Last Wine Tasting of 2017

Notes by Sue Courtney
Wines were tasted blind  

Leveret Estate Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2015 
There's a fresh vanilla custard creaminess to the bouquet and it’s smooth and rounded in the palate. A fruit driven style with a spicy zesty vibe, well balanced savouriness, beautifully integrated oak and accents of pineapple and apricot tart on the lingering finish. Very tasty and hard to resist at this price. Gold AirNZ 2016. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $15.99.
Mills Reef Bespoke Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2016
It's golden in colour, the aroma is creamed nuts and there's a touch of butter toffee lusciousness to the full-bodied taste that is smooth flowing with savoury oak while lifted acidity keeps the finish fresh. As Andrew said it is unashamedly made in an ‘old school style’ to enhance the buttery notes and I can attest it is an excellent match to oven roasted salmon. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $29.99.
Villa Maria Keltern Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2013
The bouquet emanates gunsmoke and fascinating wild yeast connotations and the taste is full of polished nutty oak, grilled peach, vanilla biscuit and mealy notes with a flinty undercurrent and spicy savouriness to the warm, full-bodied finish where a citrus vibrancy comes through. A striking Chardonnay at 4 years of age that is full of flavour, long and intense. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. N/A.
Ceres Black Rabbit Central Otago Riesling 2017 
Inviting floral and tropical fruit aromatics and freshly juiced citrus and honeysuckle flavours are so en-pointe in this mouth-watering, lower alcohol, medium style that’s beautifully poised yet utterly refreshing with scintillating acidity and a spritzy vibe. Gold AirNZ. Gold NZIWS. 10.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $22.99.
Rameau D'Or Côtes de Provence ‘Golden Bough’ Rosé 2016 – Provence, France 
The most delicate pink hue, subtle aromas of cherry and raspberry and almost bone dry to the taste which is savoury rather than fruity with spice and pepper nuances and a tangy finish. Fabulous lunchtime wine with attractive bottle presentation and a back label story to entrance. 13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.
Montessu Isola dei Nuraghi 2014 – Sardinia, Italy
This tasty blend of 60% Carignan and 10% each of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot is rich black red with crimson edges. A pink bubble gum fragrance wafts from the glass at a distance with a delicious ripe berry scent when nosing. It’s fruity and expressive in the palate with sweet berry fruit, cherry pie, peppery spices, voluptuous tannins and underlying leather and tar. A lovely expression of old world meets new world made by the winemaker who used to work at Sassacaia. 14.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $49.99.
Church Road McDonald Series Hawkes Bay Merlot 2015
Inky black red. Savoury on the nose with hints of freshly baked dark berry pie. Vanillin oak is noticeable on first tasting together with plums, cassis, currants and well balanced tannins cake spices and a touch of pepper. While still unfolding, it is full-bodied, generous and voluptuous with an ornate oak frame and an impressively long succulent finish with just a whisper of mint. Gold and Trophy NZIWS. 14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $26.99.
Varvaglione 12 e Mezzo Primitivo del Salento 2015 – Salento, Italy  
Dark red, thinning/fading a little on the edges. Crushed chocolate biscuits, smoky oak and jammy berries fill the bouquet and it’s savoury in the palate which is nicely poised, not too OTT, with fine smooth tannins. Fruit is reminiscent of plums and cassis with cigar box, mocha, chocolate and a subtle pepper zing to lingering red berry finish. Like this a lot – lots going on. 12.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $18.99.
Take it to the Grave Langhorne / Barossa Shiraz 2016 – South Australia
The scent is like dusty red plums and apples simmering on the stove for jam and the fruit is ultra ripe and generous in the palate with plump velvety tannins, a touch of mint and a peppery touch to the finish where blackberry and black cherry emerges a little while later as the flavours linger. An okay shiraz however the quirky label may not appeal to everyone. 14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $16.99.
Beresford McLaren Vale Shiraz 2015 – South Australia
This is inky black red in the glass with an attractive bouquet of chocolate syrup, spicy oak and concentrated mulberries and berries that follow through to the bright spicy palate together with lashings of mint. Ripe, generous, lifted and clean with a velvet cloak of fine tannins and concentration and power to the full-bodied finish that is nicely balanced with a touch of pepper. A big wine with an elegant swagger and hard for Shiraz lovers to resist. Gold Medal NZIWS. 14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $23.99.

Countdown to Christmas

Notes by Sue Courtney
Wines were tasted blind

Brancott Letter Series ‘O’ Marlborough Chardonnay 2016
This is a glorious Chardonnay that immediately tempts with its creamy, mealy, slightly citrussy, barrel ferment aromas and it’s smooth and seamless as it flows across the palate with nougat and hazelnut flavours together with grilled peach, toasty oak and a zesty brightness to the mouthfilling and lingering finish. 5 star wine at 5 star value. Gold AirNZ, NZIWS, Marlborough and Sydney. 14% alc.  Screwcap.  First Glass Price: $19.99.
Vasse Felix Heytesbury Margaret River Chardonnay 2016 – Western Australia
This is very tight and youthful at this stage of its life. The bouquet is savoury and just a little reductive and it’s dry and citrussy in the full-bodied palate – what some would call an ‘elegant’ wine – but as the flavours linger and flesh out in the mouth with touches of nectarine joining more primary lemongrass, you can sense the potential. An icon wine that’s made to last and will offer so much more with at least 12 months cellaring time.  13% alc.  Screwcap.  First Glass Price: $81.99.
Mount Riley Marlborough Riesling 2017 
This is refreshingly fragrant with its scent of lemon zest, honey and flower nectar and the flavours are bright, clean and aromatic with light viscosity to the texture, juicy citrus and apricot fruit, just a touch of sweetness and refreshing apple acidity to the bright zesty finish. Well-balanced and drinkable. Gold NZIWS. Gold & Trophy Air NZ. Gold and Trophy Marlborough Wine Show. 12% alc.  Screwcap.  First Glass Price: $12.99.
Saddleback Central Otago Pinot Gris 2017
This is a soft and fairly dry pinot gris with a lightly aromatic pear and apple skin scent and flavours of poached quince and peach with a hint of ginger adding a spicy vibe to the zingy finish. Made by Peregrine. Gold and Trophy AirNZ.  13.5% alc.  Screwcap.  First Glass Price: $18.99.
Rockburn Stolen Kiss Central Otago Pinot Rosé 2017 
This is seriously pale pink and while the bouquet seems delicately scented it emanates wild cherry with a beguiling exotic flare. It’s full of flavour in the palate with off dry to medium sweetness, touches of strawberry floss and a zesty vibrancy to the quenching finish that's very long and tasty.  13% alc.  Screwcap.  First Glass Price: $25.99.
Bannock Brae Goldfields Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015
This has a translucent and slightly fading ruby hue. The bouquet is smoky and savoury with a floral allure and it’s dry in the savoury, slightly gamey palate where the aromatics infuse to give a sense of dried roses and polished oak furniture. The tannins are silky yet still quite firm with cherry and cranberry fruit and while it seems like a lovely lighter elegant style to start it has understated stamina and power. Gold NZIWS. 14% alc.  Screwcap.  First Glass Price: $29.99.
Peregrine Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015
This has a rich ruby saturation to the deeply translucent hue. The colour is in sync with the succulence of the fruit-driven, spice-infused aroma and the fullness of the flavours that are crammed with juicy cherry and plum fruit, touches of rose hip, hints of vanilla and woody spices. A generous pinot with a velvety flow and a lasting finish that leaves an aura of mouthfilling satisfaction. Gold AirNZ. 13.5% alc.  Screwcap.  First Glass Price: $38.99.
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Organic Merlot 2016
This is a vibrant crimson-edged black red hue. There's a leathery, dusty, woody herb, Bordeaux character to the bouquet and it’s dry and firm in the initially savoury, cedary, cigar box palate that opens up with plum and cherry fruit and a lingering succulence to the creamy finish. Smooth and elegantly poised in a medium to full-bodied style and very well received on the night. Gold and Trophy AirNZ.  13.5% alc.  Screwcap.  First Glass Price: $14.99.
Coopers Creek Reserve Hawkes Bay Syrah 2016
The colour is a bright pinky / crimson cherry jam red. The bouquet is concentrated and generous with succulent, almost jammy, berry fruit infused with chocolatey oak. It seems quite dry on first tasting with toasted spices and a slight hint of pepper but becomes more and more succulent as the berry and plum fruit pushes through to tame the tannins to leave a mouth-coating, vibrantly lifted finish. Gold and Trophy AirNZ Wine Awards. 13.5% alc.  Screwcap.  First Glass Price: $49.99.
Giordano Primitivo Di Manduria Reserva 2014 – Puglia, Italy
There's a tawny aura to the bricking red hue hinting of a little age. The bouquet is full of sweet fruit and it’s full-bodied and sweet-fruited in the opulent, velvety-textured palate with rich raisin, date and prune-like fruit, Xmas cake spices, hints of almonds and marzipan and vibrant almost peppery tingles. Rich, warm, full-bodied and smooth-flowing and while the fruit is sweet there’s a beautifully balanced savoury undercurrent and the wine finishes satisfyingly dry. Hard to resist. 14.5% alc.  Cork.  First Glass Price: $24.99.
St Johns Road Blood and Courage Barossa Shiraz 2016 – South Australia
The colour is a fresh, youthful, deep dark red. Chocolate biscuits, creamy oak and shiraz spices fill the bouquet and it’s typically shiraz in the creamy, spicy palate that’s full of luscious berry fruit with integrated oak, fine smooth tannins and a long, succulent finish with a little flourish of mint. Gold NZIWS. 14.5% alc.  Screwcap.  First Glass Price: $19.99.

Announcing the 2017 NZIWS Trophy Winners

New Zealand’s largest wine competition - the New Zealand International Wine Show – announced the Trophy winners for 2017 at the Awards dinner at Auckland’s Crown Plaza on Saturday 7 October.

The competition this year provided the industry with its first major assessment of the 2017 vintage for our most important variety, Sauvignon Blanc.  The judges awarded 18 golds from 152 entries from wines produced in the 2017 vintage, a terrific result.

New Zealand’s other major export variety, Pinot Noir, was rewarded with 29 Gold Medals – with 13 wines coming from Central Otago, 8 from Martinborough and 7 from Marlborough.

For the 9th time since 2005 a Chardonnay has been crowned Nissan Champion Wine of the Show. Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2016 was selected as the top wine from the 19 Gold Medal Chardonnays and after voting by all of the senior judges, declared this to be the supreme winner.

Invivo Central Otago 'Michelle’s' Pinot Noir 2016 received the Trophy for Pinot Noir continuing their success for Pinot Noir’s produced in the southern region.

There were significant results in several classes, notably 19 Gold Medals for Pinot Gris and a very positive 13 Gold Medals for Rosé from a staggering 130 entries.

The variety receiving the most Gold Medals was Shiraz/Syrah with 40 wines exciting the judges, this was the most Gold Medals ever awarded to a single class in the history of the competition.

Go to the NZ International Wine Show website for a full list of results.

New Zealand International Wine Show 2017

New Zealand International Wine Show

Celebrating its 13th year, the New Zealand International Wine Show has been the biggest wine competition in this country since its inception. As its name suggests, wines are entered for judging from countries worldwide – in previous years this has included wines from New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Germany, Chile, South Africa, Israel & the USA.

The wines are judged ‘blind’ by some of New Zealand’s most accomplished winemakers and wine judges, under the guidance of Chief Judge Bob Campbell MW, assisted this year by Assistant Chief Judges Larry McKenna and Peter Cowley - two of New Zealand's greatest winemakers. The outcome of three days of judging is the NZ International Wine Show’s “Champion’s List” of gold medal winners which is published in the Sunday Star Times in October and listed along with other medal winners on their website Wines that comprise The Champions List are tasted in a public tasting on Thursday 5 October 2017.

The presentation of Trophies is made at an Awards Dinner in Auckland on Saturday 7th October.

Tickets for both events are available at

First Glass will presenting many of the gold medal winning wines in their Wednesday tastings after the results are announced. Watch out for some great tastings coming up on our Tastings Diary.”

Decanter Results Announced

Decanter 2017 World Wine Awards

The results are now available from the 14th edition of the Decanter wine competition. What started out as a pretty big wine event has now grown into a logistical monster. This year they received more than 17,000 entries from 42 countries and there were hundreds of judges involved. Bob Campbell MW was the “Regional Chair” for New Zealand wines. The other Kiwi involved was Cameron Douglas MS.

From all these wines there were:

  • 34 Platinum Best in Show
  • 175 Platinum Best in Category
  • 456 Gold Medals
  • 3348 Silver Medals
  • 7044 Bronze Medals.

There are some interesting categories for the top awards such as Best Spanish Fortified, Best Very Old Sherry, Best Value Mature Sherry, Best Mature Sherry, Best Sweet Sherry etc. etc.

Platinum awards for N.Z. wines are:

  • Best N.Z. sparkling – Nautilus Cuvee Brut
  • Best N.Z. Riesling – Saint Clair Block 9 Big John Riesling 2016
  • Best N.Z. Sauvignon Blanc – Wairau River Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2016
  • Best Value N.Z. Chardonnay – Te Pa Marlborough Chardonnay 2015
  • Best N.Z. Chardonnay – Vidal Legacy Chardonnay 2015
  • Best N.Z. Pinot Noir – Te Kairanga Runholder Pinot Noir 2015
  • Best Value N.Z. Red Bordeaux Varietals – Koha Merlot Cabernet Franc 2015
  • Best N.Z. Red Bordeaux Varietals – Villa Maria Reserve Merlot 2014
  • Best Value N.Z. Red Rhone Varietals – Sileni The Peak Syrah 2014
  • Best N.Z. Red Rhone Varietals – Rod McDonald Wines Quarter Acre Syrah 2015
  • Best N.Z. Sweet Wine – Seifried Sweet Agnes Riesling 2016

Twelve Bloody Chardonnays

Notes by Sue Courtney

Wines were tasted blind


Summerhouse Marlborough Chardonnay 2015

This lustrous gold coloured wine has a grilled peach and pineapple aroma with a subtle smoky overlay. A generous tasting, bright fruity wine with juicy acidity, a steely undercurrent and plenty of vanilla accents in the toasty savoury oak. Recommended by Cuisine. 14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99.

Gibbston Valley China Terrace Central Otago Chardonnay 2016

Light lemon gold with a subtle biscuity oak aroma that also hints of hazelnut and lemon.  Harmonious and elegant in the palate with touches of nougat, malo-influences, an ethereal white peach infusion and a delicate feel to the creamy finish which is very long with an enticing compounding richness. One to sip and savour. 14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $34.99.

Penfolds Bin 311 Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2014 - NSW, Australia

Rich lemon gold with stonefruit filling the bouquet and a lifted nutty complexity. Concentrated in the palate with oiliness to the texture, an elegance to the polished spicy French oak, a fresh nectarine and peach fruit profile, a punch of zesty acidity and a long, dry and very harmonious and satisfying finish. 12.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $39.99.

Clearview Beachhead Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2016

This is a moderate gold colour with perfumed peach and vanillin oak aromas then in the mouth it’s full and fat and big and bold and rich and generous with barrel ferment notes, grapefruit, vanilla, peaches and cream and a long tasty finish. Five stars Cuisine. Gold Easter Show. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $23.99.

Penfolds Reserve Bin 15A  Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2015

Lemon gold in hue with a haunting bouquet reminiscent of nougat and toasted brioche then the taste is crisp, dry, steely, and leesy with subtle wild yeast funk, creamed macadamia nut notes and touches of citrus. Echoing a youthful white burgundy it is classy and sophisticated, harmonious and elegant, and very very long on the focussed aftertaste. Trophy winner at the James Halliday Chardonnay Challenge.

13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $93.99.

Mills Reef Bespoke Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2016

Golden coloured with a strong tropical fruit aroma that has the estery scent of ‘banana bike’ lollies and an intriguing woody nuance a little like camphor. The taste is bold, brash and fruity with spicy oak, a hint of cinnamon and lingering butterscotch on the rounded finish. A new label made in a retro 90s style that slots in between the Elspeth and the Reserve. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $29.99.

Coopers Creek Select Vineyards Limeworks Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2016

A golden coloured wine with an attractive, warm, butter shortbread aroma and a delicate floral allure. Bold toasty oak and golden fruit upfront in the palate falls away to reveal soft creamy notes, a nutty undercurrent, a medley of stonefruit and a lingering apricot glaze. 

14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $17.99.

Kidnappers Cliff Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014

Light gold in colour with a delicate lemon and white peach scent together with nutty oak, haunting smoky notes and later, in the empty glass, original Radox bath salt scents. This is an in-vogue reductive, flinty, wild yeast style with all those lovely intricacies that the best wines have with touches of cashew and hazelnut, a background of nougat, delicate nutty oak and a harmonious melon-like sweetness to the finish. Beautifully sophisticated, seamless and long. Five stars and No.1 in Cuisine’s 2017 chardonnay tasting. 13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $47.99.

Bogle Vineyards Chardonnay 2015 - California

Though light in colour it’s big, bold and fruity on the nose and the taste is jam-packed with juicy tropical fruit, mellow oak and creamy, buttery, easy drinking chardonnay goodness. The most popular Californian chardonnay at First Glass, it is easy to see why. Keep the cork screw handy. 13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Ata Rangi Petrie Martinborough Chardonnay 2014

A moderate gold colour with honey roasted nuts and lifted fruit aromas filling the bouquet with perhaps a hint of stewed rhubarb. Rich, rounded, full bodied and tasty with zesty, spicy notes, hints of caramel and a medley of tropical fruit with underlying peach. There’s a touch of development to this very satisfying wine that has harmonious oak and a warm mealy finish. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $28.99.

Vavasour Anna’s Vineyard Marlborough Chardonnay 2015

This light yellow hued wine has a bold aroma offering up honey dew melon, spicy oak and touches of hazelnut. More spicy and savoury than fruity upfront in the palate - perhaps white currants and citrus notes - with polished French oak and a touch of hokey pokey on the warm, rounded, lingering, mouthfilling finish. 4 stars Cuisine. 14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $35.99.

Kendall-Jackson Vintners Reserve Sonoma Chardonnay 2015 - California

Citrine in hue with an inviting tropical fruit bouquet and rounded and clean in the palate with the tropical fruit profile continuing together with spice, oatmeal, honeyed oak, touches of butterscotch and a warm juicy finish. Very drinkable and best of all it you no longer need a corkscrew to open it. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $25.99.

Premium versus Budget

Notes by Sue Courtney

Wines were tasted blind

Sileni The Lodge Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2013
This is a brilliant gold colour. The nose is lemon and oatmeal and the taste is rounded and mellow with warm lemon butter caramel, creamed cashews and savoury oak emerging to linger with a subtle salinity. It’s smooth and satisfying with a deliciously long finish. Not tasted blind, it was served from a 1.5-litre magnum that comes in an impressive presentation box. 13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $71.99.
Selaks Founders Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2016
Light lemon gold in the glass with a leesy, grapefruit bouquet and a fresh juicy taste with zesty citrus tones, smoky French oak and gunflint. A clean modern style with a rounded mouthfeel and seamless flow. 13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.
Greywacke Marlborough Chardonnay 2014
This bouquet of this light gold wine is smoky and savoury with biscuity notes and cedar. It is bright and zesty in the palate with underlying flinty reductive notes, some wild yeast influences and touches of  caramelised peach crumble with honeyed oak more prominent on the mouthfilling and magnificently long finish where lovely creamy mealy notes linger. 14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $36.99.
Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Gris 2014  
Light gold in hue with almost heady aromatics and silky and seamless in its flow with richness to the texture, a touch of rose petal and musky spice notes, spiced strudel apple and a hint of apricot-like sweetness to the finish where there is the most subtle suggestion of hokey pokey. Never OTT, just sublimely ethereal and elegant. 14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $27.99.
Aronui Single Vineyard Nelson Pinot Gris 2016
This straw gold wine is immediately more redolent of Pinot Gris as we know it with vanilla poached pear and quince aromatics following through to the palate. It’s bright, spicy, juicy and appealing with the sweetness level just on the cusp of off dry for all round appeal. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $16.99.

Shaky Bridge Pioneer Series Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 
Deep boysenberry hued with a ripe plummy aroma yet savoury rather than upfront fruity to the taste with a peppery vibe and some vanillin oak tones then, on the finish, succulent juicy plum and cherry fruit wells up from within. Not overly complex but smooth in its flow. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.
Dog Point Marlborough Pinot Noir 2014
This aromatics of this deep Burgundy-hued wine are framed with beautifully honed savoury oak and  the woodsmoke scent of smoky bacon. It tastes savoury and a touch gamey with firm, fine-grained tannins, a touch of anise, dried herbs, bittersweet red fruits and a velvety finish where ripe cherry notes emerge to linger. Wild yeast funk adds intrigue to this multi-faceted wine that becomes more generous and thought provoking with every sip. 14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $44.99.
Alma Gitana Old Vine Grenache 2013 – Carinena, Spain 
The savoury and slightly herbal bouquet of this rich pinky red-hued wine immediately whisks me to Europe. It smells like a classic dry red and it is indeed dry upfront in the medium-bodied palate where firm tannins are tamed by succulent raspberry and red plum fruit, the oak is nicely integrated with a touch of vanilla and the finish is long and juicy. 13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $12.99.
Xavier Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2012 – Rhone Valley, France 
Dark red in the glass with hints of mocha joining brooding red fruits on the nose. Savoury yet succulent in the velvety textured palate with touches of barnyard and mercurochrome infusing dark red fruit flavours with hints of tobacco, a peppery vibe and later a hint of anise. Made from a blend of 65% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 15% Mourvedre this is a serious, full bodied, textural, mouth-coating wine with a creaminess to the ripe, succulent finish and a very long, pleasing, winey aftertaste. Fantastic wine at a great price. 14.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $49.99.
Belasco De Baquedano Llama Old Vine Malbec 2015 – Mendoza, Argentina
Inky crimson purple with a slight herbal nuance to the boiled red lolly bouquet then purple fruits and violets are upfront in the palate that’s characterised by fine tannins with pepper-infused spicy accents, charry oak, an edginess to the fruit like you get in tamarillo (but not tamarillo) and a long juicy finish. 14% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $21.99.
Belasco De Baquedano AR Guentota Malbec 2011 – Mendoza, Argentina 
This is almost black in the glass with a sumptuous aroma of blackberries. It’s a very stupendous, ripe, succulent, juicy, meaty, charry offering with mouthfilling tannins yet a surprisingly smooth flow. There’s a touch of vanilla in the woody oak with luscious berries and a hint of rose hip – and while it is fruity, it is foremost savoury with a warm, mouth-coating finish. 15% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $34.99.