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Don Kavanagh is the editor of Hospitality magazine.

Don Kavanagh: Vintage a corker

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Anticipation mounts as wine matures in barrels nationwide, writes Don Kavanagh.

Outstanding wines are expected from Hawke's Bay this year. Photo / Hawkes Bay Today
Outstanding wines are expected from Hawke's Bay this year. Photo / Hawkes Bay Today

I've been talking to a few winemakers and the word is that this year's vintage is likely to be the best in New Zealand's wine history.

Even veterans such as Villa Maria's Sir George Fistonich, who has been around for more than 50 vintages, was excited, pointing out that the 2013 vintage was a cracker across the country.

"They say every year is a vintage year, but it really is this year," he said.

"The big difference is that we have much better vineyard management and more qualified winemakers, so we can really make the most of the good fruit."

And good fruit is what it is; right across varieties and regions, this summer's great weather has worked its magic on the grapes. Week after week of long, dry, sunny days made for some fantastic fruit. It has been harvested and is now - hopefully - turning into fantastic wine.

There isn't a winemaker in the country who isn't excited about this vintage, but there's probably a bit of trepidation as well. After all, who wants to be the one who failed to make an outstanding wine in an exceptional year?

It's too early to tell as many of the wines are still in barrels around the country, but chardonnay is looking outstanding, especially from Hawke's Bay. Merlot from the Bay is looking its best for years as well.

Pinot noir and sauvignon blanc are also set to impress once they are released and the one wine I've tasted from the bottle was sublime. The Villa Maria Private Bin 2013 Sauvignon Blanc has everything you could want in a sauvignon, from zingy, racy acidity to lush tropical fruit notes and a real weight as well, which doesn't often appear in sauvignon.

All in all, it's a classy wine that holds out a lot of promise for the rest of the vintage. It will probably be a year or more before we see the weightier wines, but some examples should hit the shelves towards the end of this year.

Just keep an eye on the price. There seems to be a determination in the wine industry to hike up prices by the bootstraps and a cracker vintage is the ideal opportunity. Certainly, after a few years of glut-induced low prices, wineries are due a bit of a windfall, but it will be interesting to see how the market bears any sharp increase, especially since people have become used to paying low prices for high-quality wine.

Whatever the price, the wines will be a good investment, something Sir George was keen to emphasise.

"The big benefit is we have the majority of the 2013 wines under screwcap, so they will last much longer than previous good vintages. A lot of the '98s were under cork and they haven't lasted so well, but we'll be able to see some great ageing from this vintage."

- Herald on Sunday

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