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A trip to Lawson’s in New Zealand

Mar 6, 2024

by Philip Amps

Recently I visited Lawson’s Dry Hills winery in Blenheim, bang in the middle of New Zealand’s famous Marlborough wine region. Belinda Jackson, sales manager, and winemaker Marcus Wright, welcomed me to the tasting room to taste through their wines.

Marcus & Belinda in front of their many recent wine awards

We started with the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2023, elegant and stylish NZ SB, really quite restrained, a very long finish, but a wine you want a second glass of! Marcus explained that this wine spends three months in neutral oak, whilst you certainly can’t taste the oak, it does give the wine fabulous mouth feel. Then we tasted the Sauvignon Blanc 2023, more zesty and zingy, but again more restrained than your average Marlborough Sauvignon. Lovely aromatics and long finish.

This was followed by the Reserve Pinot Gris 2023… Marcus stated we make a Gris and not Grigio! Wonderful ripe pear fruit nose, great mouthfeel and just a hint of sweetness on the finish, I was instantly looking for a meat terrine or pate to go with it! This is really good.

Next up was the Reserve Chardonnay 2022, Marcus explained that they are looking to produce a Burgundian style and I added… but with Marlborough drinkability! This wine sees 10 months in oak, with 25% new. The result is a lovely opulent nose, wonderful balance with all the fruit gently wrapped in a vanilla coat and lovely balancing acidity, that makes you want a second sip. We had a taste of the 2023 that had just been removed from barrel waiting to be bottled. It was delicious! This is a wine to follow, with the price of white Burgundy, here is an alternative.

Next we had Ranu 2023, a field blend of Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Riesling, everything goes into the press together, followed by a slow fermentation. This is produced along the lines of an Alsace Gentil and is only produced in exceptional years… 2023 is only the 3rd bottling! A delicious aromatic nose, intense and lovely mouthfeel and a very long finish. This is produced in tiny quantities and currently not available in the UK, but Belinda is allowing me to have 5 cases sent to the UK, once its gone it will be gone so watch out for details on this and get your order in first!

Lawson’s Pioneer range is their very top wines, with the fruit selected from their very best sites. The Pioneer Gewurztraminer 2023 is produced from the original plantings in 1981 on the estate, which have been dry farmed from day one. A seductive nose of delicious fruit, classic Turkish delight aromatics, great texture and mouthfeel and very long dry finish. This is the best Gewurztraminer I have tasted in a long time. It was delicious with our charcuterie board for supper!!

Great quality but also offering good value Pinot Noir is difficult to find and alternatives for red Burgundy has been a major headache for us. I feel New Zealand may have the answer and Lawson’s have three gems. First, the Estate Pinot Noir 2021, this vintage saw some oak but each year that varies depending on the quality of the fruit. Marcus has changed his Pinot winemaking style, looking for less extraction, to give better mouthfeel and aromatics in his wines. Lovely berry fruit, good weight, a mix of red and black fruits and great finish. The Reserve Pinot Noir 2020: classy nose, elegant mix of wild dark fruits, seductive palate and long finish. Close your eyes and you will believe you are drinking a Cote de Beaune from a warm vintage! Finally, the Pioneer Pinot Noir 2021 was exceptional, very approachable now but will develop over the next five years. Opulent nose of red and black fruits, great mouthfeel and very well balanced, I could still taste this wine in my mouth minutes after I tasted it.

They gave me an update on the 2024 vintage; cold weather during flowering has resulted in a reduced harvest, about 30%. Apart from this, nature has produced exceptional quality of grapes, so volume down and quality up. I look forward to tasting the wines next year!

In the meantime, we have Belinda coming over from NZ in June to host a Lawson’s evening for us, so come and taste these wines and see if you agree with me how good they are!!

Lawson’s New Zealand Tasting
Friday 7th June @ 7pm
Amps Market Place Store, Oundle
Tickets: £20