

Greystone Waipara Valley Pinot Gris 2016 ••••

This richly scented, mouthfilling (13.5% alcohol) wine is off-dry, with ripe stonefruit and spice flavours, showing good complexity, a slightly oily texture, and lovely harmony and depth. $25

Misha’s Vineyard Dress Circle Central Otago Pinot Gris 2016 ••••½

Estate-grown and partly handled in old barrels, this is a medium-dry style. Invitingly scented and fleshy (13.5% alc/vol), it has peach, pear, lychee and spice flavours, showing excellent vibrancy, balance and richness. $28

Spy Valley Marlborough Pinot Gris 2016 •••••

Bargain-priced, this is a lovely mouthful. Freshly scented, it is a full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), medium style with vibrant peach, lychee and spice flavours, showing excellent delicacy and richness, and loads of drink-young charm. $24

Sauvignon blanc

Hunter’s Kaho Roa Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ••••½

Made from the ripest grapes, this classy wine was fermented in French oak barrels. A subtle style of sauvignon blanc, it is full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with excellent depth of tropical fruit flavours, a gentle seasoning of oak, and a crisp, dry, lengthy finish. $25


Gladstone Vineyard Viognier 2016 ••••

Hand-harvested in the northern Wairarapa, this sturdy (14% alc/vol) dry wine is seductively smooth, with very good depth of peachy, gently spicy flavours, a slightly creamy texture, and plenty of drink-young appeal. $25

Te Mata Zara Hawke’s Bay Viognier 2016 ••••½

Already delicious, this is a sturdy (14% alc/vol), fleshy wine, offering deep, well-ripened stonefruit flavours, barrel-ferment complexity, gentle acidity and a seductively soft finish. It’s ready to roll. $27


Coal Pit Central Otago Rosé 2016 •••••

Full of personality, this classy rosé is from pinot noir grapes. Pink-hued, it is attractively perfumed, full-bodied (14% alc/vol) and vibrantly fruity, with strong, ripe flavours of watermelon, strawberries and spices, appetising acidity, and a dry, lasting finish. $27


Cabernet sauvignon

Maison Noire Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ••••½

Enjoyable now, this barrel-aged, Gimblett Gravels red is full-coloured, with a fragrant, spicy bouquet. It is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with plummy, spicy flavours, gentle tannins, savoury, earthy notes adding complexity, and excellent depth. $25

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 17 Plateau Gimblett Gravels Cabernet/Merlot 2015 ••••½

Deeply coloured, this blend of cabernet sauvignon (mostly) and merlot was aged in French oak casks (55% new). Vibrantly fruity, it is full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol) and smooth, with concentrated, fresh blackcurrant, plum, herb and spice flavours that have easily lapped up the new oak influence. $38

St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 •••••

This classy South Australian red is dark, rich and robust (14.5% alc/vol). Seasoned with quality French oak, it offers lovely intensity of blackcurrant, plum, spice and mint flavours, fresh and smooth. $53

Taylors Clare Valley South Australia Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ••••

Offering great value, this barrel-aged red is full-coloured and weighty (14% alc/vol), with generous plum/spice flavours, finely integrated French oak, and excellent freshness and depth. $19


Clearview The Pinnacles Reserve Hawke’s Bay Malbec 2015 ••••½

This boldly coloured, barrel-aged red was estate-grown at Te Awanga. Gutsy (14.5% alc/vol), it’s a full-on style, packed with fresh plum, spice and blackcurrant flavours, good tannin backbone and obvious cellaring potential. $26

Yalumba Galway Vintage Barossa Valley Malbec 2014 ••••

Delicious now, this South Australian red is less supercharged than many malbecs, but still dark and generous, with substantial body (13.5% alc/vol), strong, plummy, spicy flavours, a hint of liquorice and a smooth finish. $17


Chateau Lafite Monteil 2010 ••••½

Fancy a mature red Bordeaux for under $25? Fragrant and full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), this chateau-bottled blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon has dense, ripe blackcurrant, herb and plum flavours, firm, savoury and leathery. (From The Wine Importer.) $24

Church Road McDonald Series Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2014 ••••½

From a warm growing season, this is a powerful red; dark, rich and robust (14.5% alc/vol). Fragrant, with a strong surge of ripe, plummy, spicy flavours, it has hints of liquorice and nuts, and a smooth finish. $27

Elephant Hill Le Phant Rouge 2015 ••••

Deeply coloured, this merlot-based blend was grown in Hawke’s Bay and barrel-aged. Fragrant, full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol) and fresh, with generous blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, a seasoning of sweet, coconut-like oak and savoury notes adding complexity, it’s enjoyable young. $24

Linden Estate Reserve Dam Block 2015 ••••½

Distinctly Bordeaux-like, this harmonious, merlot-based blend was estate-grown and barrel-matured in the Esk Valley, Hawke’s Bay. Full-coloured, savoury and supple, it is mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), with fresh, ripe blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, gentle tannins and lots of current-drinking appeal. $40

Mills Reef Reserve Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2015 ••••

This attractive Hawke’s Bay red was estate-grown and matured in French and American oak casks. Full-coloured, it is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol) and savoury, with ripe, plummy, spicy flavours, a sweet, coconutty oak influence and very good vigour, complexity and depth. $25

Oyster Bay Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2015 ••••

This seductive red accounts for a huge slice of New Zealand’s merlot exports. Partly matured in French oak barriques, it is deeply coloured, generous and smooth, with substantial body (13.5% alc/vol) and fresh, vibrant, plummy flavours, showing excellent ripeness and depth. $20

Theory & Practice Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2015 ••••

Enjoyable young, this is a full-coloured, sturdy red (14.5% alc/vol), with vibrant, well-ripened red berry and plum flavours to the fore, a gentle seasoning of French oak and a rich, smooth finish. $22

Pinot noir

Babich Winemakers Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2014 ••••½

Is this the best vintage yet? Grown in the Waihopai Valley, it is deeply coloured, with substantial body (14% alc/vol), concentrated, ripe, plummy, spicy flavours and savoury, earthy notes adding complexity. $35

Black Estate Damsteep North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2015 •••••

From vines planted at Omihi in 1999, this is a deep ruby, mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), supple red, with strong, ripe cherry, plum and spice flavours, slightly earthy notes, a subtle seasoning of oak, and excellent depth and harmony. $45

Burn Cottage Moonlight Race Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 •••••

Rich and smooth, this classy red was grown at three sites in the Cromwell Basin. Full-coloured, mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol) and savoury, with deep, ripe plum/spice flavours and excellent complexity and harmony, it’s already very open and expressive. $45

Carrick Excelsior Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014 •••••

From some of Carrick’s oldest vines, this is a powerful (14% alc/vol), multilayered red. Full-coloured, it is savoury and complex, with fresh, concentrated cherry, plum, spice and nut flavours that build across the palate to a very persistent finish. $85

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

Certified organic, this multi-site blend is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with concentrated plum/spice flavours, showing very good ripeness and complexity, and gentle tannins, in a “serious” but approachable style. $40

Greenhough Nelson Pinot Noir 2015 ••••½

Priced sharply, this hand-picked, French oak-aged red is ruby-hued and fragrant. Full-bodied (14% alc/vol) and sweet-fruited, with strong plum, cherry, spice and nut flavours, showing excellent complexity and harmony, it’s already delicious. $28

Ma Maison by Leung Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 2015 •••••

Estate-grown, barrel-aged and bottled without fining or filtering, this elegant red is already drinking well. Deep ruby, it is highly fragrant, mouthfilling (14% alc/vol) and smooth, with concentrated, ripe plum/spice flavours and a lasting finish. $45

Mud House Claim 431 Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 ••••½

Already drinking well, this estate-grown, Bendigo red was hand-picked and barrel-aged. Deep ruby, it is fleshy (13.5% alc/vol) and finely textured, with vibrant, cherryish, spicy flavours, excellent complexity and harmony, and a savoury, lingering finish. $33

Pencarrow Martinborough Pinot Noir 2015 ••••

Palliser Estate’s second-tier label offers good value. Already drinking well, it is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), harmonious and smooth, with very satisfying depth of cherry, plum, spice and nut flavours, in the region’s ripe, savoury style. $29

Seresin Rachel Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013 •••••

Certified organic, this very savoury red was barrel-aged and bottled unfined and unfiltered. Deep ruby, it is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with generous, ripe cherry, plum, spice and nut flavours, a hint of herbs, and excellent concentration and complexity. $57

Two Paddocks Proprietor’s Reserve The Fusilier Bannockburn Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 •••••

Proprietor Sam Neill’s red is deep ruby, savoury and smooth, with good weight (13.5% alc/vol), fresh acidity, and concentrated, ripe, cherryish, nutty, complex flavours that linger well. It’s already delicious. $80


Byrne Te Puna Northland Syrah 2015 •••••

From a coastal site, this arresting red is dark, with a fragrant, spicy, nutty bouquet. Sturdy (14.5% alc/vol), it is powerful, sweet-fruited and concentrated, with a strong surge of fresh, ripe plum, pepper and liquorice flavours. $42

Church Road Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015 ••••

Purple-flushed, with a floral, slightly peppery bouquet, this is a softly mouthfilling red (13% alc/vol) with plummy, spicy flavours, hints of liquorice, dark chocolate and nuts, very gentle tannins and considerable complexity. $18

Frenchman’s Hill Estate Rock Earth Waiheke Island Syrah 2013 •••••

This is a star red, beautifully perfumed, concentrated and silky-textured. Mouthfilling (14% alc/vol), it has dense, ripe blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, a hint of liquorice, and loads of personality and potential. $120

Taylors Promised Land South Australian Shiraz 2016 ••••

This is a steal. From an acclaimed vintage, it is sturdy (14% alc/vol), with rich, ripe flavours of berries, plums and spices, hints of dark chocolate and liquorice, and a seductively smooth finish. $15

Vidal Reserve Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2015 ••••½

This well-priced red was aged for 17 months in French oak barrels. Dark, floral, fresh and vibrant, it is full bodied (13% alc/vol), with deep blackcurrant, plum and black pepper flavours, good tannin backbone and a long, spicy finish. $25

Yalumba Patchwork Barossa Shiraz 2014 ••••½

Hard to resist right now, this South Australian red was grown in cool, elevated and warm valley-floor sites in the Barossa Valley. Full-coloured, it is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with concentrated, ripe blackcurrant, plum, spice and nut flavours, deliciously rich and well-rounded. $25

This article was first published in the June 17, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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