The best bottles to celebrate New Zealand Wine Week | Alistair Gibson

Last week saw the inaugural New Zealand Wine Week.

Thursday, 18th February 2021, 5:36 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th February 2021, 5:36 pm
Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc.

Given the challenging times we live in, this was an amazingly comprehensive range of online wine events and tastings organised by New Zealand winegrowers to trade audiences in the UK, Ireland, USA and Canada.

New Zealand is one of the smaller wine-producing nations but there is no doubt it continues to capture wine consumers’ imaginations. Sadly there was not the opportunity to taste as many wines as there would have been at the annual trade tasting but here are a few highlights for me of the week.

Sauvignon blanc is of course New Zealand’s calling card and the 2020 vintage has now been on the shelves from most producers for a few months now. Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2020, Wairau Valley (Ocado £16.99, Asda £12, nzhouseofwine.co.uk £16.99 but £14.99 as part of a mixed six) comes from the slightly warmer Marlborough sub-region, the Wairau Valley. The bouquet offers ripe passionfruit, blackcurrants and citrus, followed by ripe citrus and more passion fruit on the palate with zesty acidity and a nicely textured finish.

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The Crossings Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Awatere Valley (Hermitage Cellars £9.60 on offer from £10.45) is from the slightly cooler Awatere Valley and feels a little fresher as a result. There are still some tropical fruits on the nose but more citrus and some grassy notes. The palate is very elegant. This is great value and makes a lovely aperitif or why not match it with some simply grilled fish?

The King’s Thorn Pinot Gris 2018, Marlborough (Majestic £15.99 but £11.99 as part of a mixed six, Ocado £15.99) is made by Brent Marris, the name behind The Ned range of wines. This shows just how pinot gris can thrive in New Zealand. There is some real richness on the palate with orchard fruit including pear and apricot and some nice spicy notes.

It may take some work to track this wine down but it’s wonderful and underlines the potential for the most fickle of grapes. Pegasus Bay is recognised as one of Canterbury’s top estates and this is quite Burgundian in style. Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2018, Waipara Valley (nzhouseofwine.co.uk £24.99 but £22.99 as part of a mixed six) includes dark fruits, some Asian spices and a little wild herb on the nose followed by black cherry and more spice on the palate, supported by tannins and fresh acidity.