One of the biggest topics in New Zealand – and around the world – is the pendulum-swing from traditional to modern in wine style.
This is never more true than with Chardonnay, and Warren Gibson, winemaker at Trinity Hill, kicked off a masterclass of Hawke’s Bay whites by noting that three of the eight wines on offer were ‘contemporary in style – they have a leanness and delicacy, slightly more reduction, ‘struck-match’ aromas.’
But as with all Chardonnay, from Meursault to Margaret River, there’s a divide between what the wine trade likes (leanness and minerality) and what the public buys. ‘The consumer tends to want bigger, fatter, richer styles,’ Gibson said.
Both styles were in the masterclass, from the precise and lean Craggy Range Kidnappers to the juicier, more malolactic style of the Rod McDonald Trademark Chardonnay.
Price was also under discussion. ‘The demand for Chardonnay has never been higher,’ Gibson said. ‘Many producers believe they can go further up in terms of price.’
Sitting in the masterclass was New Zealand’s High Commissioner to London, Sir Lockwood Smith, who was emphatic on the subject of price. ‘These wines are cheap,’ he told us.
Considering the cheapest in the lineup was £18 a bottle, and three of the eight wines were more than £36, that seemed like an extravagant statement. What did he mean?
‘New Zealand’s growth in the UK has been consistent and rapid, despite commanding the highest average pricing of any country,’ he told Imbibe. ‘Our Chardonnays are fabulous, outstanding wines, they have been tasted against the best white wines of Burgundy and beaten them. And they constantly beat Burgundy on price.’