Right now, New Zealand's most expensive white wine happens to be a chardonnay. This doesn't surprise me because crafting great chardonnay can't be done on the cheap.
First, you need to find the perfect piece of land, then you need to source the best clones you can plant, then wait for years and years before you get any fruit and when you do you need to cut off most of the bunches before they're even ripe so that the flavours in the surviving ones are as intense as possible. If that fruit survives frost, wind, hail, drought, disease, birds and rainstorms before harvest, then chances are you're going to want to treat it with kid gloves in the winery using only the best materials, before maturing it in a quality oak barrels.
A standard 225-litre barrel holds 300 bottles of wine, and those barrels can cost as much as $2000 each. Sometimes conditions aren't perfect enough to make top chardonnays, and in the case of our most expensive white, the Clearview Estate Endeavour Chardonnay ($150 a bottle) it's been three years since one was released.
Endeavour is made only in "stunning" vintages. The 2013 vintage - hailed as "the vintage of the century" - has produced a wine that has winemaker Tim Turvey very excited. "This wine epitomises all the reasons why we planted and started making it nearly 30 years ago," he says.
"It has intensity, balance and flavour with a structure that has audacity; there's freshness and complexity. To make a wine such as this is something I really look forward to. It's my special baby."
Big cider satisfaction
The humble apple is a tight package of huge potential - you can bake, stew and fry them, juice, crumble and mousse them. Thankfully, we also have a hugely innovative craft cider industry. When it comes to master craftsmen, the team at Peckham's in Nelson are experimenting beyond their "core" business.
Peckham's Hopped Cider 500ml, $7.40
The cider apples that grow on the Peckham's property are surrounded by fields of hops, Nelson's other star crop. So why not have a crack at brewing them together? This snap, crackle and pop blend has a gentle, herbaceous edge to the dry, apple tang. Super tasty when served super-chilled.
Peckham's Moutere Pommeau 375ml, $19.90
This limited edition creation is a blend of Peckham's own apple brandy, which is aged in oak barrels for a year before being blended with cider apple juice. It smells like a rich, syrupy tarte tatin and tastes smooth and luxurious, honeyed and spicy. A wee dram of this with a chunk of great aged gouda, and you've got something insanely good.
Peckham's Moutere Ice Cider 375ml, $14.90
Crafted on similar principles to ice wine, fresh harvested apples are pressed and the juice is frozen before being slowly thawed during the winter months. The first 25 per cent of the thawed juice is used to create this intensely flavoured, sweet, toffee apple-ish treat. Beautifully balanced and tangy, it's the perfect dessert in a glass.