WineFolio Christmas Cracker for 2020

New Zealand Christmas wine choices

Welcome to the second edition of the Winefolio ‘Christmas Cracker’ on the website – which is my suggestions of a dozen (or so) wines for your Christmas and New Year break. I tend to have a think back over the wines I’ve tasted this year and pick some that you consider for your Christmas table. A couple of rules – they should be from New Zealand (this being a NZ wine website), and they ought to be fairly easy to get hold of.

Sparkling Wine:

Affordable: No.1 Assemblage Methode Traditionelle. $32. Reviewed in September at 92pts –

Splurge: Quartz Reef Methode Traditionelle Late Disgorged 2010. $120. Not reviewed yet, but it was my favourite wine at Winetopia this year. Read about the winemaker, Rudi Bauer here –

No.1 Family estate
Alexia Happy Wife Chardonnay

White Wines:

If you’re looking for a Chardonnay, the best place to start could be the Trophy-winning wine of the year? Clearview Beachhead Chardonnay. $24. Reviewed in October at 92pts – Another affordable version would be the Alexia ‘Happy Wife’ Chardonnay 2018. $25. Fourth place in the Top 10 Tasting –

You’re spoilt for choice in what I will loosely call ‘other white’ varietals in 2020. The Falconhead Viognier at $12 is fabulous buying. A winery doing great things at the budget end of things is Mount Riley – winning numerous Golds at NZIWS, including their Gewurztraminer 2020. Look out for their 17 Valleys range too. 

A couple of rieslings to consider – the Tohu single vineyard range, called Whenua Awa has one from the Awatere Valley that is $24 –; and Bald Hills Central Otago ‘Last Light’ Riesling is under $30 and is a lovely bright summer wine:

Critical acclaim is in short supply for both Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, I find. But regular readers may well know that I’m a fan of both. The 2020 Esk Valley Pinot Gris is a contender for my favourite wine of 2020 – – certainly the best wine I tried under $20 this year. The winner of our Top 10 Tasting in February – – has to be worthy of a mention – Soljans Estate Kumeu Pinot Gris – and at $20 it’s another great all-rounder. Looking at our ‘national wine’ – the one that meant we had a wine industry to write about.. Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc can fill your glass at $10 a bottle. One of the very best Savs I’ve had this year won a double gold at NZIWS – Rohe – Blind River Rapaura Springs 2020. It’s twice what you could pay for a sav – at $22, but it’s a cracker.

Rosé wines:

A handful really stood out this year – first is Hancock & Sons ‘Lillies’ Rosé 2019, from Hawke’s Bay and made from Cabernet Franc– a lovely light colour and everything you need in a rose but with a real depth of flavour and texture. Two others come from my trip to Northland recently – one is The Landing Rosé 2020, from the Purerua peninsula north of Kerikeri – peachy and with a mineral edge; and Marsden Estate Rosé 2020 – lightly sweet, lush and filled with berry fruits. Rosé is a brilliant wine for lunches and summer drinking. Love how it’s exploded in New Zealand – and others, IMO, are much more suited to our palates than the Southern French versions preferred (for aesthetic reasons) by Audi drivers.

The Landing Rose
Radburnd Cellars Syrah

Red wines:

It’s hasn’t, to be fair, been a revelatory year for reds for me in 2020. One that sticks out, and will feature on my ‘Wines of 2020 List’ is Kate Radburnd Cellars Syrah 2018, but at $85 a bottle, it might be a bit much for people to spend at a time when the purse is a bit stretched anyway. New Zealand Syrah, however, is one of our standout varietals and a great value example would be Mills Reef Reserve Syrah 2018 at $24 – 

For a red blend, what about one of my all-time favourites – Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels ‘The Gimblett’ 2016. Someone who knows a bit about this wine – John Hancock – described it as “a $100 wine for $30”… I agree. 

Looking at Pinot Noir I thought that the new 2019 vintage of Rockburn Pinot Noir – – was every bit as good as the 2017 that took out the Champion Wine of Show at NZIWS in 2019. In fact it won a double gold at the show this year as well. I just heard the news that Julicher has re-branded as Butterworth Te Muna – back in April I tasted their range, and the flagship Te Muna Road 2016 – – was magnificent. 

In terms of the Christmas Cracker budget, you could do a lot worse than an Alexandra wine (I’m making a trip down there a priority for 2021)  – Shaky Bridge Pioneer Series is just over $20, or head north and try a Stanley Estate Pinot from the Awatere Valley – the Block 8 is about $22.

Rockburn Pinot Noir

I had a lovely Merlot this year from Hawke’s Bay – from a new label – the Zaria Merlot 2018 got a deserved 91pts in the review: The other outstanding red I’ve had again this year – and to me it’s the standout wine from their CRU range is the Smith & Sheth CRU Heretaunga Cabernet Franc 2018. I’ve tasted this a few times – at Winetopia, at the Studio Experience in Havelock North, and memorably whilst doing a ZOOM online tasting with Steve Smith back in lockdown:

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