Michael Cooper’s Buyer’s Guide 2020

Lawson’s Dry Hills Marlborough Gewürztraminer
One of the country’s most impressive Gewürztraminers. Grown in the Home Block and nearby Woodward Vineyard, at the foot of the Wither Hills, it is typically harvested at about 24 brix and mostly fermented in stainless steel tanks; a key part of the blend (about 15 per cent) is given ‘the full treatment’, with a high-solids, indigenous yeast ferment in seasoned French oak barriques, malolactic fermentation and lees-stirring. The youthful 2018 vintage (4½ stars) is perfumed and weighty, with vibrant pear, lychee and spice flavours, gentle sweetness (6.7 grams/litre of residual sugar), and excellent delicacy, harmony and length. Best drinking 2021+

Lawson’s Dry Hills Marlborough Pinot Gris
Still very youthful, the pale straw 2019 vintage (5 stars) is a basically dry style (4.8 grams/litre of residual sugar). Fresh and full-bodied, it has strong, ripe, peachy, slightly spicy flavours, a touch of complexity and a well-rounded finish. Best drinking mid-2020+

Lawson’s Dry Hills Marlborough Ranu
For the distinctive 2017 vintage (4½ stars), Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer were co-fermented (Ranu means ‘to mix’) with indigenous yeasts in old oak barrels. Fragrant, citrusy and spicy, it’s a mouthfilling, concentrated wine, finely textured, with a sliver of sweetness (5.8 grams/litre of residual sugar), fresh acidity and impressive complexity and harmony. Well worth cellaring

Lawson’s Dry Hills Marlborough Riesling
The youthful 2018 vintage (4 stars) is a single-vineyard, Waihopai Valley wine. Worth cellaring, it is medium-bodied, with strong, citrusy, slightly spicy flavours, and an off-dry (7 grams/litre of residual sugar), crisp finish

Lawson’s Dry Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
One of the region’s best, widely available Sauvignon Blancs, this stylish wine is vibrant, intense and finely structured. The grapes are grown at several sites, mostly in the Southern Valleys, and to add a subtle extra dimension, part of the blend (7 per cent in 2019) is fermented with indigenous yeasts in old French oak barrels. The wine typically has strong impact in its youth, but also has a proven ability to age, acquiring toasty, minerally complexities. Light lemon/green, the punchy 2019 vintage (4 stars) is freshly aromatic, with strong, very youthful tropical-fruit and herbaceous flavours, showing a distinct touch of complexity, and a dry (2.9 grams/litre of residual sugar), appetisingly crisp finish. Best drinking mid-2020+

Lawson’s Dry Hills Pink Pinot
The 2019 vintage (4½ stars) is a characterful Marlborough rosé, brimful of flavour. Bright pink, it has generous strawberry and watermelon flavours, slightly spicy notes, and excellent vigour and length, with a dry (2.9 grams/litre of residual sugar) finish

Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay
Estate-grown in the Chaytors Road Vineyard, near the coast in the Wairau Valley, the 2018 vintage (4½ stars) was fermented with indigenous yeasts in French oak barriques (25 per cent new). Already enjoyable, it has a fragrant, smoky bouquet, leading into a mouthfilling, sweet-fruited wine with concentrated, youthful, peachy, citrusy flavours, toasty notes adding complexity, and good cellaring potential. Best drinking 2021+

Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Marlborough Pinot Gris
The finely textured 2018 vintage (4½ stars) was mostly estate-grown in the Waihopai Valley and 10 per cent of the blend was fermented with indigenous yeasts in old French oak casks. Pale straw, it is mouthfilling, with concentrated, ripe peach, pear and spice flavours, showing a distinct touch of complexity, and a smooth, dryish (5 grams/litre of residual sugar) finish. Best drinking mid-2020+

Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir
Still very youthful, the great-value 2017 vintage (5 stars) was grown at two sites in the Waihopai Valley and matured in French oak barriques (25 per cent new). Deep ruby, it is mouthfilling, concentrated and fruit-packed, with deep, plummy, spicy flavours, a firm underlay of tannin and the structure to mature well. Best drinking 2021+. The 2015 vintage (4½ stars), retasted in 2019, is also a very good buy. Deep ruby, with a fragrant, complex bouquet, it is full-bodied, with generous, ripe plum/spice flavours, finely balanced tannins and a long life ahead

Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
The 2019 vintage (4½ stars), grown in the Waihopai, Awatere and Wairau valleys, was made with some use of indigenous yeasts and barrel fermentation. Light lemon/green, it is a vigorous young wine, mouthfilling, with strong, freshly herbaceous flavours, oak complexity, and a dry (1.8 grams/litre of residual sugar), crisp finish. Best drinking mid-2020+

Lawson’s Dry Hills The Pioneer Marlborough Gewürztraminer
The stunning 2016 vintage (5 stars) is a weighty (14.5 per cent alcohol), fleshy, Alsace-style wine, estate-grown in the Home Block and barrel-fermented with indigenous yeasts. From 35-year-old vines ‘with trunks as thick as thighs’, it is a bright, light yellow/green, powerful wine, jam-packed with peachy, spicy flavours, gently sweet (18 grams/litre of residual sugar), finely poised and lasting. Well worth discovering

Lawson’s Dry Hills The Pioneer Marlborough Pinot Gris
The 2016 vintage (4 stars) is a single-vineyard wine, grown in the Waihopai Valley, hand-picked and fermented with indigenous yeasts in old French oak barriques. It’s a fleshy, full-bodied wine, with a gentle splash of sweetness (14 grams/litre of residual sugar), strong flavours of pears, peaches and spices, and very good complexity and richness

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