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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."


Monday, April 23, 2012

I See Red - Red Wines for the NZ Winter

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

A glass of red wine is pretty appropriate at this time of year - with the drop in the temperatures and hearty winter food on the table.  Also as a pre-dinner drink, a lighter red is just fine to sip away on too.

From experience, I find that most red drinkers started off with light and medium or sweet white wines.  Then they graduated to dry whites such as Chardonnay, and then they moved on to approachable reds such as Pinot Noir and soft Australian Shiraz. 

Even though Cabernet Sauvignon has a reputation as the king of red varieties, I seldom find a dedicated Cab fan.  New Zealanders were rightly put off our own Cabernet back in the old days when our Cabs were stemmy, green and under ripe.  That’s the problem with Cabernet – it is a thick skinned grape that requires a very long, hot and dry summer to fully ripen.  Even now, we get a decent vintage of NZ Cabernet about one year in five.  And when we do, we tend to blend Cabernet with other Bordeaux reds such as Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc.  Hotter climate wine regions such as California, South Africa, Argentina and Australia manage to be more consistent with their Cabs – often producing 100% Cabernet.

Now, our Syrah (same grape as Shiraz) is getting better with every vintage, not only in Hawkes Bay but also Waiheke, Northland and Martinborough, giving more weight to the concept that we should leave NZ Cabernet to a few niche producers.

Anyway, here’s a red selection I recommend.


Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2009 $47.00
A good warm summer and dry extended autumn produced the ideal fruit for Pegasus Bay’s flagship Pinot.  Floral aromas, soft tannins and a complex palate of cherries, blackberries and savoury truffle.

Murdoch James Blue Rock Pinot Noir 2010  $39.00
Martinborough’s Murdoch James produces about 20,000 cases of wine and is run by the Fraser family.  The winery features a restaurant and guided winery tours. The Blue Rock Pinot is aged in French oak and has ripe savoury truffle and cherry flavours, with hints of plum liquorice and mocha.

Selaks Heritage Merlot Cabernet 2010  $20.00
A premium range under the Constellation NZ portfolio (formerly Nobilo), the Selaks Heritage wines are affordable and great value.  Lovely soft tannins and plum/cherry fruit make this a very approachable red wine even at two years old.

Awhitu Greenock Syrah 2007 $25.75
From the picturesque Awhiti peninsular vineyard on Auckland’s Manukau Harbour, this is a lovely Syrah that hits all the right buttons and is a total bargain.  It’s a deep garnet red with aromas of wood smoke and cherry.  On the palate – black pepper, sweet spiced tamarillo, liquorice and a gamey earthiness.

Jonny Q Shiraz 2008  $19.00
A great example of why so many of us love Aussie Shiraz.  Johnny Q is actually John Quarisa, a winemaker who has worked for 24 years in the industry for other people.  This wine picked up a swag of medals and accolades.  It has the classic black pepper and spiced aromas, with a velvety sweet ripe palate of dark cherry and black currant, giving way plum and liquorice.

Gladstone Vineyards Auld Alliance 2010 $45.00
Boutique Wairarapa producer Gladstone Vineyard is sited east of Carterton in the Wairarapa.   This wine is a Bordeaux style blend of 50% Merlot with 25% each of Malbec and Cabernet Franc.  It’s a knockout and well worth the price.  Still young, it is deep crimson with purple hints in the glass. Aromas and flavours of spice, ripe blackberry/boysenberry, plum and a long soft tannic finish with tobacco and spice.