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."


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Some Big NZ and Aus Reds

It looks like winter is still with us for a month or two before we head into spring and the grapevines burst into life again.  And this time of year in Auckland in the vineyards , pruners are busy removing the old shoots from vines before the sap rises.  While vines are dormant over winter, this is the time to get in and trim off the old dead wood.  Not unlike rose bushes, the vines are pruned vigorously. The vines are cut right back to often just one trunk with two or four lateral branches left before spring kicks in. (See the video on my blog).  Work never stops in the vineyard and winery – it’s a 7 day a week job for many people in the business.
Meanwhile hare’s a line-up of hearty reds for cooler nights (and days).

Rimu Grove ‘Bronte’ Nelson Pinot Noir 2011 $NZ 23
17 points
  ★★★★ Great value Pinot from Nelson.  Aromas of spice, and ripe black cherry. In the mouth – stewed plums, Lapsang Souchong, savoury BBQ mushrooms and ripe black berry fruits. 
Available: Glengarry
Saint Clair Pioneer Block ‘Doctor’s Creek’ Pinot Noir 2014 $NZ 38
19 points  ★★★★★
A seamlessly gorgeous and voluptuous silky Pinot with aromas of potpourri, fruit cake and Black Forest Cake. It opens up with flavours of ripe black cherry, boysenberry and subtle spice, with soft seductive yet lingering tannins.
Available: Glengarry
Selaks Reserve Hawke’s Bay Merlot Cabernet 2013 $22
17 points  ★★★★ Classy red at a good price. Spicy plum and black cherry aromas. Soft tannins and ripe flavours of black currant, cherry and black olive, with a hint of black pepper.
Available: most supermarkets and wine stores
Molly Dooker ‘The Boxer’  McLaren Vale Shiraz 2013 $NZ 35
20 points 
Classic south Australian knockout Shiraz.  Smells fabulous – aromas of vanilla oak, cassis, super-ripe dark berry fruits, and pepper.  Juicy and full flavoured, clocking in at 15.5% alcohol yet manages a seamless palate of ripe black currant, blackberry, spice and Black Forest Cake.
Available: Fine Wine Delivery Company, Village Winery Mt. Eden
Molly Dooker ‘Two Left Feet’  McLaren Vale Shiraz/Cabernet/Merlot  2013  $NZ 35
19 points
  ★★★★★ Another monster at 15.5% alcohol but bang for buck nonetheless.  Smells like Christmas cake, anise and red cherries.  Smooth and savoury with some stewed plum and a hint of liquorice.  Medium firm tannins.
Available: Fine Wine Delivery Company, Village Winery Mt. Eden

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

Tuscan Wine Travels

 For all its distance, New Zealand seems to have an endless fascination with the food, wine and culture of Italy.  And not unlike the rest of the world, we have been eager to embrace panini, espresso, cappuccino, pasta, pizza, Chianti, Prada, Versace, and a whole bunch of other stuff ending in a, e, i, and o. So, this year’s wine holiday was the most ambitious to date – Italy, with focus on the Chianti region in Tuscany.

We flew in on Emirates, via Dubai.  The idea was to avoid all the security hold-ups associated with a transfer at LAX.  

I can report that Dubai is smelly, humid and extremely hot, with an airport terminal like something out of the Star Wars bar scene – many, many people of different cultures in strange clothes buying duty free like there’s no tomorrow.  

We had three days in Rome, then another three in Umbria.  Hiring a rental from Perugia, I drove nervously out of the city in our very comfortable Lancia automatic with no major trauma other than somehow ending in a bus-only lane which was running contra to the other peak hour traffic.  A judicious U-turn soon had us hopelessly lost, again in short order.  However we eventually located our B&B in Bastia – about 30 minutes away as dusk fell and tempers frayed.

Umbria was quiet and charming – endless fields of sunflowers and good affordable and very drinkable local wines from our nearby supermarket at about 6 Euros a bottle. 

Onward to Tuscany, by the very efficient Trenitalia rail network and local buses, we first stopped in San Gimignano – a walled hilltop township.  Dating from around the 10th Century, San Gimignano is a fortified town featuring the classic Tuscan terracotta pink and honey, brick and tile buildings.  Very much a tourist town now, it boasts numerous restaurants, a museum of religious art and a wine museum. The Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta has frescoes by Sienese school artists Bartolo di Fredi and Taddaeo di Bartolo.

But the highlight of the trip was definitely Montalcino, another fortress town dating back to the 14th century.  The whole township is easily traversed by foot and has a permanent population of about 5,000.  Spectacular postcard views of the Orcia valley are around every corner, giving panoramas of the region’s olive orchards, vineyards and wheat fields as they stretch into the hazy distance.

Renowned for the iconic Tuscan red Brunello, Montalcino is the most famous Chianti producer in the region.  Brunello is a 100% Sangiovese, produced and branded under very strict regulations.
Grapes have to be grown within the Commune of Montalcino, and ageing for two years in oak casks, plus a further 4 months in the bottle is obligatory.  208 producers make around 290,000 cases in total, of Brunello per annum.  The name Montalcino is a protected brand, like Champagne, and can only be applied to another red, Rosso di Montalcino and a white – Moscato di Montalcino.  Brunello retails in Italy at anything from 40 Euros upwards.

Few local vineyards are open for cellar door tasting, and only by appointment.  The best way is a hosted tasting at the Enoteca,  a wine boutique, restaurant and tasting facility.  It is located in the Fortezza, the castle keep – the last resort for siege in medieval battles.  I was treated to a line up of five Brunellos – Cerbaiona ’98, Banfi Riserva ’95, Capanna Riserva ’99, Poggio di Sotte ’01 and Cupano ’01.  The clouds parted and I heard bits of the Hallelujah Chorus.  These are glorious wines – full ripe and rich, with dried fruit old wine characters, soft tannins and lingering aftertaste.

Montalcino is also renowned for honey, extra virgin olive oils, and local cheeses like Pecorino.  Many restaurants and cafes make the best of local specialty produce. In fact, best meal we had in Italy is Trattoria Il Leccio – located in a small village – St. Angelo in Colle, just outside Montalcino. Other attractions include San Quirico d’Orca – a thermal spa town going back to Etruscan times, with many churches, gardens and upmarket tourist accommodation.

Phil Parker runs wine tours in Auckland NZ

Friday, July 3, 2015

Wine Regions of New Zealand - A visitor's Guide

Here's a new 44 second video presentation of my new guide to NZ's many cellar doors

 Phil Parker runs wine tours in Auckland New Zealand