Little Known Wine Labels by John Saker

Not that it really matters. Labels are sometimes nothing more than commercial punts with a butterfly's life span. Big companies will create a new brand at the merest whiff of a new market segment, then just as quickly snuff it out if expectations aren't met.

Those New Zealand brands you discover for the first time when you visit an Aussie supermarket are another example of pop-up labels. They are usually the result of bulk wine purchases that are bottled across the ditch.

Then there are the personal, limited-release labels you'll never see in shops and only at the right parties – the Prime Minister's annual 'JK' Central Otago pinot noir comes to mind.

But also hovering under the radar are some wonderful surprises – off-off-Broadway labels with wines that are lovingly made and every bit as authentic as the best of their mainstream cousins.

Often they're from tiny estates that haven't tried very hard to broaden distribution. Or maybe they're just starting out. Here are three whose wines are worth tracking down:

Lansdowne Estate

Despite the fact it came from nowhere to win the coveted Bouchard Finlayson Trophy for its 2010 pinot noir at last year's IWSC (International Wine and Spirit Competition) in London, this Wairarapa label has remained enigmatically incognito.

The grapes are grown near Masterton on the site of the region's very first vineyard, planted by William Beetham in the late 19th century. The vineyard is not irrigated, yields are kept low and a non-interventionist winemaking approach is taken.

The 2010 pinot noir is no longer available but the 2011 pinot noir is delightful and fine-boned, while the panna-cotta-infused 2011 pinot gris has real depth and sophistication.

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