Simon Groves and Amanda Ritchie of the Martinborough Wine Centre hosted the Consumers Choice Awards 2013 on Saturday 16 November, the eve of Toast Martinborough. And just like any award show members of New Zealand wine celebrity were there, including Raymond Chan, John Saker, Joelle Thomson and local winemakers Wilco Lam of Dry River and John Kavanagh of Te Kairanga.
What sets the Consumers Choice Awards apart from the rest is that these wines are picked by us, the wine consumer. Rather than an expert palate dictating the wines we should enjoy, it’s the everyday wine enthusiast that selects the tastiest drop.
Over the course of the past month Pinot Noirs from the Martinborough region were arranged into a series of heats available for daily tastings. The 12 wines we tasted on the night were the result of approximately 400 votes amassed from both local and international visitors to the shop.
There was some discussion about what we were looking for. There are two ways of tasting: picking the one that’s drinking nicest right now, or the one with the greatest potential to age. The general consensus, championed by Raymond Chan, was that the wine has to look good now, there has to be immediate satisfaction.
The wines for the night were sensitively arranged by price point to ensure that the tastings were fair to the wine. The underlined wines are my pick from each flight.
Flight one: Under $30
Served with Wasabi Mustard rubbed Carpaccio of Beef
The wines in the first flight were all very different styles of wine so it was difficult to pick a winner. They each had their merits, all for different reasons and they’re all showing different levels of degradation of maturation. Between my two mates and I, each of the three wines was awarded a top rating for the flight.
There was a tie for first. The tie breaker came in the form of Dry River winemaker Wilco Lam. He had the uneasy task of selecting an overall winner for the entry level wines. He quantified that he was looking for a wine that was an everyday drinking wine, one that’s easy to digest. He found that with the Brodie Estate Winddancer.
1st Brodie Estate 2009 Winddancer RRP $29.90: Primary floral and fragrant notes mingle with a more developed earthy and mushroom palate. This one got my vote due to the richer, smoother nature of the wine when paired with food.
2nd Te Hera Estate Kiritea Pinot Noir 2011 RRP $23.50: Notes of spicy cloves and juicy red fruit underlie a punchy oak character and drying, slightly furry tannins.
3rd River Terrace 2012 RRP $29.90: For such a young wine there’s really nothing primary about it. Big spice and a savoury nose with prominent leathery and animal/horsey aromas dominate the wine.
Flight two: Under $50
Served with Beetroot and Truffle Arancini
There’s a progression in style with the second flight making the wines far more enjoyable on the whole. Again there was a tie for first and it’s easy to see why. Again the tie breaker sat with Wilco, however, he picked the Palliser, which did nothing to break the tie.
1st Sei Cento Vineyard 600 2009 RRP $42: Classic pinot on the nose and palate with bright, primary red fruits and florals. The wine is ripe, silky and delicate.
1st Brodie Estate 2010 RRP $42: Bounced back and forth on how much I enjoyed this wine as it bounced between being both rich, lovely and very engaging to rather subdued. Worth a look.
3rd Palliser Estate 2011 RRP $44: This one was a bit closed, showing some gentle florals and hints of oak with a savoury character and sharp tannins.
Flight three: Under $60
Served with Blue Cheese Souffle Crepe
Picking a winner starts to get tougher as the wines get better in quality and richer in concentration. This tasting is starting to show quite clearly that you get what you pay for. I struggled to make my decision as the Redbank Estate was my preferred wine, however, it lacked the elegance that I was looking for in a Pinot Noir.
1st Redbank Estate James 2008 RRP $42: Not the pinot you’d expect, but I was looking for the wine that gave me the most immediate pleasure and so this one got my vote. The grip, tanning and acid was all there with the most complex nose of the night focussing on darker cherries and berries. It gets richer when paired with food.
2nd Escarpment 2011 RRP $54: This is a pretty wine with red fruit and spicy notes. The food pairing really helped to improve the texture and weightiness of the wine.
3rd Te Kairanga John Martin Reserve 2012 RRP $45: Savoury pepper spiciness with highish alcohol and just a touch of floral softness. The blue cheese souffle brought down the savoury nature of the wine and increased the fruity character, resulting in a rather single focused wine.
Flight four: $70 and over
Served with Venison Pithiviers
A challenging flight as the wines start to get very consistent in style all coming from the same 2011 vintage. Picking a top of the flight does nothing to detract from the beauty of the other two. They’re all fantastic wines.
1st Vynfields Reserve 2011 RRP $76: A big fruit bomb that’s rich and complex with plenty of vanilla, obvious oak and red fruit.
2nd Escarpment 2011 RRP $72: Softer than the rest this is all about rich, smooth, vanillian texture. This is a classic pinot with high-ish tannins and a nice grip to match the red fruits, delicate florals and notes of cloves. This is a truly enjoyable wine. Very moreish.
2nd Dry River 2011 RRP $94: Still a baby that will benefit from some serious cellaring. Big, big fruit, plenty of oak and vanillian smoothness along with a savoury, meaty character.