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Winetaster's Dozen - My Wines of the 1999 Year

All these wines have been reviewed on my site somewhere. Most have been a Wine of the Week and those that haven't should have been. These are the wines from New Zealand and Australia that have given me the most pleasure over the year, wines to enjoy, to savour, and to remember. The selection started out as my top 10, then turned into a dozen - and ended up being a Baker's Dozen. Turn the Stickies top to tail and the final selection will fit into a conventional carton.

Winetaster's Dozen of 1999

The New Zealand Selection
As "Wine of the Week" emphasises New Zealand wines, it is not surprising that the majority of the Winetaster's dozen comprises the home product.

Quartz Reef Sparkling Chauvet Brut
A dry sparkler made from 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay the wine is richly coloured with a delicate pink tinge. Bready, toasty aromas and creamy flavours with nuances of nuts and ripe stone fruits. Rich in texture, it leaves a lingering mouthfilling sweetness with hints of citrus and some Pinot Noir earthiness. At just $23.00 retail, it is full of class without the price-tag. Perfect for any occasion, New Years Eve included.

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 1999
This wine is everything NZ Sauvignon is about - zingy, fresh, clean and green. This wine shows off the best from a vintage that is great for some yet mediocre for others. Rich aromas of ripe gooseberry, passion fruit and freshly mown grass with tropical fruits emerging. Intensely flavoured in the palate. Cloudy Bay has continued to live up to its reputation as one of NZ's foremost producers of Sauvignon Blanc and the 1999 vintage lives up to my expectations of the wine that converted me to a wine lover in 1988.

Felton Road Riesling Dry 1999
Yum. A crisp, refreshing, clean, flavoursome riesling with rich, floral, succulent, juicy fruit. Is it the winter snows and frosts that chill the roots of the vines that make them want to produce their best the following Spring and Summer? Whatever, there seems to be something special about the flavours of Riesling produced from this Bannockburn vineyard. Dry, racy, lemon, lime, tropical and stone fruits, bone dry with sweet impressions, incredible balance and ever lasting length.

Brick Bay Pinot Gris 1998
Pinot Gris is a variety that been around in New Zealand for just about forever but was largely unknown to most until this year. Now I can name at least 42 producers but what's more, at least five of the producers won gold medals in various shows this year. The Brick Bay Pinot Gris was one of the most delicious. Just off-dry, with 6.4 grams of residual sugar, I found pear-like, vinous aromas. Zesty acidity and then soft, tropical fruit characters rounding out in the mid palate and a full-bodied lush finish which lingers well. Nicely balanced and pleasant drinking.

Te Whare Ra Duke of Marlborough Gewurztraminer 1998
I just love gewürztraminer. And some of the spicy, aromatic, voluptuously flavoured wines from New Zealand are just as good as the best from Alsace in France. The Te Whare Ra is one of the best and wins for price as well as for flavour. Richly aromatic with musk, spice and rose petal scents. Becoming more floral in the palate, there's also hints of lychees and Turkish Delight. There's a lovely sweetness coming form the 17.5 grams of residual sugar, but the wine is perfectly balanced making it so refreshing. Spicy flavours linger and the pleasing aftertaste lingers forever.

Saints Gisborne Chardonnay 1998
It's delicious peach and citrus flavours married with attractive oak and its affordable price (often below $15.00) means that this is the wine I would give away as a gift, pour at work functions, take to the neighbours or have as a quaffer in the house when unexpected guests call around. Chardonnay is a wine that most people like and the Saints 1998 appealed widely.

Kumeu River Maté's Chardonnay 1998
A serious Chardonnay with a serious price tag. Definitely not a quaffer, but nevertheless the wine I consider the best New Zealand Chardonnay from the 1998 vintage. Gorgeous aromas of tropical fruit and floral notes accompanied by honey, butterscotch and toasty oak. An interesting array of flavours in the palate - pears, peaches, bananas and pineapple fruit - accompanied by a creamy nuttiness, balanced acid and warm alcohol and an everlasting length.

Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 1998
I tried so many Pinots over the year, the NZ Trade Fair being an excellent showcase for this variety. The choice of favourite was very close between this and the Gibbston Valley Pinot Noir 1998, but in the end the Pegasus Bay won because it was the wine that was most affordable (due to a pricing error by my local wine shop, perhaps?). Deep colour for a Pinot with intriguing aromas of violets, biscuits, licorice and damp forest floor and perhaps even a hint of animal. In the palate it is sweet ripe blueberry fruit and floral, yet savoury and herbal with some earthy, mushroom notes. Fine tannins, good acid and warm oak A big wine with a lengthy finish.

Stoneyridge Larose 1996
This wine lives up to its reputation as being the best Bordeaux blend wine from New Zealand. It was easily the best wine for me in a tasting of superstar wines from around the world. I love the voluptuous aromas of chocolate, creamy oak and ripe blackberry fruit with the cool climate minty twang. The rich, ripe, luscious flavours are of sweet, ripe berry fruits and plums with fine chewy tannins, creamy oak and intense length. A totally fabulous wine!

Villa Maria Reserve Noble Riesling 1998
There is something so appealing about a well made sweet wine. This was my super star wine of the 1999 Liquorland Royal Easter Wine Show, where it attained the top score from the 200 or so wines that I tasted. Lush, lemon, honey and beeswax scents, concentrated citrus and botrytis flavours and a texture in the mouth that is rich and viscous makes this a most delectable wine.

The Australian Selection
With so many great wines coming across the Tasman from our neighbours, it seem only fair to include some of my favourites in the Winetaster's dozen.

Jeffrey Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 1999
Appealing floral, grassy and honeysuckle aromas. Grassy, citrus flavours with limes, lemons and honey. Delicate in the palate at first then intense, mouthfilling, racy, acidity and an explosion of limes on the finish. A very dry wine and definitely not for the faint hearted. A wine to cellar and enjoy at its best in 4 to 5 years time. I love the Grosset Riesling - my favourite Riesling producer from Australia.

Penfolds Bin 389 1996
This wine just blew me away at the Penfolds tasting earlier in the year. And on subsequent occasions, even in blind tastings, it stood up to my earlier summation (and boy, I was relieved about that!). My most recent enjoyment of this wine was on 22nd December 1999. I wrote "Gorgeous, blackberry, vanillin and smoky oak aromas. Rich, concentrated, spicy blackcurrant fruit in the palate. Good tannins, spicy oak, fabulous concentration. It is chewy and juicy and just sits on the front of the palate. Great finish and a powerful length which just goes on and on and seems to become more intense in flavour as the aftertaste explodes." A truly great wine and one I hope I will continue to enjoy over the next few years.

De Bortoli Australian Botrytis Semillon 1996
The fascination of sweet wines continues with this, the best that Australia produces. It is made in the style of the great Sauternes. Subtle oak nuances accompany honey, apricot and citrus reminiscent of candied lemons and oranges. It is clean, crisp, elegant and luscious with flavours that hang around the mouth for ages. This wine was my 'trophy wine' of the Australian Wine Research Institute's Judging Course I attended in early December. As I left Australia I looked for this wine, but the 1997 was on sale there. Returning to NZ, I found the 1996 had not been released yet. So keep your eyes out for this little charmer, it is sure to be on the shelves soon.

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