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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."


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Six Top Drops

I was going to title this article ‘Six top drops for the NZ winter,’ but today as I write it’s a balmy 19 degrees in Auckland despite a fresh westerly! However, by the time you read this it may indeed be a bit cooler.

Anyway, no Big Theme for this month’s column. Just some very good wines for you to enjoy, including two fab bubblies. I do believe that our NZ traditional method sparkling wines are hugely under-rated. Crowds of Kiwis rush off to grab industrial scale French fizz at $70.00 a bottle on special, while we have some gorgeous hand crafted sparklers here which stack upon very well in comparison, for twenty bucks less.

Loveblock Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 $NZ 26.00
From Kim and Erica Crawford’s organic vineyard, this is an atypical savvie versus the ‘smack in the mouth with a gooseberry flavoured lemon style.’ Lovely and elegant with shy aromas of stone fruit, citrus and hint of ripe black currant. It opens up on the palate with gooseberry, crisp lemon, with a hint of green bell pepper and pineapple.
Availability: Possibly Glengarry or direct from Loveblock

Spade Oak Voysey Gisborne Chardonnay 2014 $NZ 16.00
Light nose – apple, stone fruit. Easy drinking light style with a hint of oak, and fresh fruit flavours of quince, lime and stone fruit.
Available: Fine Wine Delivery Company, Spade Oak Wine

The Prospect Ormond/Gisborne Chardonnay 2014 $NZ 20
Made by the Spade Oak folk. Spent 12 months maturing in French oak barrels. Enticing aromas of ripe peach, marzipan.  Opens up on the palate with ripe nectarine, lime and grapefruit. Crisp clean finish with lingering toasty oak.
Available: Fine Wine Delivery Company, Spade Oak Wine

Hawkshead Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014 $NZ 30.00
Smells of toasted oak, black cherry and tamarillo, with a bit of forest floor and spice. Generous palate of black berry fruits and ripe black currant, with medium soft tannins and lengthy dry palate. Very classy wine that would reward cellaring for another 3-4 years.
Available: Scenic Cellars, Vino Fino, City Centre Wine & Spirits Wgton.

Spade Oak Gisborne Methode Traditionelle Blanc de Blanc NV $NZ 38.00
‘Blanc de blanc’ translates as ‘white from white’ i.e. a bubbly made entirely from white chardonnay grapes. The traditional mix is chardonnay blended with clear wine made from pinot noir. This is a lovely balanced and rich NZ fizzy. Pale gold with persistent fine beaded bubbles and aromas of apple, minerality and a hint of herbs. In the mouth it’s a party of foamy bubbles with flavours of strewed pear & apple, clover honey, nougat, nectarine and lime crispness.
Available: Spade Oak Wines

Saint Clair ‘Dawn’ Methode Traditionelle 2012 $NZ 49.00
Named after Dawn Ibbotson, matriarch of Saint Clair, who accomplished 100 years in December 2014. This is the tradional blend of pinot noir and chardonnay and was rested on yeast residue in the bottle for 35 months.
Dry, crisp and elegant – this wine has a delicate nose of Nashi pear and minerality. One the palate it’s subtle lime citrus, nougat, brioche and poached pear with a tangy, clean dry finish.

Available: Negociants NZ, Saint Clair Wines 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Regional Roundup New releases from around NZ

One of the things that always amazes me about New Zealand is the literal length and breadth of our winegrowing landscape.
From early winemaking by the Catholic church in Hawke’s Bay in the late 1890s and then Croatian immigrants in west Auckland in the 1930s, our wine regions and grape varieties have increased exponentially to embrace the whole of New Zealand and include grape varieties from all over the globe. Internationally we are finally being acknowledged as not just a one trick pony producer of Sauvignon Blanc, but as a serious producer of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. My international wine tour guests are often happily also surprised at the quality of our Rieslings, Pinot Gris, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec and even Italian and Spanish grape varieties. In true Kiwi spirit we are having a go at many grape varieties and largely succeeding by experimentation and matching the grape to the holy vinous trinity of climate, soil and weather (the French refer to it as terroir).

Some of the following wines that I have reviewed reflect that diversity.
Montepulciano, hailing from the Abbruzi region of Italy, this grape makes a dark, full-bodied spicy wine with hints of blackcurrants and dark berry fruit.
Dolcetto is a dark-skinned grape famously from the Italian region of
Piedmont. The wine typically has flavours of black berry fruits and a bit of dark chocolate.
Tannat is a red grape, historically grown in southwest France in the Madiran region. Modern French Tannat is characterized by firm tannins, deep colour, and an ability to age well. The aroma profile is gently tarry and jammy.
Here we go.

Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Riesling 2015 $NZ15
A very approachable in a medium sweet style Riesling, with aromas of apple, melon and lime squash. In the mouth it’s a refreshing young wine with mandarin, citrus, elderflower and a hint of ginger spice.  At 12% alcohol it has a reasonable residual sugar level, but that is balanced by crisp refreshing acidity.
Available – fairly widely at wine stores, also Glengarry and Vino Fino (Christchurch)

Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Pinot Gris 2015 $NZ17
Smells like poached pear and red skinned apple. Flavours of quince, clover honey, pear & ginger cake.  Medium bodied and off-dry with a crisp finish.
Available – fairly widely at wine stores, also Glengarry and The Good Wine Company

Main Divide Tehau Reserve Waipara Valley  Pinot Noir 2014  $NZ33
Another winner from Waipara, one of my favourite boutique regions. Lovely medium bodied Pinot that hits all the buttons. Smells like black cherry and fruit cake with a dash of earthy forest floor.
Lovely soft and generous palate of spice, summer berries, back tea and hint of truffle.
Available – Glengarry and The Good Wine Company

Main Divide Waipara Valley Merlot Cabernet 2014 $NZ21.
Just to prove they can grow a damn fine red south of Marlborough and at a bargain price, this is a lovely medium-bodied ripe and juicy wine. On the nose it’s spice, black cherry and mocha.  On the palate it opens up with Black Forest cake, almond, cherry, black berry and cake fruit.
Available – possibly Glengarry and The Good Wine Company

Heron’s Flight Matakana Reserve Dolcetto 2014 $NZ60
Slightly earthy and wet clay aromas with a bit of soy sauce and black currant in the olfactory mix. Flavours of anise, liquorice, a hint of grassiness and ripe black cherry and mocha with medium firm tannic structure. A complex and classic wine.
Available – Heron’s Flight Winery.

Dry River Martinborough Pinot Noir 2014 $NZ86.50
Iconic Martinborough label Dry River has been producing Pinot Noir since the early 1980s. This new release is an opulent and ripe Pinot with a firm backbone of acidity. Funky aromas give way to pot pourri, cigar box and black berry fruits. Silky tannins support a rich complex and juicy ripe palate of cassis, blackberry and a hint of spice. Gorgeous wine that will reward cellaring. 
Available – Dry River Wines  

De La Terre Montepulciano Hawkes Bay 2014  $NZ52.50
Smells like roast meat, black olive, wet clay and cherry fruit cake
Rich, dry and earthy with a core of ripe black berry fruit, and a tight tannic finish. One to cellar.
Available – Herne Bay Cellars Auckland.

De La Terre Tannat Hawkes Bay 2014 $NZ44.50
Spicy aromas plus dark chocolate, black cherry and wet earth. On the palate, it’s rich dark and rewarding with all of the above with some gamey flavours plus a lovely ripe mid palate and medium tannins. Still a youngster, this one would get even better with at least 4 years in the bottle.
Available – Herne Bay Cellars Auckland.

Phil Parker is a wine writer and wine tour guide in Auckland New Zealand

Friday, March 18, 2016

Kumeu River releases their 2014 Vintage.

Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine & Food Tours in Auckland. See:
Phil’s new cellar door book ‘NZ Wine Regions – A Visitor’s Guide’ is now available on Amazon Kindle

Two weeks ago, West Auckland’s Kumeu River winery released its 2014 vintage line-up at The French Café. I love my job. The wines were superb as were the matched food pairings.

Kumeu River is an iconic New Zealand chardonnay producer. The winery was established in 1944 by the late Maté Brajkovich. Their chardonnay is listed in the top 100 by the influential US Wine Spectator magazine. Maté’s widow, the dynamic Melba, heads this family winery. Eldest son Michael is winemaker. Sons Milan and Paul are respectively in charge of viticulture and sales and marketing, and daughter Marijana is in charge of accounting.
2014 was a very good year for grape growing in Kumeu, with good fruit volumes and a hot, dry extended summer that allowed the fruit to be picked at optimum ripeness and quality.  As Michael says in his notes, “…the word that best describes everything about chardonnay in 2014 is generous.”
White wines are their mainstay – chardonnay, pinot gris and gewürztraminer. They also grow pinot noir and merlot. All grapes are grown on-site on the sweeping vineyards either side of State Highway 1, or in managed blocks in west Kumeu. All grapes are hand harvested, plus gentle whole bunch pressing is used to extract the best juice from their white wines. The top tier Maté’s Vineyard chardonnay (only 1000 cases per year) comes from the original vineyard site, directly over the road from the winery and cellar door. The two other single vineyard chardonnays are the Hunting Hill and Coddington, with their premium pinot noir also sourced from the Hunting Hill.

( Pic of Michael Brajkovich at the tasting. )

Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2014 $30 NZD
The Estate is a blend from up to 9 vineyards, and is the flagship export wine. Enticing aromas of hazelnut, vanilla, nectarine and honeysuckle open up in the mouth with ripe mandarin, nectarine, white peach and marzipan. Very approachable.

Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay 2014 $50 
Funky yeast aromas with a whiff of minerality and apricot. On the palate it is creamy and seamless with white peach and a medium citrus crisp finish.

Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2014 $60 
Lemon squash and funky yeast on the nose. Complex palate of lime, quince, ripe nectarine and a hint of toastiness, plus some herbal notes.

Kumeu River Mate’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 $70 
The premium chardonnay grown on the original block worked by Mate back in 1944, this wine is made from the Mendoza chardonnay clone. It has aromas of mandarin and a hint of brioche yeast. In the mouth it opens up into a fuller palate of toast, mandarin, peach and nectarine with a firm crisp and lengthy finish.

Kumeu River Hunting Hill Pinot Noir 2014 $50 
Emerging as another premium wine, their pinot noir is gaining complexity with each vintage. Smoke, cherry and plum aromas, with a savoury cherry and plum palate. A dry finish with medium firm tannins.

Phil Parker hosts the best Auckland wine tours in the known Universe. Just sayin'

Friday, February 19, 2016

Sauvignon Blanc ... thinking outside Marlborough

Sauvignon Blanc is our most planted grape variety and our largest export wine. The vast majority of our sauvignon comes from Marlborough - taking up around 18,000 hectares out of its total growing area of about 23,000 ha.

But there is more to Sauvignon Blanc than just the standard grassy, crisp and pungent Marlborough style. Nelson, Central Otago, Waipara, Martinborough and Hawke's Bay all grow Sauv Blanc – albeit with their own twist on the wine. Warmer climate Sauvs may have a less crisp profile and can show some tropical flavours like melon, passionfruit and pineapple. Some winemakers strive for a more complex flavour profile by introducing some oak barrel ageing. 
Here’s a selection to challenge the hardened Marlborough fans.

Gladstone Vineyard ‘Sophie’s Choice’ Barrel Fermented Wairarapa Sauvignon Blanc 2014  $35.00 NZD
Very classy. Fermented and aged in French oak for 4 months, with 24% stainless steel fermented Sauvs added before bottling. Ripe peach and oak aromas open up on the palate with creamy toast, grapefruit, and a hint of passionfruit, with a dry slightly herbal finish.  
Availability – Glengarry, United Cellars

Main Divide Waipara Valley (North Canterbury) Sauvignon Blanc 2015  $21.00 NZD
Main Divide is the second label from Waipara’s Pegasus Bay winery. Very approachable for those who are a wee bit Sauv averse. Low acids and a full, ripe and slightly tropical palate of passionfruit, black currant and Rose’s lime juice – with just a hint of roasted green pepper, and snow peas.
Availability – widely distributed through fine wine stores.

Alphonse Mellot Pouilly Fumé 2014 $47.00 NZD
From the Loire region of France, this wine was grown in the Pouilly Fumé AC area overlooking the banks the Loire river. Pale gold colour, with subtle aromas of melon, citrus and minerality. In the mouth, it reveals much more fruit characters like nectarine, passionfruit and grapefruit with a dash of clover honey. Finishes with medium soft crisp acidity.
Availability - Herne Bay Cellars

The Supernatural Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2014  $36.50 NZD
The Supernatural was launched in 2009 and is made from organically-produced grapes sourced exclusively from the Millar Road estate in Hawke’s Bay. Rich gold colour and a funky, yeasty nose – no doubt from the use of indigenous yeasts. Surprisingly soft on the palate, it has rich flavours of grapefruit, canned peach and rock melon with a hint of herbs. Really different. Dare I say it, a great Sauv for chardonnay drinkers.
Availability - Herne Bay Cellars

The Supernatural Green Glow Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013 $54.20 NZD
This wine is an example of the ‘orange’ natural wine trend where the grape skins are left in contact with the juice during fermentation. Deep gold colour. Aromas of dried orange peel, resin and ripe banana skin. For a white wine, you do get a bit of tannin from the skin fermentation before it opens up with complex layers of flavour from beeswax to over-ripe peach, brandy and hint of honeysuckle. Not yer average Sauv by any means.
Availability - Herne Bay Cellars

Johner Noble Gladstone Sauvignon Blanc 2015  $24.90 NZD
‘Noble’ meaning affected by botrytis noble rot i.e. a fungus that sucks out water and leaves concentrated sugars in the grapes. Has aromas of pineapple and toffee apple. Racy acidity balanced by sweet flavours of ripe pineapple, canned pear, toffee and mandarin.
Availability - Herne Bay Cellars, Scenic Cellars

Sunday, February 7, 2016

♫ Summer Wine … And The Livin’ Is Easy … ♫

 Yes folks, it’s time to relax, watch tennis, get sand between your toes, and slap on sunscreen. For most of us, the New Year brings a chance to wind down, shrug off the last twelve months and recharge the batteries for the year ahead.

Our drinking habits correspondingly change with warmer weather, generally away from big reds and chunky Chardonnays, in favour of chilled white wines, rosés and lighter reds like Pinot Noir. Yet there are still those long, languid evenings when the air cools and a rich, velvety red is just right to go down with that piece of scotch fillet and a few snarlers fresh from the smoking BBQ.

Sauvignon Blanc is still wildly popular with NZers, as is the upstart Pinot Gris, but we are getting more adventuresome with new white varieties like Grüner Veltliner, Arneis, and even (as below) Bianchetta.

Rosés have made enormous inroads into our drinking habits over the last three years or so. They are made by crushing red grapes, then leaving the juice on the skins for a short period (as little as 4 hours) to extract a minimum of colour before and racking into fermentation tanks. The resulting wines are light, often blush pink and have red fruit flavours of strawberries, plums and raspberries. These are crisp, refreshing drink-young wines, which will not benefit from cellaring. And there has been a shift away from the sweet style rosé to off-dry and bone dry – more in the style of rosés from Provence. As with summer whites, they can stand a bit of chilling. But don’t over-chill them as the fruit flavours will disappear. These are a good match with seafood, salads and chicken dishes.
Pinot Noir is an all-rounder that suits any season and is a good match with duck, chicken, turkey and mushrooms. It can also pair well with seafood like salmon and tuna.

And for the BBQ, as a bang-for-buck big juicy red - it’s hard to go past an Argentinian Malbec.
Here’s a selection for your perusal.

Matawhero Gisborne ‘Church House’  Bianchetta 2010 $25 NZD
Bianchetta Genovese is a rare white wine grape variety used almost exclusively along the coast of Liguria innorthwest Italy. It is most commonly used to make sweet white wines.
A very attractive old gold colour, this wine has aromas of lychee fruit, blond tobacco and peaches. On the palate, it’s rich and complex with a Chardonnay-like flavour profile with a spectrum of flavours from clover honey, to tobacco, but with a dry finish. 19 points
Not widely available. But good luck.

GeorgeTown Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Rosé 2015  $30 NZD
This is a good rosé for folks who tend to write them off as lightweights. Attractive pale salmon pink colour. Subtle nose – strawberries and cream, with a hint of savoury spice. In the mouth it’s
peach, raspberries, cherry and cranberry. Good palate weight at 13% alcohol with a dry spicy lingering finish.18 points
Available: Herne Bay Wine Cellars

De Martino Gallardía Itata Valley  Cinsault Rosé Chile)  2014 $33 NZD
The Itata Valley is located about halfway up the long, skinny Chilean coastal wine growing region. It has a Mediterranean climate and generally grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay. Cinsault is a southern French grape variety.  This wine smells of cranberry, almonds and marzipan. Tastes of red summer berries and has a dry mineral finish. 18 points
Available: Herne Bay Wine Cellars
Folium Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013  $27 NZD

A softer style of Sauvignon, with less of the typical racy acidity, plus a bit more complexity.  Flavours of black currant, green bell pepper and herbs with a mineral dry finish. 19 points
Available: Herne Bay Wine Cellars, Farro

Easthope  ‘Black Hawk’ Hawke’s Bay Dry Pinot Gris 1015 $30
Aromas of lime juice, green pineapple and melon.  Opens up on the palate with citrus, peach and honey but with a dry finish. 18 points
Available: Herne Bay Wine Cellars
Bannock Brae ‘Goldfields’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014  $35 NZD
Has aromas of cherry, smoke and tar with a whiff of raspberry. Swished around in the mouth, it opens up with sweet soft fruit – tamarillo and sour cherry, medium firm tannins and a spicy savoury finish. 18 points
Available: many fine wine stores. Check their website for suppliers.

Casa Montes Fuego Negro Malbec Argentina 2012 $22 NZD
Ab fab wine. Smells like ripe summer blackberries and cherries with a hint of dark chocolate. Ripe and generous flavours of black cherry, caramel, liquorice, baking spices and muscatel raisins. 19 points
Available: Online Vino Fino Argentino 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Wine Writers of New Zealand trip to Hawke's Bay.

Back in November, I was lucky to join a group of the Wine Writers of New Zealand (WWNZ) organisation on a sponsored trip to Hawke's Bay. This was a three-day trip involving hosted tastings at many local wineries.
We covered Te Mata, Elephant Hill, Black Barn, Mission, Ash Ridge, Trinity Hill, Ngatararawa, Alpha Domus, Paritua, Sacred Hill, Pask, Collaboration, Squawking Magpie, Monowai, and finally Vidal.
Whew. It was great. It was fun.  It was exhausting.
Here's my notes on Ash Ridge and Monowai

Day Two
Friday 13 November
Ash Ridge Wines
Reasonably bright-eyed and (almost) bushy-tailed, the group reassembled in the Masonic Hotel’s Emporium eatery and bar, early on Friday morning for the journey out to Ash Ridge Wines, courtesy of our EIT driving crew and their trusty 12-seater coach.
Former forex dealer Chris Wilcock and his wife Sonya (ex-Invercargill) transplanted their family back to New Zealand after 15 years of living overseas, to establish Ash Ridge. Chris has completed a certificate in wine, specialising in viticulture, and is now working on a post-graduate diploma in winemaking. They purchased bare land on the Heretaunga plains Bridge Pa Triangle area in 2000, planting vines in 2005 and now producing Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and some Bordeaux varieties. They make around 7,000 cases per year.
Taking a punt on a bright new graduate from EIT, Chris engaged Lauren Swift as winemaker in late 2012.  To verify his good choice, Lauren went on to win a trophy with her 2013 Ash Ridge Estate Merlot, just 3 months out of college.  In 2014 they built their own winery onsite, and following another great vintage in Hawke’s Bay Lauren won Hawke’s Bay Young Winemaker of the Year.
Although Ash Ridge boasts a cellar door and café, the tasting was held in the brand new winery. Chris gave us a brief history of the venture and then introduced us to Lauren as we sampled a line-up of their premium wines.

Estate Chardonnay 2014
Aromas of citrus blossom, melon, spicy oak and blond tobacco. In the mouth, it’s light, bright and soft with hints of lemon curd and oak.

Vintners Reserve Chardonnay  2014
Quite shy on the nose, again with blond tobacco. The palate is elegant and restrained with crisp minerality.

Estate Syrah 2014
Lovely ripe and jammy aromas of black cherry and roast beef.
On the palate it’s young and ripe, with firm tannins, cassis, black olive, tobacco, and a dry finish.

Premium Estate Syrah  2014
Aromas of black pepper, tar and pot pourri. In the mouth it’s a young strapping wine with savoury notes, cherry, black olive, firm tannins and a dry lengthy finish.
Vintners Reserve Syrah  2014
Funky aromas, plus vegemite, black pepper and black cherry. Flavours of black pepper, vegemite, black olive and black currant jam. Dry, firm tannic finish.

Doppio MS clone 2014
Aromas of spicy oak and pot pourri. The palate is dark and dense and dry, with black olive and plum.
Doppio Chave  clone 2014
Nose of black currant jam, tomato & herb pizza sauce, black cherry. The palate is savoury with firm tannin. Big flavoured and dark, with cherry, black olive, and a firmly dry finish.
Premium Estate Malbec 2014
Smells of dark berry fruit and spiced plum. In the mouth it’s cherry, chocolate, cassis, and savoury with medium dry tannins.
Barrel Ferment Reserve Malbec 2015
Smells toasty, with black berry fruit. Flavours of toast, dark fruit, anise and liquorice with a dry lengthy finish.

Day Three
Saturday 14 November

Monowai Estate
Winemaking couple Emma Lowe and her Chilean partner Marcelo Nunez own Monowai Estate and winery on the northern banks of the Ngaruroro River in the Crownthorpe district. Emma was schooled in Hamilton then studied wine making in Adelaide, Australia and California. It was when she was working Chile that she met the man who would become her vineyard manager and husband, Marcelo Nunez.
The wines are produced from their own 22 hectare vineyard in the higher altitude Crownthorpe district. Cool climate varieties are the focus at Monowai, with Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot grown onsite in the free-draining stony river terraces. Almost all their production is exported, with a tiny amount sold within NZ.
With blues skies and warm sunshine beckoning us from inside the chilly winery tasting space, we decided to move the tasting table and chairs out into the winery courtyard and bask in the Hawke’s Bay sun while Emma led us through her wines.

Pinot Gris 2015
Fruity aromas of Nashi Pear, with a lovely clean palate and  fruity, unctuous texture. Medium sweet style at 6 g/l of residual sugar, with a lively complementary acid balance
Chardonnay 2014
Aromas of herbs, peach and a whiff of toast, this is a  60/40 blend of barrel aged and stainless steel Chardonnay.  The palate is medium style with stone fruit and a crisp citrus zing.

Rose  2015
On the nose, it’s all strawberries and plum. The flavour profile is off-dry and rich, with cherry, red berry fruit, and a soft medium sweet finish.

Pinot Noir  2015
Aromas of tamarillo and smoky, toast open up on the palate with mild tannins in a
soft, light and easy drinking style with flavours of tamarillo, spice and dark cherry.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sparkling Wines for Celebratation

Sparkling wine and celebrations go together, thus the festive season is a great opportunity to pop a few corks and enjoy some bubbly with your besties and favourite relatives.

The vast majority of our bottle fermented sparkling wine is made from the traditional blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We used to call it Méthode Champenoise before the French got all proprietorial about the name. The traditional method uses a secondary fermentation in the bottle under a crown seal, by adding more yeast and sugar after the first ferment is finished, producing characteristic CO2 bubbles.

A cheaper process, the Charmat method of producing bulk quality sparkling wine, is to make the wine in bulk and the secondary ferment is done under pressure in sealed stainless steel vats. And a third method produces simple cheap sparklers by injecting CO2 into still wine before bottling (AKA the SodaStream method).

Here is a line-up of very classy sparklers to share with someone special. As someone once said (possibly the painter Francis Bacon), “Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends.”

Champagne Bouby–Legouge France Brut NV $NZ 54.25
Grapes grown in the  Vallée de la Marne, midway between the two famous Champagne towns of Épernay and Reims. Yeasty aromas of brioche and subtle herbs. In the mouth, it’s classic French fizz flavours of toast, yeast, a hint of clover honey and oyster shell.

Schramsberg  Calistoga California Brut Rosé NV $NZ 77.50
An attractive salmon pink, this is a voluptuous blend of 61% pinot noir and 39% chardonnay.  Hints of cherry cola and yeast aromas. Lovely creamy palate of sour cherry, toasted almond, canned peach and strawberries. Beguilingly ripe and soft, it has just 1.11 gram of sugar per litre.

Pares Balta Cava Catalonia Spain NV  $NZ 22.79
Produced from three indigenous Spanish grapes – Parellada, Macabeu and Xarel-lo.  (just don’t ask me to pronounce them). This is a bone dry crisp sparkler. Mineral, yeasty aromas lead on to a clean and crisp palate of brioche and soda water with a hint of Granny Smith apple and citrus.

Sartori Prosecco Italy NV $NZ 25.85
Ticks all the boxes as a typical Prosecco. Pale green gold in colour, this one smells of citrus blossom and pear. Light and crisp flavours of apple juice and Nashi pear and a hint of sweetness, with a dry refreshing finish.

Larmandier-Bernier Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs  France NV $NZ 92.92
Aromas of creamy vanilla. Rich palate of crème brulée, crisp apple and citrus with a hint of marzipan. Dry, clean finish.

West Brook Methode Traditionelle Blanc  2012 $NZ 39
Just to show that NZ can make a very respectable traditional method bottle fermented style. Made exclusively from their Waimauku estate Pinot noir grapes. On the nose it’s subtle yeasty brioche with a hint of clover honey. Lively foaming effervescent fine bubbles tickle the palate with gentle flavours of prince melon, honey, cherry and strawberry. Dry and crisp mineral finish. 
Availability all except the West Brook are available from Herne Bay Cellars. West Brook: cellar door in Waimauku
Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine & Food Tours in Auckland. See:

Phil’s new cellar door book ‘NZ Wine Regions – A Visitor’s Guide’ is now available on Amazon Kindle