New Zealand's top imported wines for every budget

by Michael Cooper / 14 September, 2018
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Develop your palate with this selection of imported wines, reviewed by wine expert Michael Cooper. 

Most of us enjoy New Zealand wine, from Otago’s floral, fruit-packed pinot noirs and refreshing pinot gris to Northland’s rich, ripe chardonnays and syrahs. But over 40% of the wine we drink is imported.

New Zealand is not naturally suited to the production of cheap wine, especially reds, which need lots of heat to ripen heavily cropped grapes. We also import higher-priced wines from around the world, so if you are looking for new, exciting, foreign flavours, try these.

Sparkling

Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rosé NV •••••

This is benchmark stuff. Light orange, it has an enticingly fragrant bouquet of strawberry and yeast. Medium-bodied (12% alc/vol), it shows unusual complexity, with vigorous, intense, finely balanced flavours that are smooth and lasting. $100-$130

Campo Viejo Cava Brut Reserva NV ••••

Instantly appealing, this Spanish bubbly was made from Catalan varieties. It has a fruity, gently yeasty, inviting bouquet, leading to a medium-bodied palate (11.5% alc/vol). It is crisp and vivacious, with considerable complexity and a dryish finish. $27

Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru NV •••••

This distinctive “grower champagne” is a pinot noir-predominant style, straw-coloured, with a very fragrant bouquet. Full of personality, it is medium-bodied (12.5% alc/vol), complex, crisp, dry and sustained, with intense, peachy, biscuity, very yeasty flavours. $125

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Prosecco NV •••½

Offering very easy, enjoyable drinking, this Aussie bubbly is made from the same variety – glera – used in Italy’s popular prosecco. Light-bodied (11% alc/vol), it has appley, citrusy flavours in an uncomplicated but very fresh, appetising style that is enjoyable as an aperitif. $16

White

Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett Dr H Thanisch 2015 •••••

This classic Mosel is light (8% alc/vol) and lovely. Bright, light lemon/green, it is gently sweet, with very pure, lemony scents and flavours, slightly peachy notes and excellent delicacy, depth and harmony. $33

Brown Brothers Patricia Noble Riesling 2014 (375ml) •••••

Gold/amber, this highly scented dessert wine was hand-picked in Victoria with a strong botrytis (noble rot) influence. Light-bodied (9% alc/vol), sweet and appetisingly crisp with fresh, concentrated apricot, peach and honey flavours. It’s a delicious mouthful for drinking now onwards. $31

Coco di Mama Grillo 2016 ••••

From elevated coastal vineyards in Sicily, this fresh, full-bodied wine (13% alc/vol) tastes like a cross of chardonnay and grüner veltliner. The fragrant, gently spicy bouquet leads to a very satisfying, finely textured wine, with generous, slightly peachy and spicy flavours, balanced acidity and a dry finish. $25

Debussy Reverie Chardonnay 2016 •••½

From Mediterranean France, this very easy-drinking wine is fleshy, fruity, full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol) and rounded. Bright, light yellow/green, with a slightly citrusy bouquet, it is fresh and sweet-fruited with ripe, peachy, lemony, vaguely buttery flavours showing very good depth. $17-$23

Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2016 ••••½

From mature vines in Swartland, South Africa, this pale-straw wine has a highly scented, vaguely honeyed bouquet. Mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), with pineapple and passionfruit-evoking flavours, it is fresh, slightly sweet and crisp, with excellent freshness, depth and harmony. $26

Von Winning Deidesheimer Kalkofen Riesling Trocken 2015 •••••

This authoritative, powerful German riesling (13% alc/vol) was grown in the Pfalz region. Oak-aged, it is lemon-scented, with concentrated, ripe, citrusy, peachy flavours, good acid spine, a distinct touch of complexity and a dry finish. $75

Red

Boom Boom! Washington State Syrah 2015 ••••

Drinking well now, this fragrant, full-bodied red (13.5% alc/vol) is less peppery than most New Zealand syrahs. It has generous, ripe, plummy, slightly spicy and nutty flavours, considerable complexity and a smooth finish. $20-$25

Debussy Reverie Cabernet/Syrah 2016 ••••

Priced right, this delicious red is a blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah grown in the south of France. Full-bodied (13% alc/vol) and vibrantly fruity, it has strong blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, a hint of dark chocolate and plenty of drink-young appeal. $17-$23

Escudo Rojo 2015 ••••½

This characterful Chilean red is a sturdy (14% alc/vol) blend of cabernet sauvignon, carménère, syrah and cabernet franc. Deeply coloured, it has rich blackcurrant, plum, spice and herb flavours, showing good complexity and a smooth, long finish. Drink now or cellar. $34

Graham Norton’s Own Shiraz 2015 ••••½

Offering top value, this “full-on” Aussie red was blended by “chief winemaker Graham Norton” and produced by New Zealand winery Invivo. Dark, robust, rich and flowing (14.5% alc/vol), with vibrant plum, spice and liquorice flavours, it’s delicious now. $19

Grant Burge Barossa Ink Shiraz 2016 •••½

Crafted to “make a big impact”, this is a densely coloured, bold red (14.5% alc/vol). Gutsy and fruity, with strong plum, liquorice and spice flavours, it offers no-fuss, very smooth, easy drinking. $17

I Am George Cabernet/Merlot 2015 ••••½

Bargain-priced, this South Australian red was aged for nearly two years in oak barrels. Dark and youthful, it is full-bodied (14.7% alc/vol), fresh and fragrant, with deep blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, a hint of dark chocolate and a long finish. $23

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz 2016 ••••

Offering top value, this Barossa Valley red is dark and softly mouthfilling (14.6% alc/vol), with a peppery fragrance, generous, plummy, spicy flavours showing considerable complexity and great drinkability. $16

Mouton Cadet Réserve Médoc 2015 ••••

From Mouton Cadet – “the world’s No 1-selling Bordeaux” – this reserve red has classic cabernet sauvignon characteristics. Deeply coloured, it is full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with strong, ripe blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, and savoury notes adding complexity and a firmly structured finish. $33

Pablo Claro Tempranillo 2017 •••½

This Spanish red slips down very easily. Deep ruby, with a fresh, berryish fragrance, it is full-bodied (14% alc/vol), ripe, rounded and vibrantly fruity, with lively red berry and spice flavours. $18

Paul Jaboulet Aîné Côtes du Rhône Parallèle 45 2015 ••••½

A top introduction to the Rhône Valley, this is a traditional mix of grenache and syrah. Weighty (14% alc/vol) and fleshy, it has ripe flavours of plum and spice, with gamey notes adding interest as well as excellent vigour and depth. $22

Peter Lehmann The Barossan Barossa Shiraz 2016 •••••

This is great value. Already delicious, it is a dark, powerful red (14.5% alc/vol), with dense, plummy, peppery, slightly chocolatey flavours showing lovely richness, smoothness and harmony. $25

Poggio Nicchiaia Filetto Chianti 2015 •••••

This highly refined Tuscan red is made with sangiovese, the great grape of Chianti. Deeply coloured, it is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with concentrated, vibrant, dark berry and spice flavours, gently seasoned with oak and silky tannins. $30

Taylors St Andrews Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 •••••

Already drinking well, this dark, sturdy (14.5% alc/vol) South Australian red is fragrant and rich. Showing impressive complexity, it has an array of ripe blackcurrant, olive, liquorice, dark chocolate and nut flavours, with a deliciously smooth finish. $60

Tyrrell’s Hunter Valley Shiraz 2014 ••••

From a New South Wales winery founded in 1858, this full-coloured, savoury red has a slightly earthy streak. It is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), ripe, well-rounded and sweet-fruited, with plummy, spicy flavours. $26

Yalumba The Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 •••••

Invitingly fragrant, minty and cedary, this single-vineyard, South Australian red is from vines planted in 1975. Full-bodied (14% alc/vol), it is an elegant, still-youthful wine with layers of blackcurrant, herb, spice and nut flavours, developing impressive complexity and velvety tannins. $50

This article was first published in the September 15, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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