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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."

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

How To Taste Wine


The whole ritual of wine tasting can look a tad pretentious and silly, but essentially it does make sense.



If you are visiting a number of wineries in a day, or lucky enough to be at a hosted wine tasting event, it pays to take your time and stick to a few basic principles: The 6 S approach is pretty standard. See, Swirl, Sniff, Swish, Spit (or Swallow). Drink plenty of water and take meal breaks.

Looking through the wine against a white background gives clues to age and concentration. A white wine will progress to golden hues with age. A red will take on brick red or brownish tones with age. Then vigorously swirl the wine around in the glass – this releases more aromas into the bowl of the glass. Stick your nose right in the glass and sniff heartily. Apart from picking up aromas it will also tell you if the wine is ‘off’ ! (See last month’s column). Swish the wine right around the inside of your mouth. In fact, most of your taste receptors are in your nose (that’s why you can’t taste food when you have a cold). Your mouth and tongue have taste buds, but they are receptors for just five basic flavours: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami -or savoury. But the mouth cavity connects to the nasal receptors that pick up the nuances of flavour. Now, to spit or swallow? Your choice, but even in small amounts over many samples, you can absorb a lot of alcohol. I was once invited to judge sixty big reds for Cuisine mag. Yay, I thought. On the day there were ten ‘flights’ of six Aus and NZ reds. I dutifully spat and rinsed my mouth with water, but by the end of the day I was shattered and probably over the legal limit. One final thing – don’t rinse your glass with water between samples. Water in the glass changes the pH of the wine and thus its flavour.

Anyway, here’s some great wines to sample!



Kumeu River Estate Pinot Gris 2018 $26

Iconic west Auckland chardonnay producers, Kumeu River also have a few other whites on the shelf, including the above, plus a Gew├╝rztraminer, a bottle fermented sparkler and a Hawkes Bay sauvignon blanc. This pinot gris is crisp and luscious, with Nashi pear, lime citrus and a hint of Kumeu clay minerality.
Available: Caros, Fine Wine Delivery Co.

Thomas Waiheke Blanc de Gris 2017 $46
One of Waiheke’s newest wineries and also the highest-elevated vineyard on the island, Batch has spectacular views out over the gulf and islands.
This sparkler is possibly the only prosecco style, tank fermented style currently in NZ. Dry and crisp with a satisfying yeasty tang. Flavours of crisp apple and pear.
Available: Batch Winery or Waiheke Wine Centre

Coopers Creek Hawkes Bay Swamp Reserve 2014
Swamp Reserve has always been Coopers’ top chardonnay. This one from my cellar is gorgeous at 5 years old. Lovely deep gold colour, seamless lengthy and rich flavours of hazelnut, canned peach, a hint of grapefruit and yeasty brioche. The 2017 is out now at about $29
Available: Caros, Herne Bay Cellars

Thomas Field Blend Rose 2018 $38
A complex  blend of 87% syrah, 5% pinot gris, 5% chardonnay, 2% flora and 1% riesling – delivers a crisp refreshing ideal summer wine with strawberry, raspberry and a hint of toffee apple. Dry finish.
Available: Batch Winery or Waiheke Wine centre Waiheke Island.

Pegasus Bay Aged Release Waipara Valley Pinot Noir 2009 $65
I was lucky enough to sample this ten year old lighter style pinot. It has aged very gracefully with a slightly smoky, gamy nose. Flavours of cherry, truffle and cassis with bit of spice and soft tannins
Available: from Pegasus Bay winery online, or www.whiskyandmore.co.nz


Phil runs Wine Tours Auckland New Zealand

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