John Hawkesby presents his top wine picks of the last year.

New Zealand wines seem to grow in stature with each passing vintage. There are some remarkable winemakers creating memorable wines.

Our Best in Show for 2011 would give their European equivalents a genuine fright.

Over summer, even mildly serious wine enthusiasts should make every endeavour to try as many of the following as possible.

Not only will they enhance your cuisine, they will also put a satisfied smile on your face.


2009 Seresin Reserve,

You can get decent local sauvignon from reputable producers for anywhere between $12 and $20. So who wants to pay $55? Anyone looking for something different, exceptional and exciting, that's who. This takes sauvignon to a new level. It is intense and complex, with oodles of trademark floral, citrus and herbal aromas and a savoury, flinty minerality. Elegant and beautiful, try it with cold soups, salads, sushi, seafood and any vegetarian dishes.

2010 Greywacke,

A varietal that is starting to find its feet and being made with more finesse, flavour and balance. This one comes through the middle because of its intense, concentrated fruitiness, delivering an opulent style with great texture. It has big flavours of apple, nectarine, fig, apricot and spice. Tending dry with a whisper of sweetness, this wine will readily embrace lighter seafood and vegetarian dishes, along with crab, crayfish, pork and poultry.

2010 Neudorf Moutere,

Be still, my beating heart. This is the one to resurrect the palates of chardonnay fugitives who have been away too long. Come on back, it will restore your faith in this varietal. Complex yet complete, bold but not blowsy, serious and sensual, judicious use of oak with a citrus infused blade of minerality ... it is astonishing. This wine will love seafood, pasta, chicken and pork and can cope with creamy sauces.

2011 Felton Road Bannockburn,

This is very poised with instant appeal and perfect for those with a preference for rieslings made in a slightly sweeter style. It has lowish alcohol (9 per cent) with smart, clean flavours of mandarin, tangerine, apricot, ginger and elderflower. A fresh, lively and engaging wine with a pleasant dryish finish, it is great with Asian-style dishes, smoked foods, chicken with cashew or coconut, most sweet and sour dishes, fruity desserts and blue cheeses.


2010 Misha's Vineyard The Gallery,

Proof that smart gewurztraminer can be grown in Central Otago, this wine is medium and mellow with a perfumed bouquet of mint, herbs, rose petal, lychee and peach. Most of those follow through on the palate with ginger and lime combining to produce a medium-dry style that is fresh, flamboyant and deeply satisfying. This is a versatile wine and is lovely with spicy foods from all over the world, also German-style schnitzel and sausages or pungent soft cheese.

2011 Dry River Estate,

From a hallowed Martinborough producer with an international cult reputation, this wine is exotic, upfront ebullient with distinct aromas of peach, banana, tropical fruits, passionfruit and spice. It's made in a mild sweeter style with a nod to gewurztraminer and is a wonderful summer wine for those wanting to try something a bit different. Pair it with spicy, rich foods, it's also perfect with stir-fries or mild curries and would be glorious with scallops.

2005 Kennedy Point Reserve,
$55 (cellar door)

A boutique Waiheke producer with a reputation for classy, carefully crafted wines, this is a classic case of a wine benefiting from some bottle age before release. With 90 per cent merlot, 7 per cent cabernet franc and 3 per cent cabernet sauvignon it is bold, big, harmonious and richly complex with lashings of leather and savoury undertones. It's made for all red meat dishes including barbecued sausages, venison or rabbit.

2009 Trinity Hill Homage,
Not only a great syrah but one of the finest New Zealand reds ever made. It is a colossus. Brooding, powerful and blockbusting, it nevertheless manages to deliver elegance, balance and a raft of seamless flavours of plum, blackberry, cherry, cassis, liquorice, pepper, spice and chocolate. Only made in great vintages, it is a full orchestra in a single bottle. Magical. Match with richly flavoured red meat dishes, especially stews or anything in intensely flavoured sauces.

2009 Messenger Le Menage A Trois,

A stunning debut in 2008 and a salutory reminder that Auckland is capable of classic reds. From Duck Creek at Stillwater, just north of Auckland, this merlot (39 per cent), cabernet franc (38 per cent) and malbec (23 per cent) blend is lush, supple and bursting with brilliance. It has dense blackcurrant, plums and spice with a sniff of cigar box. Try with lamb or beef dishes, or even strong-smelling cheeses.

2009 Burn Cottage,

Apart from being a superb pinot noir, it deserves an award for its funky Monty Python-esque label that is actually based on a fairy tale. It's not overly fruity, gently restrained with complex earthy truffle-like flavours. The vibrancy of a clean fresh New World pinot noir with Old World Burgundian heritage it has a rich velvet texture. Put with duck, mushrooms, risotto or any light white meat dishes.

2011 Millton Te Arai Vineyard Merlot Rosé,

From Gisborne's premier producer and tripping the light fantastic. This is a swash-
buckling yet sensitive and delicate taste sensation for summer, oozing with strawberry and rasberry characters, it offers a hint of mulberry and a splash of spice to keep things interesting, and has a beguiling, dry finish. It's adaptable when it comes to summer cuisine, teaming well with lighter white meats, summer soups, salads and
more delicate Asian dishes. Winery sales only.

N.V. Number One Family Estate Rosé Methode Traditionelle,

A visually appealing wine with a long-neck bottle. The contents are just as beguiling - 100 per cent pinot noir grapes give it a delicate salmon pink colour, with a seamless balance of subtle cherry, strawberry and almond. A dry, fresh, elegant and opulent wine at an affordable price, this is delicious on its own - food is almost irrelevant - but it will work with light hors d'oeuvres or desserts.