Babich Irongate Vertical Tasting | Glengarry Hutt Road

If there was ever a living icon in the wine industry, the title would surely have to go to Joe Babich. Joe joined the family business in 1958 and has achieved much over his career – he was awarded Winemaker of the Year in1994 and in 2014 both Peter and Joe were awarded the Sir George Fistonich Medal in recognition for services to the New Zealand wine industry. Babich is still a family-run company and are currently celebrating their 100th year anniversary. To celebrate this achievement Babich have been running a number of tastings with us, including the Irongate vertical tasting we had here at Hutt Road with Joe.

Irongate Chardonnay has been produced from the Gimblett Gravels since 1985 and for this tasting Joe decided to treat us to four vintages of this fabulous wine. It was extremely interesting to see the development of this wine over several vintages. The 2002, although still an elegant wine, was starting to show signs of attenuation; the 2008 was my favourite – this was pungent and rich and had a fabulous silken texture; the 2011 was more restrained but had beautiful balance and incredible length. The current vintage, 2014, was also elegant but a little more closed and tight; this is a wine to put away for a short time (3-5 years) and will reward handsomely.

Following on from the Chardonnay we did four Irongate Reds. These wines are composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc – the Cabernet content stays pretty much the same but the Merlot and Franc varies slightly depending on vintage. For this tasting we went from the youngest wine to the oldest wine. The first off the starting block was the 2014 and what a little charmer this wine was – lifted florals and mulberry on the nose, the palate was voluptuous and rich, it had a lovely sweetness, and deserved some time to rest before consuming. Following the 2014 we had the 2013; another stunning vintage from the region. This was every bit as good as the 2014 but surprisingly different in character – it had deep rich black fruits and was a little more closed at this stage in its life. The 2008 was drinking well right now! It was dark and showed dried fruits and spices, and finely integrated tannins. The 1990 was a treat and was older than three of our staff members that attended the tasting! It had a very old nose and was the a bricky colour, but remarkably the wine was holding incredibly well and had excellent length. It was more on the savoury side now as most of the obvious fruit had fallen away but it still retained a freshness and its life was by no means over.

The tasting was an absolute treat and it was an honour to meet Joe Babich, a man that has contributed so much to the New Zealand wine industry. Here’s to the next 100 years!

Posted by Meredith Parkin | Fine Wine Account Manager, Glengarry Hutt Road, Wellington.

Trinity Hill | Homage 2014 – with John Hancock

Trinity Hill is an iconic New Zealand winery, the idea for which was formed in London in 1987. John Hancock was meeting in the restaurant Bleeding Heart, owned by Robert and Robyn Wilson. Over a bottle of John’s Morton Estate Chardonnay, the Wilson’s expressed their desire to produce their own world-class wines in the Hawkes Bay. John had already recognised the outstanding potential of the Gimblett Gravels district, and they began planting in 1993 on the barren former bed of the Ngaruroro River. Since those early days, this sub-region has become one of the most expensive and important wine growing areas in the country. We were lucky to have John himself here this week to talk us through that history, and taste their Black Label Gimblett Gravels wines from the 2014 vintage.

 The highlight of the evening was the two vintages of their flagship wine ‘Homage’. The 2014 has only just been bottled and will not be released until the end of the year. This was a real treat to be able to taste these two outstanding years side by side now. Homage was first produced in 2002, and is named as a tribute to the late Gerard Jaboulet of Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aine in France’s Rhone Valley. They produced one of the world’s greatest Syrah in the form of the famous ‘La Chapelle’ Hermitage. Gerard was also a great friend of Robert and Robyn Wilson and had hosted many legendary dinners at the Bleeding Heart. John Hancock also worked alongside Gerard at Jaboulet’s cellars during the 1996 harvest, and when he left was presented with cuttings of Syrah from the La Chapelle vineyard, and Viognier from Les Jumelles in Cote Rotie. It was these cuttings that formed the basis of the plantings that now make up Homage.

2013 and 2014 are arguably the finest back to back vintages Hawkes Bay has ever seen. I haven’t tried the 2013 since last year and it is now looking much more integrated, while the 2014 is still trying to find its feet. If you prefer rich opulence, then the 2014 is the wine for you; the 2013 is a little darker and harder in character, but both are outstanding wines. Unlike some of the other ‘super premium’ Hawkes Bay Syrah, I find Homage less polished and refined on release, it just takes a lot more time to settle down into itself. This is a wine that demands at least 10 years of cellaring to really show what’s it’s made of. It’s more brutish, edgier and has tons of character. A few years back John and I also hosted a tasting where we compared 4 vintages of ‘Homage’ directly with ‘La Chapelle’ and La Petite Chapelle and they really do have a very similar character. Time and vine age will only serve to improve what Trinity Hill is producing down there. I’ve got a number of bottles in my own cellar, and so should you.

The wines tasted were:

Gimblett Gravels Marsanne / Viognier 2014, Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay 2014, Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2014, Gimblett Gravels ‘The Gimblett’ 2014 (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc), Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2014, Homage 2014 (Pre Release), Homage 2013.

Posted by Regan McCaffery | Fine Wine Account Manager, Glengarry Wines Victoria Park, Auckland

Grant Burge of Barossa Valley – Glengarry Tasting Review by Regan McCaffery

Grant Burge is one of the Barossa Valley’s most respected producers. The Burge family’s winemaking history in the region can be traced back to 1855, when tailor John Burge, immigrated from England to the Barossa. John worked as a winemaker at Hillside Vineyards and his love of viticulture was passed onto his son Meshach, who continued the tradition making his first wine in 1865. This week we were privileged to have chief winemaker Craig Stansborough here with some of their premium range. He has just completed his 23rd vintage with the company, after Grant Burge himself offered him the job of cellar manager in 1993.

Grant Burge Cellar Door – Barossa Valley, South Australia

It’s been many years since Grant Burge had hosted an event in New Zealand, and it was extremely pleasing to see such high quality displayed across the entire range. These are also some of the best value wines I’ve tried in some time. Extremely affordable but with the capacity for good medium to long term cellaring. I was especially impressed with the pure expression of Cabernet displayed in the Cameron Vale 2013 for around $20. If you wanted something a little more mature then it was well worth stepping up to the 2010 Corryton Park, one of the highest and coolest sites in the entire Barossa. The Cabernets suit French Oak whereas the Filsell Old Vine Shiraz has a combination of French and American Oak. This wine is where Grant Burge originally made their mark in this country, and the 2013 vintage would make another great addition to a budding wine cellar. Craig commented that over time they have gradually been reducing the % of American Oak across the entire range, if you remember the wines from a decade or more ago.. these are very different.

Craig also hosted an event down at our Hutt Road store in Wellington and Meredith summed up the wines nicely.  “Looking back at my tasting notes, the words elegant and refined kept cropping up. They were also not overtly ‘Australian’ in the old sense which was very refreshing. The overwhelming impression in each of them was clearly one of great balance, and that’s what we are looking for in all of the great wines of the world. It’s a sense of harmony, where all the elements of fruit, tannin and acidity come together.”

The finest wine of the night was their icon Meschach Shiraz 2009, a great demonstrating of beautiful balanced power. Most of the fruit for this comes from small parcels around 100 years old that bring great intensity, but Craig explained that when they are tasting the lots, it is balance not concentration that is their primary concern. We double decanted this about 5 hours prior to the tasting and it really is showing well right now with beautiful complexity and great length. 2 days later it hasn’t skipped a beat, which match Craig assertion that it easily has 20 years ahead of it. For a wine that is acknowledged as one of Australia’s greatest Shiraz, it’s also great value at under $150.

The wines tasted in the night were: PinotNoir/Chardonnay Methode NV, Filsell Shiraz 2013, Distinction Balthasar Shiraz 2013, Cameron Cale Cabernet 2013 Distinction Corryton Cabernet 2013, Holy Trinity GSM 2012, Meshach Shiraz 2009, 10yr Tawny, 20yr tawny.

 

International Wine Challenge 2016 – what an experience

Last month I had a wonderful experience judging at the International Wine Challenge in London. Over two very intense days I tasted a large variety of wines from all around the world. Met fantastic people, caught up with old friends, made new ones and had many a laugh.

Liz with her IWC Team of Judges – London

One of those experiences that you walk away from thinking, this is why I work in this industry, the wine and the people. The calibre of the judges at the International Wine Challenge is quite something, The Chairmen for the competition – Tim Atkin MW, Oz Clarke, Sam Harrop MW, Peter McCombie MW, and Charles Metcalfe, whose morning pep talks are reason enough to want to judge at this competition.

I made the wise decision (not really a choice, it was just how my timing worked) to judge in the second week, what is called Round Two. This meant that we were looking at wines that had already been reviewed and the ones remaining were in contention for medals. The process of judging involves a team of generally 4 people, made up of a Panel Chair, a senior judge and two others. You taste the wines as they are presented to you, all blind and organised into types. So you’ll get a set of New Zealand Chardonnay for example, or in a whole flight of Vinho Verde, the variety is extraordinary; it is the International Wine Challenge after all. All the judges taste independently and then read out their scores which are collated and the discussion begins. After the panel decides the medals (or not) to award to the line up in front of them, the wines are re-tasted by the esteemed Chairmen noted above to verify the results. As you taste, the room is filled with the vibe of Tim Atkin’s music choice and the ever increasing volume of chatter from around 80 judges a day tasting through the vast number of entries this competition attracts.

IWC Room of Judges - London
IWC Room of Judges – London

The process, as you can see from this brief account, is rigorous and thorough. To then see out of this come the extensive collection of New Zealand wines being awarded medals is a real testament to where we stand on the world stage with our wines and the overall quality. In total there were over 400 medals awarded to NZ wines this year.
So at the end of all of this judging I certainly did not feel at all like another glass of wine. I decided it a far better idea to taste my way through a series of London Gins, which went down very well indeed.

En Primeur 2015 – Over to the Right Bank

After two days of extensive tastings on the Left Bank, it was time to see what all the noise on the Right Bank was about. All very much warranted I must say. The overriding impression of the Right Bank wines is one of completeness. If you think back to the 2005 vintage – it was all about structure; the 2009 vintage – the wines were all about the impressive up front, ripe fruit; 2010 was about the freshness, drive and acidity. With the 2015 vintage, it’s not about identifying one thing; everything is there you see, in its correct place, the right amount and in the perfect way. It’s a vintage about balance, precise balance. What the challenge appeared to be in 2015 was to take the excellent fruit provided in the vintage and not make a mistake in the winery; fortunately very few have.
After a visit to the UGC tasting for Pomerol, the first stop of the day was Petrus. 100% Merlot and fortunately a normal size crop – 2013 was half the normal and 2014 was two thirds. The alcohol is high at 14.5%, though you certainly don’t notice it at all. A wonderful comment from the team at Petrus – ‘we make it to please the consumer, not to impress’. It’s not about power at all here, so exceptionally well balanced.
From there, a short distance, we visited at Château Lafleur; what a treat. All the wines brilliant, Lafleur itself stunning, There’s a clear story through this wine; first the fruit, then a ripe and creamy middle, fine tannins, velvety smooth finish that is so long it comes in the car with you to your next appointment.
And next up was Château Cheval Blanc. The tasting this year in their super modern new winery. Interestingly this year, there’s no Petit Cheval. Of the parcels that usually go into Petit Cheval, some did not make the quality of Petit Cheval and some were so good, they made Cheval Blanc, increasing the overall production of Cheval this year. We also had the opportunity here to taste Château d’Yquem. Another super sweet wine from the 2015 vintage.
The JP Moueix properties were next on the tasting line up. What a line up they were; not a good wine in there, all excellent, many exceptional. Château La Serre stands out this year, gorgeous and very appealing. A relatively new wine to the JPM stable, Clos Saint Martin was a super surprise. Located near Château Angelus and surrounded by top properties, each taste of this left me wanting more. A tiny production unfortunately, a mere 250 cases in total. Château Latour a Pomerol, Certan de May, Lafleur Pétrus and Trotanoy are all exceptional this year, top wines from these very good Chateau. For me, Lafleur Pétrus my standout today.
Two more tastings to complete the day: the UGC for Saint-Émilion, where Clos Fourtet and Pavie- Macquin were excellent; then a charming visit to Château Beau Séjour Bécot where we were hosted by Julien Berthe.
Three very full days of Bordeaux tastings completed and, yes, it’ll be Bordeaux for dinner tonight. Trotanoy 1999 to be exact. A notebook full of tasting notes from a great vintage and plenty of good memories; this vintage was a delight to taste.

En Primeur 2015 – Another day meandering up and down the Médoc

Our second day of tasting took us back to the Left Bank and first up the UGC tasting at Gruaud Larose. Another strong set of wines, though St Julien, more than any of the other appellations, showed the most diversity in style. All the wines very valid, wonderful expressions, just different. Highlights were Château Gloria, a generous, fine and precise wine; Leoville Barton a firmer, stronger structured bold wine with perfect balance; Gruaud Larose with amazing length, balance and polish; Branaire Ducru opulent, exotic and structured.
Next up was the UGC tasting at Château Citran and the Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc and Moulis-en-Médoc. Overall the vintage was of excellent quality; there are plenty of wines from these areas that will represent very good value and make wonderful options for midterm cellaring; Château Fonréaud, Château Fourcas Dupré, Château Poujeaux and Château Cantermerle stood out, Château Tour Du By not far behind them.
Then it was on to Margaux; spoilt for choice here, so many great wines. I particularly enjoyed Château Giscours, Château Malescot St-Exupéry and Château Lascombes.
Château Margaux was a visit of mixed emotion. Paul Pontallier sadly passed away recently, the Margaux team putting on a very brave face. Château Margaux 2015 is exceptional, so much to say about this great wine; as is always the case with Margaux, it’s not about the power. The sensational quality of this wine creeps up on you; it is expansive and, just when you thought you’d experienced it all, the acidity is like the accelerator is pushed to the ground, driving the exceptionally long finish. The tannins can’t go without mention; so ripe at first you barely notice them, then you note that the concentration of the fruit is held together with something.
Onto the glorious Château Pichon Baron, where we were treated to all of their properties: Château Pibran, Château Petit Village, Château Pichon Baron of course and Suduiraut. All very good, Tourelles de Longueville is excellent this year and this, now the third tasting of Suduiraut for us, confirmed yet again that it has to be one of, if not, the sweet wine of the vintage.
Last Château for the day was at the top of the Médoc in St-Estèphe, Cos d’Estournel. The weather conditions during 2015, particularly the heat in July, was a little too much for some of the vineyard sites at Cos; this resulted in severe selection and a reduction in the production this year. Les Pagodes de Cos benefited from this, receiving this year some of the Merlot that did not make it into Cos. Cos itself is very good; a different style of Cos, less forward and structured than in previous years, it’s a good change.
The final act for the day was the Ban du Millésime – the celebration of the vintage. A super dinner in the centre of Bordeaux; a great opportunity and excuse to drink older Bordeaux, including for us a 1983 Lafite, a nice way to finish the day. Liz Wheadon | Bordeaux, France.

En Primeur 2015 – time to taste first hand and see what it’s like.

En Primeur Day One: Today we were on the Left Bank, starting the day bright and early at Mouton Rothschild. A good place to start, which also gave a very quick impression that was cemented as the day went on. This is a vintage that shows appellation clearly and, more so, the individual Château style. In vintages like 2009, you didn’t see this so much; in 2015, D’Armailhac, Clerc Milon, Le Petit Mouton and Mouton were four very distinctive, individual wines. D’Armailhac the bright lively one with vibrant acidity; Clerc Milon all about its juicy core of fruit; Le Petit Mouton dense dark and brooding, showing a glimpse of what the excellent Mouton is all about.

It was a morning of firsts; next up was Lafite, followed by Latour. At Lafite we looked at Duhart Milon, Carruades and Lafite. Latour was fascinating; not only did we taste the 2015 of all three wines, but also the wines just released: Pauillac 2010, Les Forts de Latour 2009 and Latour 2000 – we’ll have an offer on the second two mid-month. The Les Forts de Latour was my wine of the day for – ‘I’ll have a glass, or two, tonight please’. Superb age to be drinking this.

Pontet-Canet is once again looking very smart. Situated very much right beside Mouton, down the road from Lafite, yet, when you taste the wines, it’s striking how very different these wines are. Whether it’s the site, the biodynamics, the eggs, or something else, there’s no mistaking these wines for Pontet-Canet and once again the Tesseron duo have pulled something quite exceptional together.

The two vineyards, looking at each other across the road just south of Pauillac, Pichon Lalande and Pichon Baron were both excellent today. Always interesting, which one has the edge, I’d say today, Lalande just slightly.

Palmer. Simply brilliant. Both Alter Ego and Palmer 2015 are some of the best wines from the property. Palmer would have to be one of the wines of the day. Palmer was the only winery we tasted in Margaux, so further assessment is required after tomorrow’s tastings. 

Montrose was very smart indeed; 67% Cabernet this year, it had such intensity, vibrancy and drive. Following this tasting, I tasted at the Union de Grand Cru tasting, seeing a wide range of St Estephe and Pauillac.

The second to last visit for the day was to Château La Lagune where the Sauternes and Barsac producers gather to show their 2015 wines at a UGC tasting. This is a very good vintage for sweet wines, the standouts, Suduiraut and Coutet.

Finally, a visit to one of our Negociants offices, where a wide selection of 2015 and older wines were available. This gave the first opportunity to look at Bordeaux Blanc 2015 – what a sensational vintage for white. Château Pape Clement Blanc and Château Brown Blanc both exceptional. We also tasted the reds from Pessac Léognan at this tasting, a strong appellation for 2015.

As you can tell from the sheer number of superlatives gracing this page, this is a very good vintage, the wines are a lot of fun to taste and a treat.

Glengarry has been selling En Primeur for more than 25 years, with established connections and long term relationships. Visit www.enprimeur.co.nz or www.glengarry.co.nz for more details.

En Primeur – Bordeaux Futures

En Primeur is a process for acquiring arguably the best wines in the World at smart prices and in the format that you prefer. Essentially it is wine futures, similar to the way that coffee, cotton and other items are traded on international commodity futures markets.

The process can be traced back for centuries but only recently did it reach the popularity that it has today. It was in 1972 when Chateaux bottling became compulsory for Classified Growths that En Primeur in its current form was born. Prior to this, the Chateaux in Bordeaux would sell their wine in bulk or in barrels to a wine merchant. The wine was then bottled by each merchant at their offices in Chartrons.

The famous barrel hall at Chateau Mouton-Rothschild

The benefit of purchasing Bordeaux En Primeur is three fold. Firstly, in most cases the price that you purchase the wine at En Primeur is significantly less than the wine will be on the retail shelf two years later (that’s if it appears at all). Secondly, there’s the availability; many of the wines will only be available En Primeur and won’t make it on to New Zealand Retail shelves. And third is the bottling. Purchasing En Primeur you have the option to choose how you’d like your wine bottled, whether it is half bottles, standard bottles or even up to 6 litres.
The process of En Primeur essentially works like this (looking at the 2015 Vintage in Bordeaux as an example)

Whilst the 2015 Vintage wines are in barrel in Bordeaux

  • The Chateaux invite the international press to taste and review the young wines in April 2016
  • The Chateaux in Bordeaux offer their 2015 vintage wines to a Merchant (via a Courtier) around April – July 2016
  • The Merchants offer their wines to Retailers / Importers the world around April – July 2016
  • The Retailers then offer the wines to consumers around May – July 2016
  • Customers secure their requests for wines En Primeur with their retailer around September 2016

Then around August 2018 the wines arrive in New Zealand

What’s the 2015 vintage like?

Whilst the vintage is complete, the wines safely resting in barrel, it is a little too early to give a complete overview of the vintage. By the time you are reading this though I will be in Bordeaux putting in the hard yards to try a large selection of the 2015 wines and then be able to report back in detail. You’ll be able to follow this on our En Primeur website www.enprimeur.co.nz, or follow me on twitter – @lizziewine. From the reports out to date, the growing season for the 2015 wines was excellent; hot in July, the right amount of moisture in August and then dry in September. The average temperatures and sunshine hours, some of the highest in ever, even higher than the great vintages of 1921 and 1947. In relation to recent years, the 2015 vintage is being compared to the 2009, 2010, 2005 and 2000 vintages.

Are there any catches? Things you need to watch out for?

Definitely. There have been horror stories internationally with En Primeur Purchasing, particularly through times of recession. It’s very important that the retailer you are purchasing from has a strong financial position (the wine is going to be delivered 2 years after you request your wines and pay your first payment). You need to discuss with the retailer and ensure they are purchasing from reputable Merchants, that are secure. Unfortunately, as interest in the top wines of Bordeaux continues to grow, demand exceeds supply and new international markets have emerged, leading to a lot of rogue operators at all ends of the operation.
Glengarry has been selling En Primeur for more than 25 years, with established connections and long term relationships. Visit www.enprimeur.co.nz or www.glengarry.co.nz for more details.

 

Bordeaux 101

 

Bordeaux (Map from Wine Folly)

 

Southern France’s aristocratic and intriguing Bordeaux is arguably the centre of the vinous universe when it comes to the great wines of the world. At first glance, it can appear somewhat confusing, so let’s start with a few key tips that’ll make you into an expert in no time at all.

There are five red grape varieties in Bordeaux: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. The white wines of Bordeaux are made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes, and unlike most New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, they are aged in oak. Bordeaux’ sweet wines are fashioned from the same grape varieties as the white wines, and are some of the finest in the world.

The Bordeaux region is divided into two parts: the left (western) bank of the river Garonne and north of the city, and the right (eastern) bank of the river and south of the city. Wines made on the left bank are predominantly Cabernet-based, while those on the right favour Merlot.  While the labels don’t show you the varieties, on the right bank, or Merlot side, there are only two villages, Saint-Émilion and Pomerol, meaning everything else is on the left side and Cabernet-based. Well-known villages on the left bank include Margaux, Saint-Estèphe and Pauillac. So with a general understanding of the varieties, the banks and the villages, the next step is the vintages.

The top producers make outstanding wines year in, year out, with the great vintages requiring a good portion of your lifetime in the cellar. The tougher vintages are usually earlier drinking. We have been blessed with a number of outstanding vintages on our shelves of late. In the trade, 2009 was unanimously referred to as the greatest vintage ever. While that’s a big call, the 2009 wines have no difficulty in pulling themselves up to those lofty heights, and the vintage delivered from the very top down to the entry-level.  2010 then came along, and the Bordelaise again declared it one of the region’s greatest vintages, making the 2009 and 2010 pairing one of the finest on record. 2010, like 2009, had no trouble living up to its reputation. The 2009 is the more opulent of the pair, with 2010 displaying more acidity, drive and lift to the wines. Both are exceptional.

2011, then, was always going to have big shoes to fill. The weather was not quite as kind, though still very good. The important difference with the 2011 wines is that they don’t require the same amount of time to develop in the bottle; the wines are instantly approachable, floral and generally rather attractive. Given a market well stocked with the 2009 and 2010 wines by the time the 2012 came along, as with the 2011, it was always going to be a tough act to follow. The 2012 wines are round and generous, not as fragrant as the 2011 and with a little more structure. 2013 is one of those vintages we prefer not to talk about: challenging, to say the least. While those producers with the spare-no-expense resources will have, nonetheless, once again delivered, the consistency is not there over the whole spectrum of Bordeaux’ wines. Happily, 2014 was a breath of fresh air and rather gorgeous; while perhaps no 2009 or 2010, it’s not all that far off.

Quality in Bordeaux was first defined with a classification system requested by a cousin of Napolean III for the 1855 Exposition Universelle, an early World’s Fair held in Paris. The wines were ranked from first growth through to fifth growth, dependent on their quality and market price at the time. This classification focused on the left bank, or the Cabernet-based wines. This classification still stands, with just three changes since 1855, the most significant being the elevation of Château Mouton Rothschild from second growth to first growth in 1973.

Change for the better or for the sake of change?

An interesting thought and one that I’ve been pondering of late. When you consider that there are many different reasons we choose one wine over another, it seems that many producers are perhaps missing a trick. There’s been quite a shift in the last 12-18 months in the style of many New Zealand wines, particularly Chardonnay. Reviewing the sales of many favourites that have changed their main labels, it does seem that many consumers are no longer continuing to call the wines they have consistently followed, year in year, out their favourites.

Whilst in Marlborough for the Sauvignon Blanc Celebration there was indeed much conversation about style. Where do you sit on the use of oak, new oak, old oak, different sized barrels, for fermentation, for ageing? The use of sulphides for complexity, the balance, the amount and how they are formed. There’s then lees stirring, blending of Sauvignon and Semillon, hand harvesting, machine harvesting, canopy management and that’s all before we get to the strains of yeast used and clones.

This led me to think, is consistency of style so important that it challenges change and holds back innovation? Or is it that consistency is important at different levels of the market? It was suggested by many of the international speakers that Sauvignon Blanc consumers are not in fact brand loyal and, particularly with the Millennials, they like to experiment and try new labels.

I think that it’s true that innovation and experimentation is required, without it, we’d not be where we are today. Particularly given how young the New Zealand Wine Industry is, we do need to continue to change and test the waters. There’s no room to think that those around us on a global market are not doing the same thing; a recent blind tasting of a clean, fresh, fruit driven Pinotage that looked nothing like a South African wine and a Chilean Sauvignon that I could have sworn was an Awatere Sauvignon assured me of that. So if change is good, what is it that we are missing?

Communication.

I recently asked some of the team, who were bemoaning style changes of their ‘go to’ wines, what a producer was to do if they wanted to innovate, improve, change? The answer: sure, go for it, just do it under another label. Thinking through the practicality of this and the potential for the range of wines on offer to extend exponentially, if every time a winemaker thought of a new style it meant a new label, it came to me; it’s not about that at all, it is quite simply about communication. Tell the story about the change to the distributor, retailer and consumer; put it on the back label, open bottles in store, just don’t make it a surprise to all.