Some quality Australian and New Zealand wines to watch out for this week

I suppose I had better just come out and admit it, I’m not a big fan of sauvignon blanc.

Despite the enormous popularity of the grape variety this is actually quite a common bias among wine journalists — almost as common as the bias against chardonnay is among consumers.

However, unlike many consumers I meet who never (knowingly) drink chardonnay I would never claim to dislike all sauvignon. 

I’m quite a fan of Springfield Estate Life From Stone sauvignon (South Africa) and I like the better versions from the Loire — Pouilly Fumé, Sancerre, etc.

From Chile I like the simpler styles but am less of a fan of the herbal over-ripe versions that often smell of asparagus (I consider this a wine fault although some would disagree).

As for New Zealand I tend to look for subtlety and while this is not always easy to find, the standard of winemaking is so high that I actually look forward to the New Zealand wine fair every January, despite the fact that I will have to taste at least 30 sauvignons.

Clyde Sowman of Walnut Block in New Zealand was in Ireland recently and he is the kind of New Zealand producer I like. 

He and his brother Nigel farm their 17 hectares fully organically and make fresh clean wines — best of all they sell them at a fair price.

Only 5% of New Zealand’s vineyards are organic which is a surprisingly small number given how suited the country is to organic farming (according to Sowman).

“Organic growing gives us better quality grapes with more depth of flavour and less aggressive acidity,” he said. 

Sowman adopts the French approach where “the wine is made in the vineyard, not in the winery”. 

This philosophy also gets a vote of approval from me.

I didn’t have room below for its stony green apple scented, restrained and layered 2013 single vineyard sauvignon blanc which was a favourite on the night but it is worth seeking out.

Quality from New Zealand is difficult to find under €15 but it is available — watch for supermarket specials and head to www.curiouswines.ie

which has a sale on Australian and New Zealand wine until the end of the month.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Treasures McLaren Vale Shiraz 2012, Australia — €13.59 (was €16)

Some quality Australian and New Zealand wines to watch out for this week

Stockists: Curious Wines Cork and Naas www.curiouswines.ie 

McLaren Vale is around 40km from Adelaide and is always a good source of rich wines, especially grenache, shiraz and mourvèdre. 

Rich chocolate, mint and smoke-scented wine with blackberries and soft dark fruit flavours and a touch of tar on the palate. Rich and mouth-filling, this is on special offer this month while stocks last.

Caldora Chardonnay Terre di Chieti IGP, Abruzzo, Italy — €13.60

Some quality Australian and New Zealand wines to watch out for this week

Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Karwig Wines www.karwigwines.ie 

From a co-op based in the coastal region of Ortona-Chieti on the Adriatic in Abruzzo in central Italy, this is a classic Italian take on chardonnay made with no oak and a lightness of touch. 

Pale straw colour with fine pear and sweet apple aromas and tropical hints, fresh and light but with some softness on the middle palate and a crisp finish.

Domaine de Chatenoy Menetou-Salon 2012, Loire, France — €15

Some quality Australian and New Zealand wines to watch out for this week

Stockist: O’Donovans

Menetou-Salon could be seen as a poor-man’s sancerre with similar limestone soil and grape varieties. Mineral and stony on the nose with restrained green apple fruit and a dry crisp palate and finish. 

This is fairly benchmark sauvignon for the Loire and an interesting contrast to the average New Zealand version.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Walnut Block Collectables Pinot Noir 2014, New Zealand — €21.95

Some quality Australian and New Zealand wines to watch out for this week

Stockists: Ardkeen Stores, No. 21 Midleton, Searsons, www.searsons.com 

The collectables series from Walnut Block features a 19th century stamp on the label commemorating New Zealand’s oldest walnut tree on the family estate. 

Carefully handled and de-stemmed before pressing this has earthy and red fruit aromas, textured and supple on the palate but with restraint and not a little elegance (13.5%).

Walnut Block Collectables Sauvignon Blanc 2015, New Zealand — €16.95

Some quality Australian and New Zealand wines to watch out for this week

Stockists: Ardkeen Stores, No. 21 Midleton, Searsons, www.searsons.com 

Picked at night to preserve acidity and stainless steel fermented at cool temperatures for maximum effect. 

This has lively green fruit aromas — kiwi, gooseberry and a touch of under-ripe pineapple, tastes fresh on the palate with (thankfully) no herbal or asparagus flavours just pristine fresh fruit.

Walnut Block Nutcracker Pinot Noir 2013, Marlborough New Zealand — €32

Some quality Australian and New Zealand wines to watch out for this week

Stockists: Ardkeen Stores, No. 21 Midleton, Searsons, www.searsons.com 

The grapes for the Nutcracker are from Burgundy clones and organically grown. Grapes are hand picked and chilled overnight to preserve delicacy and ensure balanced flavours before being fermented on wild yeasts and aged in French barriques. 

Dense and rich, full ripe red cherry and raspberry fruits, silky and lingering with good density and concentration.


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