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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."


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wines for the Southern Hemisphere Winter

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland - rated "No 1. Auckland Attraction" by TripAdvisor

In spite of climate change, most of us in NZ do experience four seasons, and our wine choices appropriately change with them.  Outdoor entertaining in summer accompanied by crisp chilled white wines and light reds, segues into indoor dining with bolder wines to accompany heartier food and cooler climes.

As a step up from Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling - with their young and fruit led flavours; my personal choice has always been Chardonnay. Now, there was an anti Chardonnay movement around ten years ago (the ABC club: anything but Chardonnay).

This was a backlash against the bright yellow Chardonnays that were wildly over-oaked and tasted like a school desk. Sadly, while winemaking has moved on, there are still quite a few Luddite lushes out there who point blank refuse to drink it. This is a pity, because winemaking has moved on, and most of our Chardonnays are subtly oaked, mellow and delightfully complex wines that reward cellaring for up to five years.

After summer’s Roses and light Pinot Noirs, I would suggest a move to Shiraz (or Syrah as we call it). Syrah grapes produce a soft, full-bodied wine with a hint of black pepper aroma and black berry fruit flavours. Hakes Bay’s Gimblett Gravels region in particular is producing some of NZ’s finest examples of Syrah – some of them scoring higher than Aussie Shiraz in international wine competitions.

Here’s a few that I have tasted recently. And remember that in cooler weather, white wines can be served at room temperature and reds often benefit from warming up prior to serving. (My old trick – in case you missed it, immerse the unopened bottle of red in a basin of medium hot water for a few minutes. Dry off, open, enjoy.)

Tohu Marlborough Chardonnay 2010 $NZ22.00
Tohu label takes pride in its Maori ownership, a cooperative of South Island Maori organisations: Wakatu Incorporation, Nga-ti Ra-rua A-tiawa Iwi Trust (NRAIT) and Wi Pere Trust. This wine is a crisp, clean and fruity light style of Chardonnay that is very easy to drink young.

Karikari Estate Chardonnay 2009 $NZ32.00
Karikari Estate has 100 acres of vines on Northland’s Karikari Peninsula, planted with a variety of reds plus Chardonnay and Viognier. This is more in a medium style, with mineral and stone fruit characters and a clean citrus finish.

Discovery Point Judd Selection Chardonnay 2008 $NZ30.00
Discovery Point wines are made by Master of Wine, Steve Bennett who has 20 years experience as a wine-educator, journalist, judge and wine buyer. Displaying the mellowing affect of a few years in the bottle, this is a gorgeous wine – rich, creamy and integrated with flavours of oak, peach, melon and hazelnut.

Sacred Hill Hawkes Bay Syrah 2010 $NZ20.00
Deep purple colour with aromas and flavours of cloves, poached plums, liquorice and beetroot and medium tannins.

Selaks Winemakers Favourite Hawkes Bay Syrah 2009 $NZ20.00
The grapes were fermented in stainless steel, then matured in oak for 12 months. Flavours of raspberry, black berry fruits, mocha and peppery spice.

CJ Pask Hawkes Bay Gimblett Road Syrah 2008 $NZ20
A silver medal winner from the AWC Vienna International Wine Challenge, this is a lovely wine. Earthy spicy flavours of black berry fruits and a hint of pepper. Firm tannins mean this one’s a keeper – say put it away for two years more.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fancrest Estate's Organic Pinot Noir

Phil runs the Best Auckland Attraction - TripAdvisor
Fine Wine and Food Tours

Located in Waipara – about an hour north of Christchurch is organic Pinot Noir producer Fancrest Estate. This small family-owned winery grows exclusively Pinot Noir and is New Zealand BioGro certified. Owner and winemaker Di Holding recovered the operation after a disastrous winery fire in 2009 all but destroyed the winery and the 2009 vintage. She has now released two Pinots - from 2007 and 2008 respectively. The 2007 is quite grunty and big, whereas the 2008 is s lighter style. More on that later.

Very few NZ wineries subscribe to the very strict, totally organic systems prescribed by organisations such as Bio-Gro NZ, and the international Demeter organisation. Millton Vineyards of Gisborne were Bio-Gro pioneers, operating their vineyards using companion planting, and the use no artificial herbicides, fungicides, insecticides or fertilisers. Millton was the first certified organic vineyard in NZ and the 5th oldest in the world.

Biodynamics is a theory of agriculture developed by Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner. He saw the farm a holistic being, where soil health is in balance with nature and also in harmony with phases of the moon. It does sound a tad New Age and wacky, but many sceptics have converted to Biodynamics after seeing a vast improvement in their grape, and wine quality.

Some other Bio-Gro members are: Felton Road, Richmond Plains and Sunset Valley of Nelson, Seresin Estate of Marlborough, Kingsley Estate of Hawkes Bay, and Kawarau Estate of Central Otago.

Other wineries use organic methods but haven’t gone through the full accreditation process – notably Rippon Valley, Stonyridge, and Vynfields.
Anyway to the wines:

2007 Fancrest Estate Di's Pinot Noir $35
A big, chunky Pinot more in the Central Otago style. Aromas of spicy oak and savoury roast meat. Palate of black cherry, dark chocolate and plums, with a sweet ripeness and medium to firm tannins.

2008 Fancrest Estate Pinot Noir $22.50
Smoky, tar aromas and savoury sweet cherry and raspberry flavours. Lighter style than the 2007 and more of a ‘drink now’ wine.

Buy Online:  Fancrest Estate

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dry River Wines - Martinborough. Recent tasting


By Phil Parker - wine writer.

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland see:

Neil McCallum started Dry River in 1979. Dry River shares the Craighall vineyard with Ata Rangi and also sources fruit from contract growers in the area. Plus they have bought the Arapoff vineyard in Martinborough

Dry River would easily be in the top three NZ producers of Gew├╝rztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They produce a miniscule two and a half, to three thousand cases of wine a year. (Nobilo makes just over two million.)

Dry River’s loyal mail list members snap up nearly all the output in advance. A little is exported and anything spare generally goes within a few weeks of release. There is even a waiting list to get on the mailing list – basically you can be added if the member doesn’t order any wine for three consecutive years, or they die. Could be a motive for homicide. Coming soon to your screen: WCSI – Wine Crime Scene Investigation.

Anyway, Neil McCallum sold Dry River to El Molino Wines of California and has largely handed over the reins to young winemaker Katy Hammond, but he stays on as chief winemaker. Now am I getting old or are winemakers getting younger? Sadly, all of the above, I’m afraid. The slim bubbly blonde looks no older than 25 and is passionate about her craft. Despite being owned by a US company there are no plans for expansion or even increase in output. In fact, McCallum plans to spend his spare time at Dry River “…doing it better.” Sheesh – what modesty.

Dry River Chardonnay 2008

A very elegant and subtle Chardonnay – clean, crisp and lightly mineral on the palate but with a lingering finish. Flavours of lime, white peach, grapefruit and yeasty brioche.

Dry River Syrah 2008

We drank this with a lamb leg roast and rich mushroom gravy. Lovely lush and sweet ripe black currant and berry flavours with a hint of spicy white pepper, and a glorious lasting aftertaste.