Organic wine is getting bigger in New Zealand. These are our top picks

by Michael Cooper / 21 July, 2018

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Quality rather than quantity drives New Zealand's organic wine producers. 

Our “clean, green” image is used to promote New Zealand wine overseas, and almost 10% of producers are now marketing organically certified wines. That means no synthetic chemical fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides have been used in the vineyards, and no synthetic chemicals have been added to the wines.

Do they taste better? A recent study here, comparing organic and conventional wines, found no major chemical differences and reached no consensus about which tasted best. But, according to Organics Aotearoa, organic wine producers are “driven by wine quality, rather than quantity”.

Whites

Babich Family Estates Headwaters Organic Marlborough Chardonnay 2016 ••••½

Estate-grown near Renwick, this ageworthy wine was fermented in tanks and barrels. Mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), with a highly attractive bouquet, it has strong, ripe, grapefruit and peach flavours, showing good complexity, and a long, tight, crisp finish. $27

Black Estate Home Vineyard North Canterbury Chardonnay 2017 ••••½

This youthful wine is from Waipara vines, planted in 2011 and 1994. Tautly structured, it is medium to full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with excellent intensity of peachy, slightly toasty flavours, a slightly minerally streak and plenty of character. $45

Carrick Bannockburn Central Otago Riesling 2016 •••••

Full of potential, this tangy, garden-fresh wine has penetrating grapefruit and lime flavours. Light to medium-bodied (11.5% alc/vol), it has a gentle splash of sweetness, a good acid spine and a long, harmonious finish. $27

Coco di Mama Grillo 2016 ••••

A distinctive dry white that was grown in high coastal vineyards in south-west Sicily. Fragrant, full-bodied (13% alc/vol) and fresh, it has ripe, peachy, spicy flavours, balanced acidity and satisfying depth. $25

Greenhough Nelson Chardonnay 2016 ••••½

This stylish, mouthfilling wine (13.5% alc/vol) was grown at Hope and barrel-fermented. Light yellow/green, with a complex bouquet, it has concentrated, ripe, citrusy, peachy flavours, finely integrated oak and a slightly creamy texture. $26

Greystone Sauvignon Blanc Barrel Fermented 2017 ••••½

Forget fresh, direct, grassy flavours – this Waipara savvie is a wine to ponder. Full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), with generous, ripe, tropical-fruit flavours and a vague hint of honey, it shows good complexity. $25

Hans Herzog Marlborough Pinot Gris 2016 •••••

Prepare for something different. Apricot-coloured, from long skin contact with the juice, this thought-provoking wine is mouthfilling (14% alc/vol) and dry, with fresh, concentrated peach, apricot and spice flavours, an oily richness and loads of personality. $39

Kaimira Estate Brightwater Nelson Gewürztraminer 2016 ••••½

Maturing gracefully, this is an exotically perfumed, strongly varietal wine. Mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol) and fleshy, it has excellent depth of peachy, peppery flavours, a hint of apricot and a well-spiced, seductively smooth finish. $24

Millton Les Trois Enfants 2017 ••••½

Worth getting to know, this light-gold Gisborne blend of gewürztraminer, riesling and muscat has a distinctly spicy fragrance. It is weighty (14% alc/vol), with concentrated, peachy, spicy, gently honeyed flavours and an off-dry, rich finish. $24

Rock Ferry Orchard Vineyard Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc 2016 •••••

A delicious, distinctive Marlborough wine that’s a 3:1 blend of pinot gris and pinot blanc, co-fermented on the grapes’ skins for 30 days. It has orange/slight amber colour, substantial body (13.5% alc/vol), a light tannin grip, and concentrated peach, apricot and spice flavours, dry and well-rounded. $39

Seresin Chardonnay Reserve 2015 •••••

Estate-grown in the Omaka Valley, this Marlborough wine was oak-aged for 16 months. Powerful and tightly structured, it has substantial body (13.5% alc/vol) and rich, ripe, peachy, citrusy, slightly toasty flavours, showing impressive complexity. $43

Stonecroft Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2017 ••••½

This refined wine was aged in seasoned French oak casks. Fresh, mouthfilling (13% alc/vol) and smooth, it has strong, vibrant stonefruit flavours, mealy notes adding complexity, finely balanced acidity and a long finish. $27

Testalonga Baby Bandito Keep on Punching Chenin Blanc 2017 •••••

A classy South African white from 45-year-old bush vines. Crisp and dry, it is medium-bodied (12% alc/vol), with intense, ripe, citrusy, peachy flavours and a tight, tangy, lasting finish. $36

Urlar Gladstone Pinot Gris 2016 ••••½

Drinking well now, this characterful Wairarapa wine was barrel-fermented. Pale straw, it is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), with rich, peachy, spicy flavours, showing a distinct touch of complexity, a slightly creamy texture and a fully dry finish. $29

Reds

Ake Ake Northland Organic Chambourcin 2016 ••••

This rare red is from a French variety known for its bold crimson hue. Barrel-aged, it is a generous red, medium to full-bodied (12.5% alc/vol), with vibrant, plummy, spicy flavours, lively acidity and lots of youthful vigour. $35

Aurum Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 ••••½

Estate-grown in the Cromwell Basin, this is an instantly appealing red. Full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), it is generous, savoury and supple, with youthful cherry, plum and spice flavours, showing good complexity. $38

Dog Point Vineyard Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015 •••••

Already delicious, this impressive red was grown on the southern slopes of the Wairau Valley. Deeply coloured, with a fragrant bouquet of berries, dried herbs and spices, it is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), savoury and concentrated, with a rich, lasting finish. $46

Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir 2016 •••••

Highly perfumed, this bright-ruby red flowed from Cornish Point Vineyard at Bannockburn. Full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), it is savoury and supple, with ripe plum, spice, dried-herb and nut flavours, gentle tannins and lovely complexity and harmony. $78

Fromm Cuvée “H” Marlborough Pinot Noir 2016 •••••

Cuvée “H” honours Fromm’s winemaker, Hätsch Kalberer. A generous red, blended from five sites, it is mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), ripe and savoury, with gentle acidity and a complexity and structure that suggest strong cellaring potential. $65

Mount Edward Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 •••••

This refined, ageworthy red was matured in French oak casks. Fragrant, savoury and supple, it has substantial body (13.5% alc/vol) and ripe cherry, plum, spice and nut flavours, showing excellent complexity and harmony. $48

Odyssey Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015 ••••

Estate-grown in the Brancott Valley and barrel-aged, this full-coloured, mouthfilling red (13.5% alc/vol) has excellent depth of youthful, ripe-cherry, plum and spice flavours, showing good complexity, and a backbone of fine-grained tannins. Priced right. $26

Pablo Claro Tempranillo 2017 •••½

Full of drink-young charm, this vibrantly fruity, smooth red was grown at cool, elevated sites in central Spain. Deep ruby, it is mouthfilling (14% alc/vol), with plenty of fresh, berryish, gently spicy, slightly earthy flavour. $18

Quartz Reef Bendigo Estate Single Ferment Pinot Noir 2016 •••••

This powerful, notably fragrant, flavour-packed red was bottled separately, to best express the Bendigo Estate vineyard. Sturdy (14% alc/vol), it is rich, ripe and well-rounded, with hints of liquorice, herbs and nuts, in a savoury, complex style. $85

Two Paddocks Proprietor’s Reserve The First Paddock Gibbston Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 •••••

This highly impressive red is from vines planted at Gibbston in 1993. Deeply coloured, it is an enticingly fragrant, full-bodied wine (13% alc/vol), with a concentrated array of cherry, plum, spice and herb flavours, and a supple, savoury finish. $85

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Organic Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015 ••••

Offering good value, this barrel-aged red is fresh and vibrantly fruity, with strong, plummy, gently spicy flavours, savoury notes adding complexity, and a smooth, harmonious finish. $26

This article was first published in the July 14, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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