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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, August 19, 2015

Riesling Revisited

Sound Riesling

Riesling is one of three classic aromatic white grape varieties originally from the cool northern European wine region of Alsace. The other two are Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. Riesling is also a wine that a lot of people love to hate.  In fact, many of my overseas wine tour clients (especially Brits) produce garlic and crucifixes at the very mention of the word and have to be seriously talked into trying one of ours.

The blame goes way back to some pretty awful sugary sweet style Rieslings from the 1970s and early 1980s.These were cheap, mass-produced wines in quirky bottles which caught the imagination of newbie wine drinkers and for many years thereafter branded Riesling as a god-awful sweet wine to be avoided. Nowadays we tend toward the drier end of the spectrum, mainly producing wines that are crisp, fruity and dry, or ‘off-dry’ - just slightly sweet. And that’s not to say that Riesling can’t shine as a sweet style when the grapes are left on the vine till they are extremely ripe and full of
natural fructose sugar. Taken to extreme, these wines are called Late Harvest Riesling (very ripe and shrivelled); or Noble Riesling (affected by a symbiotic fungus called Botrytis, which sucks out the water content and leaves very sweet concentrated juice with a honeyed taste).

Craggy Range Te Muna Martinborough Riesling 2014 $NZ 33.00 
A very classy, lean and elegant style with aromas of lemon squash and jasmine.  Fruity and just nudging off-dry with a mouth-watering crisp finish.
Available from Glengarry

Rockburn  Tigermoth Central Otago Riesling 2013 $NZ 30.60 
Another clean and lean style.  Not a lot of aromas – with just a hint of herbs and beeswax, but opens up on the palate with tangerine, honey and Rose’s lime juice. The back label says ‘medium sweet’ which is about right, but there is some racy acidity in there to balance the natural sugars. 9% alcohol.
Available from Glengarry, or online at Advintage

Dusky Sounds Waipara Riesling 2014 $NZ 12.00
Just to prove that it’s not always about the price. Great value easy-drinking medium dry style with flavours of lime and lemonade, and hint of green herbs. Finishes dry.
Widely available

Schloss Vollrads Rheingau Kabinett Semi-Dry Riesling 2013 $NZ 27
Rheingau is one of the smallest of Germany's 13 wine regions, yet renowned for its Rieslings. The bottle presentation is pretty cool – it looks like a metal screwcap closure, but is sealed with a T-shaped glass stopper and a clear plastic seal.  Anyway, this is a more subtle yet complex wine, with faint citrus blossom and ripe grapefruit aromas.  Swished around the mouth it has a rich palate of grapefruit, nougat and a creamy richness that I’d normally associate with a Champagne method wine.
Available from Glengarry

Ngatarawa Proprietors Reserve Hawkes Bay Noble Riesling 2014  $NZ 39
Yum. I’m a fan of desert wines and this one’s a ripper. Aromas of beeswax, honey and candied orange peel.  It’s a luscious medium bodied sweet wine, but not syrupy. Flavours of dried apricot, honey and marmalade, with just enough zip of citrus to balance the sugars.
Available online from Advintage and Ngatarawa winery.

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

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Some Big NZ and Aus Reds

It looks like winter is still with us for a month or two before we head into spring and the grapevines burst into life again.  And this time of year in Auckland in the vineyards , pruners are busy removing the old shoots from vines before the sap rises.  While vines are dormant over winter, this is the time to get in and trim off the old dead wood.  Not unlike rose bushes, the vines are pruned vigorously. The vines are cut right back to often just one trunk with two or four lateral branches left before spring kicks in. (See the video on my blog).  Work never stops in the vineyard and winery – it’s a 7 day a week job for many people in the business.
Meanwhile hare’s a line-up of hearty reds for cooler nights (and days).

Rimu Grove ‘Bronte’ Nelson Pinot Noir 2011 $NZ 23
17 points
  ★★★★ Great value Pinot from Nelson.  Aromas of spice, and ripe black cherry. In the mouth – stewed plums, Lapsang Souchong, savoury BBQ mushrooms and ripe black berry fruits. 
Available: Glengarry
Saint Clair Pioneer Block ‘Doctor’s Creek’ Pinot Noir 2014 $NZ 38
19 points  ★★★★★
A seamlessly gorgeous and voluptuous silky Pinot with aromas of potpourri, fruit cake and Black Forest Cake. It opens up with flavours of ripe black cherry, boysenberry and subtle spice, with soft seductive yet lingering tannins.
Available: Glengarry
Selaks Reserve Hawke’s Bay Merlot Cabernet 2013 $22
17 points  ★★★★ Classy red at a good price. Spicy plum and black cherry aromas. Soft tannins and ripe flavours of black currant, cherry and black olive, with a hint of black pepper.
Available: most supermarkets and wine stores
Molly Dooker ‘The Boxer’  McLaren Vale Shiraz 2013 $NZ 35
20 points 
Classic south Australian knockout Shiraz.  Smells fabulous – aromas of vanilla oak, cassis, super-ripe dark berry fruits, and pepper.  Juicy and full flavoured, clocking in at 15.5% alcohol yet manages a seamless palate of ripe black currant, blackberry, spice and Black Forest Cake.
Available: Fine Wine Delivery Company, Village Winery Mt. Eden
Molly Dooker ‘Two Left Feet’  McLaren Vale Shiraz/Cabernet/Merlot  2013  $NZ 35
19 points
  ★★★★★ Another monster at 15.5% alcohol but bang for buck nonetheless.  Smells like Christmas cake, anise and red cherries.  Smooth and savoury with some stewed plum and a hint of liquorice.  Medium firm tannins.
Available: Fine Wine Delivery Company, Village Winery Mt. Eden

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

Tuscan Wine Travels

 For all its distance, New Zealand seems to have an endless fascination with the food, wine and culture of Italy.  And not unlike the rest of the world, we have been eager to embrace panini, espresso, cappuccino, pasta, pizza, Chianti, Prada, Versace, and a whole bunch of other stuff ending in a, e, i, and o. So, this year’s wine holiday was the most ambitious to date – Italy, with focus on the Chianti region in Tuscany.

We flew in on Emirates, via Dubai.  The idea was to avoid all the security hold-ups associated with a transfer at LAX.  

I can report that Dubai is smelly, humid and extremely hot, with an airport terminal like something out of the Star Wars bar scene – many, many people of different cultures in strange clothes buying duty free like there’s no tomorrow.  

We had three days in Rome, then another three in Umbria.  Hiring a rental from Perugia, I drove nervously out of the city in our very comfortable Lancia automatic with no major trauma other than somehow ending in a bus-only lane which was running contra to the other peak hour traffic.  A judicious U-turn soon had us hopelessly lost, again in short order.  However we eventually located our B&B in Bastia – about 30 minutes away as dusk fell and tempers frayed.

Umbria was quiet and charming – endless fields of sunflowers and good affordable and very drinkable local wines from our nearby supermarket at about 6 Euros a bottle. 

Onward to Tuscany, by the very efficient Trenitalia rail network and local buses, we first stopped in San Gimignano – a walled hilltop township.  Dating from around the 10th Century, San Gimignano is a fortified town featuring the classic Tuscan terracotta pink and honey, brick and tile buildings.  Very much a tourist town now, it boasts numerous restaurants, a museum of religious art and a wine museum. The Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta has frescoes by Sienese school artists Bartolo di Fredi and Taddaeo di Bartolo.

But the highlight of the trip was definitely Montalcino, another fortress town dating back to the 14th century.  The whole township is easily traversed by foot and has a permanent population of about 5,000.  Spectacular postcard views of the Orcia valley are around every corner, giving panoramas of the region’s olive orchards, vineyards and wheat fields as they stretch into the hazy distance.

Renowned for the iconic Tuscan red Brunello, Montalcino is the most famous Chianti producer in the region.  Brunello is a 100% Sangiovese, produced and branded under very strict regulations.
Grapes have to be grown within the Commune of Montalcino, and ageing for two years in oak casks, plus a further 4 months in the bottle is obligatory.  208 producers make around 290,000 cases in total, of Brunello per annum.  The name Montalcino is a protected brand, like Champagne, and can only be applied to another red, Rosso di Montalcino and a white – Moscato di Montalcino.  Brunello retails in Italy at anything from 40 Euros upwards.

Few local vineyards are open for cellar door tasting, and only by appointment.  The best way is a hosted tasting at the Enoteca,  a wine boutique, restaurant and tasting facility.  It is located in the Fortezza, the castle keep – the last resort for siege in medieval battles.  I was treated to a line up of five Brunellos – Cerbaiona ’98, Banfi Riserva ’95, Capanna Riserva ’99, Poggio di Sotte ’01 and Cupano ’01.  The clouds parted and I heard bits of the Hallelujah Chorus.  These are glorious wines – full ripe and rich, with dried fruit old wine characters, soft tannins and lingering aftertaste.

Montalcino is also renowned for honey, extra virgin olive oils, and local cheeses like Pecorino.  Many restaurants and cafes make the best of local specialty produce. In fact, best meal we had in Italy is Trattoria Il Leccio – located in a small village – St. Angelo in Colle, just outside Montalcino. Other attractions include San Quirico d’Orca – a thermal spa town going back to Etruscan times, with many churches, gardens and upmarket tourist accommodation.

Phil Parker runs wine tours in Auckland NZ

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.