John Hawkesby

John Hawkesby is a wine writer for Canvas Magazine.

Wine: A fraction of the friction

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2006 Stonyridge Larose, $90 for loyalty members, otherwise around $180. Photo / Supplied
2006 Stonyridge Larose, $90 for loyalty members, otherwise around $180. Photo / Supplied

It was unthinkable a decade ago, but the gap is definitely closing between the majestic top end wines of Bordeaux and the best New Zealand Bordeaux blends.

The great names of France's elite red wines - Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild, Latour, Lafite and Haut-Brion - have been a law unto themselves in terms of the crazy prices they can command.

Wine connoisseurs may have once been prepared to pay $200-300 per bottle. Those wines now fetch up to $1500.

So it is with some considerable relief that our best reds are, on more than the odd occasion, starting to topple the French superstars in blind tastings held by reputable wine writers and merchants under professional guidelines and strict supervision. What's more, the New Zealand wines are a fraction of the price.

While I have retained a level of scepticism about these tastings and competitions, I think the evidence is now too compelling to ignore - there is definitely something going on that ought to have the fanciful French a tad concerned.

In 2005, a highly publicised blind tasting face-off between Hawkes Bay Gimblett Gravels reds against Bordeaux's best and most famous labels was hosted by Australian international wine judge and writer James Halliday.

The top six wines included four from Gimblett Gravels (including the top wine, Blake Family Vineyard Redd Gravels 2005) and just two from France - Lafite-Rothschild 2005 and Mouton Rothschild 2005. The average price of the local wines was $50-$60 while the French wines were $1500-$1600. There have been other similar events where New Zealand has shown astonishingly well.

Now comes the latest "taste-off" from the prestigious Australian magazine Winestate. The eight judges (none from New Zealand) included two Masters of Wine. Twenty wines were tasted, including such revered French reds as Leoville Barton and Rauzan-Gassies. One of the top wines - and the only New Zealand one to receive five stars - was Waiheke Island's Stonyridge Larose 2006 ($90-$180). Coming second was the Latour 2006 ($1600-$1700).

Maybe that win helps ease our 2007 Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat by the French.

Recommended

2006 Stonyridge Larose, $90 for loyalty members, otherwise around $180
Prestigious, funky, rustic hands-on Waiheke winery with an enviable reputation for its Bordeaux style Larose. Still young but already offering up loads of refined varietal fruit expression and mellow tannins.

2009 Sacred Hill Helmsman, $65
A Hawkes Bay beauty, the 2005 vintage of this wine came third in the Gimblett Gravels v Bordeaux's best in 2008. This is always a great wine - cabernet sauvignon dominant with roughly equal parts cabernet franc and merlot. It is supple, harmonious and perfectly formed.

- NZ Herald

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