Uncorking Legends: 

Tyrrell’s Old Vines and Iconic Wines

Who is ‘The Wine Writer’?
What is ‘The Wine Writer’?
Wine of the Month

Buy Medal Stickers

When choosing the brands for this article, I thought what does iconic mean? So, I headed to the dictionary. The Oxford dictionary definition of iconic is,

Iconic adjective

/aɪˈkɒnɪk/ /aɪˈkɑːnɪk/

  1. ​being a famous person or thing that people admire and see as a symbol of a particular idea, way of life, etc.
    • an iconic image/building/figure/brand

I then considered what iconic means to me. My definition of an iconic New Zealand wine brand came down to a few crucial points. The brand must be established in the marketplace, have consistently produced exceptional quality wines, be a trusted brand and be recognisable nationally and internationally. On further contemplation, I realised that as a young wine country we have small brands producing potentially iconic wines too, check out my “Ones to Watch”.

Kumeu River, Auckland

In Auckland, it doesn’t get more iconic than Kumeu River. Maté and Melba Brajkovich are New Zealand wine royalty, the driving force behind the brand, which today is internationally recognised as a premium wine producer. Their four children, Michael, Marijana, Milan, and Paul, now all work in the family business which is the jewel in the crown of the Auckland wine industry.

Kumeu River Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2018

Planted with Chardonnay 1990 by Maté himself, this vineyard was the site that started the Brajkovich wine odyssey when purchased in 1944. Sadly, Maté passed before the first vintage was released in 1994, the year that marked the fiftieth anniversary of his family’s arrival in Kumeu.

Made with 100% Mendoza clone, this chardonnay is ripe and concentrated yet elegant and refined. A combination of peach, nectarine, citrus and minerality, the palate is round and creamy with mouth-watering bright acidity. The 2018 is a stunning wine that will age for many years to come. I was lucky enough to also taste the 2013 vintage, an outstanding wine that is a must have for Chardonnay aficionados, available only through the cellar door, I recommend you buy it while you can.

Te Mata Estate, Hawke’s Bay

Every collector of New Zealand wine has a bottle of Te Mata in their cellar, and if they don’t, they should. Exporting to more than 42 countries, Te Mata wines can be found on the wine lists of the best restaurants and on the shelves of the finest wine retailers worldwide. Using only estate grown grapes from their Hawke’s Bay vineyards, some sites have been under vine for over 120 years and are some of the first planted in the country.

Te Mata Coleraine 2018

Coleraine takes its name from the city in Northern Ireland where owner John Buck’s late grandfather was born. Regarded as one of New Zealand’s top red wines since its inception in 1982, Coleraine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. For the first several months of aging the varieties are kept separate, they are blended and then aged for a further 18 months in French oak barrels.

The colour of this wine is amazing, deep purple with hints of ruby, it’s mesmerising. This wine is like a warm but firm embrace, blackberry, Doris plum, redcurrant and cherry with smoky oak spices are found on the nose and on the palate. This wine is showing the perfect depth of flavour, ripe fruit, spice with integrated, grippy tannins. Buy some to drink now and some for the cellar!

Ata Rangi, Martinborough

Ata Rangi, whose first vines were planted in 1980 by founder Clive Paton, produce award winning wines from their certified organic vineyards. Passionate winemaker Helen Masters, regarded as one of New Zealand’s best, has been with Ata Rangi since 2003 and was awarded Gourmet Traveller Wine NZ Winemaker of the Year in 2019. Helen’s hands-off approach to winemaking mean the wines speak of the sites from which they came, some with vines more than thirty years of age.

Ata Rangi Lismore Pinot Gris 2018

The fruit is handpicked, whole bunch pressed and fermented in a combination of stainless steel and large format neutral oak barrels using indigenous yeasts. This Pinot Gris spends several months on lees to develop texture and complexity in the wine, a method widely used in Alsace.

I could drink this wine every day. Intense aromas of ripe pear, apple, camomile, and gingery spice. A dry wine with delightful white fleshed stone fruits, nashi pear and citrus notes on the soft round palate. The long, lingering finish is filled with crushed stone minerality and cleansing crisp acidity.

Cloudy Bay, Marlborough

Cloudy Bay was one of New Zealand’s first iconic wine brands. Named after the coastline discovered by Captain James Cook in 1770, Cloudy Bay was one of the first handful of producers to break ground in Marlborough. Their reputation for outstanding Sauvignon Blanc quickly spread worldwide and continues today.

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Excluding the 5% of juice that goes into large, old oak barrels, this wine is fermented with selected strains of yeast at cool temperatures in stainless steel tanks. A blend of 82 separate components from vineyards in the Rapaura, Fairhall, Renwick and Brancott sub-regions of the Wairau Valley produce Cloudy Bay’s signature style.

This wine is intense. Supercharged aromas of citrus, gooseberry and passionfruit are refreshingly unapologetic. The palate is fresh and lively with concentrated flavours of white peach and blossom joining the juicy gooseberry, mandarin and passionfruit. If you love Sauvignon Blanc, this is the wine for you.

Pegasus Bay, North Canterbury

I’m not going to lie, I have numerous bottles of Pegasus Bay in my cellar, especially the glorious Aria Riesling (featured in my Wonderful Winter Wines article last year). A family owned and operated winery that produce intense, concentrated, and powerful wines that are thoughtful, delicious and leave you wanting more.

Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2017

The grapes for this wine are picked from individual parcels at different times to enhance the range of flavours in the finished wine. A portion of whole bunch is used in the wild yeast fermentation, twice daily plunging of the skins and 18 months in French oak, of which 40% is new, combine to make this deliciously dark and brooding wine.

The rich, juicy red plum, dark cherry, cranberry, with herbal notes are incredibly dense and complex. However, the palate, which is bursting with the fore mentioned characters, has a lifted acidity that lightens the palate weight and gives the wine a burst of freshness. Ripe fruit, dusty tannins, and savoury mushroom, this is the perfect wine for the cooler nights to come.

Felton Road, Central Otago

Felton Road is the epitome of an iconic Central Otago brand. Certified organic and biodynamic, their hands-off winemaking practices are implemented on their 100% estate grown wines. Oh, and did I mention how cool Blair Walter and Nigel Greening are? Have you heard of the lunar calendar? Today is a fruit day that will become a root day. I like to believe that a good wine will taste amazing on any day of the year, but on occasion a bottle doesn’t taste quite right, and it so happens that day is a root day, coincidence?

Felton Road Calvert Pinot Noir 2018

Located only a few kilometres from the winery in Bannockburn, the 4.6 hectare Calvert vineyard was planted with Pinot Noir almost twenty years ago. The handpicked grapes are taken to the gravity fed winery; fermented with wild yeast and a 25% component of whole bunches. The wine spends 16 months in French oak and is bottled unfined and unfiltered.

A medium ruby colour, delicious red and dark cherry, dried herbs and delicate violet aromas draw me in. The wine is medium bodied with a complex and generous palate, predominately red fruit flavours of cherry and red currant with a savoury touch, round fine grained tannins and a finish that starts with oak derived spice and finishes with lingering minerality.

One to Watch

Saorsa, Hawke’s Bay

By using the best fruit available, minimal intervention and no fining, winemaker and co-owner Alex Hendry is producing what he calls honest wines. Saorsa produces two outstanding varieties, Syrah and Viognier from the Hawke’s Bay. They sell out every vintage, so be fast if you want to taste them! Available through their website and in wine bars and retailers that know their stuff.

On Giants’ Shoulders, Martinborough            

“We stand on the shoulders of giants, having grown from the knowledge and labour of others that came before us.” Owners Braden and Gabrielle Crosby purchased established Martinborough vineyards in 2015 and are producing sophisticated Pinot Gris, elegant Chardonnay, and structured Pinot Noir. Available at Caro’s and through their cellar door.

Windrush Organic, Marlborough

Second generation organic farmer Callum Linklater and his wife Sarah produce Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from their certified organic vineyards in Marlborough. A small brand making great wines in super smart packaging, be sure to check them out. You can purchase online and at Caro’s wine stores.

NB. Windrush Organic and On Giants’ Shoulders are distributed by Sgt. Peppers Ltd.