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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, May 19, 2017

No 1 Family NZ Wines

Number One in Sparklers
Marlborough’s No 1 Family Estate

French-born Champagne-maker Daniel Le Brun launched his wholly family-owned Méthode Traditionelle producing business back in July 1999, using the processes perfected by his Champagne-making family in France over 12 generations. The Marlborough winery has been set up with state-of-the-art processing equipment, imported from the Champagne region. The company is owned by Adele and Daniel Le Brun and their two children Virginie and Remy. And the winery is dedicated solely to the production of Méthode Traditionelle wines. Their aim is to produce Champagne method wines in NZ to rival some of the best from France. I would agree that they have done just that! Here is a sample of the Le Brun portfolio of exceptional wines.

No 1 Family Estate Assemblé Non-Vintage $33
Pale apricot blush colour, fine beaded bubbles.  A traditional blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (60/40) with a minimum 18 months lees aging (i.e. left on yeast residue). A good whiff of carbonic acid (CO2) and a hint of yeasty brioche on the nose. Mouth filling and rich flavours of pear, nougat, Mum’s apple pie and stone fruit with a dry mineral tangy finish.

No 1 Family Estate Cuvee $NZ36
Pale gold and made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. Delicate citrus, yeast and floral aromas. Spent 2 years on yeast lees. Tastes rich and creamy with flavours of blanched almond, nectarine, and a hint of mandarin. Lengthy palate with a dry but not bone-dry finish.

No 1 Family Estate Rosé Non-Vintage $NZ45
Made from 100% Pinot Noir, this is a salmon pink bubbly with aromas of red apple skin, brioche and marzipan. In the mouth, it has a rich and complex palate of cherry/almond, a hint of strawberry and a tangy yeasty mid-palate with a dry, mineral finish.

No 1 Family Estate Cuvee Virginie Non-Vintage $NZ85
Pale gold in the glass, this is an 80/20 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The grapes were harvested early-mid March 2009. Dedicated to Daniel’s daughter Virginie. It has a lively frothy mousse and is suitably feminine – elegant and delicate. It is bone dry and has a hint of yeasty croissant, with nudges of blanched almond and citrus and a lengthy palate

For local availability – definitely Glengarry, or I highly recommend searching

Phil Parker hosts the BEST NZWINE TOURS EVER !!!!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Foreign Fab Four

It’s always good to step outside the comfort zone of the frequent and familiar wine choices, so this month I’m featuring four very different wines. Two from France, one from Spain and an unexpected treat from Lebanon. We are finally seeing a good range of foreign wines on the shelves of wine stores and in online providers. Affordable non-NZ wines used to be limited to bulk Australian producers who did largely deliver bang for buck, but now larger producers from Europe are able to export good wines at a good price point for the average wine drinker.

Sacha Lichine La Poule Blanche VDF 2015 $22.00
This is a sauvignon blanc from Languedoc, the hot southern region of France formerly an area of mass produced cheap wines. Nowadays they are lifting their game to make wines under the entry level VDF (Vin De France) classification, and often from grapes atypical to the region. This is a dry and mineral take on sauvignon blanc. Not much aroma – just a whiff of minerality and a hint of stone fruit. In the mouth it’s very dry, mineral and flinty with a hint of gooseberry.  Match with oysters.
Availability – Mairangi Bay Fine Wines and online at Vino Fino

Bodegas Franco-Españolas Rioja Bourdon Gran Reserva 2007 $38.00
A garnet red and opaque wine made of Tempranillo, Mazueleo and Graciano.
Aromas of cedar, sherry and black pepper. Gamey and astringent. A complex and elegant wine with flavours of ripe plum, cherry, liquorice and spice with persistent tannins and a dry finish. Only 5,000 cases produced. Not widely available. A good match with a rich venison casserole.

Sacha Lichine Le Coq Rouge VDF 2015 $22.00
From the same producer as La Poule Blanche, a red blend of Grenache and Syrah from the Hérault region, south of France, between Pezenas and Béziers. With aromas of ripe red berries and flavours of cherry, cassis and plum, this is a light bodied fresh and fruity easy drinking red. Match with lighter picnic fare.
Availability – Mairangi Bay Fine Wines and online at Vino Fino

Chateaux Marsyas BQa de Marsyas 2013 $41.40
Hailing from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, one of the few Middle East wine regions, this is a juicy dark ripe red. A cab Sauv/Syrah/Mourverdre blend. Slightly pongy earthy beetroot aromas (but in a good way) lead on to a complex palate of black berry fruit compote, and Christmas cake. The finish is soft and dry. Match with marinated BBQ eye fillet.
Availability – Mairangi Bay Fine Wines.

For local availability – I highly recommend searching

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ten Top New Zealand Whites. Or – what I drank in the holidays

Over the last few months of warmer weather, white wines have dominated our drinking at home.
Here's a lineup of some NZ great whites.

Domain Road Defiance Central Otago Pinot Gris 2016 $20.95
A light and fruity refreshing wine, ideal for warm weather. Smells a bit like lemon squash and nectarines. Best served a tad chilled – maybe 30 min in the fridge. Flavours of Rose’s Lime Juice, with a hint of pineapple, nectarine and juniper.

Soljans Estate Marlborough Riesling 2016 $19.00
This one should please hard-core Riesling fans. Pale gold colour, with aromas of beeswax, honey and nectarine. Crisp and just off-dry, it has flavours of guava, honeysuckle and clover honey with a dry and tangy crisp finish.

Toi Toi Reserve Marlborough Riesling 2014 $22.00
Classic beeswax and citrus aromas and a nice green gold colour in the glass.
Just nudging off-dry at 12% alcohol, in the mouth it’s crisp and fruity with flavours of sultana, mandarin and apricot. Lengthy aftertaste. A great NZ Riesling that has garnered many awards.

Fairhall Downs Single Vineyard Marlborough Pinot Gris 2016 $24
Stone fruit and floral aromas. Opens up in the glass with Nashi pear, nectarine, nice and mouth-fulling with a hint of oak.

Gladstone Vineyard Viognier 2016 $25.00
Hailing from Carterton. Smells like blond tobacco and honey. In the mouth, it’s rich and slightly oily with a good hit of 14% alcohol. Flavours of ripe peach, pineapple, lime and orange peel. Dry lengthy finish.

Matawhero Church House Gisborne Chenin Blanc 2016 $25.00
Fresh, crisp and zingy - this one has aromas of lime and lemon with a hint of nectarine. On the palate, it has crisp mouth-watering acidity and flavours of Nashi pear, lime citrus and honeysuckle.

Ngatarawa Stables Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2016 $16.00
Aromas of toffee apple, lemon zest and lime squash. Easy drinking style. Very creamy palate with ripe pineapple and raw cashew, with a tad of pineapple and a soft acid finish.

Dry River Martinborough Chardonnay 2015 $55.00
A lean, classy and elegant style (imagine … Gwyneth Paltrow in a white designer dress, with an enigmatic smile) similar to Kumeu River Mate’s Vineyard premium chard. Smells like hay, clover honey, tonic water and vanilla pod. In the mouth, it is crisp and dry with a lengthy aftertaste. Flavours of quince, fresh cut pineapple, almond nougat and a hint of clover honey.

Domain Road Defiance Central Otago Chardonnay 2015 $28.00
Very classy Chard from Central. On the nose, it’s hazel nuts, stone fruit and citrus. Swished around in the mouth it opens up with crisp fruit, minerality and a dry finish. Flavours of toasty vanilla oak, peach and a hint of herbs.  Dry and lengthy finish.

Pegasus Bay Waipara Gewürztraminer  2016 $28.00
Even as a youngster, this wine has a huge amount of depth and complexity. Aged in old oak barrels and using some Botrytised fruit, it has a gold colour in the glass and aromas of honey and crystallised ginger. In the mouth, it is oily, ripe, rich and mouth-filling. A symphony of canned peach, nectarine, Manuka honey, ginger in syrup, and lemon zest with a surprisingly dry finish.

For local availability – I highly recommend searching

Phil runs the Best Golly Gosh Darned Wine Tours in New Zealand 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A visit to Languedoc-Roussillon

As part of a family trip to Europe last July, we spent a week in stonkingly hot (45C) southern France with three days based in Carcassonne. Venturing out of our air-conditioned Airbnb apartment to take wine tours with a local boutique operator, we covered two local appellations – Corbières and Minervois.
Languedoc-Roussillon for many years was regarded as a bulk producer of cheap and not very good wine. The European ‘wine lake’ phenom of the 1980s was largely due to hyperproduction from this very region. However, things have changed. Modern winemaking techniques have resulted in much better quality wine, and some boutique wineries are stepping away from the hidebound French appellation rules and growing non-traditional varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir.

The hot, dry region grows approx 75% red grapes including carignan, grenache, cinsault, mourvèdre, syrah and merlot.  Whites include a number of obscure varieties like clairette, rolle, and picpoul and a few standards such as muscat, viognier and chardonnay.

Languedoc boasts 320 days of sunshine and I can confirm that there is sun - and a lot of it. Most days when we exited the Airbnb we would subconsciously head straight for the shady cool side of the street. Local history is quite fascinating and sadly barbaric. An 11th Century heretical Christian sect known as Cathars flourished and built many churches, and becoming the majority religion in many places in the region. Within a hundred years, they were ruthlessly persecuted and exterminated by the mainstream Catholic church.

Sorry to kill the holiday atmos.  Anyhoo – here we go with some ab fab local wines.

Châteu Tourens Minervois Languedoc-Roussillon 2013  $NZ 16.40
Typically French and a tad rustic, it has slightly dusty aromas with prune and plums. In the mouth it’s plummy, savoury and earthy with soft tannins and hints of rhubarb and liquorice. Medium bodied and soft. Match with mushroom risotto.
Availability – Regional Wines & Spirits Wellington.

Gérard Gertrand Corbières 2013 $NZ 28.00
Robust and chunky red. Smells like cedar, anise and black plums. Tastes like a medium to big tannic red with flavours of plums, Christmas cake, and dark Ghana chocolate. Long finish of savoury spice and tannin.
Availability - Caro’s Wines

Châteu Olliex Romanis Corbières 2014  Purchased in France
A renowned label in the Corbières  appellation, Fab and Bordeaux-like, this is a blend of four local grapes - carignan, grenache, mourvedre, and syrah. Very full, soft, ripe and juicy, it’s a slightly gamey with aromas of leather and savoury spices. Flavours of cassis, black plums, bouquet garni, and roast meat. Dry lengthy finish with fine tannins.  

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland - to Kumeu, Waiheke and Matakana

Thursday, February 2, 2017

New Zealand Gins - the Top Eight

Mother’s Ruin. The Demon Drink. G&T.
Gin has had many incarnations over hundreds of years – from the cheap and nasty opiate of 17th C masses to the boutique hipster thirst-quencher of millennials.

The early 17th century marks the first production of gin in the Netherlands. In Holland it was regarded as a medicine and was sold in apothecary shops to treat stomach problems, gout and gallstones. And to make it more palatable, the Dutch flavoured it with juniper, which also had purported medicinal properties.
In 1730, London had over 7,000 shops that sold only spirits. As consumption of gin increased alarmingly, the government introduced a distiller’s licence of £50, a huge sum in those days. This essentially created a black market in illegal gin of dubious quality. Then, heavy government restrictions in favour of the powerful beer lobby drove gin production underground, and almost out of existence.

The Empire Strikes Back.
Then when the British Crown took over governance of India, British expats struggled  with the ravages of malaria. A local folk cure came from the bark of the chinchona or ‘fever tree’, which contained bitter quinine. To make it more pleasant, sugar, lime, ice and gin were added – and thus the G&T was born.

Gin is basically a pure distilled ethanol white spirit with added botanical flavour compounds derived predominately from juniper berries but also a number of additives including angelica, hops, coriander, lime, lemon, orange, liquorice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, bitter almond, cucumber and cloves.

Here's a selection of 8 NZ made gins.

Black Robin Rare Gin 750 ml 43% alcohol $NZ69.99
With native Horopito and juniper in the mix of 11 botanicals, Black Robin is named for the endangered Chatham Islands Black Robin. A portion of the profits are donated to the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of NZ.
Aromas and flavours of juniper, lemon squash and bitter almond, with a hint of cloves. Opens up in the mouth soft and sweet with a nudge of liquorice.

Matakana Moonshine 700ml 37.2% alcohol $NZ36.70
Much softer than the Black Robin at 5.8% less ABV. Soft and subtle with stem ginger, gardenia florals and sandalwood.  Produced by In The Bush Ltd., they scooped a Bronze Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Light House Batch Distilled Gin 750ml 42% alcohol $NZ79.99
Perfumed on the nose with sweet lime, pomander and cloves.  Soft and smooth palate with orange zest, Turkish delight and angelica.

Source Pure Cardrona Gin 750ml 47% alcohol $NZ79.99
All the way from the Deep South, with classy packaging in a nice oblong bottle.
Batch distilled eight times over copper pot and column stills. They include botanicals of juniper, coriander, angelica, lemon & orange zest, plus rose hip.
One the nose, it’s assertive with coriander and juniper and a hint of pine resin.   Flavours of marshmallow plus all of the above botanicals.

Rogue Society Premium Dry Gin 700ml 42.2% alcohol $NZ79.99
Very classy packaging in a tall black bottle with a silver badge.
Aromas of Juniper, lemon zest, liquorice, ripe orange and talcum.
The palate is citrus dominant – with orange zest, florals and lychee tropical fruit.

Vaione Premium Pacific Gin 1 litre 40.2% alcohol  $NZ74.99
Pacifica style branding with fern leaves and tapa cloth images. Lime and orange dominate the palate. On the nose, there are cinnamon and clove aromas. In the mouth it’s very soft and integrated with flavours of cake spices and orange zest.

Karven Dry Gin 700ml  40.8% alcohol  $NZ74.99
Made by Puhoi based Ukrainian expat Alex Kirichuk. Has picked up two international awards. Botanicals include Manuka flower. On the nose it’s orange zest, cinnamon and clove, opening out on the palate with soft integrated flavours of cake spices and candied orange peel.

Broken Heart Gin 700ml 40% alcohol $NZ64.99
Another one from the Deep South – this time Queenstown. Uses glacial water from Queenstown. The brand reflects the relationship between two German master distillers who launched the brand. Joerg was a pilot and Bernd an engineer. Sadly, Bernd died after battling illness and Joerg’s gin is a testament to their friendship. Nose of juniper, lime and cumin.  With soft and spicy flavours of orange and lime

For availability – I highly recommend

Phil drives people to drink - wine tours in Auckland 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Bodegas Franco-Españolas - red wines from Spain

Late last year I had the privilege of tasting some wines from Spanish producer Bodegas Franco-Españolas.
Founded in 1890 in Lograno, Spain Bodegas Franco-Españolas is one of the oldest wineries in the famous Rioja region.
Following the disastrous Phylloxera plague that affected many vineyards in France, French expat Fréderique Anglade Saurat departed France for Spain and founded Bodegas Franco-Españolas with some Spanish partners. By 1922 Bodegas Franco-Españolas became entirely Spanish owned and is now run by second generation Carlos and Rosa Eguizabal.

Bodegas Franco-Españolas Rioja Bourdon Gran Reserva 2007
A garnet red and opaque wine made of Tempranillo, Mazueleo and Graciano.
Aromas of cedar, sherry and black pepper. Gamey and astringent. A complex and elegant wine with flavours of ripe plum, cherry, liquorice and spice with persistent tannins and a dry finish. Only 5,000 cases produced.

Bodegas Franco-Españolas Rioja Bourdon Crianza Tinto 2013
Made from Tempranillo and Garnacha. Aromas of spice, cedar and a slightly minty Cab Sav hint.
Palate of ripe plums, medium bodied style with flavours of cherry with a hint of toasted almond and Christmas cake.

Bodegas Franco-Españolas Rioja Bourdon Reserva Tinto 2011
Aromas of spice, plum and sherry. Blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha Tinto and Mazuelo. Medium bodied with flavours of plum pudding, Black Doris plum, liquorice, black tea and red fruit compote. Dry finish.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Festive Fizz - Sparklers for Christmas

Another year rolls by, and here we are heading for Christmas and New Year - with holidays for most of us, and a chance to celebrate with friends and family. Here’s to sand between the toes, the smell of sunscreen and cricket on the radio.
And it is always good to have some special wines to share with your nearest and dearest – something out of the ordinary. Perhaps some of those special occasion wines to haul out of your dusty subterranean cellar. Or (more likely) grab one from the local liquor outlet in a mad rush before all the shops shut.
By all means have a stock of good affordable quaffers and beer for the drop-in visitors, but a little extra effort is worth it for family dinners and special friends.
Happy Holidays!

Soljans Estate Marlborough Legacy Methode 2012 $29.99
Extremely good bottle fermented Champagne style from a small family-owned winery in Kumeu. Has picked up many medals overseas and in NZ. Creamy crisp texture, fine beads of bubbles, toasty and mouth filling. A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, grown in Marlborough. Available from Soljans winery

Pares Balta Cava Catalonia Spain $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. Available from Richmond Road Liquor 

‘French Cancan’ Brut Blanc de Blancs NV (by Cattier) $19.95
Easy drinking and affordable French sparkler with a delicate mousse, fruity, refreshing and silky. Pale golden colour with aromas of white peach and citrus fruits. Delicate palate of stone fruit and nougat. Ideal as an aperitif, but can also be enjoyed with food. Available from Fine Wine Delivery Company

Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve NV  $69.25
From a renowned Champagne house. Aromas of nougat and soda water.
Fine persistent beaded bubbles in the class. Very elegant with yeasty flavours of brioche, plus raw almond and a hint of citrus mandarin. A clean and bone dry mineral finish. Available from Fine Wine Delivery Company, Caro's and First Glass.