A cracker year

WARREN BARTON
Last updated 14:13 18/01/2014

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Last year was, as my long-time gumbooted viticultural adviser Fred Dagg might say: A cracker my son.

Well, it certainly was for New Zealand wine producers and for the people who drink the stuff.

The 2013 vintage will be remembered, and continue to be remembered as some of the wines not even bottled yet are released and eventually consumed, as one of the best ever.

Or maybe THE best ever according to some experts.

Which means, as Michael Cooper says in the 22nd edition of his indispensable Buyers' Guide to New Zealand Wines (published by Hachette New Zealand) ". . . you can look forward to some terrific wines from 2013".

The other good news: There will be plenty of them.

The 2013 harvest yielded a record 345,000 tonnes of grapes, an increase of 28 percent on the 2012 vintage and 5 percent up on the previous highest in 2011.

Which also means that New Zealand winemakers will be in a position to supply orders from established and new markets around the world that could not be filled in 2012.

This at a time when prices are rising and we are second only to France in terms of the prices at which our wines are sold.

But the best part is that the biggest lift in production was in Marlborough where the harvest was up a whopping 33 percent, mostly on the back of its distinctive sauvignon blanc which now accounts for 60 percent of the national crop.

This means Marlborough winemakers alone will have an additional 4.4 million cases of wine to sell at a time when export prices are rising and the demand for sauvignon blanc, especially from Marlborough, shows no signs of abating.

The news was also particularly good for winemakers in Hawke's Bay who produce many of the premium reds (excluding pinot noir) for which New Zealand is gaining a growing reputation, as well as some of the world's finest chardonnays. The harvest in the Bay was up by nearly 20 per cent and the quality of the wines (the best take time) is expected to be exceptional.

It will also take more time before the quality of pinot noirs from the 2013 vintage can be properly assessed. And the biggest wait- and-see will be in Central Otago where the harvest was up by 4 percent but the weather, including early season frosts, didn't make the going easy.

Getting back to Michael Cooper's guide: It remains an essential tool for anyone remotely interested in New Zealand wines.

It describes and rates 3159 wines representing 46 different varieties making it the most complete compendium of its kind available in this country or anywhere else. It's the Kiwi wine bible.

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Some wines which I agree with my good friend Mike will set the standard for 2013:

Greywacke 2013 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, $26
A stunning wine produced by former Cloudy Bay winemaker Kevin Judd, whose trademark is finesse. Partly (10 per cent) oak-aged to add just a hint of complexity and weight to this lovely lemon and melon-driven wine. Don't be too hasty with this one.

Lawson's Dry Hills 2013 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, $21
At this price this punchy, herbaceous sauvignon, is a bargain. The fleeting affair a tiny part of the blend had with French oak adds a subtle extra dimension to the melon and the capsicum. The reserve version is even better but needs more time.

Saint Clair Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, $21
Saint Clair's no-nonsense garden- variety sauvignon, which holds its own among the fleet of them made at Saint Clair. A sweaty, vibrantly- fruited dry white that epitomises the kind of wine that customers around the world expect from Marlborough.

Esk Valley 2013 Hawke's Bay Merlot Malbec Rose, $24
Gordon Russell makes some of the finest merlot malbecs in the country at Esk Valley. Likewise rose from the same blend. The latest is no exception - a lovely vibrant, fuller rose with flavours (berries,plums and spice) that reflect the varieties used in the blend.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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