It was oceans of sauvignon blanc that first put New Zealand on the world wine map. But after tasting more than 500 wines on a weeklong trip to the island nation, James Suckling and his team found great depth across a wide range of styles, marking a significant diversification of interest for collectors and drinkers. Here are the 10 wines they judged the best of 2017.
1 TRINITY HILL SYRAH HAWKES BAY HOMAGE 2015
A superb wine. Possibly the greatest expression of syrah that New Zealand has produced. The level of complexity and concentration, the layering of flavours and textures, the length of tannins—there is so much to admire. Fruits are in the raspberry, red plum and blackberry spectrum, doused in pepper and every imaginable woody spice. Hints of chocolate, too. A thrilling and vibrant syrah.
2 FELTON ROAD PINOT NOIR CENTRAL OTAGO BLOCK 5 2016
A powerhouse with grand cru-like poise, this edition has plenty of charm. Aromas of red cherry, nori, forest wood and herbs as well as a stony edge. The palate has a smooth surface layer of fine, plush tannins across a deeper inner core, and a long serve of fresh, ripe red berry and cherry fruit. A magnificent, long and precise finish. A seamless wine. Drink now and for some years to come. Screw cap.
3. RIPPON PINOT NOIR CENTRAL OTAGO TINKER’S FIELD 2014
A spicier, more fragrant and more graphite-infused pinot noir that has impressive deep dark cherry and plum that sit in a very pure, fresh and powerful stance. The tannins are commanding—they clutch long and hold firm. The dark cherry and plum flavours are striking—so long, fresh and pure. This is profound pinot noir.
4. ATA RANGI PINOT NOIR MARTINBOROUGH 2016
This has all the cherry, spice and perfume that defines this consistently stunning pinot noir, as well as a sense of immense freshness. The palate has deceptive lightness and tannins that are supple and caressing and that kick fresh and expansive out through the finish. Succulent and elegant. A great vintage for this wine. Drink now. Screw cap.
5. FROMM WINERY PINOT NOIR MARLBOROUGH CLAYVIN VINEYARD 2015
The darker hue heralds pristine ripe purple cherry, raspberry and mulberry sitting in an attractive pose with gentle oak spices. The palate has superb depth and detail. A super wine that marries power with elegance. A lowpH vintage. This is a New Zealand benchmark. Drink from 2020 to 2030.
6. BILANCIA SYRAH HAWKES BAY LA COLLINA 2015
Slick and polished with superb fresh fruit in the blackberry and red plum spectrum dusted with peppery aromas and a spicy mocha-scented oak. Hints of graphitelike dark stone. The palate runs a deep line of flavours, and tannins draw long with a sense of purpose and depth. Succulent, lithe and juicy finish. Best from 2021 and for years after that. Screw cap.
7. BELL HILL CHARDONNAY CANTERBURY BELL HILL 2014
This has cleverly played winemaking influence and oak cask against concentrated lemongrapefruit citrus as well as yellow nectarine and flinty, stony notes. The palate has plenty of power and depth, with intense pithy citrus fruit, lemon curd flavours and some warmer toasty oak built into the long finish. Drink now. Screw cap.
8. ESCARPMENT PINOT NOIR MARTINBOROUGH TE REHUA 2015
A dark and brooding pinot noir with big, swarthy tannins. Dark cherry and dark violetlike florals, toasted spices and dark herbal notes, too. The palate has a smooth shell-like outer, opening to powerful, succulent tannins that really command. A concentrated Te Rehua, this is one of the best to date. Drink from 2020. Screw cap.
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