TOP NZ RIES­LING

Mis­sion Es­tate Ries­ling 2014 (Hawke’s Bay) -3 $16.50 ★★★★★

Cuisine - - NZ RIESLING -

A cou­ple of years in the bot­tle has given this wine re­mark­able har­mony, both in taste and tex­ture. It is medium-dry, round and flows evenly, gen­er­ously dis­pens­ing toast, lime, ap­ple and honey notes be­fore re­solv­ing seam­lessly with a lin­ger­ing fin­ish. “A fleshy, quite flam­boy­ant style with en­ergy,” was how John Belsham de­scribed it. The judg­ing panel felt fresh sar­dines grilled with salt, gar­lic and pars­ley would be an ex­cel­lent match.

BAL­ANC­ING ACT

Mis­sion Es­tate wine­maker Paul Mooney re­mem­bers well the first time the winery used fruit from a favoured grower site on Ohiti Road. It was back in 1992, and the wine that re­sulted picked up sev­eral gold medals. Mis­sion Es­tate has had a strong con­nec­tion with the vine­yard ever since, al­low­ing Mooney to build a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence with Hawke’s Bay ries­ling and win­ning more awards (in­clud­ing nab­bing this year’s Cui­sine top ries­ling). “It’s about the pick­ing win­dow,” he de­clares. “We find that flavour peaks at around 19 brix. So that’s when we pick it; if you let it hang you can lose those flavours. We then fer­ment it in stain­less steel and re­tain a touch of sugar in the wine, so the alcohol is al­ways down around 11 per cent. That’s what gives us the best bal­ance.” Mooney is a great be­liever in cel­lar­ing ries­ling (and the other aro­matic va­ri­eties) for a few years. “This 2014 is com­ing into its own and they’re all like that – un­like sau­vi­gnon blanc, they need a year or two be­fore they start to blos­som.”

2 / The Sounds Marl­bor­ough Ries­ling 2016 ★★★★★ -3 $21

The panel was much taken with the aro­mat­ics of this medium-dry ex­pres­sion – wild flower, jas­mine, ginger, apri­cot and clover honey. The palate is marked by fruit pu­rity and a soft, even tex­ture. “A, juicy, de­li­cious, el­e­gant wine,” noted Cameron Douglas.

3 / Te Kairanga Ries­ling 2015 (Wairarapa) ★★★★★ -4 $23

2015 was a great year for ries­ling in Mart­in­bor­ough and this is one of the re­gion’s best. It is dry, del­i­cately tex­tured and lemon sor­bet-in­fused, with lovely def­i­ni­tion and en­ergy. “The fo­cus and length are re­mark­able,” noted John Saker.

4 / Law­son’s Dry Hills Ries­ling 2015 (Marl­bor­ough)

★★★★★ -6 $19.95

A whiff of toast min­gles with lifted Rose’s lime juice scents. In the mouth, this ries­ling has length and ele­gance, lime and stone­fruit notes pro­pelled by fine ripe acid­ity. Serve it along­side a salad of rocket, heir­loom toma­toes and grilled egg­plant.

5 / Rock­burn Cen­tral Otago Tiger­moth Ries­ling 2016

★★★★★ -5 $40

Wine­maker Mal­colm Rees-Fran­cis has crafted a ries­ling that off­sets the va­ri­ety’s be­com­ing flo­rals and fresh herb notes with min­er­ally, flinty in­trigue. It’s a con­cen­trated, medium-dry style with plenty of en­ergy and ten­sion.

Fromm Ries­ling Spatlese 2015 (Marl­bor­ough)

★★★★ -3 $25

This medium-sweet ver­sion from the ded­i­cated team at Fromm is al­ways a treat. The 2015 is typ­i­cally light framed, with gen­tle acids un­der­pin­ning peach, ap­ple, lemon and some edgy sage notes. The fin­ish is fine and long.

Hunter’s Marl­bor­ough Ries­ling 2016 ★★★★ -4 $20

Hunter’s ex­pe­ri­ence with ries­ling is clearly ev­i­dent in this dry style, made from fruit taken from a trio of Wairau Val­ley vine­yards. There is a sur­feit of love­li­ness to the fruit, with hon­ey­suckle, mango, lime and sher­bet notes all noted. The acid­ity is spot on – it fresh­ens and lifts with­out draw­ing at­ten­tion to it­self. A ries­ling to en­joy with seared scal­lops.

Saint Clair Pi­o­neer Block 9 Big John Ries­ling 2016 (Marl­bor­ough)

★★★★ -4 $26.90

This ex­pres­sion cap­tures sweet lemon, tan­ger­ine and stone­fruit flavours and frames them with fine, lively acid­ity. “Great fo­cus, con­cen­tra­tion and length,” noted John Belsham. It’s medium-dry in style and would work well with mildly spiced Thai.

Vi­dal Es­tate Dry Ries­ling 2015 (Marl­bor­ough)

★★★★ -5 $16

Burst­ing with ap­ple and cit­rus fresh­ness, with a touch of white pep­per for good mea­sure, this is a bright, en­gag­ing wine. Its fruit was sourced in the Wairau and Awa­tere Val­leys, and wine­maker Hugh Crich­ton gave it time on lees to en­hance tex­ture and pres­ence. With its lively acid­ity it will age well. It’s also great value.

Villa Maria Cel­lar Se­lec­tion Marl­bor­ough Dry Ries­ling 2015 ★★★★ -4 $18

There are few (if any) bet­ter ries­ling buys in the coun­try than the Villa Maria Cel­lar Se­lec­tion. This ver­sion is a bony, flinty wine with toasty cit­rus high­lights. It’s a lovely com­pact pack­age that grows in the mouth and of­fers great length. Put a few bot­tles in the cel­lar and leave them there for a decade; you won’t be dis­ap­pointed.

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