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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, December 29, 2015

Wine Writers of New Zealand trip to Hawke's Bay.

Back in November, I was lucky to join a group of the Wine Writers of New Zealand (WWNZ) organisation on a sponsored trip to Hawke's Bay. This was a three-day trip involving hosted tastings at many local wineries.
We covered Te Mata, Elephant Hill, Black Barn, Mission, Ash Ridge, Trinity Hill, Ngatararawa, Alpha Domus, Paritua, Sacred Hill, Pask, Collaboration, Squawking Magpie, Monowai, and finally Vidal.
Whew. It was great. It was fun.  It was exhausting.
Here's my notes on Ash Ridge and Monowai

Day Two
Friday 13 November
Ash Ridge Wines
Reasonably bright-eyed and (almost) bushy-tailed, the group reassembled in the Masonic Hotel’s Emporium eatery and bar, early on Friday morning for the journey out to Ash Ridge Wines, courtesy of our EIT driving crew and their trusty 12-seater coach.
Former forex dealer Chris Wilcock and his wife Sonya (ex-Invercargill) transplanted their family back to New Zealand after 15 years of living overseas, to establish Ash Ridge. Chris has completed a certificate in wine, specialising in viticulture, and is now working on a post-graduate diploma in winemaking. They purchased bare land on the Heretaunga plains Bridge Pa Triangle area in 2000, planting vines in 2005 and now producing Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and some Bordeaux varieties. They make around 7,000 cases per year.
Taking a punt on a bright new graduate from EIT, Chris engaged Lauren Swift as winemaker in late 2012.  To verify his good choice, Lauren went on to win a trophy with her 2013 Ash Ridge Estate Merlot, just 3 months out of college.  In 2014 they built their own winery onsite, and following another great vintage in Hawke’s Bay Lauren won Hawke’s Bay Young Winemaker of the Year.
Although Ash Ridge boasts a cellar door and café, the tasting was held in the brand new winery. Chris gave us a brief history of the venture and then introduced us to Lauren as we sampled a line-up of their premium wines.

Estate Chardonnay 2014
Aromas of citrus blossom, melon, spicy oak and blond tobacco. In the mouth, it’s light, bright and soft with hints of lemon curd and oak.

Vintners Reserve Chardonnay  2014
Quite shy on the nose, again with blond tobacco. The palate is elegant and restrained with crisp minerality.

Estate Syrah 2014
Lovely ripe and jammy aromas of black cherry and roast beef.
On the palate it’s young and ripe, with firm tannins, cassis, black olive, tobacco, and a dry finish.

Premium Estate Syrah  2014
Aromas of black pepper, tar and pot pourri. In the mouth it’s a young strapping wine with savoury notes, cherry, black olive, firm tannins and a dry lengthy finish.
Vintners Reserve Syrah  2014
Funky aromas, plus vegemite, black pepper and black cherry. Flavours of black pepper, vegemite, black olive and black currant jam. Dry, firm tannic finish.

Doppio MS clone 2014
Aromas of spicy oak and pot pourri. The palate is dark and dense and dry, with black olive and plum.
Doppio Chave  clone 2014
Nose of black currant jam, tomato & herb pizza sauce, black cherry. The palate is savoury with firm tannin. Big flavoured and dark, with cherry, black olive, and a firmly dry finish.
Premium Estate Malbec 2014
Smells of dark berry fruit and spiced plum. In the mouth it’s cherry, chocolate, cassis, and savoury with medium dry tannins.
Barrel Ferment Reserve Malbec 2015
Smells toasty, with black berry fruit. Flavours of toast, dark fruit, anise and liquorice with a dry lengthy finish.

Day Three
Saturday 14 November

Monowai Estate
Winemaking couple Emma Lowe and her Chilean partner Marcelo Nunez own Monowai Estate and winery on the northern banks of the Ngaruroro River in the Crownthorpe district. Emma was schooled in Hamilton then studied wine making in Adelaide, Australia and California. It was when she was working Chile that she met the man who would become her vineyard manager and husband, Marcelo Nunez.
The wines are produced from their own 22 hectare vineyard in the higher altitude Crownthorpe district. Cool climate varieties are the focus at Monowai, with Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot grown onsite in the free-draining stony river terraces. Almost all their production is exported, with a tiny amount sold within NZ.
With blues skies and warm sunshine beckoning us from inside the chilly winery tasting space, we decided to move the tasting table and chairs out into the winery courtyard and bask in the Hawke’s Bay sun while Emma led us through her wines.

Pinot Gris 2015
Fruity aromas of Nashi Pear, with a lovely clean palate and  fruity, unctuous texture. Medium sweet style at 6 g/l of residual sugar, with a lively complementary acid balance
Chardonnay 2014
Aromas of herbs, peach and a whiff of toast, this is a  60/40 blend of barrel aged and stainless steel Chardonnay.  The palate is medium style with stone fruit and a crisp citrus zing.

Rose  2015
On the nose, it’s all strawberries and plum. The flavour profile is off-dry and rich, with cherry, red berry fruit, and a soft medium sweet finish.

Pinot Noir  2015
Aromas of tamarillo and smoky, toast open up on the palate with mild tannins in a
soft, light and easy drinking style with flavours of tamarillo, spice and dark cherry.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sparkling Wines for Celebratation

Sparkling wine and celebrations go together, thus the festive season is a great opportunity to pop a few corks and enjoy some bubbly with your besties and favourite relatives.

The vast majority of our bottle fermented sparkling wine is made from the traditional blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We used to call it Méthode Champenoise before the French got all proprietorial about the name. The traditional method uses a secondary fermentation in the bottle under a crown seal, by adding more yeast and sugar after the first ferment is finished, producing characteristic CO2 bubbles.

A cheaper process, the Charmat method of producing bulk quality sparkling wine, is to make the wine in bulk and the secondary ferment is done under pressure in sealed stainless steel vats. And a third method produces simple cheap sparklers by injecting CO2 into still wine before bottling (AKA the SodaStream method).

Here is a line-up of very classy sparklers to share with someone special. As someone once said (possibly the painter Francis Bacon), “Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends.”

Champagne Bouby–Legouge France Brut NV $NZ 54.25
Grapes grown in the  Vallée de la Marne, midway between the two famous Champagne towns of Épernay and Reims. Yeasty aromas of brioche and subtle herbs. In the mouth, it’s classic French fizz flavours of toast, yeast, a hint of clover honey and oyster shell.

Schramsberg  Calistoga California Brut Rosé NV $NZ 77.50
An attractive salmon pink, this is a voluptuous blend of 61% pinot noir and 39% chardonnay.  Hints of cherry cola and yeast aromas. Lovely creamy palate of sour cherry, toasted almond, canned peach and strawberries. Beguilingly ripe and soft, it has just 1.11 gram of sugar per litre.

Pares Balta Cava Catalonia Spain NV  $NZ 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.

Sartori Prosecco Italy NV $NZ 25.85
Ticks all the boxes as a typical Prosecco. Pale green gold in colour, this one smells of citrus blossom and pear. Light and crisp flavours of apple juice and Nashi pear and a hint of sweetness, with a dry refreshing finish.

Larmandier-Bernier Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs  France NV $NZ 92.92
Aromas of creamy vanilla. Rich palate of crème brulée, crisp apple and citrus with a hint of marzipan. Dry, clean finish.

West Brook Methode Traditionelle Blanc  2012 $NZ 39
Just to show that NZ can make a very respectable traditional method bottle fermented style. Made exclusively from their Waimauku estate Pinot noir grapes. On the nose it’s subtle yeasty brioche with a hint of clover honey. Lively foaming effervescent fine bubbles tickle the palate with gentle flavours of prince melon, honey, cherry and strawberry. Dry and crisp mineral finish. 
Availability all except the West Brook are available from Herne Bay Cellars. West Brook: cellar door in Waimauku
Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine & Food Tours in Auckland. See:

Phil’s new cellar door book ‘NZ Wine Regions – A Visitor’s Guide’ is now available on Amazon Kindle

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


As a hobby wine writer on a modest income I do like to open a different bottle of wine each night and share it with my charming spouse during dinner and over the course of an evening. But, aside from trade samples, I am obliged to buy my own wines. And these generally fall under the $25 dollar mark. I’d dearly love to say that I have a huge cellar stocked with many hand-picked bottles from the very best vintages and producers, but the sad fact is no, I don’t. 

Thus I’m always on the lookout for a bargain and sometimes stumble upon the odd gem – largely by trial and error.  As a rule of thumb, it’s extremely rare to get anything drinkable under $10. And there are some truly awful imported supermarket cheapies in the $8.99 and below range.

Generally you do get what you pay for, so don’t expect concentration of flavour, longevity or complexity in a sub $10 wine. Wines in the $25 plus range are generally produced with a lot more TLC, including crop-thinning and vineyard selection.

Anyway, here’s a selection of very good value wines that I managed to bring in under the $16 price point, on a recent hunting and gathering expedition into deepest Ponsonby.

Disclaimer: I bought the wines on special at the time of writing, from Glengarry in late September, so current prices may vary depending on where you buy these wines.

Kumeu Village Pinot Gris 2013 $NZ 14.99
Yeasty lime aromas, leading on to a rich and complex medium palate of nougat, lime juice quince and grapefruit, with a mineral dry finish. Yum.  Reflects a hot dry vintage in west Auckland. Fantastic value.  A brilliant pre-dinner wine. And during. And after.
Available from Glengarry or direct from the winery

Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Pinot Gris 2014 $NZ 14.99
A clean, crisp and mineral style of pinot gris. Smells like lime juice and cut grass. Medium palate of prince melon, lime juice, Nashi pear and a tangy dry, crisp finish. Good match with seafood.
Available from Glengarry

Coopers Creek Fat Cat East Coast Chardonnay 2014 $14.99
Smells like rock melon and citrus with a whiff of funky yeast.  A nice soft and light easy-drinking style with flavours of melon, lemon squash and nougat and a dry finish. Nice chilled as a picnic wine or a friendly BBQ white wine option for the savvie averse.
Available from Glengarry, or direct from the winery

Kate Radburnd Vine Velvet Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013  $NZ 15.99
Earthy and briny, savoury aromas.  This is a great value intense and complex Martinborough pinot.  Flavours of ripe black cherry, tamarillo, and earthy spice with a dry finish.
Available from Glengarry, Pask winery  and Boozee Liquor Online (!)
Yalumba Y Series South Australia Shiraz/Viognier 2013 $NZ 10.99
Bang for buck. Typical South Aussie dark fruit number. Blackberry and spice on the nose and again on the palate. Also some savoury baked meat flavours, plus black cherry, with medium firm tannins and a dry finish. Great with BBQ steak and snarlers.
Available from Glengarry.

Rosemount Estate Diamond  South Australia Shiraz 2011 $NZ 14.99
Yum. Big fat and sweet like a juicy ripe blackberry in the summer heat.  Again, the Aussies nail it with a value for money stunning red. Num num num. Boysenberry, blackberry, black cherry, hint of spice and a voluptuous silky palate with a soft mouthfeel.

Available from Glengarry and Countdown online.

Phil Parker runs wine tours in Auckland region.
Phil's e-book NZ Wine Regions - A Visitor's Guide is available on Amazon kindle.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Tuscany Comes to North Auckland

 When Tuscan winemaker Stefano Guidi dropped in to Matakana’s Herons Flight winery for the first time he wasn't looking for a job, he was just there to sample their Italian varietal wines and chat with the winemaker.  Owners David Hoskins and Mary Evans weren't really looking for a winemaker either, but since that first amiable meeting in Matakana in 2013, Stefano Guidi took a keen interest in Heron’s Flight’s sustainable winegrowing approach to Sangiovese and Dolcetto.

Over the next two years, Stefano supervised the winemaking, albeit from a distance, while still working full time in Tuscany. He had previously gained an engineering degree at the University of Milan, followed by a PhD in winemaking and studying oenology and viticulture in Bordeaux. His first winemaking job was in the Chianti Classico region, in Tuscany, where he worked mainly with Sangiovese - the dominant variety at Heron’s Flight.

Grapes were first planted at Heron's Flight Vineyard and Winery in 1987 by David Hoskins, a chemist and philosopher turned winemaker, and Mary Evans, a scholar and teacher. David (ex-Philadelphia USA) started off with plantings of Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot. Then in 1994 his infatuation with Italian wines led him to plant the Sangiovese. Since then, all the other vines have been pulled out and replaced with either Sangiovese or the northern Italian grape Dolcetto.  Heron’s Flight produces around 1500 cases of wine per annum, mostly sold domestically, but with some exports to UK, Hong Kong and China.

On return to Italy, Stefano met the love of his life, Napier-born lyric soprano opera singer Anna Leese, and in January 2015 the newlyweds moved permanently to Warkworth where Stefano took over as chief winemaker at Heron’s Flight. As part of the inventory from Italy, Stefano imported a 500 litre terracotta amphora in his shipping container along with his household goods. The amphora was made by a very tiny producer in Impruneta, close to Florence. Stefano’s amphora is now being used to make Heron’s Flight’s flagship premium 2015 Sangiovese. Indigenous yeasts are used in a wild ferment and there is no use of sulphites. His technique involves removing around a third of the skins post fermentation, and then leaving the wine in contact with the remaining skins for four to six months. He explains that the remaining skins prevent any oxidation by constantly releasing tannins and polyphenols which are extremely strong antioxidants.

The wine will eventually be bottled after spending no time in barrel: “With barrel ageing, there is a marriage of the tannins of the oak and the tannins of the wine. The amphora is different – the tannins in the wine are one hundred percent from the grape. After six months I take out all the skins from the amphora and then we bottle the wine.”

Stefano’s other pet projects at Heron’s Flight are making rosé, a Champagne style and a passito style sweet wine also from Sangiovese and Dolcetto (only about 50 litres) after drying the fruit on a mobile wooden rack that is put away at night.
“These are the old tricks that we use in the Mediterranean,” he chuckles.

Phil Parker runs wine tours in Auckland region.
Phil's e-book NZ Wine Regions - A Visitor's Guide is available on Amazon kindle.

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.

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.