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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, July 6, 2019

NZ Sparkling Traditional Method wines

Okay. Bubbles. Fizz. Popping the cork for celebration! Nothing wrong with that. Enjoy. Wine- like food, humour and company is for sharing.

Grapes traditionally used in making true branded French Champagne are chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. All three are usually blended in the familiar mass-produced French fizz we see in NZ as Moët, Veuve Cliquot, Bollinger, Lanson, Pol Roger etc.
And I do mean mass production. We are talking millions upon millions bottles of bottles per year pumped out by French Champagne houses to satisfy the thirsty masses. There are variations on the theme: Blanc de Noir (pinot noir and/or pinot meunier), and Blanc De Blanc (100% chardonnay). And then, there are Rosé style “pink Champagne” sparklers, where sometimes the pinot noir has been left on the skins a short while to ferment and extract a blush of pink colour.

And the characteristic fine beaded frothy bubbles are the result of a secondary fermentation in the bottle after the wine has been sealed with added yeast and sugar. And … it’s the CO2 bubbles in the wine which make the alcohol absorb more quickly into the bloodstream and the brain. It may make you feel a little bit dizzy, totally fabulous, funny … and also may make you fancy complete strangers. (So I have been told.)

‘NV’ on a bottle means non-vintage i.e. the Champagne is made from a blend of various years’ base wines. Vintage Champagne is made solely from the grapes of a particularly good year, and that year is determined by the region’s producers. It is these vintage wines which can last ten years or more. NV Sparklers are designed to be consumed on release and won’t benefit from extended cellaring.

Anyway. Here are some fantastic small production local New Zealand Champenoise styles that - in my opinion, totally rival some of the best pretentious French labels. And at about half the price. Drink local. Drink fabulous. Enjoy.
Mudbrick Vineyard Methode Traditionelle (NV)  $NZ 30
Wow. 24 carat gold colour.  Aromas of beeswax, brioche and clover honey. In the mouth, it’s a complex and lush palate of preserved peach, ripe apricot, toffee and hint of toasty oak with a slow golden sunset finish. I’m in love.

Peacock Sky Reserve Waiheke Blanc de Noirs 2014  $NZ 45
Black grapes – 59% merlot and 41% cabernet sauvignon. Pale rose gold pink with fine beaded bubbles. Smells like almond nougat and brioche with a good whiff of CO2. Lovely rich, ripe and generous palate of sour cherry, almond and summer fruit compote. 
West Brook Waimauku Methode Traditionelle 2012  $NZ 39.90
Blanc de Noir style from Waimauku pinot noir. Very subtle and mineral French style that is best served just lightly chilled. Gold hues. Aromas of almond croissant. On the palate it’s crisp, dry, and restrained with hints of apple, almond nougat and mandarin.

Soljans Brut Methode Traditionelle 2012  $NZ 33.00
Award-winning Kumeu sparkler from third generation family winemakers. Traditional pinot noir/ chardonnay blend. Yellow gold colour. Aromas of yeasty baked bread.  Rich, complex and integrated palate of mandarin, peach crumble, and rock melon, with a dry crisp finish.
Soljans Brut Methode Traditionelle 2013  $NZ 33.00
A drier style than the 2102. Yellow gold. Smells like Packham pear, apricots and hazelnut nougat. Frothy bubbles on the palate with flavours of frangipane tart, yeasty croissant and canned peach – with a crisp dry finish.

Phil hosts Waiheke Wine Tours


Matakana Estate Matakana Pinot Gris 2017 $NZ 15
A very slightly reductive funky nose of citrus, minerality and grassy herbs.  A dry style with a mouthful of poached pear, Braeburn apple, a hint of anise and a lengthy very dry finish. Great aperitif wine

Pegasus Bay North Canterbury Chardonnay 2017  $NZ 43
Okay, I’m not a fan of the ‘reductive’ funky chardonnays TBH. But this is a stunner. It does have that initial nasal hit of struck match sulphur thing, but that gives way to toasty oak, crème brûlée and grapefruit.  In the mouth, it’s poached pear, toffee apple, canned peach, blond tobacco and mandarine, with a long finish.  Creamy Chicken or pasta.

Soljans Estate Fifth Generation Series Kumeu Chardonnay 2016 $NZ 48
Delicate and elegant wine with a nose of yeasty brioche, stone fruit, vanilla with a hint of herbaceous fennel. Rich and complex palate of canned peach, fresh pineapple, and almond toffee, with a creamy and lengthy dry finish. Very classy and expressive of the Kumeu clay minerality.
Roast chicken, veal or cheese dishes.

Undivided ‘Vin De France’ Chardonnay 2017  $NZ 18.99
Great value bargain Chardonnay from France with a screw top. Vin De France pretty well means nothing as to where it came from. It could very well be a blend from different regions. Anyhoo – smells like pineapple and peach with a hint of spicy oak. Crisp and fruity with toasty spiced oak and pineapple, stone fruit and ripe pear, with a clean finish.  Match with seafood.

Matakana Estate Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017 $ NZ 22
Pale brick red in the glass. Smoky, spicy aromas plus black cherry and plum. Flavours of red cherry, toasty oak and tar, with a hint of red summer berry fruit compote and cranberry. Dry finish. Great with lamb or ratatouille.

Vergence Red by Pegasus Bay North Canterbury 2017 $NZ 40
Dense deep garnet red in the glass. Tar, damp earth, black currant  and pot pourri aromas.
Flavours of cassis, blackberry truffle, black olive and poached tamarillo with medium tannins and long finish.  Match with venison or rich tomato based Italian dishes.

Saint Clair Gimblett Gravels  Hawkes Bay Origin Merlot $NZ 24.90
Dusty aromas, with plum and pot pourri. Cherry and plum, full bodied and fruity. Persistent tannins and a lengthy finish. One to put  away for a few years.  Roast beef or Lasagne.

Phil runs Waiheke Island wine tours in Auckland New Zealand