Great wines are easily remembered, just like inspirational teachers or unexpected random acts of kindness. I have great memories (keeping notes also helps) of the wines that have spun my wheels this year.
Having dealt to the reds last week, it's time for the whites. Looking for that elusive X-factor is the order of the day here because, frankly, when it comes to our white varietals there is more likely to be levels of relative sameness, whereas reds can differ significantly.
With this in mind, the Kidnapper Cliffs Solan 2009, at $35, was a revelation. A sauvignon blanc, but not as we know and adore it, with the addition of some semillon, elevating what can be a pedestrian, conveyor belt industrial wine to new heights. This wine is opulent and complex, with the attitude of a heavyweight prizefighter with a winning knockout punch.
It is often risky to throw a whole bunch of different grape varietals into a single bottle. You close your eyes and hope for a miracle and when it works, it is magic. Marisco Vineyards has done the trick with 2009 Entente, a blend of chardonnay, gewurztraminer, pinot gris, riesling and viognier. By now, all of the 200 cases may well have been sold but you may be lucky enough to secure a $50 bottle.
When it comes to gewurztraminer, we are spoilt for choice. But despite the many wonderful options available, this aromatic beauty continues to be a hard sell. Perfect as an aperitif, it is also an appropriate partner for Asian-style dishes.
At $30, Spy Valley's Envoy 2009 is the ideal. Alsace-style, it is delicately balanced with lightly textured flavours and gentle restraint. Erase all bad memories you may have had in the past of over-wrought, over-ripe sugar bombs.
Ditto for the rieslings. I prefer the drier style and for $30 the 2009 Amisfield dry riesling from Central Otago ticked all the right boxes. Vibrant lemon and lime flavours and with the dancing delicacy that characterises this princely grape.
Chardonnay memories are many. New Zealand chardonnays have never been more elegant, approachable and moreish, despite the wild price variables - from $20 to $85.
Gorgeous wines from (as usual), Kumeu River, Sacred Hill's Riflemans, Neudorf Moutere, Clearview Reserve, John Forrest Collection and Waiheke Island's Te Whau and Man O'War's Valhalla.
2009 Julicher Estate Chardonnay, $19-$22
A family-owned boutique Martinborough winery from grapes grown at the Te Muna Terraces. This chardonnay has a very approachable style with vibrant grapefruit and lemon flavours and is great with seafood, chicken or mild coconut curries.
2010 Churton Viognier, $27
The first vintage of viognier from Sam Weaver's Marlborough vineyard. Weaver specialises in making wines of distinction for discerning palates rather than commercial imperatives. It is off-dry and aromatic with a nutty, savoury, creamy finish.