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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, April 20, 2019

Hits & Misses

No major theme this month, folks. Just a random selection of wines that I picked up and sampled.

Giesen Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 $NZ 15.00
Very consistent pinot gris from Nelson based Giesen label. Smells a bit like clover honey and citrus blossom with a whiff of hay. Tastes like Roses lime juice, crisp apple and quince with a dry finish.  Pan fried Snapper with olive oil, capers and parsley.

Millton Te Arai Chenin Blanc Gisborne Chenin Blanc 2017 $NZ 29.99
From organic Millton label, has spent time in old oak. Nose of blond tobacco, lantana and a hint of fennel. Crisp, clean and very dry on the palate with clover honey, tangy yeast and a nudge of fresh cut pineapple. Great match for seafood – Gurnard pan fried in olive oil.
Cleanskin South Africa Chardonnay 2018  $NZ 7.00
Okay. This is a bargain bin chardonnay from Pt. Chev Countdown. I bought it on a whim when shopping for groceries today. It’s actually really good value. Smells like stone fruit with a hint of oak. Palate of peach, pineapple and a bit of nectarine. Clean, crisp and dry finish.  Calamari salad. Nom nom.
Selaks Taste Collection Buttery Chardonnay Hawke’s Bay 2018 $NZ 21.99
Smells like grapefruit with a whiff of vanilla and lanoline. A tad disappointing for the fan of truly big and buttery chardonnays, but still delivers a good medium style without too much acid. Flavours of grapefruit, peach and a bit of dried apricot. Dry finish.  Match with creamy chicken pasta, or cheese based dishes.

Cupcake Chardonnay Monterey County USA Chardonnay 2015 $NZ 22.99
A big oaky Californian style chardonnay for those who are a bit over the current NZ fad for the acidic mineral style. Still very fruity in the mid palate with lots of peach and nectarine. Vanilla oaky sweetness and a medium dry finish.  A great match with scallops.
Fat Bastard California Chardonnay 2015 $NZ 20
Pretty well lives up to its label. Big American Oak! Lots of vanillin American oak extraction - no doubt from a while sitting in brand new barrels. But to be honest, it’s a bit out of balance. The oak way overpowers any fruit flavours but it does have some peachy fruit and crème brûlée toffee/toast characters.  It would match a big creamy pasta dish with loads of cheese.

The Big Top Lodi California Zinfandel 2016  $NZ 19.99

I suspect that this is mass produced. Just the same - it has easy drinking appeal to those with a sweet palate who like ripe Aussie shiraz. Black cherry, cassis and a hint of smoke.  Soft tannins and little or no oak influence.  A medium priced BBQ quaffer

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Young Wine Vs Old Wine

Over the last month I have opened a few wines, as one does, and this time it was a mixture of new and older vintages.

I often get this question – how long should I keep a wine before I drink it?
Anecdotally, in NZ the average time from purchase to consumption is about 30 minutes. So we are not all that great at cellaring. Fresh, fruity wines such as sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, gewürztraminer, semillon and rosés are best consumed within about 2 years. Oak-aged white wines such as chardonnay will improve and become more complex over 5 years.  Most reds will soften and integrate over 5 to ten years.  Full-bodied tannic reds can last even longer.  But it’s all a bit of guesswork in my experience. The best idea is to buy six or a dozen and pop one open very six months to see how the wine is progressing.
But as one of my elderly tour clients once said, after being told to cellar a wine for 15 years: “Honestly, at my age I don’t even buy green bananas.”

Mission Vineyard Selection Pinot Gris 2014
At five years old, pretty well at its peak, but still has a lot of complex, aged characters. Smells like canned apricots. The palate is rich and oily with pineapple, quince, marmalade and almond, with a lengthy very dry finish

Gisselbrecht  Alsace Pinot Gris 2016
Fresh, fruity and fab. A French wine under screw cap – zut alors! Smells like honeysuckle and citrus blossom. Just nudging off-dry and at 13.5% alcohol. Flavours of nectarine, tonic water and ginger spice.

 Spy Valley Marlborough Pinot Noir 2012
A lovely example of what a bit of bottle age can do to a NZ pinot. Very gamey and savoury on the nose. In the mouth it’s all about soft tannins and earthy spice with mushroom, truffle, a hint of salty minerality.

Mudbrick Shepherds Point Waiheke Merlot / Cabernet / Petit Verdot 2017
A real youngster that I opened in error very late at night last week. Moving right along…
Nose of florals, spice rack and tar. Amazingly approachable as a fresh young thing. Palate of ripe blackberries, cassis, soft dusty tannins, spiced plum and a hint of Vegemite (in a good way).

Rod McDonald Quarter Acre Hawkes Bay Merlot / Malbec 2013
Again – a fab red that has developed secondary characters from a bit of bottle age.
Slightly earthy nose, with fruitcake and cherry.  In the mouth it’s warm ripe and soft with black berry fruits, earthy truffle, cassis and liquorice.

Phil is a wine writer and runs Waiheke Island Wine Tours in Auckland New Zealand

Thursday, February 28, 2019

What I Drank in The Holidays

Our Auckland summer keeps going and going and long may it last. Grapes love dry, hot weather – so bring it on.
Most folks will now be in denial, having returned to work after the summer holiday break.  Summer is my busy season in wine tourism – driving people to drink in Kumeu and Waiheke Island.  Still, there have been many wines to sample over the last month or two and here are some highlights.
Happy New Year – and cheers!

Loveblock Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 $NZ 21.99 (Glengarry)
From Kim Crawford’s organic boutique winery.  Aromas of stone fruit and citrus. Lush and fruity, with crisp pear, rock melon and a lengthy finish. Great with seafood.

Pegasus Bay North Canterbury  Sauvignon / Semillon $NZ 32.00 (Glengarry and Caro’s)
Sauvignon blanc and semillon 70/30 blend in a full-bodied, flavoursome style. Semillon was oak aged to add texture. Flinty aromas with a whiff of gooseberry.  A big lengthy palate of gooseberry, pineapple, green capsicum and grass.  Good match with seafood. Try a Thai fish curry.

Church Road McDonald Series Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2017 $NZ 22 (widely available)
Church Road chardonnay was the gateway wine that led me on my journey of discovery about 20 years ago. Respec.  It has varied a bit in style over the years, but has always been a good value chard from the Brancott stable (formerly known as Montana).  Nice nose of hazelnut and stone fruit. Creamy palate of grapefruit, nectarine and a dry crisp finish. Great with chicken and mango salad.

Main Divide North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2015 $NZ 25 (Glengarry, Vino Fino,
Knockout great value pinot from Pegasus Bay’s second tier label. Aromas of spices  black cherry and ripe plum. Flavours of cherry, spice, black pepper, savoury truffle and silky, lengthy tannins.  Fab with any red meats, and  spiced duck.

No 1 Family Estate Marlborough Rosé NV $NZ 47 (Glengarry)
Stunningly good traditional method 100% Marlborough pinot noir rosé from Daniel Le Brun Smells like sour cherry and nougat. Rich, ripe and voluptuously frothy in the mouth with creamy almond nougat, sour cherry, a hint of sweetness. Lengthy finish. Drink any time!

Phil runs the best Auckland wine tours in the known Universe.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas Crackers!
Wines for celebration in the NZ Summer

It’s time to smell the sun block, fire up the BBQ, feel sand between your toes and listen cricket on the radio.  And time to embrace wines that match well with outdoor entertaining, and celebrating with your nearest and dearest over the festive season. Here are some great personal recommendations.
Season’s Greetings from Phil!

Spencer Hill 2015 Nelson Reserve Fumé Sauvignon Blanc $NZ 25.00 (
Wild yeast ferment and left on the lees residue for 9 months. A bit of oak on the nose plus some typical Sav notes of gooseberry and a hint of nectarine. Creamy palate of gooseberry, elderflower, passionfruit with a lemon citrus finish.  Definitely a special take on the South Island’s most prolific wine. Match with seafood.
Saint Clair Origin  Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017  $NZ 24.00 (Glengarry)
Fantastic value. Ticks all the boxes. Floral nose of ripe cherry and tamarillo, opens up on the palate with ripe fruit and spice – sweet plum and ripe back cherry with a lengthy savoury finish. A classic  pinot to rival Central Otago’s best. Great with Chicken, duck or mushroom dishes.
Spade Oak Gisborne Tempranillo  $NZ 20.00  (Some Countdown branches)
Looks like a medium to light red on first sight, but in fact it’s a quite a grunty and spicy wine, a bit like a muscular pinot noir.  Nose of tamarillo, spice rack and vanilla bean. Palate of ripe cherry, with red and black berry compote, tobacco and earthy spices. Soft tannins.  Pairs with red meats, duck or tomato-based Italian.
Pirathon Black Barossa Shiraz 2016 $NZ 49.00  (
Wow. Blockbuster, inky Aus shiraz, typically bursting with flavour. Aromas of pot pourri, black pepper and liquorice. Opens up on the palate with Black Doris plum, liquorice, black currant, dark chocolate, ripe fragrant boysenberry and cassis. Long firm tannic finish.  A cracker BBQ match.

Saint Clair Dawn Marlborough M
éthodeTraditionelle 2013 $NZ 49.00 (
Green gold colour with aromas of yeasty brioche and nectarine. Ripe golden queen peachy mid palate with nougat and a tangy yeasty finish.  Fab aperitif style.  

No 1 Family Estate Marlborough Ros
é NV $NZ 47 (Glengarry)
Stunningly good traditional method 100% Marlborough pinot noir rosé from Daniel Le Brun, whose Champagne-making family have been in France over the last 12 generations. Smells like sour cherry and nougat. Rich, ripe and voluptuously frothy in the mouth with creamy almond nougat, sour cherry, a hint of sweetness. Lengthy finish. Gorgeous at any time!

Matt Connell Wines

Southern Superman
Matt Connell was born in Taranaki and grew up in Christchurch, eventually making his way north to where working at iconic Auckland microbrewery Galbraiths inspired him to complete a post-grad degree in Oenology and Viticulture in 2001.

Winemaking took Matt to Wynns of Coonawarra Australia, Elk Covey in  Oregon and finally back to NZ to Central Otago where he worked at  Peregrine and Olssens of Bannockburn.  Prior to establishing his eponymous label he spent seven years as winemaker and general manager of Akarua in Central Otago. During his time at there he was able to re-establish Akarua as one of New Zealand’s premium pinot noir producers, winning major trophies for the label with each vintage. 

And, just to hand, The New Zealand International Wine Show 2018 awarded his 2017 Rendition Central Otago Pinot Noir trophies for the Nissan New Zealand Champion Wine of Show and the Negociants New Zealand Champion Pinot Noir - at the awards ceremony held on Saturday the 13th October in Auckland.

I caught up with Matt a few weeks ago and was given a sneak preview of his 2017 vintage releases, including what was to be the highly awarded Rendition Central Otago Pinot Noir.
I concur with the judges!

Matt Connell Wines Lowburn Central Otago Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2017 $NZ 38
Very subtle nose of orange blossom, pineapple and elder flower. Elegant and integrated palate of mandarin, brioche, mineral and poached pear. Creamy and soft mid palate from extended lees ageing, with subtle French oak influence.

Matt Connell Wines Bendigo Central Otago Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017 $NZ 67
Spice, black berry fruits and tamarillo on the nose.  Opens  up on the palate with gamey savoury flavours, medium tannins, black cherry, dark chocolate and raspberry liquorice. Very lengthy finish.

Matt Connell Wines Rendition Central Otago Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017 $NZ 44
Smells like poached tamarillo, cherry and spice, with a whiff of wood smoke. On the palate, it has ripe and spicy dark fruit - with boysenberry, plum, black cherry and earthy savoury truffle. Lengthy medium tannic finish. Just gorgeous. Classic Central Pinot.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Wonderful Waipara - NZ’s best kept secret

Wonderful Waipara

NZ’s best kept secret

Waipara?  Somewhere near north Canterbury  isn’t it? Yes it is, and if you want to get into some fantastic wines, you should know more about it. 

Sitting up straight?  Corkscrew in hand?  Glass at the ready?  Thirsty?  Okay, relax.  I am your guide. I tend to think of Waipara as one of New Zealand’s orphan wine regions. Perhaps, along with west Auckland’s historic Kumeu, and north Auckland’s boutique Matakana, it’s possibly one of the most underrated wine producing areas in NZ.

Everybody knows, and loves the high-profile regions. But Waipara, like the others, tends to get overshadowed in spite of the fact that it produces some gorgeous wines, albeit with less than 5% of NZ’s total grape production. 

Here’s a selection form a recent trip to the south.

Waipara Springs Waipara Valley Chardonnay 2016  $NZ 39
Aromas of peach and grapefruit, crisp and fruity with mandarin and a hint of oaky toast. Nice medium-bodied style . Dry crisp finish.

Greystone Waipara Valley Gewürztraminer 2015 $NZ 31
Delicate floral citrus blossom aromas with a hint of yeast from ageing on yeast residue.
Just off-dry palate of ginger syrup and a hint of rosewater. Lengthy elegant and creamy finish at a fairly hefty 14.5% alcohol.
Availability: Fine Wine Delivery Co.
Greystone Waipara Valley Chardonnay 2016 $NZ 35
Grapefruit, vanilla and yeast on the nose. Opens up on the palate as a gorgeous voluptuous Marylin Monroe of a chardonnay. Rich, ripe and hugely seductive, and with potential. A creamy seamless palate of crème brûlée, nectarine, toasty vanilla and peach with a long finish. Stunning.
Pegasus Bay Waipara Aged Release Riesling 2008 $NZ 40
Wow. Fabulous wine. Rich, voluptuous and enchanting. This is the gateway wine to Rieslings. At ten years old, this wine is just hitting its straps with an unctuous palate of grapefruit, honey, beeswax, honeysuckle and apricot jam. At 12.5% alcohol it is just nudging dry, yet has a hint of botrytis to knock it in to serious after dinner wine territory to be accompanied by some fine cheeses.
Waipara Hills Soul Pinot Noir 2014 $NZ 27
Aromas of red berry fruit with some earthy, savoury notes. Light to medium style with blackberry, tamarillo and cherry and some leathery savoury characters. Firm tannins mean this one will last at least 5 years.
Pegasus Bay Waipara Aged Release Pinot Noir 2008 $NZ 65
From a ripe vintage, this wine is standing up very well for a 10 year-old. Garnet red with aromas of black cherry, with secondary gamey aromas of leather, cellar dust and vegemite. Opens up nicely as a complex wine with a sweet ripe cherry mid palate and lingering lengthy finish of liquorice and dark Ghana chocolate.
Phil runs the best wine tours in New Zealand and is very kind to animals

Saturday, September 29, 2018

I See Red. (I see red, I see red )
Red wines for the NZ spring

Spring is pretty well in the air now. The magnolias are blooming, the daffs are out and spring lambs are gambolling in the paddocks.  But it’s still a good time for red wines.

Before we segue into summer temperatures, it’s good to enjoy some hearty reds or even a lightly chilled rosé. Here’s a selection of some great reds that I have sampled recently.

Coopers Creek Huapai Rosé 2016  $NZ 21.00 
Made from a blend of malbec and merlot from Cooper’s estate vineyard in Huapai, northwest Auckland. Very fresh and hugely drinkable. Typical strawberries and cream aromas. And unlike the current trend for bone dry acidic rosé, this one is just nudging sweet with a fruity ripe palate of red berry fruit and cranberry with a crisp finish. Drink with chicken, salads or seafood.

Scott Base Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017  $NZ 29.99
From the Allan Scott family winery, one of the first independent wineries to be established in Marlborough in 1990. Aromas of ripe cherries and raspberries with a hint of smoky spice. Soft, medium palate of red fruit, black cherry and a hint of tar. Drink with duck, lamb or ratatouille.
Widely available at supermarkets and Glengarry.

Wolf Blass Gold Label Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2016  $NZ 27.99
Wolfgang Blass was born in Germany. He studied winemaking in Germany, moved to the Barossa Valley in 1961 and just 5 years later, he launched what was to become one of Australia’s most famous labels.
This wine smells of cassis, plums and cellar dust. Typical big Aussie red, with a ripe plummy palate of blackcurrant and black cherry compote and medium tannic finish. Drink with pepper steak, venison or rich tomato-based pasta.
Availability: Widely available at supermarkets and Glengarry.

Vidal Legacy Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot 2016  $NZ 64.99
Vidal Estate is part of the Villa Maria portfolio, producing premium wines under renowned winemaker Hugh Crichton. With vineyards in the Gimblett Gravels appellation, the focus here is sturdy red wines.
This one: plums and spice on the

Phil runs Auckland Fine Wine & Food Tours