Spanish winemaker Telmo Rodriguez has seduced a Kiwi distributor with his ravishing reds.
How do you choose a wine packed with layers of flavour, with an impressive-looking label, which doesn't break the bank? By its award stickers? By following the advice of your favourite wine website? Or by a critic's review?
If you read wine columns, hopefully you have found a critic or two whose tastes coincide with yours.
Wine importer and distributor Mark Young has discovered his favourites solely through sampling. And for the past few years, he and his partner have loved the Spanish reds his competitors have been importing to New Zealand - so much so he is now importing it himself.
When casting around for top Spanish wines, one name kept coming up: Telmo, referring to surfer-turned-wine-lover Telmo Rodriguez.
Rodriguez began making modern Spanish wines from old vines in 1994 and is now turning his trellised rows back into independent bush vines, pushing them to work harder for nutrients and grow tastier grapes as a result.
The age of those vines, the hot, arid climate they grow in and the fact they are tempranillo and garnacha - Spain's two greatest red grapes - delivers multi-layered, very drinkable wines.
Rodriguez is also a biodynamic wine producer, which means he's conscious of coaxing the best flavours from the soils on which his vines grow, using no introduced pesticides, herbicides or other nasties.
The same goes for James and Annie Millton in Gisborne, whose wines Young is also responsible for distributing around this country.
On October 23 this year - the day before Gisborne's revamped wine and food festival (see p4) - Millton will hold an open day at its Gisborne winery, followed by lunch. It's limited to 50 and James Millton will lead the tasting, with lunch by Gisborne-born chef James Board. Tickets are available at www.millton.co.nz
Find out more about Rodriquez's wines at www.telmorodriguez.com
Wines of the week
2008 Telmo Rodriguez A1 Muvedre, $20
The subtitle here is "tinto joven", meaning young red, which implies soft and simple flavours, but nothing could be further from the chocolatey truth in every mouthful of this lovely Spanish newcomer to these shores. Available from specialist wine stores or email email@example.com
2008 Sacred Hill Sauvage Sauvignon, $34
Wild yeasts, hand-picked grapes and French oak barrels aren't exactly the same thing as grapes crushed by angels' feet, but this tight, bright, non-fruity sauvignon blanc has such a deliciously savoury X-factor, you get the picture.
If this is what Hawke's Bay winemakers can do with sauvignon, bring it on.
2009 Sacred Hill Rifleman's Chardonnay, $53
It has been a long time since I've tasted a New Zealand chardonnay as good as this and, since winemaker Tony Bish didn't produce any in 2008, it could be a while again.
He makes small amounts (170 cases of 2009) in years he deems impressive enough to turn out a top wine from the wonderfully warm - but not too hot - Hawke's Bay Rifleman's Vineyard.