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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, 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.