Wow! The Kiwis do make some good wine and not just Sauvignon Blanc…

wine wankers isabel vineyard marlborough wines new zealand

I was lucky enough to attend a New Zealand wine road show in Sydney a couple of months ago where I got to meet the peeps from a few NZ wineries.  There were quite a few wineries present but unfortunately I only had time to meet a few.  I’m kicking myself that I didn’t get to meet more because the ones I met were possibly the most hospitable wine people the Wine Wankers had met by that stage.  Up until then it often felt like once we explained our concept we were more or less just humoured, although we do accept the humorous nature of our namesake (and possibly slightly offensive to some sensibilities)… it’s all part of who we are.

Anyway, the Kiwis were great sports and unlike many Australian wineries at that stage, the New Zealand wineries began following us on Twitter en masse.  And then we were very privileged that a few of them were generous enough to send us some wine to try, and I must say, so far we have been impressed.  We recently wrote about one of our NZ wine experiences in the post “An Afternoon with Konrad“.  Good name that winery, even if it’s miss-spelled.  😉

wine wankers isabel vineyard marborough wine is great

One of the wineries to send us wine was Isabel Vineyard from Marlborough.  Now Marlborough is famous for a very unique and intense style of Sauvignon Blanc.  I’ve always loved Marlborough Sav Blanc but have only ever had it on the odd occasion so never over-indulged it.  Unfortunately, some people did go bananas on it and as a trend it has sadly been dropping away.  A pity because it can be such a fun wine.

Luckily Marlborough also makes some special Chardonnay and after years of being kicked in the guts the reformed Chardy is roaring back and the style out of Marlborough is right on.  The region also produces great Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, and as we discovered recently, almost hypnotic Grüner Veltliner.  Then there is the Pinot Noir and so far we’ve only got good things to say about it!

wine wankers isabel vineyard sauvignon blanc 2013 marlborough vineyards new zealandIsabel Vineyard sent us four of their wines to try and being wine drinkers, rather than wine tasters, I was waiting for the right moment to crack these open.  Thankfully a recent trip away with friends was the perfect occasion (I’m sure our friends are starting to get bored of being forced to drink wine we receive).

It was a lovely afternoon when we arrived at our destination so we cracked open the 2013 Isabel Sauvignon Blanc.  My wife went “wow” straight away.  The aromas were intense and oh so enticing.  We just wanted to tuck in, and of course, did with gusto!  The flavours were as complex as my nose told me they would be.  There were hints of the tropics with pineapple and mango and a bit of passionfruit thrown in.  Lots of flavour in this one and it lasted in the mouth for quite some time.  This is a proper Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with all the good bits at the fore.

Next we opened the 2013 Isabel Pinot Gris with friends.  Now I’m not usually a fan of Pinot Gris.  I find that it can be a bit flat and still and is often made to be just a tad boring with a level of sweetness being it’s only force.  There really must be something special buried in that Marlborough soil because this wine was about to show me how good a Pinot Gris can be.  On opening, just like the Sav Blanc, the aromas burst out.  So much intensity!  Along with the stone fruit scents there was something interesting that I couldn’t quite put my finger on until I read up on the wine a bit more, and that was subtle hints of coconut oil. Interesting!

Sipping this one gave away so many complex flavours from stone fruit, to apple, to a bit of nutmeg even, and then it just sat and sat on the tongue for quite some time.  One of our friends is a Pinot Gris fan and she loved it, and I think I may have had my Pinot Gris moment.  I’m thinking, just like the magic that Marlborough performs on Sav Blanc, it has worked something special into a grape I wouldn’t normally be much interested in.

wine wankers isabel vineyards chardonnay 2010 marlborough wines nzLater on we cracked open the 2010 Isabel Chardonnay.  Now this isn’t the current vintage, that would be 2013, but we are so happy this is the one we got to sample as I’m a fan of Chardy with a few years of age on it.  This one is a prime example of the complexity that develops in Marlborough Chardonnay after a few years.  It’s the Chardy from this region that I have always had a fondness for and this one is a cracker.

On opening this wine we got hints of peach and melon along with a real toasty aroma.  On tasting it the fruit flavours were complex, mixed in with a bit of soft spice, and there was a delicious buttery and toasty finish that made you go “num, num, num”.  We were lucky to have had the privilege to try this wine at this age.

The Chardonnay went extremely well with a beautiful chicken and rice dish that one of our friends cooked up.  Yum!

Later in the evening we sipped the 2011 Isabel Pinot Noir by the outdoor fireplace, the perfect way to finish off the evening.  On opening this wine out launched the aromas of cherries and plum with a bit of spice tingling the nose.  There were hints of cedar in the air too.  It was an inviting wine indeed.  On sipping this one it confirmed our belief that Marlborough is pumping out some great Pinot at the moment.  Some Pinot can suffer from a fake strawberry lollie type flavour but this one was just complex fruit with nutmeg and cinnamon floating across the top.  Good stuff!

wine wankers isabel vineyard pinot noir 2011 marlborough new zealand

All these wines were well made and thoroughly enjoyable.  They were also testament to the quality of wine that can be produced in Marlborough.  The best thing about them is that they helped create a wonderful evening eating great food with friends while sipping on quality wine.

That’s what it’s all about!

Author: Conrad

Note: Clearly these were samples sent to us for our opinion.  As per our samples policy, The Wine Wankers is a positive blog and we only write about wine we truly like otherwise we just don’t talk about it.  Salud!



  1. It is really cool to see how the wine culture has grown so much and exploded everywhere in the world. It used to be reserved to a few countries such as France and Italy for such a long time. In California we have a lot of good bottles now but from everywhere come new bottles. Restaurants are willing to give them a try and it’s really exciting to go out and see new names and countries on the wine list. Cheers to your blog and your winery tours.


    • That may very well be the case, in certain wine styles anyway, although the Kiwis probably can’t make a wine like an aged Hunter Valley Semillon and Aussie Pinot just isn’t the same as that coming out of Martinborough or Central Otago.


  2. I’ve not heard of this winery but I’m going to hunt it down – wonder where it’s stocked in NZ? The coconut oil note in the pinot gris sounds interesting but that pinot noir sounds right up my alley. Great post 🙂


  3. I’ve seen the PN on the shelves of a wine shop that I go to and have been keen to buy some as my wife’s name is Isabelle too….! Going to have to buy a bottle!


    • Hi Linda! I noticed on Instagram that Caitlin from Isabel, whom I met at the roadshow, was recently on a road trip in the US with her wine so I’m guessing it may be available somewhere up your way. Happy hunting!


  4. Your region is on my bucket list. I hope to enjoy the beauty of your country, and it’s great wine! Great post


  5. Excellent note at the end. That’s (one of the reasons) why people keep coming back. This is a positive blog bringing positive stories – with the occasional scary one tossed in to keep readers like me on their toes. 🙂


  6. Oh all this talk of wine. I am pouring myself a glass right now, and I am going to study while I am drinking my wine.

    Quick question, what wine would go well with tuna?


  7. Thanks for liking the miso chicken recipe. Other than a sake from Shizuoka, I can’t think of another wine to go with this. What I know about wines would fit in a sake cup!


  8. Mmmm. A buttery chardonnay, yes please! They seem so rare now 😦 My in laws had a bottle of sparkling chardonnay from the 70s i think that they hadn’t drunk (they don’t drink) and they gave it to us about a year ago. It had lost its fizz however my gosh! It was like liquid golden butter. It was beautiful.


  9. Hi there, may I have your permission to feature a trimmed part of your post in our site? More specifically about the 2013 Isabel Pinot Gris you had. I will add in your blog post link to the feature. Hope to hear from you soon!


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