NZ Emerging Whites 2012

Our panel went off-piste to assess a cluster of emerging white wines, writes John Saker.

by John Saker | Monday, 28 May, 2012
They’re not household names, but that could change in short order. The category we call emerging whites contains vine varieties that may be relatively new in this country, but have established reputations in other parts of the globe – verdelho and grüner veltliner, for example. New Zealand’s aptitude for them is still under scrutiny. Among the entrants for this tasting was also a number of white blends, a style to which more New Zealand winemakers are being drawn and which gave us our top wine. In all, seven of 27 wines won four stars or above. “We’re not witnessing a revolution here, but we’re defi nitely seeing some exciting progress,” said panel chair, John Belsham. “Some of the blends particularly showed we have a lot to look forward to in this category.”

The Tasting panel
Leading the NZ chardonnay expedition was Cuisine’s regular tasting panel chair, John Belsham, international wine judge and proprietor of Foxes Island Wines. He was joined by Olly Masters, senior wine judge and principal at Tripwire Wine Consulting, and our Australia-based wine judge and writer, Ralph Kyte-Powell. The associate judges (non-scoring) were Jane Boyle and our NZ wine writer, John Saker.

1. Coopers Creek Gisborne Cee Vee (Chardonnay Viognier) 2010 (Gisborne) $14-$18 -2

Winemaker Simon Nunns may be the only person in the country who has a CV in liquid form. This wellwrought blend captures florals, mango and watermelon flavours, presenting them with dash and exuberance. It’s an intense, fruit-driven style, attractively fleshy in texture, and in the end, very drinkable. A wine to enjoy with grilled
haloumi and candied grapes.

Bridging vine angst
Wine drinkers’ fear of the unknown triggered the marriage between Cee (chardonnay) and Vee (viognier) at West Auckland winery Coopers Creek. “We created the chardonnay-viognier blend as a bridging wine,” explains winemaker Simon Nunns. “It was a way of closing the gap between what people knew (chardonnay) and what they didn’t know, and were perhaps a little intimidated by (viognier). We were also aware the blend had been tried in Australia with some success.” The inaugural 2007 Cee Vee found itself a small following, which gave Coopers Creek encouragement to make another in 2010. While Nunns doesn’t feel it’s a wine that will “conquer the world”, he likes the way the two varieties complement each other. “It works,” he says. “There are no fl avour clashes. From a winemaking point of view, it’s a matter of finding the point where the exotica of viognier doesn’t dominate. I’ve found that 30 per cent viognier is about the limit.” Nunns recommends chicken with a creamy sauce as an ideal match.

Forrest The Doctors’ Arneis 2011 (Marlborough) $25-$28 -7
Arneis is a grape from northern Italy and there’s an Italianate quality to the almond marzipan aromatics of this
wine. It’s juicy and fresh, with a hint of green apple and honeysuckle and a soft, light mouthfeel. Perfect for
sipping on a warm afternoon.

Hihi Sweet As 2011 (Gisborne) $12-$16 -3
As its name makes clear, this white blend is a sweet expression. While there was discussion around its sugar-acid balance, there was nothing but praise for its charming lavender and elderflower scents, and the creamy clover-honey quality in the mouth.

Sileni The Circle Hawke’s Bay Semillon 2010 $25 -3
Many local wine lovers are envious of Australia’s semillons, many of which age beautifully. One of New Zealand's few expressions, this wine did draw comparisons with styles across the Tasman. It is weighty and densely textured, with gooseberry and toasted notes. The finish is long and generous.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawke’s Bay Arneis 2011 $23-$27 -3
The aromatics arrive in a kind of cloud, attractively floral but not piercing. In the mouth this wine is quite weighty, with almond, pear and peach notes prevalent, and smooth and waxy in texture. This would be a fine match for glazed ham.

Villa Maria Private Bin Hawke’s Bay Arneis 2011 $18-$24 -3
This fleshy, lively expression has a hint of tangerine peel and grapey freshness throughout. “It has a nice sense of place. There’s some complexity in there,” said Olly Masters. Bring a bottle out at office drinks and get your
colleagues guessing the grape variety.

Waimea Edel 2010 (Nelson) $20-$22 -6
Inspired by the Alsatian aromatic blend Edelzwicker, this fascinating mix of gewürztraminer, pinot gris and riesling is an intense, compelling wine. Darkish in colour, it’s medium in style, plump, with elegant acidity and dried fruit notes. Serve early in the evening with canapes.

For wines awarded three stars in Cuisine’s 2012 NZ emerging whites tasting, Feb 2012 click here


Tasting method
All wines are tasted blind. If, after discussion, the tasters do not agree on a star rating, the wine will receive the rating given by the majority but dissenting comments will be included in the wine notes. The scores of winemaker judges cannot exceed those of other judges.

All wines entered in Cuisine tastings must be readily available at the time of publication. However, high demand and a six-week lead time between tastings and publication can affect availability. If you cannot find
the wines, contact the winery or distributor direct.

Suppliers are asked to provide a retail price range for all wines entered in tastings. Prices do vary between vineyard and low-to-high volume outlets and cannot, therefore, be guaranteed. All prices are quoted in $NZ.

Recommended by Cuisine stickers
Look for these top wines as your guarantee of quality.

Gold sticker - Wines awarded five stars can wear the gold five-star Recommended by Cuisine sticker.
Burgundy sticker - Wines awarded 4 1/2 and four stars can display the original Recommended by Cuisine sticker.


Stuck for ideas for dinner?
Check your fridge, enter up to 4 items into the Meal Maker and we'll find recipes from our files containing those ingredients.

* Tip: If your search is unsuccessful, try entering fewer      ingredients

2014-2015 recipe index


Connect with cuisine

Visit Cuisine Magazine's profile on Pinterest.


Subscribe now



Digital Edition

Buy digital subscriptions - delivered via email
subscribe now »

Buy Cuisine's How To Cook app
buy now on the App Store»