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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."


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Aromatics 101 - Alsace Vs NZ

Okay. Aromatics. 
Officially, they are the three classic white wines from the French and, or German region of Alsace: Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer.

Riesling is the wine that some people love to hate.  The bad press goes way back to some pretty awful sugary sweet style Rieslings from the 1970s and early 1980s: wines like Blue Nun Liebfraumilch and Black Tower.  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 at all costs.

Here in New Zealand, as in Australia we now tend toward the dry end of the spectrum, producing wines that are crisp, fruity and dry or just slightly sweet (off-dry).

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 (very ripe and shrivelled) or Noble Riesling (affected by a fungus called Botrytis, which sucks out the water content and leaves very sweet concentrated juice with a honeyed taste).
In fact, I’m a big fan of the new wave of medium to sweet Rieslings – where the true nature of the grape is revealed as a luscious, fruity wine with honey, lime and apricot flavours, plus good cellaring potential.  Food matches – think seafood (scallops, prawns, white fish).

The predominant character of Gewürztraminer (Ga-vertz-trah-meaner) is its spiciness. Often with hints of Turkish Delight, rose petals, apricot, ginger in syrup, and cinnamon.  This is why Gewürzt is so often recommended as a good match for spicy food.  But when you think spicy – think mild spice with not too much chilli.  Some hot spicy dishes contain so much chilli that you can’t taste anything.  The style of wine produced from the notoriously unreliable pink grapes, can be anywhere from dry and flinty through to musky, oily and sweet.  New Zealand shares some of the Northern European cool climatic conditions, and has Gewürztraminer plantings in regions as diverse as Central Otago, Marlborough, Gisborne and Hawkes Bay.

In the early Eighties Gewürzt was a bulk produced, sweet easy-drinking lightweight style, which suited the unsophisticated palates of young wine drinkers. Today, it represents a tiny amount compared to the most popular wine varieties.  Just the same, they are worth hunting out for their subtlety of flavour and spicy nuances.

Pinot Gris seems to have come out of nowhere, to be the fashionable white wine both here in NZ, and also overseas.  The grape is a mutation of the Pinot Noir family and like other Pinots, is described by its colour.  In French, Gris (grey) - or in Italian, Grigio. 

Again, as with the other two aromatics – you never know quite what you’re getting.  Pinot Gris can be anything from dry, flinty and delicate – to sweet, full bodied, and complex.  In Europe – Germany, Alsace, and Italy the best Pinot Gris are oily, sweetish, full-bodied luscious wines.  And some of our best NZ examples are coming from Martinborough, Marlborough and Central Otago.
Here’s a line-up of aromatics for your edification.  Do remember that aromatics can be either sweet, off-dry or bone dry.  It is a gamble unless you look carefully at the label, read my blog obsessively - or do research.
Okay – in the North corner, representing Alsace …
Gisselbrecht  Riesling 2010 $27.50
Pale green gold colour.  Mineral and citrus on the nose. Almost bone dry crisp and restrained, but opens up with elegant prince melon, ripe apple and pineapple flavours.  A good one to cellar for 2-3 years.
Pierre Brecht Gewürztraminer 2010  $32.00
Straw gold.  Medium to off-dry style.  Subtle aromas of rosewater.  Then the lush oily palate opens up with peach, mandarin and spice.  Intriguingly it has a mineral to dry finish.
Louis Sipp Pinot Gris 2008 $39.00
Gold appearance. Aromas of honey and beeswax, with an unctuous mouth feel and medium to sweet flavours of honey, citrus and peach.
And now, in the southern corner representing New Zealand …

Pegasus Bay Aria Late Picked Riesling 2009 $37.00
Has subtle aromas of citrus blossom.  Sweet palate of ripe grapefruit, honey, lime and lemonade, nicely balanced with mouth-watering crisp acidity. 
Eskdale Gewürztraminer 2009 $24.00
Unusual for an NZ wine, this bottle has a traditional cork closure.  Slightly funky aromas, but oily and full palate of spice, grapefruit, straw and pineapple.  This is a Gewürz for Chardonnay drinkers – big bold and complex with a dry finish.  
Spy Valley Pinot Gris 2011  $25.00
Full bodied, fruity and lush with stone fruit characters and a hint of minerality. Pear and apple flavours with a crisp finish.

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland when he's not washing car windows at the traffic lights for small change

Thursday, September 20, 2012

VNO wines NZ

Drnk VNO!

Constellation NZ has just launched a new label – VNO aimed at the Y generation (also known as Millennials), with a bold, minimal label design and a name inspired by text speak.  The promo suggests that they are ‘wines to log off with’

Local Ponsonby Marketing agency The Business were tasked with producing the brand from scratch, and have exceeded Constellation’s expectations, putting VNO on the shelf within 4 months, and over 40% of yearly sales targets met in the first 6 weeks.

The range has identical Bordeaux bottle shapes for its range of four wines – ‘Sav Blanc’, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and an Aussie Shiraz.  And they all retail for $23.00 a bottle.
Each bottle has a brief description of the flavours on the front label, Plus a QR code that links to their very cool website The website features young winemaker Jess McCone giving a brief rundown on the wines and winemaking process.

VNO Sav Blanc Marlborough 2011  $23.00
A very approachable 2011 Sauvignon.  Not at all the wildly acidic melt-your-fillings aggressive style, but with soft acidity and clean gooseberry, apple and passion fruit flavours.

VNO Pinot Gris Hawkes Bay 2011  $23.00
Full and fruity off-dry style with clean rounded flavours of lemon squash and green pineapple and an ever so slightly crisp finish.

VNO Marlborough Pinot Noir 2010  $23.00
A lighter style Pinot with sweet ripe dark fruit flavours, soft silky tannins and a hint of savoury bacon and spice.  

VNO Barossa Shiraz 2012  $23.00
A good reliable Aus Shiraz that hits all the buttons without being overpowering.  Medium tannins and ripe black berry flavours with spicy oak.

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

Friday, September 7, 2012

Top 20 things to do in Auckland City New Zealand

The Fine Food & Wine Tours Auckland  TOP 20

 Auckland is a large, vibrant and diverse city with 1.2 million inhabitants (about the same population as Seattle or Brisbane).  It is New Zealand's largest City with almost a third of our total population.  Culturally diverse, Auckland has an Asian population of around 10% with Indian, Polynesian, Maori and European in the mix.  

Over the years, I have passed on a list of 'don't miss' things to do in Auckland to my wine tour clients.

So here we go ...

1.  AUCKLAND ‘VIADUCT BASIN’ and WYNYARD QUARTER – stunning harbour views, cafes, bars, 5-Star restaurants, sailing activities.

 2.  VOYAGER NZ MARITIME MUSEUM – historic NZ Maritime displays – Polynesian migration, early European immigration by ship. Highly recommended.

3.  SAIL NZ – Americas Cup yacht sailing and DOLPHIN EXPLORER Auckland Harbour & Gulf.  Match sailing on the harbour or head out to watch dolphins in the Gulf.

4.  AUCKLAND WAR MEMORIAL MUSEUM  The museum has a stock collection of natural history, war memorabilia and anthropology exhibits, plus feature exhibits which change frequently.  Plus  MAORI CULTURAL GROUP ‘MANAIA’
11.00 am /12 Noon/ 1.30 (and 2.30 Jan-April)  $35 per head. Auckland War Memorial Museum – unique and colourful display of Maori culture, song and dancing 30 mins duration.  Option of viewing Maori artifact collection of museum displays of Polynesian art, plus much more.  
Our City's Main Street, Queen Street is sadly, very uninspiring: mainly -  banks, souvenir shops and fast food.
However there are nearby shopping precincts worth a visit for Auckland’s best high end – clothes, restaurants, cafes, design stores, galleries:
HIGH STREET, City ( funky: Karen Walker, Zambesi, Workshop and  World ),
CHANCERY LANE, City (upmarket)
PARNELL ROAD about 5 minute taxi ride from City (upmarket), NEWMARKET (middle-to upmarket),  about 5 minute taxi ride from City; PONSONBY ROAD about 5 minute taxi ride from  City (funky),  
REMUERA ROAD about 10 minute taxi ride from City (conservative/upmarket) 
DEPARTMENT STORE – SMITH & CAUGHEY 253-261 Queen Street, the City’s only remaining department store.  Good quality goods, plus cosmetics, perfume, clothes etc.
SUPERMARKETS  New World Metro 125 Queen St.   Countdown  (76 Quay St. bottom of Queen street turn right – about 4 blocks), then New World Victoria Park, 2 College Hill Freeman’s Bay. 

6.  AUCKLAND FISH MARKET 22 Jellicoe St Freemans Bay. Restaurants, Deli, NZ's largest seafood market, incorporating, restaurants, cafes, fresh fish, Deli goods, Seafood Cooking School, Sushi, Fish& Chips. 
And  - BIG PICTURE Wine Centre 'flyover' local wine movie plus
interactive tastings and ‘wine aroma room’
7.  PARNELL ROSE GARDENS – about 5 minute taxi ride from City (November – February).  Display of thousands of roses – open free to the public    

8.  SKY TOWER – panoramic views of City and Twin Harbours from our Auckland landmark. Good souvenirs.  Revolving restaurant (and yes, the food and service are great). Also – WETA Workshop – collectibles & models from Lord of The Rings, Avatar etc.

9.  AUCKLAND ART GALLERY Wellesley/Kitchener Sts.  Stock collection of NZ art, special exhibitions  Over the road - NEW GALLERY  Wellesley/Lorne Streets    contemporary (and largely unintelligible) ‘Art’.
10. AUCKLAND ZOO – LIVE Kiwi bird exhibit, huge native bird aviary, native parrots, meercats, otters etc. Modern style zoo with moats and walls to provide ample viewing without bars and cages. $20 per person
11. KELLY TARLTON’s UNDERWATER WORLD – Aquarium display of sea life, viewed from a travellator through a Perspex tunnel – sharks, octopus, fish, sting rays, plus display Antarctic including live Emperor penguins in sub-zero South Pole conditions. About $37 per person.

12. ELLIOTT STABLES FOOD QUARTER - ETHNIC BISTROS Just off Wellesley street -  turn left into Elliott St. Reasonably priced - a great spot for lunch.  Pick a table, then find your restaurant of choice.  Spanish, Mexican, Italian, French, also Artisan Wine shop.

239-249 Queen St.  NZ-made chocolates, Organic ice creams and gelato.

14. WOOLLY FOR YOU – 237 Parnell Road – More upmarket $$$, NZ-made wool, knitting yarns, mohair, possum and angora knitted products. They also ship overseas, tax-free.

15. DEVONPORT – North Shore Historic Victorian quaint seaside village – cafes, galleries art shops, etc.  

16. SOUVENIRS - good quality, authentic NZ-made souvenirs – Sky Tower gift shop (excellent);  Auckland Museum gift shop (very good but pricey).    REAL Aotearoa 62 Queen St

17. HARLEY DAVIDSON AUCKLAND - souvenir tee shirts etc., 234 Khyber Pass Road  (300 7500)

18. CUBAN CIGARS – Havana House Shop 3, 11-19 Customs Street West (357 0037)

19. ICE HOUSE – VODKA BAR, Prince’s Wharf near entrance to Hilton Hotel.  The bar and the glasses are made of ice.  Patrons have to wear arctic weather gear and have a limited time in the sub-zero temperatures.

20. AUCKLAND'S WINE REGIONS - KUMEU (20 min from CBD) WAIHEKE ISLAND (45 min ferry ride from CBD), MATAKANA (50 min from CBD).
And who better to host you than Phil Parker's Fine Wine & Food Tours Auckland !