Tasting wine is my full-time job (awful, I know) but only a teensy fraction of those wines ever make it into Canvas. So we thought 'twas high time I dug into my 2021 tasting archives to tell you about some tasty treasures you may not have tried.
Truth is, I could fill this whole newspaper with amazing wine, however, space dictates narrowing it down to a favourite few. They represent a mix of amazing quality and incredible value and I'm so excited to share them with you. Enjoy!
Marisco Diamond Heart Waihopai Cuvée 2017 ($40) 5 stars
A cushion-soft blend of chardonnay and pinot noir boasting all the hallmarks of a fine Champagne. Rich, ripe, round and finely-tuned, with ultra-elegant mousse, zesty acidity and smooth, creamy, almond-like textures, I'm smitten with this shortbread-stacked style from Marlborough.
Deutz Marlborough Cuvee Rosé NV ($25) 5 stars
Crafted from a blend of 46 per cent pinot noir, 51 per cent chardonnay and a 3 per cent splash of pinot meunier, this stylish sparkler is absolutely world-class. With aromas of berry brioche, soft strawberry and apple shortcake, gentle citrus and cashew layers in the mouth, followed by a vibrant, sophisticated, creamy-dreamy finish, it's stunning stuff. Widely available.
Louis Vavasour LV Marlborough Methode Traditionelle NV ($59) 5 stars
Louis Vavasour says this methode has exceeded even his own expectations. It's taken him more than 20 years to get to the point where he could create a luxury range that includes finely tuned fizz like this. I love its aromas of rising dough, almonds, lemon shortbread, and brioche, it's beautifully structured mouthfeel and its name. The Vavasour "spirit of rebellion since 1207" brand references Maud Le Vavasour, who married local outlaw Fulk FitzWarin, who's rumoured to have inspired the legend of Robin Hood. Excellent.
BEST SAUVIGNON BLANC
Rapaura Springs Rohe Dillons Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2021 ($27) 5 stars
This bottle should carry a "Wear a Helmet" warning because, by jingo, the second you unclick the cap and pour, a passionfruit-pumped roundhouse kick of Kill Bill proportions will collide with your face. Big call, but I think this could be my sauvignon blanc of 2021. From the earliest and shortest harvest on Marlborough's record, it's outrageously delicious. The Māori word "Rohe" translates to "territory" and Dillons Point is where the Wairau and Ōpāwa Rivers converge, making the soils mack daddy mineral-rich (did I just say mack daddy?) Despite my tacky slip, this hefty, herbaceous sauvignon blanc is total class, showing incredibly stylish lime, lemon and peachy perfection. Its bold, juicy, generous textures and incredible depth and vibrancy create great tension and tautness on the finish. It's outstanding.
Two Rivers Convergence Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2021 ($22) 5 stars
Holy jalapenos, Batman! One thing's for certain. The second someone pours a glass of this you'll be able to smell its punchy pungency from across the room. Or possibly across the street. You may be overrun by sauvignon blanc zombies clawing at your windows with an unslakeable desire to have what you're having. With basil, sweet pea, capsicum and nettle-infused niceness on the nose, plus buckets of white peach and passionfruit saturating the palate. It's delicious.
Zephyr Organic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2020 ($25) 5 stars
Back in 1988, Owen Glover converted his dairy farm to vineyards because the 4am starts were wearing thin. Thirty-three years later, son Ben is milking vines instead and creating classy sauvignon blanc groaning with grassiness and tropical intensity, capsicum, tomato stalk notes and truckloads of citrus. Certified organic and spliced through with snowpea and sweat, it's supremely sippable.
Ataahua Waipara Sauvignon Blanc 2020 ($26) 5 stars
So your workmate snapped you zooming in on the new Lorde album cover and now you're trying to buy plane tickets to Yemen. Slow down. You don't need to remedy your embarrassment with such extreme measures. Just pop this in the fridge for 45 minutes then pour a glass of its intense passionfruity beauty. Revel in its generously tropical, basil-and-tomato-tweaked terrificness, salivate over its citrus saturation and google Senegal instead.
The Landing Bay of Islands Chardonnay 2019 ($48) 5 stars
Made by Ben Byrne, one of the most skilled chardonicians (new word) in all of Northland, this wine has the makings of a classic. Originally crafted for guests of The Landing's luxury lodge properties on the Purerua Peninsula, it's now yours to enjoy. Ben's thrown everything at it: hand-harvesting, whole-bunch pressing, a French oak ferment and 11 months' maturation before blending and bottle-ageing and it's gum-numblingly good. Featuring grapefruity gorgeousness, cashew-like creaminess and a touch of peach brulee, it's fresh, frisky and fab with baked brie.
Wairau River Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2020 ($30) 5 stars
This is a wine that smells so good I struggled to wrest it away from my nose long enough to taste it. It's vibrant, energetic and saturated with smoky, funky flickers that roar alongside roast peach and pineapple perfection. If that wasn't enough, add rich, toasty oak, citrus complexity, punchy palate tension and creamy cashew characters to the mix and you've got stunning chardonnay, full stop.
Wither Hills Single Vineyard Ben Morven Marlborough Chardonnay 2019 ($28) 5 stars
Planted 20 years ago, this small-scale, north-facing site has been producing certified organic grapes since 2009 and certified sensational chardonnay since ages ago. Crafted by winemaker Matt Large, it's a rich-yet-elegantly-structured, stonefruit-and-smoke-soaked chardonnay that oozes caramelised, toasty spices and a buttered crumpet character on the finish. Smooth, stylish and fanging with flavour. I love it. witherhills.co.nz
Delta Marlborough Chardonnay 2020 ($20) 5 stars
Fans of highly oaked, massively creamy styles will want to get in line to get their mitts on this new release from the folk at Delta. I love the creme caramel intensity in this wine from whoa to go, yet the acidity is perky-fresh and accentuates the tropical tones beautifully. Dangerously drinkable.
BEST PINOT GRIS
Gibbston Valley School House Central Otago Pinot Gris 2020 ($39) 5 stars
Christopher Keys made this glorious wine and it's pretty much pure nashi pear perfection. Add hints of quince (nice rhyme), intense citrus textures, luxurious richness and tangelo-tasticness on the finish and you've got a superstar with marathon length of flavour. Seriously. Buy a bottle, take a sip, swallow then count how long you can feel that deliciously prickly sensation on your gums. It'll be ages. Superb with Szechuan prawns. gibbstonvalley.com
Middle Earth Nelson Pinot Gris 2020 ($22) 4.5 stars
Crafted from two different clones (2/15 and 2/21, thanks for asking), this perky new pinot gris is a robust, ever-so-slightly-sweet southern style that'll wow the crowds and impress the trousers off your friends. It's fresh, frolicsome, incredible value for money and yelps out to be paired with something rich and spicy. Its next-level nashi notes and juicy, luscious mouthfeel make it perfect with the creamy, spicy sweetness of pumpkin soup.
The Hunting Lodge Seasonal Marlborough Pinot Gris 2020 ($28) 5 stars
While the Hunting Lodge kids are based on the old Matua vineyard and winery out in West Auckland, they're experts at extracting excellent pinot gris fruit from Marlborough. With nostril-numbing nuances of nashi and palate-quenching, poached quince characters (take that, Mrs Brown from 6th form English, I can alliterate to save myself) this is a wine that'll absolutely wow the crowds and bring all the grins. Finely tuned aromatics, a decent dusting of spice, juicy textures and freshness for days, it's the perfect thing to pair with pumpkin gnocchi.
BEST DRY RIESLING
Batch Winery Thomas Waiheke Riesling 2019 ($25) 4.5 stars
Dad joke alert! Ask someone to ask you "Do you like riesling?" and then say, "I dunno. I've never ries-led". It's much funnier when you say it out loud - trust me. Waiheke Island riesling isn't the most common thing to come across, so finding this gorgeous thing was a huge deal. Snappy, dry, and beautifully bony, the Thomas is mineral-laced and laden with lime and white pepper. It's an intensely textural style that should be chilled for an hour before serving.
Orlando Steingarten Eden Valley Riesling 2019 ($45) 5 stars
Over the last 50 years, Steingarten has become one of Australia's most awarded rieslings. I've been to Steingarten and it's so barren, rocky and steep it's a wonder anything could grow there, let alone produce something so intensely delicious. The 2019 is exfoliatingly clean, lime-licked, and boasts quartzy minerality and incredible finesse on the palate. Love it.
Tupari Marlborough Dry Riesling 2019 ($27) 5 stars
Live and direct from the Awatere Valley comes this ultra-clean, lime-driven, rockstar riesling, best-known for chart-topping hits such as "Florals up the Wazoo", "Buckets of Smashed Greywacke", and"Apples-a-Go-Go". Every sip delivers a hit of quartzy minerality and a chorus of prickly, generously proportioned textures before leaning into a bouncy, beat-heavy bridge followed by an outro licked with crispy lyrics. Backstage, it demands a sack of M&Ms (no blue ones), 20 honeysuckle-scented candles, and a large platter of sweet-and-sour wontons.
BEST SWEETER RIESLING
Domain Road Duffers Creek Central Otago Riesling 2018 ($27) 5 stars
Grown in 100 per cent Central Otago pipe-clay soils, the Duffers consistently gushes with juicy granny smith apple and lime to hoon across the palate, leaving honeysuckle on the finish. This 2018 incarnation is no exception and boasts all those things in spades. Speaking of spades and all things diggy, trivia hounds will enjoy that it's named after unfortunate gold diggers (duffers) who drank too much and fell into the freezing creek. Ironically, this wine should be served chilled with shivery-cold gazpacho.domainroad.co.nz
Giesen Reiler Goldlay Mosel Riesling 2018 ($22) 5 stars
After emigrating from Germany back in the 1980s and building a hugely successful wine business here in New Zealand, the three Giesen brothers doubled back and purchased a small, terraced vineyard on the banks of Germany's Mosel river, a place famous for turning out incredible riesling. With a face-slap of bright apple, honeysuckle, a tweak of ginger and loads of lime, it's crunchy-fresh and has real generosity of texture thanks to 3 months maturation in an old, 1000L oak fuder.
Blackenbrook Family Reserve Nelson Gewurztraminer 2019 ($30) 5 stars
The thing I love about this wine is its cool, calm mood. Unlike a lot of gewurztraminer styles that are all jazz hands and stage voice, brash, blousy and wearing way too much perfume. This new release rolls out subtle ginger, rosewater and musky spices on the nose and unveils layers of nashi, nutmeg and poached peach on the palate. Having spent a quiet, sleepy year in bottle before release, it's soothing, dry and softly styled. blackenbrook.co.nz
Whitehaven Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2020 ($22) 5 stars
My anticipation for Whitehaven to release their annual gewurz is so great I might as well be lurking, pacing outside the gates. I can't even remember if there was ever a time that I was less than wowed by any vintage they've released. They manage to cram truckloads of turkish delight, caramelised, roast peach, ginger, apple crumble spices and buckets of freshness into every sip and the 2020 is no exception. Succulent, refreshing and an absolute joy to drink. Yum!
Ataahua Waipara Gewurztraminer 2019 ($26) 5 stars
I love that this wine smells like opening the mirror of my grandmother's bathroom cabinet and catching a waft of that deliciously comforting combo of lavender talc, cold cream, citrus blossom, and peachy, musky face powder. Taste-wise, the texture is lighter, and the mouthfeel is rich yet nicely dry. Great length of flavour, too! Get out the papadams, because this rules with rogan josh.
Bald Hills Friends & Lovers Bannockburn Central Otago Rosé 2020 ($30) 5 stars
A pretty apricot-blush in the glass, this deliciously dry style crafted from handpicked pinot noir, has classic watermelon and red apple aromatics colliding with a hint of creaming soda and soft spices on the palate. Cleansing, crunchy-crisp, yet generously proportioned, it's an impressive rosé that absolutely sings with Central Otago elegance.
Madam Sass Central Otago Rosé 2020 $22 (5stars)
Don't let the frilly, dilly, pink, cartoony corsetry on the label fool you into thinking this wine isn't a serious prospect. With its dry, spicy, zesty, clean acidity, fleshy textures and generously juicy length of flavour, it's a beautifully proportioned rosé that'll run rings around your taste buds.
Widely available in supermarkets
Misty Cove Landmark Marlborough Rosé 2021 ($19) 5 stars
I poured this wine and said to my husband, "When we win Lotto, I want a pink diamond rock on my finger in exactly this shade, thanks," to which he mumbled, "Sure", and went back to scrolling for fishing lures on his phone. I know you're thinking it'd be hard to match that sort of romantic intensity, but this rosé is well up to the task. Made from pinot noir, pinot gris, and chardonnay, this dry Mediterranean style roars with raspberry and watermelon and wins with Greek salad.
BEST PINOT NOIR
Jackson Estate Homestead Marlborough Pinot Noir 2019 ($23) 4.5 stars
Matt Patterson-Green has crafted a pinot noir with serious personality, pluck and charm, and despite being a spring chicken, it's also showing some of the depth and seductive spice of a characterful cougar. The tannins are what get me though; they have delicate grip but lovely intensity. The acidity and textures are vibrant and alive, and the cranberry and cherry complexity make it amazing value for money.
Doctors Flat Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017 ($52) 5 stars
Steve Davies crafts his organic pinot by putting a portion of whole clusters into the ferment to inject a softer, fruitier layer. Those bunches essentially ferment inside their own skins, and the result is a wild and woolly wine erupting with baked tamarillo, black tea, and cherry notes. Saucy spices and a tweak of truffle on the finish add to its complexity, and it roars with mushroom pasta.
Colombo Martinborough Pinot Noir 2018 ($39) 5 stars
This powerful pinot is basically a bottled version of a classic Hilary Barry clap-back to some gormless gumby daring to dictate the correct amount of cleave suitable for TV. Are they on drugs? Were they dropped on their head as a child? Everyone knows nobody brings better blouse-game than Hils-Baz. With aromas of red cherry, raspberry, and rhubarb alongside bright, vibrant, spice-soaked sippability, this perky, tamarillo-tastic pinot is perfect with slices of salty prosciutto and a saucy off-the-shoulder number.
Palliser Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 2019 ($57) 5 stars
I'll admit to having a less-than-sensible obsession with the black guava, cherry, blueberry, and black tea brilliance in this bottle of Martinborough magic. I also love its rosehip tea, forest floor and earthy, wild redcurrant flavours and its buckets of berries, chewy tannins and its long, impressively savoury finish. It's a true "try before you die" pinot noir because it has clarity, power, and grace and layers of moody, broody brilliance. So succulent and spicy, it's beyond delicious with wild mushroom risotto.
BEST MERLOT, CABERNET AND BLENDS
Man O'War Waiheke Island Blend 2019 ($31.50) 5 stars
Cabernet franc-dominant wines are rare over here, especially at this price and quality level. Winemaker Duncan McTavish's 2019 unleashes powerful aromas of blackcurrant, liquorice and spice that osmose into a palate packed with dark berries, bay leaf, chocolate and coffee and finishes with lingering, leathery tannins. It's a muscular rich, red wine you'd want to cuddle up on the couch with.
Mills Reef Reserve Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Merlot 2019 ($25) 5 stars
Brilliant value here from Paul Dawick, master of the dark arts of crafting impenetrably inky cabernet dominant deliciousness. Erupting with boysenberry, plum and a whiff of dark mint chocolate, it's a lush, leather-clad, sinewy wine that oozes personality and charm.
Monowai Upper Reaches Hawke's Bay Merlot 2020 ($26) 5 stars
Straight out of the gate, I'm calling this the best merlot I've ever tasted from Hawke's Bay's Matapiro subregion. The grape gods shone down on husband and wife winegrowing team Emma Lowe and Marcelo Nunez in 2020, because they've produced a silky, stylish, vibrantly spiced, fruit soaked sensation. Elegantly proportioned, boosted with blueberry and peppered cocoa, the tannins have gentle grip and cling and I absolutely love it.
Stone Paddock by Paritua Hawke's Bay Merlot 2018 ($25) 5 stars
Bursting with boysenberries and dark cocoa on the nose, this wine also boasts a flummery of florals, and a fang of furry tannins on the finish. Flummery, fang, and furry are three of my favourite F-words, and this vintage of Stone Paddock merlot is love and marriage, horse and carriage stuff for my palate. Balanced, bold, and beautifully structured, this wine is solid on spice, crammed full of creamy cocoa notes, and tickled with tobacco. I can only love it more if I'm sipping it with lasagne.
Squawking Magpie Stoned Crow Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2019 ($50) 5 stars
It might be called the Stoned Crow, but in the flavour stakes, it's a statuesque supermodel. Gavin Yortt was one of the first to grow grapes in the Gimblett Gravels, and over the years his Stoned Crow syrah has become one of the most highly awarded examples in the country. The nose is pepper-dusted, with a lift of dried herbs, violets and blueberry notes, while the palate is singing (not squawking) with dark fruits, sandy-fine tannins, and finishes with a seam of liquorice and soy. It's stunning.
Mission Estate Jewelstone Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2020 ($50)
Intensely glossy and inky-dark as it pours into the glass, this spectacular wine is crafted from fruit grown on a small site on Mere Road, in the middle of the most famous red wine region in the country. Incredibly stylish, seductive, perfumed with soft pepper, blackberry, dark cocoa and dusty complexity, while in the mouth it's iron fist in velvet glove material. Superbly textural, finely tuned, layered with leather, blueberry, dried herb notes and tannins that grip your gums and don't let go.
Smith & Sheth Cru Heretaunga Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2019 ($37) 5 stars
When two of the best red winemakers in the country apply their sorcery and skills to create a syrah from the most superlative piece of syrah dirt in the country, a work of evil genius is bound to occur. Crafted by master of wine Steve Smith and Warren Gibson, this wine is supremely elegant and restrained in terms of its floral and spice layers, its supple tannins and its smooth yet powerful complexity. AND (extra for experts) each of the vertical panels on the label represents the genome sequence of the DNA of the grape varieties that Smith & Sheth grow.
Grant Burge 5th Generation Barossa Shiraz 2019 ($19-$24) 5 stars
Deep purple and rolling in raspberry and peppered blackberry aromas, subtle vanilla and elongated espresso layers. Bold, buxom and edged with fine-grained tannins and hints of sweetness and spice from a long, sleepy maturation in oak barrels. It's just seamless and succulent and seriously satisfying.
Claymore Wines Dark Side of the Moon Clare Valley Shiraz 2020 ($30-$35) 5 stars
This scary-good shiraz reminds me of my mate Vicky. Her nickname is "the Queen of Darkness". She has hair as black as a serpent's pupil, the bluntest fringe in the known universe and a mood as mysterious as whatever the O stands for on the label. She's a lone wolf, endlessly hunting down stunning shiraz like this. Sourced from Claymore's dry-farmed (non-irrigated), Clare Valley vineyards, this cocoa-crammed, liquorice-laden, blackcurrant-boosted example is impressively structured, with fine-grained, gorgeously grippy tannins and a smoky graphite core. Superb.
The Vegan Project South Australia Shiraz 2018 ($15) 4 stars
If you're a shiraz fan but 15 bucks is about your limit, then this spicy and nicey little number is the business. It's nice that it's vegan, but what I really like about it, is that it's not super sweet and jammy and flabby like a lot of cheaper shiraz can be. It smells like dark berries and baking spices laced with soft pepper and cocoa, and all that good stuff then osmoses across to the palate when you sip. So it's a stylish, classy wine that's very well priced.
BEST OTHER WHITE WINES
Jules Taylor Marlborough Gruner Veltliner 2021 ($25) 4.5 stars
Pronounced "groo-ner velt-leener", it's the signature white wine of Austria that's made a very happy home here in Godzone if this delicious thing is any indication. I love its face-punch of florals, its avalanche of apple, and its sackloads of citrus, layers of lemongrass and its tsunami of salinity. It's a powerfully refreshing, crunchy-crisp yet generously proportioned grüner that shows just how skilled the Jules Taylor team are.
Coxhead Creek Matakana Verdelho 2020 ($20) 5 stars
Verdelho is a VERY rare grape on our shores, which is a huge shame because it absolutely roars when planted in the right ground. Prepare for lifted apple and peach aromatics, huge generosity of flavour, viscosity, texture, and length. It has gorgeous grip around the gums and is completely saturated with stonefruit. I sip this wine and literally can't stop smiling.
Forrest Marlborough Albarino 2021 ($28) 5 stars
While albarino (al-bar-een-yo) might be more famous in its Galician homeland in north-western Spain, it's clearly settled and thriving nicely under Marlborough's baking Southern Valleys sun. Erupting with fresh apple blossom, lemon zest and peachy aromatics and washing waves of whipcrack acidity around the gums and nashi and lime across the tongue, it'll perk up even the most flaccid of palates. And no one wants a flaccid palate right?
BEST OTHER RED STYLES
Koerner Clare Valley The Clare 2020 ($48) 5 stars
Hands up if you've ever tasted a blend of 51 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 15 per cent cabernet franc, 12 per cent malbec, 12 per cent grenache, 9 per cent carignan and 1 per cent sciacarello before. No? Me neither. From the evil genius brothers Damon and Jono Koerner (winners of the 2019 Young Gun of Wine award) comes this sultry, silky-smooth blend of grapes grown in the Watervale area. Liquorice, cherry, earthy spices and hints of tamarillo combine with gently prickly tannins to create a long, lengthy finish. Delicious.
For where to buy contact vintners.co.nz
Unico Zelo Halcyon Days Riverland Nero d'Avola 2020 ($45) 5 stars
Nero d'Avola from anywhere outside of Sicily is a rare thing, but to find a delicious one from the Riverland in South Australia? That's something to sing about. Pronounced "nehro dah-volah", it's perfumed with sarsaparilla, dried herbs, candied boysenberries, and Szechuan pepper. The mouthfeel is dangerously smooth and will charm you into thinking you can dance like Jackson and sing like Jagger. So put on your funky pants, rustle up some ratatouille, and settle in for a boogie.
For stockists contact blancnz.co.nz
Tooo Mas O Menos Hawke's Bay Tempranillo/Pinot Noir 2019 ($19) 5 stars
Antony Mackenzie has slung the classic grapes of Rioja and Burgundy together in a Hawke's Bay mash-up that works a charm. Mas O Menos loosely means "more or less" but it's hard to see where the "less" occurs, considering this blend is a total backslapper. Tono (ton-yo) is the Spanish nickname for people called Antonio, so Ant adopted it for his Spanish-styled wines. Tutti frutti, liquorice-licked, and chocolate-edged, it's a star.
For stockists email ant@antswines
BEST SWEET WINE
Rapaura Springs Gravel Lane Botrytised Marlborough Riesling 2018 375ml ($35) 5 stars
Holy candied mandarin, Batman! With toffee apple intensity and crystalised ginger goodness, this intensely sweet treat shows racy acidity, lime-laden loveliness and is absolute perfection with any lemony dessert. It's incredibly complex and perfectly balanced. A warning. If you haven't been to the dentist in a while, you may wish to get any pesky cavities filled before sipping this because it'll have your teeth screaming with pleasure and pain.
Riverby Estate Marlborough Noble Riesling 2019 375ml ($34) 5 stars
It's easy to see how this wine scooped a gold medal at the NZ International Wine Show, (New Zealand's biggest annual wine show) because it is so irresistibly unctuous and toffee-centric. Carrying concentrated mandarin, caramelised apricot and gorgeous honeyed flavours, it's just a joy to sip.
te Pā Noble Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017 375ml ($35*) 5 stars
With an indulgent sweetness and a lovely line of fresh acidity, this gloriously golden, gum-numbingly gorgeous Noble sauvignon blanc is a luscious treat and a masterclass in winemaking. With its golden yellow colour, tantalising tropical aromas of honeycomb, tropical fruits, and pineapple and sexy stonefruit, citrus and fig-centric flavours, it's a stand out. Beautifully balanced, it's a rich and viscous dessert wine.
* Normally available solely via 6pk, te Pā are offering a limited edition 2pk box for our readers at https://www.tepawines.com/products/te-pa-sauvignon-blanc-noble-two-pack
BEST WINE YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF
Manz Dona Fatima Cheleiros Jampal 2019 ($39) 5 stars
Ever tried wine made from jampal grapes? No? I'm not surprised. It's grown solely on the west coast of Portugal, where a few ancient vines were recently rescued from near extinction. Dona Fatima is now the only jampal wine in the world - and it's the most delicious thing. Perfumed with mandarin and nashi notes that cross paths with creamy cashew characters and softly prickly textures, it also boasts a lift of lemon blossom and buttered toast to finish. Mindblowing.
Bodegas Rafael Palacios Louro Valdeorras Godello 2019 ($45) 5 stars
Well, hello godello (or should I say hey-yo go-day-yo") to one of the most delicious things I've ever sipped. I'm completely obsessed with its luscious lift of winter cole pear, guava, green apple, and peach complexity, and it's so clean, fresh and energetic that it's almost electric to drink. Sourced from some of the oldest godello vines in Spain and containing a teensy 8 per cent splash of treixadura (drayce-a-jura), it's luxuriously textural, long on flavour, and lovely with seafood and chorizo soup.
BEST UNDER $20 BARGAIN RED
Esk Valley Hawke's Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2019 ($19) 5 stars
That this wine is priced at under $20 is one thing, but being included in the prestigious Gimblett Gravels Annual Vintage Selection Top 12 and receiving scores of 95 out of 100 is just crazy talk. Until you taste it. Staggeringly aromatic and bursting with boysenberry, dark cocoa, bay leaf, pepper, damson plum and liquorice layers, on the palate it's perky and perfectly balanced, with elastic, plump tannins and marathon-like length of flavour. If my last message to humanity is, "Buy this wine," then I'm at peace with that.
BEST UNDER $20 BARGAIN WHITE
Stoneleigh Latitude Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2020 ($18) 5 stars
Grown in Marlborough's Rapaura Road "Golden Mile" of grapes, this wine is a rib-rattler of a sauvignon in the flavour stakes. A quarter of the blend was fermented in seasoned oak cuves, to inject complexity, weight and texture to its heavingly herbaceous backbone. Energetic, tropical, punchy and pungently fruity, it's a gum-gripper that won't let go in a hurry.
BEST TREASURES FOR THE CELLAR REDS
Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Le Sol 2019 ($150) 5 stars
This year marks two decades since the very first Le Sol syrah was produced and since then it's only been released when the fruit is faultless and every vintage has a skite sheet stacked with accolades from across the globe. The 2019 is next-level. The Le Sol style is one of purity and power, delicacy and decisiveness, with violets and blueberries dusted with pepper and graphite. The tannins are svelte and suede-like and it just dances across the tongue. It'll only become more sublime over the coming decade.
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Prison Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 $120 (5 stars)
Deep, dark, intensely fruity, spicy, toasty, earthy, cocoa-crammed and leathery, it's a lovely, muscular crafted from grapes grown beside the Ngaruroro River on a stony site once destined to be a correctional facility. This 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon absolutely screams tobacco, dark plum, bouquet garni herbs and bitter chocolate, it unveils sexily in the glass and has immense palate structure from its firm tannins. Young sure, but shows will become a titan in the cellar.
Mudbrick Reserve Waiheke Island Merlot Petit Verdot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2020 ($75) 5 stars
Glossy and gorgeous in the glass its powerful perfume and palate absolutely heaves with dark plum and cherry concentration. Powerfully structured, it's a fleshy red with a rich, spice-saturated core and incredible persistence of flavour. It's simply unputdownable. Stylish and supple and if this is how good it tastes now, it's staggering to think where it can go.
Cloudy Bay Te Wahi Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017 ($115) 5 stars
A few years back, Marlborough icon Cloudy Bay acquired two of Central Otago's finest pinot vineyards, Northburn Station on the road to Bendigo and the famous Calvert site, in Bannockburn to fulfil their pinot noir dreams. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and matured for a year in 30 per cent new French oak barrels, it's a powerful, softly seductive pinot with huge cellaring potential.
BEST TREASURES FOR THE CELLAR WHITES
Pegasus Bay Bel Canto North Canterbury Dry Riesling 2020 ($40) 5 stars
Grown on the Glasnevin gravels in the lee of the Teviotdale Range, Pegasus Bay's riesling vines are more than 30-years-old now and each year they strap in to help the Donaldson family create one of New Zealand's most age-worthy wines. Named after matriarch Christine Donaldson and her superlative singing skills, this wine erupts with orange zest, honeysuckle, layers of lime and quartzy minerality resulting in a dry, lip-smacking finish.
MatawheroWines Irwin Gisborne Chardonnay 2018 ($59.95) 5 stars
It's hard to know where to actually start describing how delicious this wine is. The sounds that fell out of my mouth while taking those first sips were a vocal hybrid of "oh wow", "far out" and "sweet lord", all while trying not to dribble down my skivvy. Questionable fashion choices aside, if you love chardonnay, then you need to taste this wine. With grapefruity, peachy intensity, caramelised oak and beautifully integrated nutty, creamy layers, it's a powerfully flavoursome wine with huge ageing potential.
The Elder Martinborough Pinot Gris 2019 ($42) 5 stars
Sourced from Mike and Margaret Hanson's vineyard in Martinborough and grown on the old terraces of the Ruakokoputuna River, this is clean, precise and fabulously focussed pinot gris is packed with poached pear, punchy ripe peach, and fresh fig fragrances. It also carries a crisp, dry, delicately structured scaffold that leads to mouth-filling and spicy textures to finish.
BEST "BECAUSE YOU'RE AMAZING" WINE
No.1 Family Estate No.1 Marlborough Reserve Blanc de Blancs NV ($96) 5 stars
You're probably familiar with the No.1 Cuvee from the Le Bruns, New Zealand's First Family of Fizz. However, you may not know that each year, a tiny amount of this is tucked aside for some extended sleepy-time in their cool, dark cellars. There they quietly develop into a beautiful, brioche and biscuit-scented sparkler, laced with soft lemon, apple and cashew characters. It's this extra ageing that gives it the "Reserve" status. Supremely elegant, richly structured and each bottle is individually hand-numbered and hand-labelled.
* The winemakers who chose to advertise in this feature had no input into the independent judging process.