When most people think of wines from New Zealand, they imagine sipping a delightfully refreshing, citrusy, fruity Sauvignon Blanc on a boat on a hot summer’s day. While we fully support this notion, after discovering another side to New Zealand this winter, we opted to bottle up a brief tour of the region’s wines to bring some warm vibes to chilly Hong Kong.
Enjoy wine with panoramic views and a fun nature walk
If you’ve never been to Marlborough, Brancott Estate is an ideal start to a day in wine country. Situated on a steep hill, a chauffeured van pulls up as quickly as you step out of your car to take you up to the stunning cellar door. Featuring a modern tasting room connected to their restaurant, visitors can enjoy expansive views of the vineyards (and of Marlborough) while sipping and learning about the region’s wines.
While they feature a number of tasting menus, we do think it’s worth pointing out that they make a Sauvignon Gris (only one of five wineries do this in New Zealand). The Brancott Estate Letter Series ”R” Sauvignon Gris is an interesting departure from the typical high-acidity, lush, tropical, fruity Sauvignon Blancs in the region. While still refreshing with stone fruit and a bit of guava and pineapple, it has oak and some herbaceous layers.
The views alone are worth giving it a swirl or making a lunch stop. For those who appreciate light reds for the summer, we suggest trying their easy-drinking Pinot Noir vertical, with their award-winning Brancott Estate Letter Series “T” as a highlight. After you’ve completed the tasting, you can take a leisurely stroll to walk it all off through their carefully curated nature walk, where you may even spy a falcon in residence.
Brancott wines are available through Blue Note Wine
Take time out on the lawn with oysters and bubbles
Most of us are familiar with Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc – it’s something akin to water in the dog days of summer heat, especially here in hot, sticky Hong Kong. For those unaware, as one of the first wineries to set up shop in Marlborough in 1985, Cloudy Bay helped to put Sauvignon Blanc on the map for New Zealand and establish it as a premier wine region.
The grounds at Cloudy Bay are not to be missed and have something for everyone. With vineyards surrounded by water from its eponymous bay and egg-shaped hanging chairs dotting the expansive lawn, it’s a family-friendly place to stop for a leisurely lunch and take in the area’s rich wine history while tasting their famous Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sparkling wines. The recently opened Jack’s Raw Bar offers fresh oysters, cheese and Asian-inspired small plates, which can all be enjoyed on the patio or as a picnic on the lawn overlooking the vineyards.
Despite being a part of the LVMH conglomerate, their brightly lit tasting room is relatively modest and comfortable, featuring a view of the barrel room and high- sloped ceilings. We kicked off the tasting with a Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2017 with its familiar-looking straw, almost green colour and big notes of tropical fruit, including guava, passion fruit and lychee, plus herbal aromas.
As part of the tasting, we also had the opportunity to try Cloudy Bay’s Pelorus sparking wines. Made in the méthode traditionnelle, or in the same manner as the famous champagne houses in the LVMH portfolio such as Veuve Cliquout and Moët & Chandon, they offer a suitable alternative to pricier rosé champagnes, with the cachet of drinking a bubbly that is part of the LVMH portfolio. Of the Pelorus sparkling wines, our favourites included the citrusy Blanc de Blancs and the Pelorus Rosé, which tasted of lovely, dry, subtle fruit with a creamy hint of toast.
While it may not get the attention it deserves compared to its much more popular sibling, the Te Koko 2014 is Cloudy Bay’s answer to premium Sauvignon Blanc. Featuring hand-picked grapes and aged in French oak (versus steel tanks for its regular Sauvignon Blanc), with only 10% alcohol, it’s still citrusy and light but a bit more creamy, with vanilla, stone fruit and floral notes. The lower alcohol content makes it an easy-drinking summer white that’s a better option for food pairing after you’ve sipped a few bottles of the other, more well-known Sauvignon Blanc.
While a few of the younger Pinot Noirs need more time to mellow out, it’s worth tasting the Te Wahi (Maori for “our place”) 2014 for a different view of Cloudy Bay wines. Made with grapes picked from its vineyards in Central Otago and transported to Marlborough in the early-morning hours to ensure that they never get hot, it’s a big Pinot featuring black plum, ripe red cherry, oak and smoke on the nose that still needs a bit of storage time but is worth tasting if you’re in the mood for a more muscular red.
Cloudy Bay wines are available through Watson’s Wine
Charming Old World vineyard and estate meets New World sustainable winemaking
If after a day of touring wineries in Marlborough you feel that you want a taste of something OTHER than New World Sauvignon Blancs, Hans Herzog is your place. A boutique winery and gourmet restaurant in an estate setting overlooking Mediterranean-style gardens, it’s a welcome departure from the larger wineries and the perfect place to end the day with a gourmet meal and an eclectic selection of wines, with something for everyone.
It’s a world tour in the Hans Herzog tasting room. Founded by the namesake Swiss winemaker and his wife, Therese, Hans Herzog offers an astonishing array of 30 varietals on 11.5 hectares of land, formerly an apple orchard. As a winemaker who came to New Zealand to produce Bordeaux-style wine and other varieties that couldn’t be made at his former winery in Zurich, we appreciated the opportunity to compare and contrast with lesser-known, classically grown European grapes including Gruner Veltliner, Zweigelt, Arneis and even Nebbiolo.
Our favourites included the Mistral 2014, a blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne (otherwise known as a southern Rhône white blend), and the aptly named Spirit of Marlborough 2014, a Bordeaux-style blend that ended our day in Marlborough with velvety, ripe tannins, rich dark plum and cherry, blackcurrant and a hint of liquorice, all balanced by earthiness, leather and chocolate – good enough to enjoy alone by the mouthful (we love velvety liquids!) or with a hearty protein.
With Herzog’s penchant for perfection and passion for winemaking, given the number of varietals, the wines are produced in limited quantities. As with most wineries in New Zealand, Hans Herzog prides itself on sustainable, biodynamic and organic winemaking methods.
To taste Hans Herzog wines, contact the winery for distributors in Asia
Note that for each winery we have indicated where the wines are generally available for purchase in Hong Kong, but not all varietals are available. Contact the wineries themselves for details regarding distribution.
Like what you’ve been reading? Stay tuned for Part 2 in this series where we travel further south to Central Otago (aka Pinotville) to enjoy some of the best wines (and food!) in New Zealand.
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