Taste North Canterbury 2018

Christchurch, New Zealand
Tasted Thursday, October 25, 2018 by Martinborough.Bek with 333 views

Introduction

The newly launched North Canterbury Wine Region, a merger of the Waipara and Canterbury wine growers associations, held a tasting event in Christchurch on a rainy October Thursday evening. Amongst the winery stalls were some local makers of sheep milk cheeses and free range pancetta and salami. There was a lot to taste!
It is sad to see that Tresillian has closed; snap any up if you see them, they made very good wines. Bell Hill and Pyramid Valley were two makers whose stalls had large queues all evening. I don't know what it is about all that loony biodynamics codswallop but it sure attracts good reviews from wine writers, and plenty of customers clamouring for the new releases. I think apart from a few notable exceptions (anything from Millton's Clos de Ste. Anne vineyard, for example), biodynamics seems to be an excuse to overcharge for overrated wine, and the breathless, credulous enthusiasm some reviewers have for it is the same that we find in audiophile magazines about gold-plated HDMI cables and wooden volume knobs. But I digress.
Present at the event but not reviewed here (since we visited them on previous days) were wines from Lone Goat, Black Estate and Pegasus Bay. Pegasus Bay established the first vineyards in Canterbury in the 1970s and are one of the few wineries to make Bordeaux style reds in the South Island (the Maestro is excellent), although they initially established their reputation from very good Rieslings. Lone Goat make fantastic Riesling from 30 year-old vines, the oldest in Canterbury and originally planted by Giesen, who have since moved to Marlborough. They also make the country's only Ehrenfelser, and an excellent one too. Black Estate make wine that I wouldn't write home about, and are proof that fluffing about with lunar calendars, Zodiac signs and homœopathic preparations (congratulations, you watered your vines!) does not always result in better wine. Sorry to go on about it, but what a load of cobblers, I mean really.

Flight 1 - A whirlwind tour of all 20-odd stalls (42 Notes)

Many of these wines are produced in small quantities and sold locally, and thus new to cellar tracker. Judicious use of the spitoons provided meant hopefully these notes are still relatively objective towards the end.
Pleasantly surprising amongst the excellent Rieslings and Chardonnays were several very promising, tropical fruit-forward examples of Albariño. In the reds, for what it's worth, my favourite Pinot Noir wines were from Fancrest Estate and Mon Cheval (Pearson Estate), and whilst the Pyramid Valley Earth Smoke Pinot Noir was very nice too, it was more than double the price. Two makers presented very good Syrah, in a cooler-climate, northern Rhône style with an emphasis on complex floral aromas, and there is even a good Tempranillo from Mount Brown.

  • 2017 Melton Estate Summer Love Canterbury 80 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury

    Made from 95% Riesling, 5% Pinot Noir. Pleasant and sweet, lightly sparkling with a palate of mainly crisp green apple and strawberry.

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  • 2015 Melton Estate Méthode Traditionelle Canterbury 83 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury

    From Alan Scott, Chardonnay with 35% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Munier. Pleasant, good mousse and bead, toasted nuts, crisp strawberry-tinted acidity.

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  • 2015 Melton Estate Pinot Gris Canterbury 82 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury

    Sweet and floral on the nose, but a dry palate of apples and oily citrus. Interesting, good food wine.

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  • 2012 Melton Estate Pinot Noir 84 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury

    Medium ruby-red. Nose raspberry and cherry, Palate light and a little savoury on the finish.

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  • 2016 Georges Road Syrah Block One Waipara Valley 90 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    This surprising North Canterbury Syrah, quite the catch at around $30, is one of the very few examples of New Zealand Syrah south of Martinborough. Dark purple-red in the glass, with a lovely aromatic bouquet of roses, violets, and blackcurrants like a northern Rhône, with a little mint and dried herbs. A hot drought year, the palate is ripe and concentrated with velvety blackberries and liquorice, a little white pepper, well balanced tannins and a long clean finish. Vines planted in 2004. Hand-picked, destemmed and naturally fermented, aged in French oak for 10 months. Lovely wine.

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  • 2017 Mt Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc North Canterbury 83 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury

    Pale greenish yellow. Ripe tropical notes on the nose, dry palate. Held on lees with no malolactic fermentation. good acidity and structure. Interesting and different from the usual Marlborough fare.

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  • 2016 Mt Beautiful Riesling North Canterbury 87 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury

    Very nice off-dry Canterbury Riesling, with crisp apples and stone-fruit, a hint of engine rag, and good acidity and balance.

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  • 2016 Mt Beautiful Chardonnay 88 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury

    A typical and very good NZ Chardonnay, from North Canterbury on limestone soils. Peaches and orange zest on the nose, crisp citrus acidity, with a long butter and toffee finish.

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  • 2016 Mt Beautiful Pinot Noir North Canterbury 84 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury

    A good middle-road New Zealand Pinot Noir, from the North Canterbury region. Cherries and cranberries, medium-bodied with a savoury tannin core and earthy notes on the finish.

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  • 2018 Tiki Pinot Noir Estate Rosé 83 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    A fine rosé, floral aromas with strawberries with a finely balanced acidity and sweetness.

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  • 2016 Tiki Pinot Noir Estate 84 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    A good NZ Pinot Noir from Canterbury. Medium-bodied, cranberry and cut mushroom, with a pleasant savoury tannin structure. Muskier, earthier than a typical Marlborough, but not as dense as some from Central Otago.

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  • 2016 Tiki Pinot Noir Koro 89 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Otago, Central Otago

    Dark ruby colour, strong aromas of ripe berries and perhaps chocolate? Smooth and rich with cranberry and damson, savoury, solid and full-bodied, finishing musky with liquorice and leaf litter. Lovely long finish.

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  • 2014 Bell Hill Chardonnay Old Weka Pass Road 87 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Another very good NZ Chardonnay, from North Canterbury, west of Waipara on limestone escarpments. Flinty nose, stone-fruit and citrus with a long complex toffee finish.

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  • 2016 Bell Hill Pinot Noir Old Weka Pass Road 89 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury

    Vibrant red colour, and a blend of resinous cedar and cherry in the aroma. Lovely dark cherry and cranberry layers with strong savoury palate and fine tannins. Good Pinot Noir from Canterbury.

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  • 2015 Bell Hill Pinot Noir 90 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury

    Dense, dark red colour, like a Central Otago. Floral nose, with cherries and roses. Savoury palate, red berries and cherry layers balanced with (almost overwhelmed by!?) big savoury flavours and fine tannins, finishing long. Still a bit closed now, but should cellar beautifully.

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  • 2017 Ataahua Riesling Waipara 88 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Off-dry with RS 16 g/l and a high zesty citrus acidity, nose is a tropical fruit salad almost like an Albariño. Stone-fruits and apples on the palate, with a long finish. A lovely Riesling.

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  • 2016 Ataahua Gewürztraminer Waipara 88 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Highly perfumed bouquet of jasmine, roses, musky daisies; peaches on the palate, finishing long and dry with lime zest. Smashing!

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  • 2015 Ataahua Pinot Noir Waipara 89 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Dark ruby colour, nose sweet with ripe berries and vanilla. Palate is smooth, rich with cherry and damson, savoury, solid and full-bodied, finishing musky with liquorice and leaf litter. Lovely fine tannins and long finish.

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  • 2011 Pearson Estate Pinot Noir Mon Cheval 90 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Lovely Canterbury Pinot Noir. Dark red, aromas of cherries and tobacco, palate of cherries and cranberries. Deeply concentrated, dense and earthy, like the best examples from Martinborough.

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  • 2010 Pearson Estate Pinot Noir Mon Cheval 91 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Beautiful Pinot Noir, from Canterbury. Dark garnet-red, at eight years wonderfully aged, leather and tobacco, musky with cut mushroom and leaf litter. Whole bunch 10%, 18 months in French oak ⅓ new.

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  • 2008 Pearson Estate Pinot Noir Mon Cheval 91 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Superb Canterbury Pinot Noir, now at 10 years a medium garnet-red colour; lighter bodied than the 2010 but also with leather and tobacco, musky with cut mushroom and leaf litter. Complex and layered with (perhaps fading?) cherry and redcurrant fruit.

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  • 2014 Fancrest Estate Pinot Noir 90 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Dark ruby-red colour. 2014 was a difficult vintage, with lots of rain, but still a great wine. Floral, roses and violets, and sour cherry nose. Concentrated and generous with cherries and redcurrant, cranberry. Elegance, a strong savoury core, grainy tannins and finishing long and complex. Organic, unfined and unfiltered; a fabulous Pinot Noir from Canterbury, easily one of the best; I have a hunch that Pyramid Valley and Bell Hill are a bit overrated.

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  • 2015 Fancrest Estate Pinot Noir 92 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Dark ruby-red colour, unusually dense for a Pinot Noir. Intriguing aromas, violets and caramel. Dense and concentrated, generous and rich with ripe cherries and plums, from a long hot drought year. A strong savoury core, fine tannins and an almost salty mineral character. Finishes long and smooth with port-like raisins. Organic, unfined and unfiltered; a great Canterbury Pinot Noir with much promise in the cellar.

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  • 2015 Fancrest Estate Pinot Noir Reserve North Canterbury 92 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury

    Very dark ruby-red colour, exquisitely dense and concentrated. Nose of violets, leather and chocolate. Palate is rich, opulent with velvety ripe cherries and plums, savoury tannins, complex and layered. Finishes long, with caramel and chocolate. An experiment, from a single Abel clone, and a lovely wine.

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  • 2016 The Bone Line Riesling 82 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Medium-dry style, RS 30 g/l and apples all over.

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  • 2016 The Bone Line Pinot Noir Waimanu 83 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Good but ordinary NZ Pinot Noir; hot drought vintage, ripe cherries and cranberries, leaf litter and savoury mineral notes. Medium-bodied, good acidity and fairly soft tannins.

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  • 2016 Bellbird Spring Sauvignon Blanc Block Eight 86 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    An interesting, floral Sauvignon Blanc from North Canterbury. Palate is pleasant and mild mannered, relatively subdued fruits of lime and pineapple, with neither the bold green capsicum and tomato leaf from Marlborough, nor the tropical fruits of Hawke's Bay.

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  • 2016 Bellbird Spring Pinot Gris 86 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Very dry style, with bold fruit characters, citrus acidity and green apple.

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  • 2015 Bellbird Spring Pinot Noir River Terrace 88 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Straightforward Pinot Noir, made to go with food. Typical ripe red fruits of cranberry and red cherry. Strong food-friendly acidity, rounded tannins and perhaps a little liquorice on the finish. Organic winemaker, natural ferments, 12 months in new and old French oak.

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  • 2016 Bellbird Spring Sauvignon Blanc Muté 'L'Alouette' 87 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Sweet fortified wine from late harvest Sauvignon Blanc, whole-bunch pressed and barrel fermented, arrested with brandy made on site, to 17.5% and 80 g/l RS. Floral jasmine notes, with honey, cream and passion fruit. Delicious dessert wine.

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  • 2017 Georges Road Riesling Block Three Waipara Valley 88 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    A fine Canterbury Riesling; RS and acids both about 9 g/l so definitely dry and tart; a waft of engine rag, lemon zest, crisp green apple skins, with a lingering sweet apple note.

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  • 2017 Georges Road Pinot Gris Selection 87 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Lovely dry Pinot Gris (4 g/l RS) strong with apricot and apple fruit characters. I imagine this would be great with pork or roast chicken.

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  • 2016 Mount Brown Pinot Noir Waipara 89 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Very nice North Canterbury Pinot Noir. Medium ruby-red colour, leaf litter and mushroom on the nose like a Central Otago, along with the ripe fruits. On the palate, ripe cherries and sour cranberry compete with savoury notes like the first bite of a sharp parmesan, tannins fine-grained and well-balanced.

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  • 2016 Terrace Edge Syrah 90 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    This is a lovely North Canterbury Syrah, from one of the very few Syrah vineyards south of Martinborough. Reminiscent of a Côte-Rôtie, nose is full of violets, blackberries and peppery spices. Palate is soft velvety blackberries and boysenberries, tannins finely balanced, a little white pepper and a long minty chocolate finish. Absolutely smashing, we bought a case because life is short.

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  • 2017 Terrace Edge Pinot Gris 87 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Medium-sweet style at 23 g/l RS. floral nose, palate of sweet crunchy ripe apples and pears, finishing sweet with notes of almond or even apricot. I reckon it would be smashing with roast pork and crackling, you read it here first...

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  • 2017 Terrace Edge Albariño 85 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury

    New Zealand Albariño is a rare wine, more so from North Canterbury. Their first proper vintage, nose is wild flowers and green beans; palate warms up with some sweet tropical fruits - mango, passionfruit perhaps, with a nice lemon acidity. Good wine, one to keep an eye on over the next few vintages as the vines mature.

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  • 2016 Pyramid Valley Chardonnay Growers Collection Sutherland - Till 90 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough

    Very good NZ Chardonnay, same price as the Kumeu River Estate and in the same ballpark, from a Marlborough vineyard managed by Dog Point. Big nose of butter and flint, some white flowers; palate is all honey, zesty citrus, peaches, vanilla ice-cream, and a long toffee finish.

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  • 2015 Pyramid Valley Pinot Noir Earth Smoke 92 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Cosmic biodynamic codswallop and Robert Parker worship aside, this is indeed a very fine Pinot Noir from Canterbury. Tasting it at a busy festival I get the impression this would be one to nurse for an evening over a long meal! Bright red strawberry and cranberry fruits, dark florals, a nose almost like a rosé, yet with the leaf litter and cut mushroom. Palate layered and strangely intense, despite its medium bodied tannins and light ruby colour in the glass. An ingtriguing, beautiful (and expensive) wine.

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  • 2016 Pyramid Valley Pinot Noir Growers Collection Calrossie Vineyard 88 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough

    A good but seemingly fairly typical Marlborough Pinot Noir, i.e. all cranberry and red cherries, and not much of that earthy mushroom thing we get from the other NZ regions. That said, this has a good medium ruby colour, a satisfying core of savoury tannins and food-friendly acidity, finishing quite long with a lingering creamy caramel note. Biodynamics is a load of superstitious codswallop.

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  • 2011 Torlesse Wines Pinot Noir Omihi Road 88 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    North Canterbury has been making some smashing Pinot Noir for a while now, this 2011 from Torlesse is a good example of the trajectory they can go on; now at seven years old there's some tertiary cedar, tobacco and leather notes starting to develop over the cranberry and red fruits, with notes of raisins and leaf litter.

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  • 2016 Torlesse Wines Albariño 84 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    A medium-bodied fruity Albariño from North Canterbury, with tropical mango and a sweet finish.

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  • 2014 Torlesse Wines Gewürztraminer Omihi Road 83 Points

    New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara

    Nice floral North Canterbury Gewürztraminer, perfumed with lily and jasmine, with peaches on the palate.

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