A wine producer recently released a couple of new, reassuringly expensive red wines that it described as iconic. What is an iconic wine?

The dictionary definition of iconic is “a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration”.

My definition of an iconic wine is one that: Is of exceptionally high quality; is among the country’s finest examples; has international recognition; should improve with bottle age.

One test of iconic status might be to ask, “Would a sommelier at Bentley Restaurant & Bar in Sydney consider adding the wine to its 1000-plus-bottle wine list?”

Te Mata Coleraine is the most obvious example of an iconic wine. It has been produced since 1982, has a proven ability to age gracefully, has gained international respect, and is certainly one of the best blended red wines made in this country. Coleraine is actively traded on the secondary market, where it fetches record prices. 

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is a more contentious choice. It gets a big tick from me for quality and international recognition but earns a question mark for its ability to age well. Sauvignon blanc is not regarded as an age-worthy variety although I have had many great examples, including Cloudy Bay, that were over 10 years old. 

I considered Church Road Tom Chardonnay, Syrah and Cabernet Merlot all terrific wines but they lack fame internationally and are unlikely to feature on Bentley’s wine list. 

Expect my list to double in size over the next five years. There are many hot contenders. 

18 Iconic New Zealand Wines 

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, Martinborough $75
Bell Hill Chardonnay, North Canterbury $125
Bell Hill Pinot Noir, North Canterbury $125
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough $35
Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah, Hawke’s Bay $150
Destiny Bay Magna Praemia, Waiheke $550
Dry River Gewurztraminer, Martinborough $55
Dry River Pinot Noir, Martinborough $100
Esk Valley “The Terraces”, Hawke’s Bay $160
Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir, Central Otago $109
Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir, Central Otago $109
Kumeu River Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay, Kumeu $80
Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay, Nelson $79
Puriri Hills Pope, Clevedon $195
Sacred Hill Riflemans Chardonnay, Hawke’s Bay $69.99
Stonyridge Larose, Waiheke $349.99
Te Mata Coleraine, Hawke’s Bay $115
Trinity Hill Homage Syrah, Hawke’s Bay $150

Bob’s Top Picks

Investment Wine

Te Mata 2018 Coleraine, Hawke’s Bay $129

This truly iconic red raised the bar significantly when the first (1982) vintage was released and it continued to grow in stature over the next 36 years. Two thousand and eighteen was a good vintage, although 2019 and 2020 are shaping up to be even better. With the help of temperature-controlled storage the 2018 is good for at least another couple of decades but will offer guilt-free drinking from about 2023. It is a seriously good red. 

Weekend Wines

Top White

Neudorf 2018 Rosie’s Block Chardonnay, Nelson $33

This wine is less than half the price of the Neudorf 2018 Moutere Chardonnay, one of the country’s finest chardonnays, but it’s certainly not half the quality. Ripe grapes and skilled winemaking have produced this absolute winner. Silken-textured wine with peach, grapefruit, hazelnut, spicy oak and brioche flavours supported by gentle, fruity acidity. Great value at this price.

Top Red 

Vidal 2018 Reserve Syrah, Hawke’s Bay $24.99

Quite a dense and complex syrah with plum, dark berry, pepper, subtle floral and nutty oak flavours. The wine is cleverly structured, with sugar-coated tannins that provide backbone while offering an appealing silkiness. It will undoubtedly develop greater complexity with bottle age but is deliciously approachable now.

You can read more from Bob at www.therealreview.com