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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Good Year for the Rosés

There has been a huge surge in the popularity of rosé style wines in NZ in the last 5 years.
And particularly in summer, the allure of a chilled pink rosé on a hot, blue-skied day is hard to resist. Rosé wines essentially pair with any food style, appeal to both red and white wine drinkers and are particularly suited to picnic fare and barbecues. The dominant style now has moved way away from the ‘candy water’ sweet rosés of the 70s and 80s to the traditional Provence bone dry or just off-dry style. Indeed, we are starting to see some French rosés on the shelves at wine stores and on some restaurant menus. Here’s some local and imported examples.
Spade Oak Heart of Gold Gisborne Tempranillo Rosé 2017 $NZ 23
A new twist on the Spanish grape variety Tempranillo. Salmon pink in the glass.  Aromas of summer fruit compote and cherry. In the mouth it is just nudging off-dry with complex and elegant flavours of strawberry, marzipan and sour cherry with a medium dry lengthy finish. Available from Countdown.
La Mascaronne Quat Saisonas Provence French Rosé 2017 $NZ 27
Sealed with a DIAM composite cork closure. Classic Provence style, with aromas of watermelon and a whiff of strawberry compote. Crisp, clean and tangy with a hint of strawberry and ripe pineapple. Complex and mouth filling. Available from Glengarry.
Tupari ‘Pink Pukeko’ Marlborough Rosé 2017 $NZ 20
Pale rose pink, with aromas of strawberry and a whiff of confectionary. Very much in the Provence style – bone dry, with cranberry and red berry fruit flavours. Finishes dry, clean and tangy. Available from Glengarry.
Soho ‘Pink Sheep’ Marlborough Rosé 2017 $NZ 22.99
Aromas of canned peach and rhubarb. Just nudging dry at 12.5% alcohol.  Flavours of red apple and watermelon.  A clean fruity finish. But wait, there’s more – 50c per bottle sold goes to mental health charity ‘Key to Life’ charitable trust, spearheaded by Mike King. Available from Herne Bay Cellars.
‘R’ Château Riotor Côtes de Provence 2016 $NZ 20
Provence wine, sealed with a screwcap (zut alors!) Flavours of summer red berries, sour cherry and cranberry with a lengthy tangy bone dry - almost astringent finish that reminds me of canned pink guava. Available from Glengarry.

Rockin' the South - Canterbury's Rockburn wines.

A Central Otago high-flyer, Rockburn has done very well, with their pinot noir picking up numerous awards.

Winery owner is Dunedin cardiothoracic surgeon Richard Bunton. The winemaker is former microbiologist Malcolm Rees-Francis who spent four years at Felton Road Wines as assistant winemaker. A very stylish cellar door and winery was opened in 2006, and features a back wall of Central Otago river stones and a long dark polished wooden waka (Māori canoe) shaped tasting room counter.
Their wines are available throughout New Zealand and are exported to the UK, US, Australia, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Southeast Asia and beyond. And also, like Wooing Tree, their Rosé – Stolen Kiss – has been highly successful

Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Gris 2016 $NZ 45.00
Poached pear aromas. A rich and unctuous palate of mandarin citrus, pineapple and ripe pear with a hint of sweetness and an off-dry finish.

Rockburn Central Otago Estate Pinot Noir 2016 $NZ 45.00
Aromas of dark berry fruit and spicy liquorice. Fruity palate with red and black cherry, rich mocha and supple silky tannins with a long finish.

Rockburn Seven Barrels Pinot Noir 2016 $NZ 97.00
Spicy aromas, with a bit of tar, wood smoke and black berry compote. Smoky and savoury flavours of dustiness, with fruity black cherry, plum and a hint of truffle.

Rockburn The Art Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 $NZ 97.00
Smells  like pot pourri with a hint of gaminess and ripe plum.
Rounded, soft and feminine. Floral and subtle with red fruit flavours, cherry and liquorice.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Happy Holiday wine recommendations

Short and sweet – Happy Holidays everyone. Here’s a bunch of recommendations, from bargains to splurges to help you celebrate the end of the year, and spend time with your favourite people.

Best Wishes and Cheers!

Lamarca Prosecco NV $NZ 23.00
Italian sparkler to appeal to everyone. Frothy bubbles. Just off-dry, crisp and fruity with pear, apple and hint of spice.

Soljans Estate Marlborough Legacy Methode 2012 $NZ 29.99
Champagne style from a small family-owned winery in Kumeu. Creamy crisp texture, fine beads of bubbles, toasty and mouth filling. Great Value.

Tupari Marlborough Rose 2017 $NZ 20
Pale rose pink, with aromas of strawberry. Bone dry, with cranberry and red berry fruit flavours.

Soho Marlborough Rose 2017 $NZ 20
A softer off-dry style than the Tupari with strawberry, lychee and marshmallow. A clean fruity finish.

Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Gris 2016 $NZ 28
Poached pear aromas. A rich and unctuous palate of mandarin citrus, pineapple and ripe pear with a hint of sweetness. Yum.

Pegasus Bay Bel Canto North Canterbury Dry Riesling 2015 $NZ 35
Aromas of beeswax and florals. Rich and complex layers of flavour – ripe grapefruit, marmalade and clover honey. Just off-dry.

Kidnapper Cliffs Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014 $NZ 55
Funky, yeasty aromas  plus a hint of grapefruit and flinty minerality.
Flavours of cashew nut, grapefruit, nectarine and mandarin with a dry crisp lengthy finish.

Matawhero Irwin Gisborne Chardonnay 2016 $NZ 56
Elegant and classic chardonnay. Subtle aromas of citrus and a hint of funky minerality. Flavours of toast, tropical fruit, grapefruit, brioche, a hint of toffee apple and a medium crisp finish.

Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2014 $NZ 47
Nose of spice, damp earth, slightly barnyardy with a bit of savoury truffle. On the palate, it is rich and soft, with spicy oak, black currant, tamarillo and a bit of good old Vegemite yeastiness. Dry finish.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Merlot 2014 $NZ38
Black berry fruit and earthy aromas. In the mouth, it’s spiced plum, cassis and vanilla oak with a dry finish.

Auckland's newest wine label - Hunting Lodge


A few years back, there were rumours in Auckland that Australia’s Treasury Wine Estates were planning to pull Matua winery out of Waimauku to centralise operations to Marlborough. And sure enough, in 2015 they announced that the entire site would be shut down and put on the market. Up for sale on the 31 hectare property was a large winery and bottling plant, admin and cellar door. Also for sale was the heritage listed Hunting Lodge built in 1868 as the property's original farm homestead - and formerly one of Auckland’s renowned fine dining restaurants.  The Matua label was established in 1968 by brothers Bill and Ross Spence from very humble beginnings in an old tin shed in Swanson. They pioneered Sauvignon Blanc in Waimauku, with mixed results. And the first Montana plantings of Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough were propagated by Ross Spence. Matua went on to become a major player, with the brothers eventually selling in 2001, and it has been owned by Treasury Wine Estates since 2011.
With around 50 jobs gone, and in the wake of an identical move by Constellation Brands USA shutting down the Nobilo site in Huapai, things were looking pretty grim for both local employment and west Auckland wine tourism.

But, to the rescue came the Sutton Group, a NZ dairy and infant formula company founded by Brent and Denise Sutton who are locals and have been friends of the Spence brothers for many years. Sutton Group is family-operated and has an estimated net worth of $55 million.
Since 2016 there has been a major revamp of the site and branding as Hunting Lodge Winery.
Says Michelle Hayes, cellar door manager who previously worked for Matua, “The biggest change obviously is that it’s come back to being a family business, which is what Matua originally was. And also not being run by big corporate that wasn’t really looking after the property. So the ethos behind the whole Hunting Lodge Winery is quite unique and there are so many different things going on here. It’s quite exciting.”
Some very smart branding and logos emphasise the sustainability angle of the new winery, with plans to eventually have a ‘farm to table’ dining experience using fresh produce from their own Waimauku market gardens. In addition to the totally renovated cellar door and admin block, there is a new tasting room café, and a brand new wedding and functions facility. The sizable winemaking and bottling plant has expanded its bottling line capacity, and the historic Hunting Lodge with be reopening in November with a return to its rustic fine dining roots, headed by former Clooney chef Des Harris.
On the winemaking front, former Matua winemaker Pete Turner has come back to oversee production of their own boutique Hunting Lodge label wines, as well as a large amount of continued contract bottling for Matua, plus bottling and contract winemaking for other labels. Around 50 staff have been re-employed and now back on site in and around the winery.

The Hunting Lodge wines are now made from contract grown fruit, but there are new Chardonnay plantings and plans to make a barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc from Waimauku fruit. Meantime the tasting room features a diverse range of very elegant wines at $20 to $38. Current line-up is a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough Rosé, Gisborne Viognier, Marlborough Pinot Gris, Marlborough Albariño, Gisborne Marsanne/Viognier, two Marlborough Pinot Noirs and a Hawke’s Bay Syrah.
With a return to a functioning winery and vibrant visitor experience, Hunting Lodge has fortunately reversed the all-too common phenomenon of large corporate buyouts of family owned wineries. For now, the future of the label and local winemaking in Auckland is looking very positive.

Phil owns and runs Fine Wine Tours Ltd. in Auckland

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Visit To The USA West Coast

As a wine tour operator and occasional wine writer, over the last 16 years I have visited wineries in NZ, Australia, France, Italy, and just recently the USA. Last month I toured the wine regions of Sonoma California and Portland Oregon, visiting 15 wineries in total.

The huge size of the northern Californian wine business is quite overwhelming with about 800 wineries, and Portland Oregon boasting over 400.
I was advised to avoid the Napa region, in favour of Sonoma in order to avoid the very large commercialised wineries and summer crowds. And I picked Oregon because of its cooler climate wines, especially my favourite red variety, pinot noir. Wines from the USA are regarded as ‘new world’ wines by the vino cognoscenti. That is, their wine industry is relatively young compared to Europe. And similarly to NZ, a culture of regular wine consumption goes back about only about 40 years.
Napa and Sonoma in California are the major USA quality wine regions – famed for chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel. Portland Oregon is located further north and more of a cool climate boutique region best known for pinot noir and aromatic varieties.
In Sonoma, we based ourselves in the very hip town of Healdsburg where the summer temperatures soared to 40C on some days. The town square reminds me of Martinborough, and is bustling with restaurants, tasting rooms and high end shopping. The local rural landscape was very dry and brown obviously suited to growing full bodied reds. Portland on the other hand is a large and prosperous city famed for its bohemian lifestyle and foodie culture. With a higher rainfall, Portland is very green and felt much more like home.

Over all, the wines were very impressive – with big, bold chardonnays and reds from Sonoma. Portland’s Willamette Valley boasted some velvety ripe pinot noirs and white varieties such as viognier and pinot gris.
Here’s a few that you can buy locally. Try Herne Bay Cellars or Glengarry.
Geyser Peak Pinot Grigio 2013  $NZ14.99
Bogle Chardonnay 2015 $NZ23.00
Bogle Petite Sirah 2014  $NZ23 .00
Erath Oregon Pinot Noir 2014 $NZ46.99
Mondavi Private Selection Californian Cabernet Sauvignon 2014  $NZ21.00
Geyser Peak Walking Tree Cabernet Sauvignon 2013  $NZ18.99
XYZin Californian Old Vine Zinfandel 2013 $NZ11.99
Ravenswood Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel 2013 $NZ24.99