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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, October 24, 2013


More low alcohol wines have appeared on the shelves over the last few years, mostly Sauvignon Blanc and other crisp acidic, and light fruity styles, with a few fun CO2 carbonated sparklers in the mix.  And realistically - in summer, a low alcohol option is probably a good idea when you are drinking to quench your thirst in the heat of the day.

But on the other hand, alcohol content is an inextricable part of the mouth feel of a wine.  Alcohol adds viscosity to a wine.  Viscosity is probably too strong a word because it conjures images of treacle and oil … perhaps.  But alcohol does add body to a wine. It’s like comparing a light watery Rosé to a full-on 16.5% alcohol grunty Aussie Shiraz.  They are polar opposites.

The old trick of tipping a glass on its side to see the skinny 'legs' of glycerol sliding down the interior is nothing remotely clever, but merely an index of alcohol content.  “Hey, look – this wine has alcohol in it.”  Big Deal.   You may likewise have noticed the thin viscous legs on a glass of Cognac or whiskey.  

Consequently you're very unlikely to see any legs on a low alcohol version of Chardonnay, Cabernet or Shiraz, because the big flavour mix on the palate needs to be balanced by alcohol.  But light, fruity wines can get away with a lower level of alcohol if there is up front fruit, acidity and a touch of residual sugar.  Interestingly NZ’s most awarded sparkling wine is Northwest Auckland winery, Soljan’s Fusion – a sweet and fruity carbonated  Muscat bubbly, and that clocks in at 8% alcohol.

Anyway, here’s a new range of low alcohol wines –Little Harvest from Constellation NZ.

Little Harvest Rose Hawkes Bay 2013 
An appealing pink shade, this wine clocks in at 9% .  Aromas of strawberries and raspberries, with the same on the palate in an off-dry style.
Chilled down, it will still have enough residual sugar and fruit flavours to cut it as a light aperitif style ideal for summer salads and lighter foods.

Little Harvest Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013.
On the nose this one comes off as a true Savvie - all gooseberry and passion fruit.  It has a medium dry palate with a crisp citrus finish.  Probably a bit light on the palate for most Sauvignon fans, with just 9 % alcohol.

Little Harvest Gisborne Moscato 2013
Not much at all on the nose, but once swished around the palate it does deliver that real grapey Muscatel sweet fruit with just a little spritz of effervescence.  It finishes quite crisp and clean.  At 6% alcohol it is as a colleague described - a good summer wine for cider drinkers.

Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine Tours in Auckland.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cruise Ships Bully Auckland City into backdown

Today marks the start of Auckland’s cruise ship season with the arrival of Carnival Cruise’s Sea Princess.  But what could have been a glowing opportunity for local tourism has fizzled as Auckland’s own tourism information branch has been pushed out of Shed 10, touted as a multi-use cruise ship and events facility.  

On the 5th of August, Auckland’s Mayor Len Brown launched the refurbished Shed 10, directly adjacent to Queens Wharf’s cruise ship berth.  The first floor of Shed 10, with its extensive views of the Waitemata Harbour and Auckland city, operates as a passenger lounge, while the ground floor processes passenger luggage, security and border control.  The  makeover cost $12.5 million.

Back in August, ATEED (Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development) Chief Executive Brett O’Riley enthused, “We look forward to welcoming cruise passengers to our wonderful city from October. The new terminal will feature an I-Site Visitor Information Centre, where passengers can get information and advice which will help ensure they get the most out of their stay."

Yet today, ATEED’s I-Site information centre has been relegated to the rear of the bus parking area about 20 metres from Shed 10, and operating out of a mobile kiosk, poorly signposted and barely visible to passengers.
Says local wine tour operator Phil Parker, “Unfortunately ATEED has crumbled to pressure from the cruise companies who want a monopoly on shore based tour activities. Off-the record, I have been told that cruise companies are refusing to have any competing businesses operating out of Shed 10.  Considering the amount of cash that Auckland City has invested in the facility, it’s a wasted opportunity for Auckland’s economy and a smack in the face for tourism businesses.”