edited by Sue Courtney
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Nelson, New Zealand
If you are browsing the wine shop shelves and see the Spencer Hill Coastal Ridge Chardonnay 2001 from Nelson at the top of New Zealand's South Island, grab a bottle or two or three.
This is one of the most delicious chardonnays I've tasted in a while and was my choice for 'most drinkable chardonnay' at the Wine New Zealand fair in August. Back then I found a lovely full-bodied slightly buttery chardonnay with honeydew melon, grilled peach and spicy mellow oak that lingered on a bright refreshing and very long creamy finish. "Pursue this wine", I wrote.
But next time I tried the wine I could not believe how strong the caramel creme flavour was when the wine was first opened. If you like caramels you will be absolutely wooed by this wine.
Straw-gold coloured with a texture that is rich and slightly viscous, there's a myriad of fruit flavours, even a hint of cherimoya amongst the more obvious peach and tropical fruit. It's richly flavoured and simply yummy and although it is drinking so well now, I reckon that in a couple of years it will be simply superb.
"I enjoy making chardonnay", says winemaker Philip Jones whose philosophy on chardonnay winemaking is to make a style that will reconvert the 'anything but chardonnay' folks. So if you are a member of the ABC club, I recommend you try this.
The Spencer Hill Coastal Ridge Chardonnay 2001 is the first release from the Spencer Hill Coastal Ridge vineyards, which have been planted 8 kilometres north of Nelson City on a series of ridges overlooking Tasman Bay. This new area for grapevines is the new home of Spencer Hill, the only grower in the area at the moment. It is frost free and warmer than the other Nelson sites south and south west of the city and warmer than Marlborough too, with bud burst about two weeks earlier than in these two established regions.
Philip Jones says the heavier clay loam soils, see breezes, cool night time temperatures, high acid chardonnay clones and low yields result in full flavoured grapes.
The wine was cool fermented with a combination of yeasts and new French oak. After full malolactic fermentation the wine was aged for 8 months in oak then for another six months before release. It is labelled as having 14% alcohol by volume.
I like the bottle presentation of Spencer Hill wines. The tiny piece of grapevine tied around its neck makes it stand out amongst the others on the shelf. Recommended retail price is $34 from the winery but I've seen it in retail for a dollar or so less. I don't know how widely available this wine will be, however, for just 480 cases were made.
Check out www.spencerhillwine.com for more information.
© Sue Courtney
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