edited by Sue Courtney
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The WineoftheWeek.com "Best of the Year"
As I recap the highlights of 2003 it’s hard to go past the fantastic Sauvignon Blanc that dominated the first few months of the year. It's the
Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2002, the top wine in the New Zealand vs. South Africa tasting, repeating its performance at a mid year redux of the tasting. It’s a wine that has also had outstanding success on the local and international show circuit, including winning the Silverado trophy for the best Sauvignon Blanc at the London International Wine and Spirit Competition, and furthermore critics that everyone loves to quote endorse it most heartily. This silken textured sauvignon blanc is truly the leader of the pack.
The 2003 Sauvignon Blancs have been so exciting, a flurry of beauts from the time the season's wines started to appear around the middle of the year, and they keep on coming as some producers hold wine back to develop a little in the bottle. The 'top 10' are listed on my
Sauvignon Blanc tasting page and summarised below but the one I'm picking as my favourite is the
Matua Valley Paretai Sauvignon Blanc 2003 (Wine of the Week ending 30 Nov 2003).
Gewurztraminer is one of my all-time favourite varieties to drink. I love it straight from the fridge in the summer because not even chilling can subdue the gregarious flavours that excite my palate and I love it in the winter because it's a wake up call on a dull dreary day. However, there are only a few gewurz's that stand waist, shoulders and head above the rest of a somewhat dull boring pack. And right at the top is the
Johanneshof Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2003 (Wine of the Week ending 23 Nov 2003). I judged the gewurz class at the Liquorland Top 100 and this is the one the pressed my button in so many places. When I found out what the wine was, about 3 weeks later, I was not surprised, for although Johanneshof is not a name that is commonly heard on the wine show scene, the Johanneshof winemaker, Warwick Foley, is no stranger to Champion Gewurztraminer. He made the Te Whare Ra Gewurztraminers that took the Air New Zealand trophy several years in a row.
New Zealand is internationally renowned for its quality sparkling wines thanks to Lindauer a $10 sparkler that consistently performs in international competitions, often beating the French at their own game. It has attracted Champagne producers to check out New Zealand and form alliances with New Zealand companies to produce their New Zealand cuvées that carry their Champagne House name. One of the smallest relationships would be that between Rudi Bauer of Quartz Reef and Clothilde Chauvet from the House of Marc Chauvet.
When I choose a Riesling and say 'Pegasus Bay', this will not be a surprise to perpetual readers of wineoftheweek.com. 'Pegasus Bay' and 'Riesling' go together like 'love and marriage' and 'horse and carriage' although there is nothing yesteryear about the wine. It would be so easy to choose the perennial favourite, the Pegasus Bay 'Aria' Riesling 2002 (Wine of the Week ending 2 Nov 2003) but the 2002 Aria is just that little bit sweeter this vintage. Instead I'm choosing the mainstream
Pegasus Bay Riesling 2002. I bought a few on its November 2002 release and have tasted it every 2 or 3 months since. It was wonderful to start with but it just keeps getting better and better. It tastes so deliciously fruity it could even accompany breakfast.
Kim Crawford 'Reka' Botrytised Riesling 2002 (Wine of the Week ending 10 Aug 2003) is my pick for a botrytised wine. Tipped here on wineoftheweek.com long before its show stopping results that collected a raft of gold medals and the odd trophy, this is simply a fantastic sweetie.
Chardonnay, for me, has to be just right. Just right for my palate. There are so many beaut Chardonnay's about that consistently perform but when I was asked last year to choose my favourite New Zealand chardonnay, it was relatively easy to say 'Kumeu River'. Apart from the fact it is fantastic wine made by master Chardonnay craftsman, Michael Brajkovich, it is also because this is one producer's wine that I have tasted every year since the 1989 vintage. It's because of my proximity to the winery, being able to take a short drive to the cellar door, to taste the wines on release, to buy them and nurture them, to pull them out and taste them with age. They always impress.
What a year for Syrah! It's the year the variety came out of the closet.
Craggy Range Block 14 Syrah 2001 (Wine of the Week ending 9 Nov 2003) was the other wine that absolutely besotted me in the NZ Syrah category. This gobsmackingly gorgeous wine was the runner-up in the Aussie-hosted Tri-Nations Challenge – and runner up to another NZ wine would you believe! Their quality was endorsed by the Australian and South African judges as well as the NZ judge, and the NZ wines beat the best those two other competing countries could put forward. Out of 30 Syrahs, 10 from each country, NZ took the top two spots and another two placed in the Top 10. You would wonder why, after our team got it wrong when it was poured as Wine 7 in the First Glass Wine Options, that I'd put this wine in my Top 10, but I was so impressed I went out and bought all I could lay my hands on.
When it comes to Pinot Noir there are so many wines to choose from. You would think that 2002, the year that has escalated some pinot noirs to greatness, would figure strongly and indeed they do, but I must not forget the awesome
Peregrine Central Otago Pinot Noir 2001 (Wine of the Week ending 6 Apr 2003) that blew the socks off some very highly lauded names at a tasting I did earlier in the year. Crafted by Rudi Bauer, its beauty unfolds like a butterfly awakening from a chrysalis.
I would be remiss to omit the Neudorf Moutere 'Home Block' Pinot Noir 2001 (Wine of the Week ending 9 Mar 2003) from Nelson. While my first memory of this dates back to a tasting at the vineyard with Tim and Judy Finn, a bottled consumed at home on my husband's birthday last March lived up to all my expectations, bringing back many fantastic memories while making even more.
There have been many gorgeous Pinot Noirs from the 2002 vintage and for a moment I thought that Rudi Bauer was going to feature a third time in my wines of the Year. The Quartz Reef Central Otago Pinot Noir 2002 would be my top 2002 Central Otago Pinot Noir to date, but sorry Rudi, at the last minute you were edged out of the first place by the
Ata Rangi Martinborough Pinot Noir 2002. This silken textured wine delivers everything that Martinborough promises and more. It was too late to be reviewed as a Wine of the Week, although it carries the day here.
Last but not least, I reserve a place for a bottle of Merlot in the winetaster's dozen. I was on the Merlot judging panel at the Liquorland Top 100 and the delicious
Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2001 (Wine of the Week ending 12 Oct 2003), was my top pointed wine in the initial round of judging and was also my choice for Wine of the Show. Tasted several times throughout the year, where it's not all sniff, swirl, sniff, sip, spit, move on the next one, it also performed out of sight. It's been in the bottle a while now and is settling nicely, fantastic with food, which is how this wine has been designed to drink.
In summary, the winetaster's dozen for 2003 is -
Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2002 – Winner SA/NZ Challenge
Matua Valley Paretai Sauvignon Blanc 2003 – WOTW Nov 2003
Johanneshof Gewurztraminer 2003 – WOTW Nov 2003
Kumeu River Maté's Chardonnay 2002 – WOTW May 2003
Pegasus Bay Riesling 2002 – all year round favourite
Kim Crawford Reka Riesling 2002 – WOTW August 2003
Selaks Founders Reserve Hawkes Bay Syrah 2001 – WOTW Sep 2003
Craggy Range Block 14 Syrah 2001 – WOTW Nov 2003
Peregrine Central Otago Pinot Noir 2001 - WOTW Apr 2003
Neudorf Moutere 'Home Block' Pinot Noir 2001 - WOTW Mar 2003
Ata Rangi Martinborough Pint Noir 2002 – not reviewed as WOTW but definitely one of the wines of the year
Villa Maria Reserve Merlot 2001 – WOTW Oct 2003
There are a couple of additional accolades too.
Most surprising wine tasted during the year
Outstanding Tasting of the Year
Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2003 - Marlborough
© Sue Courtney
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