The WineFolio Top 10 Wines of the Year – 2021


Whilst this isn’t a Top 10 Tasting – it IS my Top 10 wines of the year. These are the wines that have either got the highest points in reviews; or have been discovered on Field Trips and Tastings.

One note – when we do a WineFolio Top 10 Tasting of a particular varietal – my scores get incorporated into the scoring of everyone on the panel(s). So it’s not often that my personal favourite wine will end up being the No.1 wine in a ‘Top 10 Tasting’ – just to clear that up!

I don’t include wines that I had at barrel tastings in this list… but see a special note at the end for some thoughts on that and/or one-off wines that have been particularly spectacular.

One more note – other than my Red Wine of the Year and White Wine of the Year the rest of the list is not in any particular order. I haven’t included the scores given during the year – as there are wines on this list that I have not scored in 2021… but rest assured – everything on here deserves to be on this list (and then some).

Kumeu River Barrel Hall
White Wine of the Year

Kumeu River Matés Chardonnay 2020

Smoky and concentrated with notes of preserved lemon, biscotti and nectarine. Floral with spring flowers, and a powerful richness on the palate. Flinty, juicy with golden peach, oatmeal, nougat and freshly sliced pear. It shows real finesse – the oak is gorgeous and opulent, contrasting with the spine of tensely coiled acidity. Elegant, infinitely desireable.

Red Wine of the Year

Destiny Bay Magna Praemia 2019

Full-bodied and intense, with some muscular weight and balance, bright acidity and very fine, firm tannins. The core has power but the palate is sensual, flooded with ripe fruit, framed with a toasted coffee-bean, savoury oak influence. Well crafted – detailed and seamless, with tremendous length on the finish.

Destiny Bay Magna Praemia 2019
The full list:

Trinity Hill 125 Gimblett Chardonnay 2020 Taut, burgeoning, with power, presence and a vitality to the palate. Unfolding with layers of flavours – ripe stonefruit, citrus, subtle spice, stony minerality and lemon rind. Immense length and drive coming from a line of succulent acidity. 

Church Road ‘1’ single vineyard Chardonnay 2019 Voluptuous, bold perfumes of yellow fleshed peach, mandarin peel, red apple, roasted chestnut, melon and spring blossom. Whilst full of character, there is a lovely balance and length to the finish.

No.1 Estate Reserve Methode Traditionelle NV Dry, complex, concentrated and with a tight, crisp acidity. The finesse of the mousse of bubbles is textural in itself – fine and creamy across the rich palate. The age character comes through later, with a toasty, savoury, mineral edge adding more depth.

Kumeu River Matés Chardonnay 2020 – see above, White wine of the Year

Tony Bish ‘Skeetfield’ Chardonnay 2019 Delicately balanced, but with precise, concentrated power. A grapefruity acidity drives the line through the palate, where a rich, tropical ripeness lingers. As the layers open up, there’s a mealy, biscuit crumb sandwich, with vanilla cream filling, and a nutty, spicy seasoning of nicely integrated oak.

Radburnd Cellars Syrah 2019 Built around a core of supple tannin – polished and sinewy. A pulse of voluptuous dark fruit flavours and a hint of savoury earthiness, mocha and oyster-shell minerality. Complex, precise and generous. A marriage of rich generosity and subtle perfume – both robust and yet ethereal. 

Pegasus Bay ‘Prima Donna’ Pinot Noir 2016 Beautiful harmony – earthy, but sweet-fruited, with a tense, concentrated core. Everything seems to have its counterpart and balance. Powerful. Towards the sumptuous finish is a sense of coming together, as the elements converge and branch out further.

Pegasus Bay Prima Donna

Trinity Hill Homage Syrah 2010 A ten year + version of this wine… just shows where the reputation comes from – quite remarkable. Vibrant and packed with the ripest fruit, richest berries – some deeper, richer like liquorice and truffle. Powerful, complex and opulent.

Destiny Bay Magna Praemia 2019 – see above, Red wine of the Year

Passage Rock Reserve Syrah 2019 Vivid and luminous ruby-magenta colour. Aromatic – flooding the senses. Peppery and precocious with great tension. A generous and characterful expression with next-level concentration, ripeness and density.

*Special mentions:

#1 At Man O’ War Duncan unleashed a bottle of 2015 Syrah that had been in a specially designed un-toasted barrel made by Bruno Lorenzon, a cooper from Mercurey – 100% whole berry, de-stemmed. A lovely delicate, floral, elegant wine looking for that ‘stem’ character without using stems. Only 12 bottles were bottled, straight from the barrel.

#2 ‘Barrel 2007’ from Bell Hill – tasted with Sherwyn Veldhuizen in May this year. A Pinot Noir already shows great finesse – strong, with generosity and some sinew – but not huge. Picked from vines in ‘The Shelf West’ and could be a contender for a single vineyard Bell Hill wine.

#3 Escaroth Pinot Noir 2019 by Blank Canvas. Tasted at Matt and Sophie’s place earlier this year, but not yet re-tasted and scored (one for the summer break perhaps…) – this was one of those few wines where I stop in my tracks and pause to consider just what is in this glass!? Probably the best Pinot Noir I’ve tasted from Marlborough

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