Metro NZ

TOP 50 WINES 2020

If you’re a wine pedant, you should probably stop reading now, because this is not your run-of-the-mill list of the top 50 wines in New Zealand. The wines here all have personality and individuality; they tend to offer something a little different. You’ll still find mass-produced, supermarket wines sitting happily alongside prestige wineries, but also a range of niche producers using off-the-wall varieties and winemaking practices. They all cost less than $50, and many of them cost a great deal less.

Metro has run a summer wine feature for several years now, but going into 2020, we detected a sea change in what many of us are drinking. Yes, we all care about a good drop — but increasingly, that means different things to different people at different times. Over the past decade, we’ve seen the emergence of new biodynamic and organic wines, of “natural” wines made with minimal intervention, of long-marginalised varieties and long-forgotten winemaking techniques.

So we sent a call-out to every winery we could find a contact for, and assembled a tasting panel that included sommeliers, wine critics and Metro staffers to taste all 176 wines received. We wanted to champion a range of styles, varieties and techniques. We wanted wines that had personality, wines that, though perhaps not technically polished, were super-drinkable, interesting and distinctive — wines that you’d want to order at a restaurant or take to a dinner party or a barbecue. They’re the wines that will probably get drunk first, because they’re either intriguing or just great fun.

And we expressly briefed our judging panel not to be too concerned with varietals. It should be a fairly uncontroversial concept that an atypical glass of pinot noir can still be a great wine. The key was to avoid adopting a notion of what, for example, a New Zealand pinot noir should be, which might make some commercial sense by encouraging reliability from the consumer’s perspective, but can suffocate experimentation, individuality and sub-regional expression, which is a shame if we want wine in this country to develop.

After tasting them, we were gratified to find that our hunch was right. The 50 wines you will find below do all sorts of things, though not necessarily in the way that you might expect. Takeaways? We’re unashamedly most interested in the wines grown in our own backyard (only three of the 50 are from elsewhere). Organics and biodynamics are alive and well. What people are doing with sauvignon blanc is getting more and more interesting. Makers of pinot gris and rosé, in the main, could learn a bit from this.

Read on, and go seeking. Hopefully, this is the starting point for a great deal of discovery, discussion and, well, pleasure.

ENERGETIC WHITES

EATON WINES FORTISSIMO SAUVIGNON BLANC 2017 $48

This is not your run-of-the-mill Kiwi sauvignon blanc, and if you want to blow people’s perceptions of what one is,

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