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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, February 19, 2016

Sauvignon Blanc ... thinking outside Marlborough

Sauvignon Blanc is our most planted grape variety and our largest export wine. The vast majority of our sauvignon comes from Marlborough - taking up around 18,000 hectares out of its total growing area of about 23,000 ha.

But there is more to Sauvignon Blanc than just the standard grassy, crisp and pungent Marlborough style. Nelson, Central Otago, Waipara, Martinborough and Hawke's Bay all grow Sauv Blanc – albeit with their own twist on the wine. Warmer climate Sauvs may have a less crisp profile and can show some tropical flavours like melon, passionfruit and pineapple. Some winemakers strive for a more complex flavour profile by introducing some oak barrel ageing. 
Here’s a selection to challenge the hardened Marlborough fans.

Gladstone Vineyard ‘Sophie’s Choice’ Barrel Fermented Wairarapa Sauvignon Blanc 2014  $35.00 NZD
Very classy. Fermented and aged in French oak for 4 months, with 24% stainless steel fermented Sauvs added before bottling. Ripe peach and oak aromas open up on the palate with creamy toast, grapefruit, and a hint of passionfruit, with a dry slightly herbal finish.  
Availability – Glengarry, United Cellars

Main Divide Waipara Valley (North Canterbury) Sauvignon Blanc 2015  $21.00 NZD
Main Divide is the second label from Waipara’s Pegasus Bay winery. Very approachable for those who are a wee bit Sauv averse. Low acids and a full, ripe and slightly tropical palate of passionfruit, black currant and Rose’s lime juice – with just a hint of roasted green pepper, and snow peas.
Availability – widely distributed through fine wine stores.

Alphonse Mellot Pouilly Fumé 2014 $47.00 NZD
From the Loire region of France, this wine was grown in the Pouilly Fumé AC area overlooking the banks the Loire river. Pale gold colour, with subtle aromas of melon, citrus and minerality. In the mouth, it reveals much more fruit characters like nectarine, passionfruit and grapefruit with a dash of clover honey. Finishes with medium soft crisp acidity.
Availability - Herne Bay Cellars

The Supernatural Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2014  $36.50 NZD
The Supernatural was launched in 2009 and is made from organically-produced grapes sourced exclusively from the Millar Road estate in Hawke’s Bay. Rich gold colour and a funky, yeasty nose – no doubt from the use of indigenous yeasts. Surprisingly soft on the palate, it has rich flavours of grapefruit, canned peach and rock melon with a hint of herbs. Really different. Dare I say it, a great Sauv for chardonnay drinkers.
Availability - Herne Bay Cellars

The Supernatural Green Glow Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013 $54.20 NZD
This wine is an example of the ‘orange’ natural wine trend where the grape skins are left in contact with the juice during fermentation. Deep gold colour. Aromas of dried orange peel, resin and ripe banana skin. For a white wine, you do get a bit of tannin from the skin fermentation before it opens up with complex layers of flavour from beeswax to over-ripe peach, brandy and hint of honeysuckle. Not yer average Sauv by any means.
Availability - Herne Bay Cellars

Johner Noble Gladstone Sauvignon Blanc 2015  $24.90 NZD
‘Noble’ meaning affected by botrytis noble rot i.e. a fungus that sucks out water and leaves concentrated sugars in the grapes. Has aromas of pineapple and toffee apple. Racy acidity balanced by sweet flavours of ripe pineapple, canned pear, toffee and mandarin.
Availability - Herne Bay Cellars, Scenic Cellars

Sunday, February 7, 2016

♫ Summer Wine … And The Livin’ Is Easy … ♫

 Yes folks, it’s time to relax, watch tennis, get sand between your toes, and slap on sunscreen. For most of us, the New Year brings a chance to wind down, shrug off the last twelve months and recharge the batteries for the year ahead.

Our drinking habits correspondingly change with warmer weather, generally away from big reds and chunky Chardonnays, in favour of chilled white wines, rosés and lighter reds like Pinot Noir. Yet there are still those long, languid evenings when the air cools and a rich, velvety red is just right to go down with that piece of scotch fillet and a few snarlers fresh from the smoking BBQ.

Sauvignon Blanc is still wildly popular with NZers, as is the upstart Pinot Gris, but we are getting more adventuresome with new white varieties like Grüner Veltliner, Arneis, and even (as below) Bianchetta.

Rosés have made enormous inroads into our drinking habits over the last three years or so. They are made by crushing red grapes, then leaving the juice on the skins for a short period (as little as 4 hours) to extract a minimum of colour before and racking into fermentation tanks. The resulting wines are light, often blush pink and have red fruit flavours of strawberries, plums and raspberries. These are crisp, refreshing drink-young wines, which will not benefit from cellaring. And there has been a shift away from the sweet style rosé to off-dry and bone dry – more in the style of rosés from Provence. As with summer whites, they can stand a bit of chilling. But don’t over-chill them as the fruit flavours will disappear. These are a good match with seafood, salads and chicken dishes.
Pinot Noir is an all-rounder that suits any season and is a good match with duck, chicken, turkey and mushrooms. It can also pair well with seafood like salmon and tuna.

And for the BBQ, as a bang-for-buck big juicy red - it’s hard to go past an Argentinian Malbec.
Here’s a selection for your perusal.

Matawhero Gisborne ‘Church House’  Bianchetta 2010 $25 NZD
Bianchetta Genovese is a rare white wine grape variety used almost exclusively along the coast of Liguria innorthwest Italy. It is most commonly used to make sweet white wines.
A very attractive old gold colour, this wine has aromas of lychee fruit, blond tobacco and peaches. On the palate, it’s rich and complex with a Chardonnay-like flavour profile with a spectrum of flavours from clover honey, to tobacco, but with a dry finish. 19 points
Not widely available. But good luck.

GeorgeTown Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Rosé 2015  $30 NZD
This is a good rosé for folks who tend to write them off as lightweights. Attractive pale salmon pink colour. Subtle nose – strawberries and cream, with a hint of savoury spice. In the mouth it’s
peach, raspberries, cherry and cranberry. Good palate weight at 13% alcohol with a dry spicy lingering finish.18 points
Available: Herne Bay Wine Cellars

De Martino Gallardía Itata Valley  Cinsault Rosé Chile)  2014 $33 NZD
The Itata Valley is located about halfway up the long, skinny Chilean coastal wine growing region. It has a Mediterranean climate and generally grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay. Cinsault is a southern French grape variety.  This wine smells of cranberry, almonds and marzipan. Tastes of red summer berries and has a dry mineral finish. 18 points
Available: Herne Bay Wine Cellars
Folium Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013  $27 NZD

A softer style of Sauvignon, with less of the typical racy acidity, plus a bit more complexity.  Flavours of black currant, green bell pepper and herbs with a mineral dry finish. 19 points
Available: Herne Bay Wine Cellars, Farro

Easthope  ‘Black Hawk’ Hawke’s Bay Dry Pinot Gris 1015 $30
Aromas of lime juice, green pineapple and melon.  Opens up on the palate with citrus, peach and honey but with a dry finish. 18 points
Available: Herne Bay Wine Cellars
Bannock Brae ‘Goldfields’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014  $35 NZD
Has aromas of cherry, smoke and tar with a whiff of raspberry. Swished around in the mouth, it opens up with sweet soft fruit – tamarillo and sour cherry, medium firm tannins and a spicy savoury finish. 18 points
Available: many fine wine stores. Check their website for suppliers.

Casa Montes Fuego Negro Malbec Argentina 2012 $22 NZD
Ab fab wine. Smells like ripe summer blackberries and cherries with a hint of dark chocolate. Ripe and generous flavours of black cherry, caramel, liquorice, baking spices and muscatel raisins. 19 points
Available: Online Vino Fino Argentino