Top picks of New Zealand's imported wine

by Michael Cooper / 07 October, 2017

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Grape expectations: Vineyards cover the hills of Tuscany, Italy, with the town of San Gimignano in the background. Photo/Getty Images

The kiwi dollar is improving the quality of imported wines on our shelves.

Chianti, chablis, Côtes du Rhône … it’s fun to explore the world’s most famous regional wine styles. Most of us love our New Zealand wine, yet more than 40% of what we drink is from overseas. Australia supplies most of our imported wine, followed by France, Chile, South Africa, Italy, Spain and Argentina.

Much of this overseas wine is mediocre and sold at prices the relatively small, quality-focused domestic industry struggles to compete with. But the strength of the kiwi dollar in recent years has also made good imported wines more affordable. Feeling adventurous?

White

Chanson Viré-Clessé 2014 ••••½

This subtle, satisfying dry wine is a chardonnay from Mâconnais, a sub-region of Burgundy. Weighty (13% alc/vol), it has gentle acidity and vibrant, citrusy, peachy, slightly biscuity flavours, showing good complexity. $35

Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2016 ••••½

If you haven’t discovered the delights of chenin blanc, try this. From Badenhorst winery in South Africa, it is a highly scented, full-bodied wine (13% alc/vol), with strong, fresh pineapple and passionfruit flavours, slightly sweet and crisp. It’s already delicious. $26

Sebastiani North Coast Chardonnay 2015 ••••

From a century-old winery at Sonoma, north of San Francisco, this is an instantly appealing, full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol) wine. Lemon-scented, it is fresh and vibrant, with a subtle seasoning of oak adding complexity, and a creamy-smooth finish. $26

Taylors Clare Valley/Padthaway Chardonnay 2015 •••½

Priced right, this South Australian white is fresh and full-bodied (13.5% alc/vol), with vibrant, citrusy, peachy flavours, gently seasoned with biscuity oak, slightly creamy, buttery notes and lots of current-drinking appeal. $19

 

Sparkling

Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé 2005 •••••

This is a great wine – the most memorable sparkling rosé I’ve tasted. Blended from pinot noir (mostly) and chardonnay, it is straw-hued, notably vivacious and rich (although only 12% alc/vol), with peachy, yeasty, complex flavours, exceptionally lively and persistent. $330

Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut NV •••••

This pale, elegant, tightly structured champagne is medium-bodied (12% alc/vol), with a strong surge of lively, citrusy, yeasty flavours, showing excellent complexity, and a crisp, dryish finish. $66

Rosé

Rameau d’Or Golden Bough Côtes du Provence Rosé 2015 ••••

Provence, in south-east France, is famous for its lively rosés. Very pale pink, this medium-to-full-bodied wine (12.5% alc/vol) has strong, peachy, spicy flavours, and is appetisingly crisp and dry. $21

Red

Peter Lehmann The Barossan Shiraz 2015 •••••

This is a terrific buy. Already delicious, it is dark and powerful (14.5% alc/vol), with dense, plummy, peppery flavours, a hint of dark chocolate and a velvet-smooth finish. $25

Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Shiraz 4th Vintage ••••

This 2015 Barossa Valley red was matured initially in American oak casks, then in old scotch-whisky barrels. Sturdy (14.8% alc/vol), it’s less wood-influenced than you might expect, with generous, ripe plum, spice and dark chocolate flavours to the fore, fresh and well-rounded. $23

St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ••••½

Still unfolding, this is a classic Coonawarra style, fresh and firm, with a minty streak running through its blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours. Dark, fragrant and full-bodied (14.5% alc/vol), with lively acidity and excellent concentration, it’s worth cellaring. $53

AR Guentota Malbec 2011 •••••

From 100-year-old vines in Argentina, this supercharged red was matured for a year in new French-oak barrels. Dark and youthful, it is a powerful, vaguely port-like wine (15% alc/vol), with dense, ripe blackcurrant-like flavours, hints of liquorice, raisins and spices, and a seductively smooth, rich finish. $38

Millaman Limited Reserve Carmenere 2014 ••••½

This impressive Chilean red, based on a traditional variety of Bordeaux, is from vines planted as far back as the 1940s. Full-coloured, it is a graceful, mouthfilling (14% alc/vol) but not heavy wine, with ripe berry, plum and spice flavours, complex and savoury, and lots of current-drinking appeal. $29

Escudo Rojo Chile Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ••••½

From a Baron Philippe de Rothschild venture near Santiago, this weighty red (13.5% alc/vol) was hand-harvested and barrel-matured. Finely balanced for current drinking, it is dark, with gentle tannins and very generous ripe blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, deliciously smooth and rich. $29

Mapu Chile Merlot 2015 •••½

Full of drink-young charm, this is a full-bodied (13% alc/vol), “fruit-driven” red, not complex, but offering very good depth of vibrant blackcurrant and plum flavours, fresh and smooth. $19

Escudo Rojo Chile Syrah 2014 ••••½

Skilfully crafted, this Maipo Valley red was hand-picked and barrel-aged. Deeply coloured, it is substantial (14.5% alc/vol), fresh and buoyantly fruity, with concentrated plum and spice flavours, a hint of dark chocolate and a smooth, very harmonious finish. $29

Guigal Côtes du Rhône 2013 •••••

Grab this great-value French red. From a famous producer, it is benchmark stuff – deeply coloured and sturdy (14% alc/vol), with fresh, ripe plum, spice and nut flavours, showing surprising complexity and richness for the price. $28

Condado de Haza Ribera del Duero 2012 •••••

A lovely blend of power, complexity and approachability, this classy Spanish red is from the classic tempranillo variety and was barrel-matured for 15 months. Deeply coloured, it is full-bodied (14% alc/vol) and highly fragrant, with a leathery, spicy bouquet and delicious depth of firm, ripe, brambly flavour. $36

Altano 2014 ••••

This Portuguese vinho tinto (red wine) is a great all-purpose red. From the Symington family (better known for their Graham’s and Dow’s ports), it is full-coloured, mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol) and smooth, with generous plum/spice flavours. Delicious now, it’s well worth discovering. $21

Concha y Toro Marques Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ••••½

This powerful red was grown in Chile’s Maipo Valley. Fragrant and robust (14% alc/vol), it is dark, with strong, complex blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, hints of herbs, coffee and nuts, and good tannin backbone. Drink now or cellar. $32

Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes du Rhône 2014 ••••

A typical Rhône Valley red, this plummy, spicy, nutty, savoury wine is mouthfilling (13.5% alc/vol), full-coloured, firm and flavoursome. It’s drinking well now. $26

Brown Brothers 1889 Heathcote Shiraz 2014 ••••

This fine-value Victorian red is dark, with a fragrant bouquet of liquorice and spices. Sturdy (14.5% alc/vol), it is sweet-fruited and smooth, with loads of flavour and drink-young appeal. $19

Brown Brothers Ten Acres Heathcote Shiraz 2014 ••••½

Full of personality, this single-vineyard Victorian red was barrel-matured for a year. Very deep and youthful in colour, it is mouthfilling (14.5% alc/vol), with highly concentrated plum, spice and liquorice flavours, oak complexity and a well-rounded finish. $24

Taylors Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2015 ••••

Offering fine value, this deep-ruby South Australian red is fresh, full-bodied (14% alc/vol) and smooth, with youthful, vibrant cherry, plum and spice flavours, a gentle seasoning of nutty oak and good complexity. $23

Taylors Clare Valley Shiraz 2016 ••••

This powerful, American oak-matured red is sturdy (14% alc/vol), with concentrated plum, black pepper and liquorice flavours, and a long, smooth, spicy finish. $19

Robert Oatley McLaren Vale GSM 2015 ••••½

From a trio of traditional Rhône Valley grapes – grenache, shiraz and mourvèdre – this is an instantly attractive red. Full-bodied (14% alc/vol), it is fresh and lively, with ripe plum and spice flavours, a slightly earthy streak, good complexity and excellent harmony and depth. $23

This article was first published in the September 23, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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