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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, September 18, 2021



This month, folks, we are exploring the theme of dichotomy. It’s a very cool word and I don’t often get to use it in casual convo. It also rhymes with lobotomy but that’s not particularly relevant.

Though … years ago I did stand-up comedy and a dear colleague, the late Andrew Kovacevic had a great one liner - “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy.”
The first three wines are full-bodied, multi-faceted Californian chardonnays, clocking in at around 14% alcohol. And the last three are very light and refreshing but are not exactly wine, having had 99.5% of the alcohol removed. All six are all grape-related beverages for sure but they react very differently on the palate.

Stags Leap Hands of Time California Chardonnay 2018 $45.00
Restrained and elegant in the subtly oaked Chablis style (unusual for a Californian wine), with a deceptive 14.5% alcohol. Shy aromas but opens up on the palate with hazelnut oak, almond biscotti, and dry grapefruit marmalade, with a yeasty pizza crust tang. Match with seafood or creamy pasta.
Available: Pt Chev Organic wines, First Glass

Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection California Chardonnay 2018 $32.00
More in the familiar big Californian style than Stags Leap, yet way more subtle than the last Coppola chardonnay that I sampled. This wine has upfront spicy vanilla oak that segues into a full rich palate of peach, almond, mandarin citrus, with a hint of fresh cut pineapple and a very long finish. Match with Thai chicken curry, halloumi salad or felafel with a creamy garlicky sauce.
Available: blackmarket.co.nz

Bogle California Chardonnay 2019 $22.00
If you’re a fan of buttery, toasty fruit-led Chardonnay (as I am), then this one’s for you. It’s our family go-to, medium priced chardonnay. Aromas of pineapple, toasty vanilla oak and hint of herbs. In the mouth it’s a fruit bomb of ripe pineapple, stone fruit plus spice, toast, creamy yeast, and a crisp finish. Nice with creamy pasta and chicken dishes.
Available: Pt Chev Organic wines, Meldrum Philips, Caro’s.

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Washington Chardonnay 2018 $23
Creamy, elegant, and light bodied. With hints of nectarine, clover honey, almond nougat, and cinnamon brioche. Very much in the style of Kumeu River’s mineral taut and structured chardonnay. Great drinking right now as an aperitif but would reward cellaring for 2-3 years.
Available: blackmarket.co.nz

The next three wines are from Giesen’s new Zero Percent de-alcoholised wines. There is a tiny percentage (about 0.5%) of alcohol still present in the wines, but the majority has been removed via new ‘spinning cone’ dark magic technology. Don’t ask me how, but it removes alcohol like an 18-year-old at an open bar tab. At 10.6 calories per 125ml serve, a glass of Giesen 0% has 85% less calories per serve than a traditional 12.5% alcohol sauvignon blanc.
The verdict? Well, the sauvignon blanc is the truest to style with typical distinctive aromas and flavours. The ros
é and the pinot gris have elegant and light flavours reminiscent of the typical profile of a normal wine. These wines would all be best served lightly chilled – about 30 minutes in the fridge. As with most low alcohol wines, the normal unctuous mouth feel of alcohol is lacking. But they are refreshing, low calorie alternative to the real deal, nonetheless.

Giesen 0 % Pinot Gris $16.00
Shy bouquet. On the palate, light off-dry flavours of clear apple juice, and pear with soft acids and a clean finish.
Available: giesen.co.nz, some major supermarkets.

Giesen 0 % Pinot Rosé $16.00
Very light aromas of red berry fruits. Light and fresh palate of subtle strawberry and cranberry with a dash of pomegranate. 
Available: giesen.co.nz, some major supermarkets.

Giesen 0 % Pinot Sauvignon Blanc $16.00
Typical Sav aromas of blackcurrant, with a hint of herbal thyme. Medium acidity and soft flavours of blackcurrant, green capsicum and passionfruit. Dry, crisp finish.
Available: widely, including supermarkets

Phil Parker runs wine tours in Auckland New Zealand




Tuesday, June 8, 2021

                                   Three and Three - Wines from NZ and USA

A First up, two wines from Kim Crawford’s certified organic Marlborough estate. Then an absolute ripper Albariño from Marlborough’s Leftfield label. To finish, three wines from Cristom winery - an Oregon wine producer and vineyard based in the Eola-Amity Hills wine region within the Willamette Valley. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to visit Cristom as part of a wine research trip to California and Portland.

Loveblock Organic Marlborough Pinot Gris 2020 $21
Crisp and clean, with fresh cut pineapple, Nashi pear and jasmine, plus a hint of green tea. Fruity and technically dry but complex and full flavoured with a tangy citrus finish.  Great with seafood or Thai foods. Available: Pt. Chev Organic Wines.

Loveblock Organic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2020 $22
A generous and lush version of Marlborough Sav. Fruity and full of ripe blackcurrant flavours, with sweet ripe nectarine and guava with a tad of grassy herbals. Shows complexity from partial wild yeast barrel ferment and malolactic.  Match with seafood, pasta and chicken. Available: Glengarry 

Left Field Gisborne Albariño 2020 $16
Lovely wine, and a refreshing take on a variety that can come off in NZ as lean and mineral. Pale gold with grassy aromas. Rich palate of mandarin, elderflower, a hint of rock melon and a crisp, clean finish. Great with Thai cuisine and rich seafood dishes.  Available: blackmarket.co.nz, Vino Fino

Cristom Willamette Valley Mt. Jefferson USA Chardonnay 2018 $75
For a USA chardonnay, this is much more in the current NZ style – crisp and mineral with lots of citrus and subtle oak influence. Subtle nose, with mandarin, clover honey, hazelnut oak and a dry lengthy finish. Match with seafood or creamy chicken pasta. Available: Star Superette Wines Karangahape Road, Onslow restaurant Princes St.

Cristom Willamette Valley Mt. Jefferson USA Pinot Noir 2018 $109
Definitely one to put away for 4 to 5 years. Young and savoury with firm tannins and lots of black cherry, plum and spice with a hint of tobacco. Bursting with flavours, a precocious youngster that should be a debutante in a few years. Match with beef casserole or ratatouille. Available: Herne Bay Cellars, Ahi restaurant Commercial Bay.

Cristom Willamette Valley Mt. Jefferson USA Pinot Noir 2019 $75
More approachable and softer than the 2018, with smoky flavours and a hint of tar. Medium tannins, cherry, plum and truffle with a dash of soy sauce umami oomph! Would be fab with mushroom dishes or venison. Available: Herne Bay Cellars.


Phil hosts Wine & Food tours in Auckland New Zealand

Monday, May 17, 2021



This month, I am looking at a selection of wines from Marlborough’s Astrolabe family winery.

Maybe like me, you have seen the Astrolabe brand in the past. Their labels are exquisitely designed and convey a sense of elegance and quality. Shout out to the marketing team! (Well done. Ask for a wage rise). Now, my first question is- what does Astrolabe mean?  I tended to imagine an orbiting international space laboratory. Well – here you go for the official version from their website:
An astrolabe is an ancient astronomical instrument that was used to make a diverse range of calculations. Its name translates as ‘star-taker’. A mariner’s astrolabe, modified for use upon a ship, was used by early navigators to determine latitude by measuring the altitude of a celestial object. French explorer Dumont d’Urville charted the Marlborough coast in 1827 aboard a ship named L’Astrolabe. When career winemaker Simon Waghorn wanted to start his own label in 1996, he chose the name Astrolabe because of the historic ties with Marlborough, and he liked the connotations of exploration and discovery.

Astrolabe Kekerengu Coast Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2020 $29.99
Grown south of Kaikoura near Clarence on the east coast of Marlborough. Suitably mineral and with a whiff of salty air. Intense burst of freshly squeezed black currant on the palate, with a bone-dry crisp finish. Goes with seafood or a creamy pasta with salty cheese.

Astrolabe Taihoa Vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017 $36.99
Softer than the Kekerengu Coast but grown on the same property. More gooseberry and grapefruit, with a hint of creaminess from barrel fermentation and lees stirring (yeast residue). A lovely wine by itself as an aperitif style. Lots going on to entertain the palate.

Astrolabe Wrekin Marlborough Chenin Blanc 2018 $31.99
A classical take on chenin blanc, very much in the style of the Loire Valley French chenin wines. At 14% alcohol, it’s an elegant and restrained style, with Granny Smith apple, clover honey, green capsicum and a dry tangy finish.

Astrolabe Marlborough Chardonnay 2018 $31.99
Pale gold, with a funky nose. Flavours of nectarine, peach and toasted hazelnut. Flinty and funky with heaps of complexity and a lengthy finish. Match with your best take on Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

Astrolabe Sleepers Vineyard Marlborough Albariño 2018 $29.99
Flinty, mineral and bone dry. Subtle hints of apricot with a hint of salty Kekerengu Coast soils. Would appeal to those who love a crisp ‘wake up’ style sauvignon blanc. A great match for oysters.  

Astrolabe Wrekin Vineyard Marlborough Pinot Noir 2019 $64.99
From a hot vintage, this pinot is big and bold, with assertive tannins and a dry savoury palate of black tea, cigar smoke and dark chocolate. Would reward cellaring for 5 years at least. Match with rare eye fillet, slow-cooked lamb shanks or a rich ratatouille.


Phil runs wine tours in Auckland www.insidertouring.co.nz