Introducing Smith & Sheth

We are very excited to be the first in New Zealand to present the stunning Smith & Sheth wines.

You are likely to recognise the first name, Steve Smith MW who was instrumental in founding Craggy Range Winery. He has now left there to pursue other ventures in collaboration with Brian Sheth. Together they have made a number of high profile vineyard purchases recently, but these are the special CRU wines from their personal project.

The idea behind the CRU collection is for Smith & Sheth to work as contemporary negociants, using their over 35 years of experience with the best growers in the country.

Steadfast relationships with the land, growers and makers who form the DNA of the CRU.

Exceptional vineyard parcels from around New Zealand have been hand selected and nurtured. Each wine has the Maori designation that relates to its whenua (land) origins.  The beautiful labels have a unique design embossed within that represent the genomes sequence of the grape varieties we are working with. This is the DNA that is natural to the vine and vineyard ecosystem, that is reflected in each and every wine they make. These are wines of real class and pedigree, exceptional offerings from their respective sub regions.

This is the first time these wines have been offered to the public, with the first showing yesterday at Didas Wine Lounge. They are produced in extremely small quantities. The names Steve Smith and Brian Sheth are the assurance of a wine that will share the inordinate pleasure, culture and craft of their passion. Be the first in the country to get your hand on these special offerings.

Watch  Steve Smith MW present the new label here:

Watch our ‘Quick Fire Five’ interview with Steve Smith MW here:

St Nesbit Vertical Tasting

On Tuesday night we were very privileged to host Dr Tony Molloy QC, and his son Sam for a spectacular vertical tasting of St Nesbit, one of New Zealand’s finest, and most interesting wines. The line-up spanned an impressive 11 vintages, from the inaugural 1984, through to the final 2011 vintage.

The vineyard was established in 1980 by Tony and his wife Petra, on 11 hectares of land on the Hingaia Peninsula. It lay in the shelter of the Drury Hills at Karaka about 30km south of Auckland City. Almost completed surrounded by an estuary of the Manukau Harbour and incredibly free draining, they originally found the site after a gilder pilot friend had said he couldn’t fly over due to the intense thermals.

The intention was to produce a Bordeaux style wine of a quality level well above anything seen in New Zealand at the time. Tony had no formal winemaking training, he was armed only with a 5000 page, multi volume winemaking guide in French, which he found in an old bookshop during a trip to Bordeaux.

Glengarry Wines St Nesbit Tasting

Right from the beginning they employed techniques unknown in New Zealand. Wide and short open topped fermenters that were cooled by bore water. Fermentation was entirely through indigenous yeasts. A wooden lattice grid was designed to keep the cap totally submerged, meaning no need to plunge the skins and reduced oxidation. Therefore he used no sulphur at all during the process, to the great surprise of other winemakers. An unheard of 100% new French Oak was employed, and extended time in barrel of 2-3yrs.  At the time they were the largest importer of new barrels in the country, with around 80 a year. Montana was the second biggest, with two barrels! This was at a time where most wineries were still using barrels that were brought over from Europe 40yrs prior.

They only made one wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend which Tony named after his late Grandfather, NZ cricket Captain Nesbit Sneddon.  As Tony explained, “In the canon law of the Catholic Church three miracles are required of a prospective saint. We got things a little back-to-front, in that we canonised Nesbit and then waited for the miracles to turn up by way of confirmation. They duly did as our first three vintages produced two gold medals plus the trophy for the top high-priced red wine at the Royal Easter Show.” Only around 3000 bottles were produced of each vintage, so it has always been a rare treat to come across one of these wines.

Glengarry Wines St Nesbit Tasting

The iconic label, with its picture of the family home, had its layout and typeface shamelessly stolen from Bordeaux Chateau Pontet-Canet. The classic design has stood the test of time and changed little over the years, something other NZ wineries should take note of. They also kept them back, not releasing a vintage until they felt it was starting to drink well.

We were lucky enough this evening to taste many of the wines from the original vineyard. 1984, 1987, 1989, 1990 and 1991. The 1984 and 1987 were both well past their peak but still enjoyable, and would be lovely with dinner if you like mature wines. 1989 had more fruit remaining, interestingly this vintage was Merlot dominant. The 1990 and 1991 were drinking very well. None of the older vintages fell over and were still looking very nice at the end of the night.

Glengarry Wines St Nesbit Tasting

Unfortunately at this time leaf roll virus had spread across the vineyards, and they were forced to remove them entirely. Deciding that Cabernet Sauvignon was not the right variety for the site, they took the opportunity to replant with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. These were low vigour rootstock and planted in very high densities. St Nesbit was in fact the first to import Petit Verdot into New Zealand, an extremely frustrating and time consuming process dealing with government departments.

After a decade long hiatus, the first vintage from the new vines was the fabulous 2002. This was 60% Merlot, 25% Petit Verdot and 15% Cabernet Franc. For me this wine is now drinking fantastically but will continue to hold. It shows all the elements that makes St Nesbit so special, Soft and elegant with warm savoury fruit, beautiful texture, lots of complexity, and even more character.

Glengarry Wines St Nesbit Tasting

We also tried the 2003 which was never released by the family, as they didn’t think the quality was high enough. Yet in one of the mysteries of wine, this came around in the bottle years later and is now looking very good.  The final vintages tasted were the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011. All were looking excellent, 2011 still needs plenty of time before I’d approach this for drinking at home. There is very little of the 2011 in the market as the family kept around half the production for their own future enjoyment.

They did make a 2010, which Sam described as being the greatest harvest they had ever seen. Having tasted it earlier this week, the wine is magnificent. With over three years in new oak it reminds me of a great Gran Riserva Rioja. It’s still a bit closed and the oak needs more time to integrate, so it will not be released until 2020 when it should really be hitting its stride. A fitting end to the St Nesbit story.

Glengarry Wines St Nesbit Tasting

Unfortunately urban sprawl had finally made its way to Karaka. For twenty five years the Molloy family were the third house from the motorway off ramp, now there are over 2000 in between. With neighbours who didn’t appreciate birdshot landing in their washing, and skyrocketing rates, it was unsustainable to continue. For those lucky enough to have vintages of St Nesbit in their cellars, these wines will thankfully continue to bring enjoyment for decades to come.

Bragato Wine Awards

Romeo Bragato, an Italian Viticulturalist and visionary, was based in Australia as the Victorian Government Viticulturalist between 1888 and 1901. Romeo then moved to New Zealand and was our Government Viticulturalist between 1902 and 1909. Romeo’s work included identifying grape varieties that suited NZ’s diverse climatic conditions, grafting phylloxera resistant root stocks, vineyard layout and many viticultural practices. The Bragato Wine Awards are named after this legendary viticulturalist and are one of the two shows owned and run by NZ Wine Growers, the other of course, the Air NZ Wine Awards.
The Bragato Wine Awards are unique in many ways, more so than ever this year with the move to all wines being from Single Vineyards. The judging for the Bragato Awards occurs in August each year. As such, this is one of the first competitions to see the new vintage releases; excellent to see the new 2017 vintage with four gold medals for very such young, new to market wines. There’s also no volume requirements for this show, thus it attracts those very small producers that just don’t have the volume for larger shows. The Bragato Wine Awards also award the results to the growers, those who grew the grapes to make the winning wine. In my opinion, all of this makes the Bragato Wine Awards a very special and important show for the NZ wine industry – celebrating single vineyards and the people who grow the grapes there, people and their place.

Bragato team 2017

For this year’s judging, the chairman of the show was once again Ben Glover. Ben has been instrumental in moving the Bragato Wine Awards to the single vineyard focus it has today, a direction I strongly believe in. Wine is after all an expression of the place it comes from, interpreted through winemaking.
This year’s competition attracted 506 Entries, 49 Gold medals were awarded and 14 trophies handed out, including this year, The Glengarry Trophy for Sparkling Wine. Each year an international judge assists to provide an international view on the wines, this year that was David Stevens-Castro, an excellent taster with a broad knowledge. The Senior Judges for 2017 were Rod Easthope, Francis Hutt, Jeremy McKenzie, James Millton, Helen Morrison, Simon Nunns, Barry Riwai and myself.
The results from this year’s judging are hot off the press and I must admit, I’m super proud to have played my small role in selecting these wines. What an exciting array of wines they are, all very much an expression of the single vineyard in which they were grown.
You’ll find many of the award-winning wines here on our website. www.glengarrywines.co.nz/bragato

Craft Farm by Ant Mackenzie

Recalling the numbers of years I have known Ant leaves me feeling very old indeed. Ant, like many a NZ Winery professional, started working for Sir George Fistonich; for Ant it was in Hawke’s Bay, at Vidal’s Winery. The years that followed saw Ant involved with many a well-known winery: Spy Valley, Framingham, Mud House, Dry River and Te Awa. The latter now ironically owned by Sir George; how things go in circles.

Whilst still with hands in many projects, Ant has his own range of wines now. In fact, there are three ranges in total: Craft Farm, Toño and Theory & Practice. Craft Farm is the name of Ant’s small vineyard in Havelock North. Relatively new vineyards, the vines were planted by family and friends over three consecutive years, starting in 2010. The viticulture is organically minded, there’s no irrigation and organic farming is practiced (though not certified). Ant has planted a mix of clones, whether that’s because that’s what he had access to or a conscious decision, to me it’s the right decision. A contentious issue for some; the analogy that springs to mind for me is milk production. Growing a harmonious crop for cattle does produce consistency in milk. Is that though what we are looking for in wine? Not in my book; an expression of the place, translated through a variety of clones, for me, produces a far better glass of wine, a Crafted Wine.

Ant’s Craft Farm Wines (with the other ranges too) are now being sold online by Glengarry. These wines are part of a new initiative from Glengarry that sees wineries being able to sell their wines through our website. A new approach that supports wineries in New Zealand, opens doors and gives the small producers a route to market.

The State of NZ Wines

Of all the wine shows out there, there are just two that are owned by NZ Winegrowers: the Air NZ Wine Awards and the lesser known little brother, the Bragato Wine Awards. Historically lost a little behind the Air NZ Wine Awards might (likely due to the exposure opportunities the $ of the sponsorship brings), the Bragato Wine Awards play an important role.

Named after Romeo Bragato, the New Zealand Government Viticulturist from 1902 – 1909, the Bragato Wine Awards champion Domain wines – where grapes are coming from owned vineyards and single vineyard sites. In addition, the lower minimum quantity requirement (than the Air NZ Awards) results in many smaller producers being able to enter. As the first show after new vintage releases start hitting the shelves, it’s also a good gauge of how the vintage is looking.

I had the opportunity to join the judging again this year, which took place in mid August. Great to be able to see such a wide variety of wines and judge with such a talented team. The results will be out by the time this is published and the award winning wines are well worth hunting out. The individual results are not what I wanted to share here, but more some observations I walked away with from the judging and the colourful discussion.

An absolute highlight was the Cabernet dominant class. We were blessed with the vintages on the table this year ‐ 2013, 2014 and 2015. It’s been widely reported that 13 and 14 are exceptionalvintages for Hawke’s Bay and Waiheke, being the two regions that Cabernet dominant wines love.

The 2015 vintage though showed exceptionally well and is right up there with the preceding vintages; something very rare indeed, three excellent vintages in a row. I am guilty of not having tasted a lot of NZ Cabernet of late, with my recent travels taking me to Bordeaux to taste new vintages there. I was super impressed with the overall quality, the results when out will highlight this further; do hunt out the award winners in store, they are well worth taking a look at.

The Pinot Noir category as you can imagine was large and diverse, the quality unmistakable; there’s a reason the rest of the world are standing up and taking notice. The very best of the Syrah flights were super and would leave many a Rhône producer speechless.

Within the White categories, Sauvignon Blanc (whilst not everyone’s favourite to judge, particularly at 8am) showed why NZ Sauvignon is such a distinctive and unique style. Pinot Gris was so much more consistent than I’ve seen it in the past, a clearer sense of a NZ Pinot Gris style emerging.
Chardonnay, as you would expect, created the most conversation amongst the judges, the differing faces of Chardonnay pushing boundaries, which I believe is a good thing.

All in all, two days of intense judging and it’s clear that the NZ Wine industry is in good shape. Do taste for yourself though; this month at Glengarry we take a regional road trip around NZ and explore this great country of ours.