50 wines for summer
Top drops for sunny days, tasted and selected by Metro’s Master of Wine.
Tasty, textural whites
Medium- to fuller-bodied whites that are a good match with light dishes.
CHURTON SAUVIGNON BLANC MARLBOROUGH 2015 ($27)
While many Marlborough producers are releasing their 2016 sauvignons, this wine has only just appeared, but be quick, there’s not a lot available in the New Zealand market. An intense, powerful example of our most famous wine style, dry and structured, with a grainy, textural dimension that is more at home at the dinner table than being guzzled standing up. An outstanding wine from one of our finest producers.
DOG POINT VINEYARD SAUVIGNON BLANC MARLBOROUGH 2016 ($25)
Dog Point makes one of the purest expressions of Marlborough sauvignon blanc and is my go-to wine for showing this style to overseas visitors. This 2016 edition has only just been released so the fruit is still a little shy, but there are the usual pungent, herbal, flinty characters, along with ripe passionfruit and citrus-peel notes. Best of all, the finish is dry, so this is a great food match for a wide range of cuisine.
CAMSHORN WAIPARA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2015 ($23)
Last year was a fantastic vintage in North Canterbury and this elegant, classically structured wine is a brilliant example. Firm acidity is balanced with a fuller, more textural palate than is the norm for sauvignon. A great food partner, this also makes for a point of difference from those overly aromatic but ultimately one-dimensional savs that are everywhere in summer.
PROPHET’S ROCK PINOT GRIS CENTRAL OTAGO 2015 ($35)
This is one of the country’s finest pinots gris, a structured, layered wine that could compete with chardonnay in terms of complexity and texture. White peach, nashi pear and spice notes, yet the fruit is subtle and restrained, creamy and chalky mid-palate, leading on to a firm, dry finish.
TAHBILK MARSANNE 2015 ($22)
Marsanne is a seriously underrated variety, responsible for the top white wines in France’s Rhône Valley but in this case grown in Central Victoria, Australia. Marsanne has loads of character — a haunting honeysuckle aroma, hints of citrus and stonefruit, but also a full, pithy palate. This is a clean, punchy, yet very correct example at a great price.
VIDAL OF HAWKES BAY RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2015 ($20)
Superbly ripe fruit, apricot and papaya notes abound, matched with sappy, vanillin oak and savoury, earthy secondary characters. But the mouthfeel is elegant and taut, the finish firm and clean. A classy, European-inspired white that is great alongside smoked fish, chicken, or as a counterpoint to rich sauces.
MONTSABLÉ VIN SUD AUTHENTIQUE CHARDONNAY IGP PAYS D’OC 2014 ($19.95)
Youthful in colour with fresh tropical and citrus fruit tones, overlaid with a hint of flint or toast. In the mouth, the wine is creamy and textured, medium-bodied, just a suggestion of spicy oak, finished off with crisp acidity. A toothsome, interesting wine, with some similarities to New World chardonnay in the full fruit characters, but altogether drier and more elegant than that. A classy, sophisticated example of chardonnay at a brilliant price.
MORTON ESTATE BLACK LABEL CHARDONNAY 2014 ($35)
Long-time chardonnay fans will recognise the style: full, complex and rich. Intense, almost tropical fruit — think pineapple or mango — has been paired with toasty oak and a creamy mid-palate. Starting to exhibit some savoury, secondary characters, this is a wow-factor wine to impress your guests on a special occasion, or at the dinner table.
DOG POINT CHARDONNAY MARLBOROUGH 2014 ($35)
Warning: this may divide your wine-crazy friends. The nose is a complex amalgam of grapefruit pith, mineral and flint, the palate full, savoury and also flinty. That edgy, mineral character is contentious, but I love it. This is a new New Zealand classic, though if the debate continues long into the evening, you might need a second bottle to decide.
THE CUP AND RINGS GODELLO SOBRE LIAS DO MONTERREI 2015 ($24.95)
Godello is an ancient Spanish variety that has recently come back in vogue. It produces subtly flavoured wines with great texture and backbone. Here there are honey, appleseed, leafy notes, crisp and taut, yet managing to be creamy and textural at the same time. A fabulous example from Scottish Master of Wine Norrel Robertson.
Lighter-bodied whites and refreshing styles.
TIO PEPE FINO SHERRY ($37)
Fino sherry is pungent, with bready, spicy overtones from the yeast that thrives in the cellar and protects the wine from oxidising. One of the few wines I always serve well chilled, this example has subtle, citrusy fruit and a firm, slightly bitter finish that makes for a great partnership with salty foods (one of the signature themes in Spanish tapas), seafood and hard cheeses.
HIDALGO LA GITANA MANZANILLA ($30 FOR 500ML)
Manzanilla is a special example of fino, sourced from vineyards near the coast and surrounding the sherry town of Sanlúcar. The resulting wines are lighter and fresher, with a salty twang that may or may not be influenced by the sea. La Gitana is perhaps the best known and best made example available here. For the ultimate food-and-wine experience, though, try this with fish and chips.
CHURCHILL’S WHITE PORT ($65 FOR 500ML)
In summers past, I always kept a bottle of white port in the fridge because it was great after a hot day at the office (and an even hotter ride home on the bus.) Unfortunately, my flatmates cottoned on to the pleasures of chilled port and eventually I couldn’t afford this little treat. Many of the white ports imported here rely on some red grapes being used in the production, but this is the genuine article, spicy, nutty, exotic, with a suggestion of sweetness and a gentle kick on the finish from the high alcohol and the unique Portuguese white varieties used here.
DR L RIESLING DRY QBA MOSEL 2014 ($22)
My ideal summer drink is a German riesling, well chilled, after a hot day in the garden. Unfortunately, these light, fruity, crisp wines are quite sweet, so my guests often turn their noses up at them. This has the hallmarks of great Mosel riesling, with lime and honey fruitiness, a hint of slatey minerality, and a clean yet balanced finish.
PEWSEY VALE EDEN VALLEY RIESLING 2015 ($25)
Australian rieslings tend to be drier and more finely structured than our own, especially those grown in South Australia’s Eden Valley. This benchmark example has prominent lime and floral aromatics, a light body and lacy acidity that make it the perfect contrast to rich sauces or fatty dishes. Or enjoy chilled as an aperitif.
BRANCOTT ESTATE FLIGHT PINOT GRIS MARLBOROUGH 2015 ($15.99)
Reduced-alcohol wines are here to stay, though many struggle to taste like the real thing. This shining example has all the features pinot gris drinkers want — pear and apple fruit, a hint of spice, creamy texture, all at only 9 per cent. One to sip on through the middle of the day.
DRYLANDS MARLBOROUGH PINOT GRIS 2015 ($19.95)
One of our most consistent pinots gris comes out under this label. Delicate fruit flavours, nashi pear, melon — this is a subtle, textural wine, with a slightly astringent finish that is helpful alongside food, especially Asian dishes and sweet sauces.
TRIPLEBANK AWATERE VALLEY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2015 ($20)
With archetypal Awatere fruit tones — green fruits, capsicum, tomato leaf — matched with a taut, linear mouthfeel, this aromatic, crisp, fresh wine makes a great pick-me-up on a hot summer’s afternoon (or at “cocktail hour”, as we call it in my house.)
NOBILO ICON MARLBOROUGH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2015 ($31)
The palate light and crisp, just off dry, this is not an aggressive, intense wine, but a classical style New Zealand sauvignon with purity and elegance, very fine and delicate. Subtle citrus aromatics, fresh herb and grassy undertones as well. Take care not to partner with overpowering sauces or seasonings; in fact, this is probably best served alone, as an early-evening sipper. Impressive.
SPY VALLEY EASY TIGER SAUVIGNON BLANC 2015 ($27)
At only 9.5 per cent alcohol by volume, this is for those who want to watch their consumption levels, but it’s also a serious, sophisticated wine to boot. Citrus fruit, honeysuckle aromatics, underpinned with spicy, toasty oak, concentrated, yet light and racy.
VILLA MARIA RESERVE SAUVIGNON BLANC WAIRAU VALLEY MARLBOROUGH 2016 ($27)
Pea pod, capsicum, straw notes, restrained fruit in the mouth, tomato skin, citrus and flint, this is a focused, elemental wine, with mouth-watering acidity and a long finish. A great wine to pair with mussels, salmon or other rich seafood.
KUMEU VILLAGE CHARDONNAY 2015 ($20)
This lighter-bodied example is my kind of summer chardonnay, not overtly fruity, with savoury, secondary characters instead, little to no oak, and a bready palate. Finishing crisp and clean, this versatile wine should keep the chardonnay fans happy, as well as those who want to try an “alternative” white.
ELEPHANT HILL CHARDONNAY HAWKE’S BAY 2014 ($30)
Elephant Hill makes two distinct styles of chardonnay. This is the more pure, racier, edgier model, an elegant, focused wine ideal as a refreshing pre-dinner drink on a hot summer’s day. Like all Elephant Hill wines, at the core is ripe fruit — stonefruit is the predominant tone here — but the oak is fine and plays only a supporting role, and the firm acidity makes for a fresh, firm finish.
Young Hunter Valley semillon is the ultimate seafood wine — restrained, tight, citric, the relatively low alcohol countered with high acidity. Taut and linear, subtly fruited, this classic Hunter semillon cuts through the richness of prawns, crayfish or oysters, but equally it doesn’t dominate delicately flavoured white fish — snapper, flounder and the like.
YALUMBA Y SERIES VIOGNIER 2015 ($17)
The perfume of viognier always suggests summer to me. Apricot kernel, musk, spice, then the palate, more pithy and textural than other alternative whites, which works when well chilled. If you want an example of what viognier should taste like, I can’t think of a better, or more affordable, place to start than with this wine.
ESK VALLEY HAWKES BAY VERDELHO 2016 ($20)
With the recent hype surrounding so-called “alternative” varieties, many people forget that Esk Valley has had this one for nearly 20 years. Verdelho is better known as one of the noble wine varieties used on Madeira, where its naturally high acidity is an asset. Peachy or tropical in fruit character, there is also a funky, toasty twang in this example, and a clean, brisk finish. Juicy, fun, fresh wine with a difference.