(2023) From a 19-year-old vineyard on clay at 100 metres, this is distinctly off-dry with 22.8g/l of residual sugar but noticeably a pH of just 2.95 so acidity is key. Very appealing, lightly honeyed nose. The palate has a silkiness and fine balancing acidity. It is limey, as is the fruit, with delicate floral and glacé fruit notes. Stockist and price quoted is for the previous vintage at time of review.
(2023) Muscat makes up only a tiny percentage of the New Zealand vineyard, but was chosen partly to show that there is more to the twin islands than Sauvignon Blanc. This one has 14g/l of sugar and comes from gravels at 60 metres and vines that are more than 30 years old. Pale to medium lemon colour, Geranium-like floral and leafy, musky aromatics. In the mouth the sweetness is very noticeable making this potentially more of a wine for matching to summer fruit tarts and lighter desserts. The crunch of the acidity is very good, and this has real concentration. There's a bit of phenolic grip and substantial alcohol that also helps anchor this wine. A Muscat with real character. The wines of Pegasus Bay are imported into the UK, but there are no retail stockists listed at time of tasting, possibly because of the 15.4% alcohol which makes UK pricing prohibitive.
(2023) From the biodynamic Black Estate on the South Island's North Canterbury, this was made in 600-litre barrels, is un-sulphured, and pours with a light haze. Arresting natural wine aromas, expressing fruit skins and nuttiness, sweet new-baked bread and some golden apple fruit. There's a perceptible fruit sweetness on the initial attack, very ripe and punchy fruit, but the light kaolin earthiness and plenty of vibrant Mandarin orange acidity kicks in. Delicious interpretation of Chenin. Black Estate imported by Lea & Sandeman, but no UK retail listing for this Chenin at time of review.
(2022) From vineyards on gravel over sandstone that are now more than 30 years old. 40% was fermented as whole bunches. 15 months in French oak barriques followed (40% new). A little more translusence, but again we are in the meaty, game and charcuterie spectrum, but there's also something quite fragrant, a little floral lift to the fruit. The palate is deliciously pitched: creamy and smooth in terms of tannin, polished oak and red and more plush black fruit depth, but with such spice and juiciness, a salty mineral character, and a great, sparky character through the finish. Beautifully lively and both intensly fruity and spicy.
(2022) From an expansive, east-facing slope that has 25% clay, 15% active lime. Fruit was destemmed and fermented with vineyard yeasts, before being transferred to French wooden cuves and barrels for 18 months. Around 4,850 bottles produced. Beautifully svelte and more muscular than Angel Fire perhaps. Full silky fruit, but dark, brooding and intense. So sweet and plush on the palate though, with fabulous liquorice intensity, enough earthiness and spice to add extra savouriness.
(2022) A steeply inclined, east facing block boasting 30% clay, and 15-20% active lime. Foot crushed and whole bunch pressed, with vineyard yeast ferment in used French oak barrels. 20 months on lees in barrel, then six months stainless steel prior to bottling. Around 2,700 bottles produced. Subtle at first. Thrust of lemon, succulent mandarin orange fruit and acidity. Fruitier than the Field of Fire for me, but still a vin de meditation, and still showing that saline streak across the mealy flavours and texture of the finish. It's horses for courses for which you prefer between these two lovely Chardonnays.
(2022) This steep, north-facing block was planted between 2000-2002 on coarse, shallow soils that are 15% clay, 5-10% active lime. Fruit was destemmed before fermentation in tanks with yeasts from the vineyard, before being transferred to French oak cuves and barrel for 18 months. 4,850 bottles produced. Fine stripe of liquorice here giving intensity, but it's plush, with perfumed, floral-touched black fruit, cherry, plum and damson. There's a real juiciness, a jewel-like shimmer to this on the palate, energising acidity and taut tannins seeing to that.
(2022) Planted between 2000-2002, this tiny, south-east facing block (1,650 bottles) has clays over chalky limestone; 20-25% clay, 5-10% active lime. Foot crushed and whole bunch pressed, fermentation with vineyard yeast and aged 20 months on lees in French oak barrels, plus a further six months in steel. Fabulous bracing palate, after a gently nutty, almondy, opening. So much vibrant, lemony juiciness, crunch and crispness. Gorgeous texture in the mouth, but that absolutely steely character never falters into a long, saline finish of mouth-watering decisiveness.
(2022) This new wine which will sell for around £30 - £35 is sourced from Waipara Springs, on Omihi clay soils, the vines planted between 1982-1986. The remainder came from the Three Sisters Vineyard in Waipara, which was planted between 2001-2004 on gravels. Fermented with natural vineyard yeasts, it was aged in 20% new French oak barrels for 12 months. Notes of oatmeal and flint, a gentle mandarin and lemon. A delicious ripeness of subtle peach carries to the palate, joined by a streak of saline that braces and structures the finish.
(2021) At 15 kilometres from the ocean this single block wine is from a biodynamic estate, the vines planted on clay with chalk/limestone deposits. Whole-bunch pressed into tight-grained 500-litre French oak, and it sees 100% malolactic. Relatively dark in colour compared to the others here, with a lightly oxidised character, so I suspect this was another sample not in perfect condition. Toast and the oak certainly apparent, but an intriguing nuttiness and even some floral notes at the opposite extreme perhaps. The palate has a lovely blend of orange and grapefruit and something peachier and more exotic, then the acidity comes through nicely, so the finish dries on saltiness again with gastronomic effect. My score must be predicated on this being a less than perfect example. I look forward to another occasion and a different bottle.