Even in good vintages like 2013 in Hawkes Bay, most merlots
and blends benefit from extra bottle age to allow the
sometimes rough edges of youth to mellow. When the premium
2013 reds are released, expect some fine wines.
Sauvignon blanc can bring a fresh breath of summer into the
dark and cold of winter, but the richer, oaked versions,
sometimes called fumé (smoky) blanc, have more complexity and
interest and can be worth lingering over.
2013 was a good vintage in Hawkes Bay. Craggy Range winemaker
Matt Stafford describes it as the ''vintage of a
generation''. A tasting of his whites a few weeks ago
revealed elegant wines already harmonious, with charming but
restrained fruit and nicely balanced acidity, that will no
doubt be long-lived.
I enjoy sauvignon blanc at this time of year, just before the
new vintage is released. A year's bottle age softens and
integrates the flavours so they are less assertive, although
still fresh and crisp as sauvignon should be.
Pinot noir often needs some bottle age to mellow and
harmonise; no more than two to three years for some, while
the best will continue to develop interest and complexity for
five to 10 years or even longer.
Sometimes modern versions of traditional European wines like
Spanish tempranillo-based red from the Rioja region can be
good value despite coming halfway around the world. They
offer a different flavour and structure from the New Zealand
and Australian wines we are used to.
Pinot gris is diversifying from the sweet, fruity high
alcohol wines of recent years. Now more savoury, textural
versions are appearing as winemakers age the wine on lees or
even do some barrel fermentation.