Site Meter

About Me

My photo
Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Saturday, December 17, 2011

So what's wrong with Christmas?

Disclaimer: I am agnostic.  I was raised as a Catholic.  But at 55 and with two parents long gone from cancer, and two marriages, no kids and a bit of life experience, I ... still ...just ... don't know.
However, Christmas ... 

Where I live - New Zealand, has a predominantly Christian religious culture.  Polynesian  people came here about 800 years ago and developed their own
Maori belief system.  Then around 1800 NZ was seriously colonised by Europeans who brought Christianity - as well as rats, measles, muskets, alcohol, syphilis, influenza and other stuff.  But anyway, eventually many Maori converted to Christianity. So - like it or not, over about 150 years, and right now NZ has a majority 'religious culture' of Christianity. (Even though fewer than 10% of us attend church regularly). 
We also have much smaller numbers of Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Taoist, Hindu, Sikh, Jedi, Pagan, Wiccan and many others. 

Christian culture celebrates Christmas as a reminder of: good will, peace, generosity, kindness, reconciliation, hospitality, family and friendship.

Christian religion celebrates all of the above plus the birth of a Jewish male who they believe is the Christ (the chosen one) and therefore son of God. Believe it - or not.

As a physiotherapist a few years back, I felt no insult or rage if Muslim patients shared Ramadan food treats with me.  Or when a totally crazy Ukrainian Jewish guy used to bring me traditional heart-stopping cold weather fatty meat products to sample.

- I see no shame in celebrating Christmas - or wishing someone a Merry Christmas. Or sending Christmas cards, or exchanging Christmas gifts. Christmas is part of my culture - not necessarily my belief system.

So If I say, Have good Christmas, or Merry Christmas - I'm not saying "Screw your religion and your culture,"  or "My imaginary friend is better than yours," or "In your face, immigrant."

I am saying, "Enjoy our traditional New Zealand festive celebrations and holiday season, and best wishes to you."

So - Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year (Gregorian Calendar - my bad) to All

Monday, December 12, 2011

Internet marketing bullshit

Now, don't get me wrong - the InterWeb is potentially a powerful marketing tool for small business.

Twenty years ago it would not be possible for me to run a one-man wine tour operation.  I have the added advantage of an 0800 number that connects direct to my mobile phone.  I can take online bookings direct from my fabulous website, I process international credit card payments online.  Thus I pick up my customers, all paid-up, and then hopefully exceed their expectations with a fab tour, so everyone is happy.  Win-win.  Yadda yadda.

Problem for me is - the Internet has become a confusing predator-driven market for sales reps and web hawkers who prey on the unsavvy average punter who is just trying to sell something and make an honest buck.  Every day, I have unsolicited emails and phone calls from people who claim to be experts at 'getting me on page one of Google,'  by optimising my search critera and generally doing Harry Potter-esque dark Web Magic to make me hot to trot.

Then there is the received wisdom that 'you have to be all over social media' - i.e. FaceBook, Twitter, Blogger, TwitBook, Facer, ArseBook, TwitFace or whatever - all in the desperate hope that someone will feel wildly excited by your online profile to sign up for what you're selling.

I have been doing this for ten years  now - and it has been a random roller coaster ride of expectation and disappointment with web marketing.  I have tried pay per click with Yahoo and Google, plus paid listings on TripAdvisor, FaceBook, Rankers (NZ), and Cruise Critic.  I have free listings on Tourism Auckland, Tourism NZ - and many others I can't remember.  And  I write a Blog - and you're reading it.  Whoo hoo.

My over all impressions: 
1. There is a a swag of competitiors out there -  all doing all marketing stuff that you are doing. 
2.  It's a money game (i.e. if you have tens of thousands of dollars to throw at online marketing - you will likely achieve a high level of response).  That's fine if you're a 5-Star hotel chain in Auckland or a Casino or million dollar sailing adventure operation.
3. There's no easy answer to selling online.
4.  Disclaimer: I run a one-off wine tour experience with no expectation of repeat custom.. I am in a niche market.  God help me.

Phil runs just the diddly darned best goddamm winery tours in Auckland New Zealand

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Do you know there's a dog on your roof?

Yes, we do, and we're not surprised.  George has discovered that he can squeeze through the window above our bed and gain access to the roof space.  Whereupon he is master of his own domain - scanning the neighbourhood for cats, getting an early glimpse of any invading visitors and generally lording it over us lower ground mortals.  It's been a good way to meet the neighbours - mostly female - who have rushed over in a state of mild alarm to tell us the news.  Anyway, after a while, Georgie gets sick of it and asks to be lifted back (he can't jump back in).  And peace is restored to Point Chevalier for the meantime.

Phil runs winery tours in Auckland NZ when he's not being annoyed by George.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Karikari Estate Wines

By Phil Parker wine writer and operator of Auckland Fine Wine & Food Tours

A few months back I was invited to a relaxed sit-down tasting with Karikari Estate’s winemaker, the affable Ben Dugdale.

Available for tasting were no less than six wines.  Northland’s wines constitute less than 1% of our national wine production nationally, yet these are an impressive range of wines and well worth seeking out. Ben’s winemaking history dates back over 20 years to iconic companies such as Collards, Coopers Creek and Dry River.   
Karikari Estate is located on the Karikari Peninsula, overlooking the blue Pacific towards North Cape.  Ben, and his assistant winemaker Rachel Hogan, oversee the production of a number of red and white varieties – many of them trophy winners.  The first vines were planted in 1998 and production commenced with the first vintage in 2003. They boast some 41 hectares of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Franc, Malbec, Pinotage, Chardonnay and Viognier.  The use of naturally occurring ‘wild’ vineyard yeasts adds a special character to these wines from New Zealand’s northernmost winery.  As a special Northland twist, they are investigating the use of Kauri casks as an adjunct to traditional French and American oak barrels.
Associated with Karikari is the Heritage hotel chain’s Carrington Resort, comprising luxury accommodation, championship 18-hole golf course designed by American designer Matt Dye, Olympic skeet shooting range, vineyard and winery, and a grass-fed Black Angus beef farm.
The onsite restaurant features fresh and often organic produce from local farms and pristine coastal waters.
Okay – the wines.  The Calypso range is made from fruit sourced from other regions. The remainder are estate grown.

Calypso Sauvignon Blanc 2011  $NZ22.00
Fruit sourced from Marlborough.  This is very approachable even for a young Sauvignon Blanc, lacking the rampant acidity of most young Marlborough Savvies.  Soft and inviting, with Gooseberry, bell pepper and crisp fruit flavours.

Wild Chardonnay 2010  $NZ40.00
Fab Chardonnay – estate grown, ripe, unctuous and buttery, with integrated flavours of Golden Queen peach, spice, vanilla and tropical fruits.  Only 75 cases made – mail order, cellar door, or at the restaurant onsite.

Calypso Martinborough Pinot Noir 2009  $NZ24.00
Matured in French oak barrels for 12 months, then bottled and cellared for another year before release. Soft, perfumed and graceful Pinot with classic black cherry and savoury characters.

Pinotage 2010  $NZ29.50
Grown on the property.  Very drinkable right now, yet shows potential for cellaring for 3 or more years.  Silky tannins with ripe sweet black cherry and black berry fruit flavours, and a hint of mocha. 

Syrah 2010  $NZ27.50
This is a  big wine with firm tannins.  Definitely a food wine.  Aromas of pot pourri and spicy vanillin oak, with ripe black berry sweet fruit palate.

Toa Iti Malbec/Cabernet Franc/Malbec 2008 $NZ25.50
Toa Iti translates as ‘Little Warrior.’   Its bigger brother the Toa was a 2007 release. This is another big wine.  Earthy, tannic and complex with black berry fruit and poached Black Doris plum flavours.

Karikari Estate
Maitai Bay Road
Karikari Peninsula
Ph: 09 408 7222   Web:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fiji On 2 Margaritas A Day

Hello again - any regular readers, I have been away for a while, and taking a while to get back into gear after returning.

My Charming Assistant (and her charming 9 year-old daughter) scored a good deal with Air Pacific and Sofitel Fiji for 4 nights for the three of us with child staying free and a free dinner for her each night.

Now, I did have some moral reservations about holidaying in a country which has a repressive military dictatorship running the place.  On the other hand - as I often hear in these cases, the last thing the low-paid locals need is a tourism collapse on top of coup turmoil.  I saw one miltary policeman in the whole time - grim looking, with a beret and Attitude.  That was it.

Anyway, Sofitel is run by a French hotel chain and this shows in the high standard of food - from the basic Cafe style (and bloody good coffee) through to fine dining available on site.  Value-wise it was about the same as in $NZ, but alcohol was generally over-priced.  (I recommend the very good local Fiji Gold ale at about $NZ5.00  a bottle.)  But they do a mean Margarita at about $NZ15.  On the other hand, a bottle of basic Nobilo Monkey Bay Merlot goes for about $NZ42.00.   Staff are immaculately dressed and are very attentive and friendly.  The second floor lounge bar plays retro jazz and faces the beach with views over the underlit pool. 

However, you could be whisked from the airport straight to the Fantasy Island ambience of Denarau Island's international hotel strip - and think that you are in 'real' Fiji.  But it really is a gated community with security guards on the causeway to the exclusive tourist strip.  On the way from the airport, you can't fail to notice extremely run-down third world, tired and dirty looking shops and homes.  It is obvious that very few locals enjoy an affluent lifestyle - and that our friendly and polite hotel staff very likely live in those very basic homes.

The sheer foreignness of any destination is what I love - if it smells different or I see unusual animals or flora - that's what I love.  So I got coconut trees, toads, Frangipani trees, little red and grey birds, and little stripy fish that race around your legs in the shallows.   What I wasn't expecting - re exotic natives, was eyebrow-plucked and camp as a row of tents transvestites and gay boys.  Kind of disconcerting when they are 6 ft 4 Fiji natives and built like a brick shithouse.  They were everywhere from the airport to the action-packed Robinson Crusoe tourist island activity.  Maybe they find more sympathetic employment in tourism and hospo.  I had heard that the military are anti-gay, so perhaps the international hotels offer refuge and are gay friendly.

Four nights was about enough - I have a 3 day burn out with most foreign spots.  It was great - I zoned out and had fab food and expensive wine.  The 9 y/o loved the Kids' Club - we had some quality time out together. It was exotic and relaxing and very enjoyable.

Phil runs the goddamn best wine tours in Auckland New Zealand
. . 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Auka Torrontes 2009

I was out to dinner with two mates on our irregular Boys' Night Out and met up with the Law Professor before the GP arrived to complete the trio.  I randomly chose a forgettable Chardonnay which tasted like it had been open for a few days and was flat, acidic and barely worth drinking.  So I drank it.

The waitperson materialised - as they do.  "And would you like some more wine?"
I said - Yesssss - how about that funny wine - about which I know not a thing. Torrentes?
"It's a South American grape. Very fruity, refreshing wine. Quite young."

Whatever.  Thanks. And one for the Professor too.

I wasn't expecting anything really - but when it arrived: clear pale gold colour.
Aromas: Floral, Muscatel.  Flavours: Muscato, citrus, apple, pear. Clean and crisp with ripe white grape flavours, yet a dry finish ... fabulous.
A really exciting and unexpected wine find.  I think it's about $NZ30 a bottle.
According to the Official Torrontes Website: "The Torrontes grape is cultivated in the Argentine provinces of Catamarca, La Rioja, Mendoza, Salta, San Juan and Rio Negro. The Torrontes wine made from this white grape is considered the best of its kind in the entire world."
No arguing with Latin braggadocio.

Hey - check out Phil's revamped website with new pricing and gosh-diddly-darned fab extras

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vouvray, Cotes du Rhone, Kumeu (France Vs New Zealand))

Yes - those bottles are empty. 
They are now redundant wine-less vessels of Sunday night's epic rugby final BBQ - chez Phil and his charming assistant.  Not having the spare $NZ 3,000 plus, for tickets to the game, nor the industry connections to score  freebies, we opted for a night at home in front of the flat screen, with rugby fan friends and some good food & wine.  My TradeMe BBQ for all its eccentricity coped well with the flow of chicken wings, shrimps, sausages and steak - and a great time was had by all. 
Lucky for me, two friends brought some damn fine French wines with them to share.  And I opened a bottle of my current favourite, West Brook's Ivicevich Estate Chardonnay.

West Brook Ivicevich Waimauku Estate Chardonnay 2004
Gorgeous Chardonnay at its peak after seven years in the bottle.  Golden and clear with aromas and flavours  of brioche, peach, nectarine and hazel nut.  Mouthfulling and seamlessly integrated, this wine lasts on the palate and draws you back for another glass.

Domaine du Margallau Vouvray 2009
Made from Chenin Blanc fruit from France's famous Vouvray region in the Loire.
Ripe and fruity wine with crisp acidity and rounded flavours of honey, pear and a hint of smokiness.

Cotes Du Rhone Linteau 2009
I can't find out much about this wine - other than it is Grenache-dominant blend from the Appellation Controlee certified producer.  Anyway - ruby red colour with slightly rustic and savour flavours, plus cherry, blackberry and plum, with a slight acidity.  Drinking very nicely now - even better in a year or two.

Verdict: wine and The All Blacks were the winners on the day.

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland NZ


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Clayridge Pinot Blanc 2008

 Marlborough’s Clayridge vineyards was established by colourful winemaker Mike Just and his wife Paula.  Mike is a direct descendant of King Edward III, wears a black eye patch and his dark hair pulled back in a ponytail.  He also has a penchant for medieval sword fighting, and has chosen Edward III’s family crest as the brand to represent his Clayridge wines.

Mike and Paula planted their own Clayridge vineyard on the steepest slopes in Marlborough, plus they source premium grapes from Taylor Pass valley and the Wither Hills.  

But when it comes time to pick the grapes, Mike makes use of the facilities at Marlborough’s Indevin contract winemaking company, which was established in 2004, and has a capacity to process over 8,500 tonnes of grapes a year. Indevin provides a full range of services to the winemaker, from pre-harvest grape analysis, to crushing, de-stemming and pressing, oak barrel ferments and ageing, to temperature controlled fermentation tanks, and final laboratory work prior to bottling.

Anyway - last night we nipped out for tapas at a local restaurant and I spotted the Clayridge Pinot Blanc 2008 on the wine list.  I haven't tried Clayridge wines for ages - the last time was at a wine trade show about 3 years ago.  Pinot Blanc is a distant relative of Pinot Noir - AKA Pinot Bianco in Italy.  This example is a gloriously lushly flavoursome fruity wine with earthy hints. Oily and mouth-filling, there are flavours of lime, quince, honeysuckle and minerals. Fab.  Me want more.

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland New Zealand

Friday, October 7, 2011

Champagne and Sparkling Wine - FAQ

Sparkling wines, especially Champagne, are associated with celebration, sophistication and Grand Prix winners acting like complete tossers.

I have never really liked Champagne. I've always found it acidic and and unbalanced - and never really understood the fascination with it. Weeell ... until I got to try the most expensive label on the planet - Louis Roederer's Cristal.

But anyway, wine is all about personal taste. Some like fizz - some don't.

There are four methods of producing a fizzy wine.
Those wine lovers, the French again got in on ground level by popularising their sparkling wines from the Champagne region. Champagne is the most northern wine region in France and lies north-east of Paris.

There is a bit of debate as to who was responsible for making the first naturally sparkling French wines. Generally, the Benedictine monk Dom PĂ©rignon (1639-1715) gets the credit. French widow - Veuve Clicquot, discovered in the mid-1800s the best method of removing accumulated yeast from the bottle. Nowadays the word Champagne is copyrighted and fiercely protected by the French. Only wines made by the traditional method and produced in the Champagne district may carry the name.

Method 1. The Traditional Champagne Method. A dry, low alcohol base wine is made, sometimes blended from finished wines (as above) and even from different vintages. Just before sealing, yeast and sugar are added to the bottle. Then the bottle is capped, often with a beer bottle type crown seal, and the yeast mix begins a secondary fermentation, trapping CO2 – which gives the wine its famous finely beaded bubbles.
Depending on the quality of the wine, the wine and its yeast residue may be left undisturbed for one to ten years. The classic yeasty/bready flavour is derived from disintegrating yeast cells. The longer the wine sits, the more the desired yeast flavour is extracted.

The next bit is the good widow Clicquot’s method of gradually tipping the bottle from horizontal to vertical (this takes about two weeks), where the accumulated yeast sits in the neck of the bottle allowing for removal. The neck of the bottle is frozen and the yeast plug ejects under its own pressure. Finally, the bubbly wine is topped up with the dosage - a dash of wine and sugar to balance acidity, before sealing with a cork and securely wiring the cork in place.

Method 2. The Transfer Method. Basically exactly the same as above, but once bottle fermentation has finished, all the bottles are emptied into a large vat under pressure; the wine is filtered, then rebottled. This method still gives the wine the ‘rested on yeast’ character.

Method 3. The Tank Method. This is a bulk method where huge amounts of inexpensive sparklers can be made. Basically, the secondary ferment takes place in a sealed tank – where the base wine has been poured in and yeast and sugar added to kick off the whole bubbly process thing. The downside is that the yeast flavours don’t transfer to the same extent and the bubbles are coarser and don’t last as long. Still, it is a way to make affordable bubbly wines such as Prosecco, and Asti style Muscato.

Method 4. Carbonation. No brainer. Take wine – inject industrial CO2 gas. Bubbly wine. Exactly the same process for making fizzy lemonade, cola etc. You get what you pay for.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Shitzu Happens

When I moved in with my charming assistant, I kind of realised that I was also moving in with a nine year-old girl and a 3 year-old Shitzu/Maltese/Yorkie cross called George.  (See pic.)
Do not look upon his image, brethren, he may assume other demonic forms.

My 11 year-old Black Lab Jasper was part of my moving in package.  And in his own amiable, lumbering, accommodating and goofy way he fitted in pretty well.  As long as Jaz has a place to lie down and gets a feed and a walk each day he is extremely content.

So Georgie figured Jaz for a gentle giant and decided to take the upper hand and tried to dominate Jasper for the first few weeks, by humping the few bits of Jasper within reach of his little legs, snatching food from Jasper's plate, snarling at Jasper if he competed for affection, racing to be the First Dog at The Water Bowl after walkies. And engaging in very one-sided play fights - where George would snarl and hang on to Jasper's face and other appendages - till swatted away by the ever-patient Jasper.

Now they have settled into a fairly happy domestic relationship - George pretends he's the boss most of the time, but is not above snuggling into Jaz for a nap on a cold day, or licking his eyes every morning as some of canine facial grooming service.

I am greeted daily by George when I awake groggily trying to focus on the new day.  The first warning is the thumpitty-thumpitty-thump - as Georgie flies up the stairs.  Then a momentary pause while he launches himself toward the bed.  Then the final crash as George returns to earth - often landing upon my person in an alarmingly waking-up manner. This is followed by a furry, wet Good Morning kiss and a demand to be let under the covers, whence he snuggles up and lies completely still. 

George is the ADHD on-duty 24/Seven security dog; ready to yap extremely loudly at ANY unusual noise within 5 Km of the property.  The smell, sight or rumour of a cat will send George into wild hysterics - with mad yappy insistent barking plus running all over the garden, accompanied by vigorous sniffing under the gate.  the only time he excels in his hysteria is on Walkies - where, if he spots another dog which he hates on sight (90%) he will literally scream - so loudly and so high pitched, that bystanders assume he has either been hit by a car - and/or physically abused by myself.  On numerous occasions, I have had worried citizens rush from their houses to glare accusingly at me for imagined animal cruelty to the poor wee man.

I shrug and look as innocent as possible:  'He's seen another dog!  It's OK.  I didn't touch him!'
Yeah right - you cruel bastard.

Yennyhoo - Phil runs The Best Food & Tours in Auckland - when he isn't abusing small animals.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Rugby World Cup 2011 - My Part In Its Success

Well, it’s finally here – the Rugby  World Cup 2011 ©.  (For legal reasons I’m not really allowed to use the phrase ‘Rugby  World Cup 2011’ – and should probably say ‘You Know What 2011’ instead.  

Years of waiting and fevered preparation have finally come to fruition with around 80,000 foreign fans expected to arrive at some stage over September / October,  to  attend matches and to participate in rugby–related tourism activities in our fair land.  As I have blogged previously there was much pre RWC2011© hysteria and wild predictions of an economic mini boom for poor old recessed, earthquaked NZ.

The reality is – airlines, hotels, pub bars and restaurants have had a good couple of weeks (in Auckland anyway).  But the by-catch for other tourism ventures has been minimal.  A friend who knows these things told me that even the brothels haven’t  picked up any extra business.  For me, wine tour wise, not much at all – but just the odd two-person booking here and there.  (If the fans don’t want wine or women, then the Karaoke bars must be going nuts.)

Yet I do wonder how 60,000 fans can attend a rugby match between France and the All Blacks  last night – and not one of ‘em feels the urge to head out with Phil to quaff some fine NZ wines a mere 20 minutes from downtown Auckers.  It’s not as if I haven’t put in the groundwork with a revamped website, five downtown brochure rack displays, and a local Auckland A-Z visitor guide print advert, in addition to schmoozing all the high end hotel concierges. It’s still five weeks till the Final so we shall see …

The tally so far:
Eleven male Aussies here for the first Ireland/Australia game last Saturday.  They had been drinking all night and were 40 minutes late getting the group together.  Eleven hung-over and still plastered, unshaven Aussies is not a pretty sight, I can assure you.  Still, they rallied and the loud conversation, foul language and sheep-shagging jokes flowed as freely as the wine down their throats - and I emptied them out at their hotel around three p.m., after a trip to a liquor outlet for them to get a few dozen beers for the pre-match hour or two.
Tuesday – a charming 50-ish Japanese couple over here to support their home team, The Cherry Blossoms.  In the macho world of rugby, surely they could have come up with something a bit grittier.  The Wasabi Warriors?  The Flying Fugu Fish?   
Sunday (today)  - a Japanese mother and daughter also here following their national rugby team.

That’s it!  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Being An Also-Dad : Living with a 9 year-old girl

Living in the same house as a 9 year-old girl is a challenge – me being a non-breeder for all of my 55 years on planet Earth, despite ‘trying’ through two marriages and a few lovers.

So, I’m a late comer to my ‘also-Dad’ status as the partner of a mother of one.  Miss Nine is pretty special – a volatile mix of high intelligence, artistic temperament, a love of high drama at any opportunity, an enviable prowess in burping and farting, a beguiling charm, and a vocal range that goes from a roar to ultrasonic ear-splitting screams.
She has the ability to talk on an adult level on many subjects - and then break off to have an intimate tea party with her soft toy collection.

On the odd occasion when I am left to babysit, I end up being lured into reading numerous horrendous children’s books, making hot chocolate, and  making up stories from scratch.  Lights Out deadlines seem to stretch magically as I am coerced into … just … one … more … chapter pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaase!!!   I am invariably caught out by my partner returning from orchestra practice – waaaay past bedtime, me (with wine glass), and Miss Nine engrossed in another chapter of Enid Blighton’s Subtle as A Train Crash cautionary tales, house lights blazing and all wide-awake.

Still I did get an ‘also-Dad’ Father’s Day present.  “It’s SO Phil!,” She enthused to her mother when she bought it.  It is a bewildered paper weight bear, with a snow globe attached to the top half of its head – like a brain surgery add-on.  Inside the snow globe is another smaller bear more depressed looking , seated, with a small red heart in its upraised hand.
It’s SO me.

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland.  Why?  He asks himself.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Villa Maria Chardonnay tasting - New Releases

Being a major Chardonnay fan, I couldn’t resist the chance to join other Villa Wine Club members in a tasting of eight new Chardonnay releases.
MC for the evening was Senior Auckland Winemaker Nick Picone.
Generous amount of cheese and crackers were available before the 6.00 pm start.  At the finish, there was tea and coffee, hot and cold food. All that for $25!

The line-up was a good selection of wines, ranging from from the home vineyard in Mangere, through to Hawkes Bay and south to Marlborough.

Yenneyhoo – here we go.
On arrival we were given a glass of the…
Cellar Selection Marlborough Chardonnay 2010 $NZ 20
An entry level  blend from various Marlborough vineyards.  Mineral and light with crisp lime, grapefruit and apple.

Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2010 $NZ 28
Floral aromas, with a creamy yeast, grapefruit, white peach and nectarine flavours.

Single Vineyard Ihumatao Chardonnay 2010 $NZ 33
Grown on the property - a stone’s throw from the tasting room, in Mangere clay soils.
Spicy nose.  Softer palate of lime and grapefruit with a mouth feel of higher alcohol.

Reserve Barrique Fermented Gisborne  Chardonnay 2010 $NZ 33
Gisborne is one of my favourite Chard regions, some wineries sadly seen to be pulling vines because of oversupply.
Anyway, this is great – Soft and creamy with floral jasmine, mandarin and quinine.

Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Marlborough Chardonnay 2007 $NZ 33
Grown in the cooler Awatere region.  Quite yeasty and funky with toasty oak crisp mineral lime palate.

Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2007  $NZ 28
Fruit from two vineyards – the Waldron and Taylors Pass.  Funky, ripe and peachy with lemon squash, toast and quinine.

Finally a vertical three vintage tasting from Hawkes Bay. (My personal favourites).
Single Vineyard Keltern Hawkes Bay  Chardonnay 2010 $NZ 33
Creamy, soft and mouth-filling with ripe grapefruit, pear and apple.  

Cellar Selection Keltern Hawkes Bay  Chardonnay 2009 $NZ 33
Riper and even softer  than the 2010 with a hint of lanoline and stewed apple. 

Cellar Selection Keltern Hawkes Bay  Chardonnay 2008 $NZ 33 
Buttery, with cream cheese and quince.

Over all I found the wines still quite young and in the tight, lean and clean Villa style with fairly crisp acidity.  However, 2-3 years would take the edges off them, for the patient buyer.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Volnay Versus Pommard - French Burgundy tasting

Last Thursday night, I was to found at a local French wine importers for a tasting of eight French Burgundies i.e. Pinot Noir.
These were divided into two flights – 4 from Volnay and 4 from Pommard.  At $NZ 70 per person it was still a rare chance to sample some of France’s most famous red wines.  And while I do describe myself as a wine enthusiast I am certainly not an expert.  Thus I make no claim to be any authority on French wines, although I have tasted quite a few over the years.  So this was an educative experience.

Spoiler Alert:  I really couldn’t bond with any of them.  They were wildly tannic, dry, rustic and gamey.  We were told that they would benefit from at least another 5 years ageing, probably more.

Anyway, Volnay and Pommard are two small villages located in Burgundy in the southern end of the Cote du Beaune, more famous for its oak aged Chardonnays than its reds.
Still, some of the Pinot Noirs are rated as Premier Cru.

The first flight of 4 wines from Volnay.  These are regarded as more feminine, perfumed  wines, compared to the muscular reds from Pommard.
Lafarge Volnay  2007    Smoky aromas with red berry fruit.  Astringently dry and tannic, young and edgy.
Lafarge Volnay  Premier Cru Clos des Ducs 2004   Brick red tints of colour indicating an older vintage.  Herbal and muscatel aromas.  Softer tannins. Palate of sour cherry, plum pudding.  My over-all favourite.
Montille Volnay Premier Cru Les Champans 2007  Savoury, smoky, gamey and spicy with ripe cherry fruit flavours.
Montille Volnay Premier Cru Les Taillepieds 2007  Less ripe than the Champans.  Savoury and spice flavours with plum and cherry.

Then to the bigger masculine reds from Pommard – described by mine French host as more of a rustic ‘truck driver’ style of wine. 
“Zeese wine weel not leap into your lap, and say take me ‘ome,” he explained.
Muzard Pommard Les Cras 2007 Overpowering  aromas of tar and dare-I-say-it, creosote.  Plus gamey herbal and carnation.  Me no like.
Courcel Pommard Premier Cru Les Croix Noirs 2006  Pot pourri aromas, flavours of cassis and cherry.  Big tannins.
Courcel Pommard Premier Cru Grand Clos des Epenots 2006 Again Pot pourri, cherry, black currant and wildly, wildly tannic.
Montille Pommard Premier Cru Les Rugiens 2004  Showing the benefit of age.  Floral pot pourri and gamey aromas. Flavours of beetroot, cassis, ripe plum and still very grippy tannins.

As a regular drinker of NZ Pinots, I really think we have extremely good value wines, particularly those from Martinborough and Waipara. Considering that the wines I tasted were around $NZ 160 a bottle, I think we are getting excellent value right here, right now!

Phil runs not for profit wine tours in Auckland Noo Zeelaand, baby!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pinot Gris - 2010 Vintage Selection

Pinot Gris seems to have come out of nowhere, to be the fashionable white wine both here in NZ, and also overseas.  The grape is a mutation of the Pinot Noir family and like other Pinots, is described by its colour.  In French, Gris (grey) - or in Italian, Grigio. 

Only problem is – you never know quite what you’re getting.  Pinot Gris can be anything from dry, flinty and delicate – to sweet, full bodied, and complex.  Basically, it pays to read the back label if you want an idea of how it’s going to taste.  

In Europe – Germany, Alsace, and Italy the best Pinot Gris are oily, sweetish, full-bodied luscious wines.  And some of our best NZ examples are coming from Martinborough, Marlborough and Central Otago.

As an alternative to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, it is gaining popularity as a white wine which suits most of the foods which the other two do, but it also has the delicacy to double as a ‘settle the guests before dinner’ aperitif, or get-home-from-work-need-a-drink-ASAP type wine.

Typical flavours to expect: poached pear, stewed apples, honeysuckle, stone fruit, lime & lager.  Oak ageing will add smoky and spicy nuances.  Call me a philistine, but I think a good Pinot Gris tastes not unlike a gin & tonic.  Or as a friend’s wife once said, (after a few), ‘a ginnic and ton.’

For food matches, I would highly recommend seafood, even in preference to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.  Ripe sweet fruit and background acidity are a perfect match for crayfish, scallops, crab, and most NZ white fish.

To the wnes... I award them variously - three bananas, four thumbs up and smiley face each.

Soljans  Kumeu 2010 Pinot Gris
Medium style - fruity slightly sweet, clean flavoured with crisp apple and nashi pear flavours. From their local Auckland Kumeu estate fruit.
Staete Landt 2010 Pinot Gris.  Marlborough higher end producer, makes this in a rounded oak barrel fermented style, which adds complexity and a lush softness to the poached pear flavours.
Kim Crawford 'First Pick' Pinot Gris 2010
Young, crisp and clean flavoured. More of a dry crisp style - verging on Sauv Blanc flavours. Acidic apple/pear and mouth watering finish.