Christmas may have come and gone but in the wine trade, a new year brings the next round of tastings as the trade prepares for the coming year.
This month sees both the New Zealand and the Australian wine trade bodies decamp to London and bring a good number of producers and their UK agents with them.
It’s always a good opportunity to taste new vintages and of course to taste wines that may be new to the UK market.
First up is New Zealand, and when I go I’ll be looking for anything but sauvignon blanc.
Although it's New Zealand’s signature grape, it has become somewhat predictable.
So how about this for something a little different, Stanley Estates Noble Harvest 2014, Marlborough (Half bottle – Hermitage Cellars £13.95 frontierwines.co.uk £15.40).
It is actually made from sauvignon blanc, but this is really quite a rare dessert wine as you don’t often see it offered up in this guise.
Owners Steve Pellet and Bridget Ennals named their estate after their beloved Landrover Stanley, which safely carried them from Bath to South Africa before eventually settling in New Zealand.
The Noble Harvest 2014 is a super luscious dessert wine made from fully botrytised estate–grown grapes with aromas of honeysuckle, passion fruit and lemon curd.
Delicious sweet tropical, citrus fruit and marmalade flavours are enhanced by the acidity of the sauvignon blanc leaving a clean finish on the palate.
This is stunning dessert wine which would not only work with rich desserts but also goes beautifully with soft blue cheeses.
The annual Australia Day tasting takes place later in the month and I’m delighted to see a return to the UK of Nepenthe Wines.
Established in 1994 and based in the relatively cool climate, Adelaide Hills Nepenthe was one of the first Australian wineries to give sauvignon blanc some serious thought and produced wines that showed a little more elegance than what was then the Aussie norm.
Nepenthe Altitude Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Adelaide Hills (Amazon £35.23 for three bottles) is made in a less tropical style that Marlborough wines and to my mind makes it a little bit more food friendly.
There are green herbs and some gooseberry fruit on the nose followed by a crisp, fresh palate with ripe green apple acidity and a mouth-watering finish.
Serve this with fresh seafood or a goat cheese salad.
I appreciate it's very early days, but Nepenthe ‘Gate Block’ Shiraz 2014, Adelaide Hills (Amazon £18.56) is already one of my benchmark wines of the year so far.
I really like this cool climate style of Shiraz with its emphasis on fruit.
This has lovely freshness with red and dark berries, white pepper and spice with well-judged oak in the background.
The palate has ripe tannins, more spice and dark fruit and nice weight on the finish.
I would serve this with a slow-cooked shoulder of lamb or a robust tomato-based pasta dish. It’s a perfect winter red to put a smile on your face.