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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."


Friday, July 3, 2015

Wine Regions of New Zealand - A visitor's Guide

Here's a new 44 second video presentation of my new guide to NZ's many cellar doors

 Phil Parker runs wine tours in Auckland New Zealand

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Wines for the Auckland Winter

Okay. It’s winter already. That means that we pathetic wimpy Aucklanders can pretend it’s freezing and we can break out the puffer jackets and Merino/possum blend cool weather apparel.  June and July generally conspire as an alliterative cold weather coalition, to offer us lower temperatures and a bit of a brisk and cool sou’westerly air flow to enable us to delve into the wardrobes and dressers for our warmer clothing.

And what better excuse than to open some great wines as we retreat from our previously welcoming north-facing decks and patios into our heat-pumped open plan living areas and enjoy some hearty food with our besties. Works for me, anyway.

By the way – from now on, I’ll be giving each wine a subjective score out of a potential 20 points.

Villa Maria Marlborough Dry Riesling 2014 $NZ 16.00  18 points
On the nose, lemon squash and mineral. On the palate, a very delicate and elegant wine at the lower end of the alcohol scale at 12%.
A lovely balance of mouth-watering medium acidity beautifully balanced with a hint of sweetness. Just off-dry, with flavours of lemon squash, mineral water and lime juice. Great with panko fried oysters.

Hidden Treasure Marlborough Pink Sauvignon $NZ 17.00  17 points
A nice blend of Sauvignon Blanc with an unnamed red, this one is a softer rosé style with some red berry fruit flavours complimenting the classic gooseberry and passion fruit flavours of our traditional Sav. Good with a tomato based white fish dish.

Columbia Crest (Washington State USA) H3 Chardonnay 2013 $30.00  19 points
Smells like oak and lime citrus. In the mouth, it’s young and lively with flavours of crisp, nashi pear lime and nectarine, with a hint of toast. Similar style to Kumeu River. Match with Bluff oysters.

Pegasus Bay Waipara Aria Late Pick Riesling 2013 $NZ 38.00 20 points.
Yum yum: smells like honey, beeswax and overripe nectarine. The palate is all about marmalade, honey, nectarine and ripe peach. Sweet but not syrupy, medium acid clean finish and lengthy palate. Nice with tangy cheddar

Ngatarawa Hawkes Bay Proprietor’s Reserve Syrah 2013 $NZ 39.00
19 points
This is a dark brooding Mister Darcy,with black pepper, cherry brandy, Black Forest cake. Full and rich palate of spice and dark stone fruits, with soft to medium tannins. Nice with a rich marinated pepper steak and creamy mushroom sauce.

Columbia Crest H3 (Washington State USA) Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $NZ 30 19 points
Crimson red colour. Smells like cigar box, spice rack, and cellar dust. Tastes of ripe black Doris plums, spice, mocha, black berry fruit,with medium firm tannins. Match with spicy lamb shank.

Craggy Range Sophia Hawke’s Bay 2013 $NZ 75.00 20 points
Stunning wine that reflects a hot dry vintage. This is a Merlot dominant Bordeaux style blend, with aromas of ripe black summer berry fruits and spice. In the mouth it opens up with lovely ripe and luscious black currant, cherry and spice flavours. Medium soft tannins and a lingering finish. Great with a venison slow cooked casserole.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mid Winter in Auckland's Kumeu Wine Region

Here's a video I recorded today at Kumeu Auckland's West Brook family winery.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

New Zealand Wine Regions - My New e-book

New Zealand Wine Regions - A Visitor's Guide 

New Zealand’s temperate climate favours white grape varieties (over 90% of plantings). Sauvignon blanc alone accounts for around 75% of our grape crop. And the remaining grapes are mainly early-ripening cool-climate reds like pinot noir and merlot. Having said that, our climatic variation (from 35 degrees latitude at the top of the North Island to 46 degrees at the bottom of the South Island) allows for many variations in microclimate, in addition to soil types, prevailing winds, rainfall, protective mountain ranges and so forth. Consequently we are able to ‘have a go’ as we say - at just about any international grape variety, albeit with a variable measure of success.  Each of the regions from north to south has its own distinctive scenery, from snow-capped mountains, to rolling green countryside, to breath-taking golden beaches. Any time of year is a good time to visit, a sunny summer outdoor tasting overlooking neat rows of lush green vines, or sampling in a cosy winter cellar door with a blazing log fire.

To that end I can now announce, in a shameless piece of self-promotion, that I have just published a NZ wine region e-book, Amazon Kindle: Wine Regions of New Zealand – A Visitor’s Guide.
It has been 18 months in the making as I updated a previous incarnation published by Random House in 2008. It is designed to be an informative and entertaining guide to New Zealand's wine history, grape varieties, soil types, grape growing regions, local activities and winery dogs! As a mobile-device-friendly publication it is aimed to guide the interactive traveller in exploring our fantastic wine regions.

Speaking of fab regional wines, here’s a few.

Pegasus Bay Waipara Pinot Noir 2012 $48
Enticing aromas of pot pourri, Maraschino cherry, and liquorice with savoury spice. In the mouth, it’s all ripe flavours and, soft tannins, with black cherry, spicy, savoury baked game and a lengthy finish.

Dry River Martinborough Viognier 2014 $47
Aromas of herbs and blond tobacco. The palate is lush, ripe and just off-dry, with flavours of nectarine, guava, triple sec, herbs, clover honey and tonic water.

Villa Maria Ihumatao (Mangere) Gewürztraminer 2013 $26
Great value. On the nose, it’s lime juice and gingerbread. In the mouth, just off-dry with flavours of, tonic water, Turkish delight, lime juice, and a lengthy spicy palate 

Saint Clair Pioneer Block Big John Marlborough Riesling 2013 $22
Light on the alcohol, but a lovely complex riesling with bang for buck. Smells like  beeswax, citrus blossom, lime juice and apple juice. On the palate - initially sweet, but opens up with mouth-watering crisp acidity and a full palate of lemon squash, lime juice, Granny Smith apple.  Just 9% alcohol.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Great NZ Whites

A roundup of exceptional NZ white wines

White wine is what we do best. Sure – pinot noir, syrah and other reds have their intermittent good years. But the overwhelming bulk of our acclaimed exports, year after year are white wines – pretty well hugely dominated by sauvignon blanc which represents about 75% of our grape plantings.

Having said that, given our cool climate, other more obscure white grapes deserve a mention. I have long been a fan of our (formerly unfashionable) chardonnay grape variety. We also do fantastic pinot gris, viognier, riesling, gewürztraminer and others.

Here is a selection of recent samples.

Ngatarawa Stables Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris 2014 $NZ 15.00
Pinot gris has become a hugely popular wine in NZ as a mid-range option on the scale from dry, crisp and citrusy sauvignon blancs - to oaky rounded soft buttery chardonnays. This one smells like citrus fruit and nectarine. In the mouth it has a full and generous palate, with ripe nectarine and stone fruit flavours. Yet it has a dry and crisp finish.

Pegasus Bay Waipara Gewürztraminer 2013 $NZ 29.50
A lovely complex style of gewürz. Barrel aged for a while and including some botrytised (i.e. late picked and sweet) grape juice. Aromas of jasmine and spice, it opens out in the mouth with guava, quince and an off-dry finish.
Coopers Creek Hawkes Bay Limeworks Chardonnay 2014 $NZ 22.00
Aromas of toasty brioche, vanilla, toffee apple and some florals. Showing nice characters for such a young chardonnay, with soft acid, Baba Rhum, creamy yeast and vanilla. Mouth filling with a dry lengthy finish.

Peacock Sky Chardonnay Waiheke 2014 $39.00
Smells like marzipan, vanilla, and citrus. In the mouth - flavours of peach, apricot, mandarin, toast and toffee apple and a lovely lengthy palate.  This one’s a keeper. Hide it for 3-4 years.

Saint Clair Omaka Reserve Chardonnay 2013 $NZ 38.90
Aromas of grapefruit and spicy oak. Creamy and complex flavours of nectarine and mandarin with little a hint of clover honey.

Ransom Rousanne 2014 $NZ 26.00
Rousanne is a quite obscure French grape from the southern Rhône.
Yet, North Auckland’s boutique Ransom Vineyard produces a tiny amount.
Smells very complex - with toffee apple, funky spicy yeast and citrus lemon. Once swished around the mouth - complex and lush, mouth filling. Chardonnay-like, with crisp finish and lengthy palate.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Foxes Island Celebrates 24 years

John Belsham, one of New Zealand’s top winemakers and wine critics founded Foxes Island in Marlborough 24 years ago. His focus is on hand made, regionally expressive wines – the philosophy that he absorbed in his time as a winemaker in France, where he lived in Bordeaux from 1977 to 1981. In 2010, Foxes Island achieved full sustainable certification (SWNZ). The following year, an organic farming program was implemented on the estate.

In mid-2013 Foxes opened their cellar door, not in Marlborough but at 15 Williamson Avenue, two blocks from Ponsonby Road. The central location and spacious, elegant show room/cellar door provides a tasting room with further options as a venue for weddings and corporate functions catering for up to 75 people. Onsite they also have a ‘wine library’ of hard to find older vintages for sale.

Small group tastings are by arrangement and larger groups can be catered for, including the option of a private guided tasting with John Belsham. Foxes have a mail order Hunt Club where a mixed case can be shipped at regular intervals through the year, plus they have just launched regular Wine Wednesdays where locals save 10% on all Single Vineyard & FOX Wines.
Company director Kelly Brown is often onsite. She has a sound science, viticulture and oenology background and has served on international wine judging panels.

I dropped in recently to sample the latest line-up. They were all great.

Foxes Island Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013  $NZ 26
A softer style of sauvignon without the over the top Marlborough acidity that can be off-putting. Fermented in oak barrels. Aromas and flavours of blackcurrant and pineapple, and ripe guava with a medium crisp finish.

Foxes Island Icon Lapine 2012  $NZ 60
This is actually another barrel fermented sauv blanc, with no mention of the grape variety on the label – à la French wines. Lovely complex and soft wine with aromas and flavours of roast bell pepper, black currant, ripe peach and a hint of herbs.

Foxes Island Single Vineyard Riesling 2010 $NZ 30
Aromas of beeswax, citrus blossom and tropical fruit. Tastes just off-dry. Flavours of baked apple and lime with soft acids.

Foxes Island Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 $NZ 45
Aromas of popcorn, lime and a hint of toast. Creamy, toasty and mellow with ripe nectarine, apricot and grapefruit with a long finish.

FOX Pinot Noir 2014 $NZ 28
Incredible value. Silky and ripe with aromas of plum, cherry pie and a hint of star anise. In the mouth – savoury, rich and soft, with black cherry and black boy peach.

Foxes Island Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009 $NZ 45
More complex and lean, with mineral aromas, and a hint of spice. Flavours of tamarillo, black olive and ripe cherry, with medium tannins.

Phil Parker hosts wine tours in Auckland

Sunday, February 22, 2015

By Jove - Heron's Flight winery - Sangiovese

(A cautionary tale)

Heron’s Flight pioneered sangiovese about 17 years ago in the clay soils of Matakana. The first vines were planted in the late 1980s, by couple David Hoskins and Mary Evans, starting off with chardonnay, cabernet and merlot. Then in 1994 David’s infatuation with Italian wines led him to plant sangiovese. Since then, all the other vines have been pulled out and replaced with either sangiovese or latterly, northern Italian grape dolcetto. Sangiovese translates as ‘the blood of Jupiter’ and is the variety from which the famous Brunello di Montalcino red wine is made.

I was first introduced to the wine, by David and Mary about 14 years ago when I started my wine tour business. Since then I have got to know David and Mary and watched their wine develop to gain the attention of some of our top critics. On a recent visit, David handed me a bottle of the brand new 2013 release, and said, “Here. See what you think.”
So, I tucked the bottle inside a carry bag and popped it in the rear of the tour coach. All very well. On arrival at home, sadly ‘some items had moved during transit’ and when I opened the hatch, horrors – the carry bag slid out of the coach and landed in the gutter with a loud crack. I immediately thought, “Oh no. I can’t ask David for a second bottle. Plus I won’t be up that way for several weeks. Golly.”
Thus, the sight of a fiftyish man, furtively drinking red wine from a Pt. Chev gutter with a teaspoon did occur some time in the second week of February. Luckily, I soon got another Matakana tour booking and David supplied me with my second sample bottle. It tasted a whole lot better. I also opened a bottle of the 2012 second tier sangiovese for comparison.

Heron’s Flight Matakana Sangiovese 2012 $30.00
This is a second tier wine, made in years when David feels the quality is not quite up to premium level. Yet after three years bottle age, this wine is drinking very nicely. Earthy, smoky and black cherry aromas. Ripe flavours of blackberry, liquorice, and sour cherry, with a gently rustic long finish.

Heron’s Flight Matakana Sangiovese 2013 $60.00
Literally a few weeks in the bottle, this is very much a youngster but shows huge promise. Purple crimson colour. Aromas of ripe plum, spice and herbs. Opens out after decanting with rich ripe flavours of black cherry, dark berry fruit, spice and chocolate with a long finish. Fantastic.  I won’t drop another bottle of this one.

Heron’s Flight Vineyard
9 Sharp Road
09 950 6643 or 021 0258 8203
Open 7 days from 9.00 am. Don’t miss pizza on summer weekends!

Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine & Food Tours in Auckland