New Zealand is famous for its award winning Sauvignon Blanc; those from Marlborough have even been heralded as “the finest expression of the variety”. However, with such a diverse climate, and a commitment to organic and sustainable practices, other varietals are beginning to share the spotlight with Sauvignon Blanc. Grapes like Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir are just as dazzling as Sauvignon Blanc, and are now receiving well-deserved accolades. Michael Franx of the Washington Post describes New Zealand Chardonnay “In terms of structure and acidity, they recall the great chardonnays of Burgundy. In their totality they are like nothing else from anyplace.”
Elegant and fruit-driven, New Zealand Chardonnay in general tends to express concentrated citrus and tropical fruits, crisp acidity, and balanced, round oak notes. The varied climate and soils of each region contributes additional personality to the grape; Marlborough Chardonnay exhibits zesty citrus and peach flavours with a bright acidity, whilst those from Auckland express minerals, stone fruit, floral notes and can have a lower alcohol content.
I had the fantastic opportunity to enjoy three stunning, character driven Chardonnays that were vastly different from each other at a wonderful evening with Complexity New Zealand at Aureole, NYC. They have compiled an extensive portfolio of “hero wines and winemakers” in order to showcase the amazing wines coming out of New Zealand.
Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2009
Estate: Before founding Kumeu River in 1944, Mick and Katé Brajkovich tended their own vineyards and produced wine in their native Croatia. Today the estate is headed by 3rd generation winemaker Michael Brajkovich along with Managing Director Melba Brajkovich. Their winemaking philosophy is to simply and purely “grow grapes of the highest standard and then treat them with respect when they turn them into wine”. Yields are kept low, and only indigenous yeasts are used in fermentation.
Tasting Notes: A wonderfully unique Chardonnay, opening with aromas of minerals, wildflowers and hints of funk. Smooth and well-balanced layers of creamy lemon and steely minerals culminate in a dry, crisp herbaceous finish.
Seresin Reserve Chardonnay 2009
Estate: renowned cinematographer Michael Seresin founded Seresin in 1992. Consisting of 45 hectares, the estate is located in the central pocket of the Wairau Valley in Marlborough. Passionate about organic farming and a long time vegetarian, Seresin is committed to the fact that quality wines “begin with healthy plants that are able to fully express the soil and environment in which they grow”. Believing that “the use of organic and biodynamic techniques and philosophies enables plants to achieve this healthy, balanced state in nature”, the entire estate, including olive groves, fruit trees, vegetable gardens and native vegetation are both organically and biodynamically farmed. Winemaking is done traditionally, and fermented using only wild yeasts. The handprint on their labels symbolizes “the individual and of creative endeavour; it represents our philosophy to work traditionally with natural elements and elicit a true Marlborough character in our wines”.
Tasting Notes: Focused and expressive, with fresh, toasted bread and snappy lemon flavours, finishing with traces of velvety, smoked nuts.
Villa Maria Taylor’s Pass Chardonnay 2011
Estate: Founded in 1961 when George Fistonich leased 5 acres in Marlborough from his father, today the family estate has more than 250 employees, exports wine to over 50 countries and is New Zealand’s most awarded winery. Practicing sustainable farming and possessing a long term view of both the environment and the wine business, Villa Maria believes that “sustainability is not an end point but a journey and therefore we are always finding ways to embed sustainable principles into the culture of the organization”.
Tasting Notes: Intriguing aromas of smoke and citrus introduce luxurious layers of creamy lemon, smoky minerals and hints of honey, with a fantastically crisp citrus zest finish.
Media event sponsored by Complexity New Zealand