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Wine of the Week for week ending 10 February 2008
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Hihi Sirius Chardonnay 2007
Gisborne, New Zealand

As much as Sauvignon Blanc is the number one grown and top selling varietal white wine in New Zealand and as much as Pinot Gris is still the trendy new white wine, there are still countless of us who are extremely satisfied with a glass of soft, comforting Chardonnay.

I found one that really hit the spot the other day, the Hihi Sirius Chardonnay 2007 from Gisborne. It's simply a delight.

Grown in the Ormond sub-region of the greater Gisborne region, this pale gold-coloured wine smells ripe and clean with peachy fruit and a hint of citrus. Bright and juicy to the taste, it's very fresh with a savoury mealy undercurrent and a buttery richness that morphs into butterscotch as the flavours linger in the mouth. There's enough oak for oak-lovers yet it doesn't dominate and those who shy away from oak will like this wine too.

The back label says, 'lightly oaked' but this richness of the partial barrel fermentation and aging on yeast lees has added to the complexity of the wine.

Hihi, which mean 'rays of the sun', is the love child of Andy Nimmo, a former electrician who left England for New Zealand and the dream of a life in wine. He arrived in Gisborne to join the Certificate in Viticulture and Winemaking course at Tairawhiti Polytech and was the only student in his year to make a medal winning wine.

An article in the Gisborne Winegrowers magazine tells us that Andy Nimmo bought a run down vineyard in Ormond in 2004 but there's nothing 'run down' about the vineyard today. Andy uses about 10 tonnes of chardonnay and Gewurztraminer fruit grown on his own vineyard with the rest contracted to one of the country's biggest producers. He's cleared some of the land and planted Tempranillo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Syrah and Malbec with the first of these to be harvested this year, and has established a small winery on the site.

He supplements his own vineyard's grapes with red grapes that he buys in.

Simon Groves of Terroir Wines, and a former employee of Pernod Ricard NZ, was contracted to make the 2007 vintage Hihi Wines.

Hihi Wines has won a fair swag of bronze medals and a silver medal for the Hihi Unoaked Chardonnay 2007 at the International Chardonnay Challenge heldin Gisborne last year.

I wouldn't be surprised if Hihi Sirius Chardonnay 2007 achieves for him his first golden gong. I rated it gold medal standard (18.5/20) in my blind tasting. It's a five star wine in both the quality and delicious drinking stakes.

It has 13.5% alcohol, it is sealed with a screwcap, it costs about $16-$18 a bottle and is in a number of stores in retail.

Andy sells his wines direct by the case and orders can be placed by emailing or by phone at 06 8625077 or 021 720738.

A basic information page is at

There's a little more background on Hihi Estate at

And here

© Sue Courtney
4 Feb 2008

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