John Hawkesby

John Hawkesby is a wine writer for Canvas Magazine.

Wine: Summertime sipping

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John Hawkesby rounds up his top 10 wines for the sunny season

John Hawkesby's summer wine picks.
John Hawkesby's summer wine picks.

Summer wines tend to reflect the season itself ­- sunny, breezy, light, refreshing, casual and not overly complex or weighty. Keep it simple is the mantra and, where possible, avoid heavier, higher-alcohol wines - they're better with winter dishes.

There are many to choose from and part of the fun is being adventurous.

2013 Spy Valley Single Vineyard "Free Range" Riesling - $22

Marlborough's Spy Valley can always be relied on for well-made wines at competitive prices.

This is one of those "hands-off" styles with low alcohol (9 per cent) and is medium-sweet, which means it is likely to have broad appeal. Aromas of orange zest, hazelnut and petals leap out from the bottle and the naturally high acid balances the low alcohol and sweetness. Some mineral and earth notes gently counter the citrus and stone fruit flavours. This is great with spicy dishes and there is limited availability at cellar door.

2011 Millton Te Arai Chenin Blanc - $28

Chenin blanc is one of the greatest white wines, yet so misunderstood or ignored for reasons that baffle me.

From Millton's certified organic and biodynamic grapes and estate-bottled comes a wonderful wine that is taut, vibrant and designed to cellar and develop even further.

It has aromas of fresh lime zest and fragrant gardenias with a complex mix of bush honey and ripe pear. Powerful but delightfully balanced. Pairs with anything from the sea or with pasta.

2012 Petit Manseng - $50 (500 ml bottle)

From one of the country's most meticulous and clever winemakers, Sam Churton, comes something completely different. According to Churton, petit manseng has made an easy transition from the hills of the Pyrenees to the hills of Churton in Marlborough. He's right. This little-known varietal is a smooth, slightly sweet, wonderfully aromatic style of wine that has its origins in Jurancon, south-west France. It has low alcohol (9 per cent) and is perfect with fish, vegetables and salad. Riesling-like but without too much citrus sharpness.

2013 Neudorf Maggie's Block Pinot Gris - $26

The wine of choice for summer lunches and "drinks after work", pinot gris continues its climb in popularity and in this wine it's not hard to see why.

Approachable, uncomplicated and gentle, with enough purity of flavour and not too much acidity to be overbearing, nobody does pinot gris better than Upper Moutere's Neudorf.

This is Alsatian in style, with hints of ginger and spice. Delicious whenever but try with cheese or even mild curries.

2013 Spinyback Gruner Veltliner - $20

Time to branch out and try something different. With a reputation for being very food-friendly, gruner veltliner is Austria's most widely planted white grape. It is also one of the few wines that is subtle yet compelling enough to pair with vegetarian fare and goes nicely with artichoke and eggplant dishes. It is softly floral and has savoury aromas with a fleshy, juicy mineral palate. Also great with shucked oysters, this is another beauty from Nelson.

2013 Spade Oak "Heart of Gold" Albarino - $23

In Spain it's alberino, in Portugal it's alvarinho, and it is slowly gaining a footing in New Zealand. Fashionable in parts of Europe, albarino's usually light, crisp and refreshing peachy characters give it a kind of viognier taste. Grapes for this wine were grown on an estate on the Poverty Bay flats. Gisborne is having good success with this varietal and one sip is sure to convince you. Silky with flavours of tropical fruit, honeyed pear, citrus and florals with a smooth finish, this is great with white fish, mussels or calamari.

2011 Lawsons Dry Hills Gewurztraminer - $27

This well established Marlborough producer is a gem. Great wines at great prices and all utterly reliable. Gewurztraminer should be one of our best-selling varietals as it goes so well with much of our Asian-influenced cuisine and is made so well here. This one is a standout - all you want in an aromatic gewurztraminer, with oodles of lychee, musk and rose petal and a strong lemon peel character and a superb balance between the acidity, alcohol and sweetness. This wine is good to cellar for 5 to 10 years but in the meantime, try it with Asian dishes, rich pate or even cheese, it's delicious and invigorating.

2013 Seifried Sweet Agnes Riesling - $32

Due for release around February/March 2014, this is consistently one of New Zealand's best dessert wines.

2013 marks the 40th year of grape growing for Nelson's veteran winemakers Hermann and Agnes Seifried, and you're always assured of a warm welcome at their cellar door and restaurant. This is Hermann's tribute to his wife and, as you'd expect, it's a wine of class and style, lush ripe citrus and spicy honey notes. Very rich and moreish, it has received numerous, well deserved awards.

2013 Saint Clair Vicar's Choice Sauvignon Blanc Bright Light Rosé - $20

A refreshing low alcohol (9.5 per cent) rose that is a blend of sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon, which is atypical but works surprisingly well. Drinking well right now but likely to be at its best over the next two years.

It is crisp, clean and delicate with summer flavours of passionfruit, cherries, blackcurrants and ripe straw-berries. Fine on its own or try with seafood and summer salads.

2011 Nautilus Estate Vintage Rosé - $49

100 per cent pinot noir methode traditionelle and a new addition to the Nautilus portfolio, crafted to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. This is a tiny production but well worth seeking out, with its pale salmon colour and notes of fine textured creamy mousse, brioche, hazelnut, fresh-cut strawberries and rose petal. Scrumptious, this is a prima ballerina designed to go with tuna or lightly poached salmon ... or anything.

- NZ Herald

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