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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."


Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas Crackers!
Wines for celebration in the NZ Summer

It’s time to smell the sun block, fire up the BBQ, feel sand between your toes and listen cricket on the radio.  And time to embrace wines that match well with outdoor entertaining, and celebrating with your nearest and dearest over the festive season. Here are some great personal recommendations.
Season’s Greetings from Phil!

Spencer Hill 2015 Nelson Reserve Fumé Sauvignon Blanc $NZ 25.00 (
Wild yeast ferment and left on the lees residue for 9 months. A bit of oak on the nose plus some typical Sav notes of gooseberry and a hint of nectarine. Creamy palate of gooseberry, elderflower, passionfruit with a lemon citrus finish.  Definitely a special take on the South Island’s most prolific wine. Match with seafood.
Saint Clair Origin  Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017  $NZ 24.00 (Glengarry)
Fantastic value. Ticks all the boxes. Floral nose of ripe cherry and tamarillo, opens up on the palate with ripe fruit and spice – sweet plum and ripe back cherry with a lengthy savoury finish. A classic  pinot to rival Central Otago’s best. Great with Chicken, duck or mushroom dishes.
Spade Oak Gisborne Tempranillo  $NZ 20.00  (Some Countdown branches)
Looks like a medium to light red on first sight, but in fact it’s a quite a grunty and spicy wine, a bit like a muscular pinot noir.  Nose of tamarillo, spice rack and vanilla bean. Palate of ripe cherry, with red and black berry compote, tobacco and earthy spices. Soft tannins.  Pairs with red meats, duck or tomato-based Italian.
Pirathon Black Barossa Shiraz 2016 $NZ 49.00  (
Wow. Blockbuster, inky Aus shiraz, typically bursting with flavour. Aromas of pot pourri, black pepper and liquorice. Opens up on the palate with Black Doris plum, liquorice, black currant, dark chocolate, ripe fragrant boysenberry and cassis. Long firm tannic finish.  A cracker BBQ match.

Saint Clair Dawn Marlborough M
éthodeTraditionelle 2013 $NZ 49.00 (
Green gold colour with aromas of yeasty brioche and nectarine. Ripe golden queen peachy mid palate with nougat and a tangy yeasty finish.  Fab aperitif style.  

No 1 Family Estate Marlborough Ros
é NV $NZ 47 (Glengarry)
Stunningly good traditional method 100% Marlborough pinot noir rosé from Daniel Le Brun, whose Champagne-making family have been in France over the last 12 generations. Smells like sour cherry and nougat. Rich, ripe and voluptuously frothy in the mouth with creamy almond nougat, sour cherry, a hint of sweetness. Lengthy finish. Gorgeous at any time!

Matt Connell Wines

Southern Superman
Matt Connell was born in Taranaki and grew up in Christchurch, eventually making his way north to where working at iconic Auckland microbrewery Galbraiths inspired him to complete a post-grad degree in Oenology and Viticulture in 2001.

Winemaking took Matt to Wynns of Coonawarra Australia, Elk Covey in  Oregon and finally back to NZ to Central Otago where he worked at  Peregrine and Olssens of Bannockburn.  Prior to establishing his eponymous label he spent seven years as winemaker and general manager of Akarua in Central Otago. During his time at there he was able to re-establish Akarua as one of New Zealand’s premium pinot noir producers, winning major trophies for the label with each vintage. 

And, just to hand, The New Zealand International Wine Show 2018 awarded his 2017 Rendition Central Otago Pinot Noir trophies for the Nissan New Zealand Champion Wine of Show and the Negociants New Zealand Champion Pinot Noir - at the awards ceremony held on Saturday the 13th October in Auckland.

I caught up with Matt a few weeks ago and was given a sneak preview of his 2017 vintage releases, including what was to be the highly awarded Rendition Central Otago Pinot Noir.
I concur with the judges!

Matt Connell Wines Lowburn Central Otago Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2017 $NZ 38
Very subtle nose of orange blossom, pineapple and elder flower. Elegant and integrated palate of mandarin, brioche, mineral and poached pear. Creamy and soft mid palate from extended lees ageing, with subtle French oak influence.

Matt Connell Wines Bendigo Central Otago Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017 $NZ 67
Spice, black berry fruits and tamarillo on the nose.  Opens  up on the palate with gamey savoury flavours, medium tannins, black cherry, dark chocolate and raspberry liquorice. Very lengthy finish.

Matt Connell Wines Rendition Central Otago Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017 $NZ 44
Smells like poached tamarillo, cherry and spice, with a whiff of wood smoke. On the palate, it has ripe and spicy dark fruit - with boysenberry, plum, black cherry and earthy savoury truffle. Lengthy medium tannic finish. Just gorgeous. Classic Central Pinot.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Wonderful Waipara - NZ’s best kept secret

Wonderful Waipara

NZ’s best kept secret

Waipara?  Somewhere near north Canterbury  isn’t it? Yes it is, and if you want to get into some fantastic wines, you should know more about it. 

Sitting up straight?  Corkscrew in hand?  Glass at the ready?  Thirsty?  Okay, relax.  I am your guide. I tend to think of Waipara as one of New Zealand’s orphan wine regions. Perhaps, along with west Auckland’s historic Kumeu, and north Auckland’s boutique Matakana, it’s possibly one of the most underrated wine producing areas in NZ.

Everybody knows, and loves the high-profile regions. But Waipara, like the others, tends to get overshadowed in spite of the fact that it produces some gorgeous wines, albeit with less than 5% of NZ’s total grape production. 

Here’s a selection form a recent trip to the south.

Waipara Springs Waipara Valley Chardonnay 2016  $NZ 39
Aromas of peach and grapefruit, crisp and fruity with mandarin and a hint of oaky toast. Nice medium-bodied style . Dry crisp finish.

Greystone Waipara Valley Gewürztraminer 2015 $NZ 31
Delicate floral citrus blossom aromas with a hint of yeast from ageing on yeast residue.
Just off-dry palate of ginger syrup and a hint of rosewater. Lengthy elegant and creamy finish at a fairly hefty 14.5% alcohol.
Availability: Fine Wine Delivery Co.
Greystone Waipara Valley Chardonnay 2016 $NZ 35
Grapefruit, vanilla and yeast on the nose. Opens up on the palate as a gorgeous voluptuous Marylin Monroe of a chardonnay. Rich, ripe and hugely seductive, and with potential. A creamy seamless palate of crème brûlée, nectarine, toasty vanilla and peach with a long finish. Stunning.
Pegasus Bay Waipara Aged Release Riesling 2008 $NZ 40
Wow. Fabulous wine. Rich, voluptuous and enchanting. This is the gateway wine to Rieslings. At ten years old, this wine is just hitting its straps with an unctuous palate of grapefruit, honey, beeswax, honeysuckle and apricot jam. At 12.5% alcohol it is just nudging dry, yet has a hint of botrytis to knock it in to serious after dinner wine territory to be accompanied by some fine cheeses.
Waipara Hills Soul Pinot Noir 2014 $NZ 27
Aromas of red berry fruit with some earthy, savoury notes. Light to medium style with blackberry, tamarillo and cherry and some leathery savoury characters. Firm tannins mean this one will last at least 5 years.
Pegasus Bay Waipara Aged Release Pinot Noir 2008 $NZ 65
From a ripe vintage, this wine is standing up very well for a 10 year-old. Garnet red with aromas of black cherry, with secondary gamey aromas of leather, cellar dust and vegemite. Opens up nicely as a complex wine with a sweet ripe cherry mid palate and lingering lengthy finish of liquorice and dark Ghana chocolate.
Phil runs the best wine tours in New Zealand and is very kind to animals

Saturday, September 29, 2018

I See Red. (I see red, I see red )
Red wines for the NZ spring

Spring is pretty well in the air now. The magnolias are blooming, the daffs are out and spring lambs are gambolling in the paddocks.  But it’s still a good time for red wines.

Before we segue into summer temperatures, it’s good to enjoy some hearty reds or even a lightly chilled rosé. Here’s a selection of some great reds that I have sampled recently.

Coopers Creek Huapai Rosé 2016  $NZ 21.00 
Made from a blend of malbec and merlot from Cooper’s estate vineyard in Huapai, northwest Auckland. Very fresh and hugely drinkable. Typical strawberries and cream aromas. And unlike the current trend for bone dry acidic rosé, this one is just nudging sweet with a fruity ripe palate of red berry fruit and cranberry with a crisp finish. Drink with chicken, salads or seafood.

Scott Base Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017  $NZ 29.99
From the Allan Scott family winery, one of the first independent wineries to be established in Marlborough in 1990. Aromas of ripe cherries and raspberries with a hint of smoky spice. Soft, medium palate of red fruit, black cherry and a hint of tar. Drink with duck, lamb or ratatouille.
Widely available at supermarkets and Glengarry.

Wolf Blass Gold Label Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2016  $NZ 27.99
Wolfgang Blass was born in Germany. He studied winemaking in Germany, moved to the Barossa Valley in 1961 and just 5 years later, he launched what was to become one of Australia’s most famous labels.
This wine smells of cassis, plums and cellar dust. Typical big Aussie red, with a ripe plummy palate of blackcurrant and black cherry compote and medium tannic finish. Drink with pepper steak, venison or rich tomato-based pasta.
Availability: Widely available at supermarkets and Glengarry.

Vidal Legacy Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot 2016  $NZ 64.99
Vidal Estate is part of the Villa Maria portfolio, producing premium wines under renowned winemaker Hugh Crichton. With vineyards in the Gimblett Gravels appellation, the focus here is sturdy red wines.
This one: plums and spice on the

Phil runs Auckland Fine Wine & Food Tours

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Back To The Garden

Organic and natural wines

Okay - the Natural Wine movement is credited to French winemaker Jules Chauvet. His thinking is that there must be as little human intervention as possible in growing and making wine. That is - organic and/or biodynamic viticulture. No insecticides, no artificial fertilizers and no herbicides. Grapes must be hand harvested, and only ‘indigenous’ or naturally occurring vineyard yeasts are permitted to ferment the pressed juice (as opposed to more reliable commercial yeasts). Then there is the vexed issue of whether or not to add SO2 to stabilise and get rid of any remaining yeasts or bacteria in the wine. Within the natural wine movement there is wide discussion and disagreement. Some regard SO2 as forbidden territory, others say it is vital to give the wine longevity and preserve purity of flavour. Finally when the wine is bottled, there is generally no filtering or fining, so your wine may end up slightly cloudy or with some crust of sediment.
Prepare to be challenged. You are not in Kansas now Dorothy.

Quartz Reef Brut Central Otago (Non-Vintage) $NZD 31.00  Glengarry
Demeter Biodynamic Certified. Contains minimal SO2.
Yeasty bread aromas, fine persistent bubbles and flavours of stone fruit, with a dry crisp, clean finish.  The winery adheres to the Rudolph Steiner principles of vineyard management that include planting according to a lunar calendar.

Loveblock Marlborough Gewürztraminer $NZD 22.00  Glengarry
Biogro organic certified. Contains minimal SO2.
A subtle and graceful just off-dry style, from Kim and Erica Crawford’s largely organic label. Grown in the lower Awatere Valley, it has aromas of lychee fruit and mandarin. In the mouth, it has a musky palate of guava, lychee, rosewater and mandarin. A lengthy finish with a hint of sweetness.

Greenhough Nelson ‘Winegum’ Gewürztraminer / Pinot Gris $NZD 32.99 Glengarry Grey Lynn
Greenhough have been growing vines organically for over 25 years. Orange coloured in the glass. Smells a bit like sherry, and macerated stone fruit. With flavours of apricot, Turkish delight and lychee, it has an astringent and dry finish

Tincan Nelson Sassy Sauvignon $NZD 31.00  ( )
Slightly orange and cloudy in the glass, it has aromas of yeast, almond and wine gums. It tastes nothing like a conventional sav, but is quite intriguing. Some astringency from skin contact, but with aged wine sherry flavours and hint of peach and tinned apricot. No additives at all: no sulphur, no animal products, no filtration. At 11% alcohol, it is quite refreshing and unusual.

Tincan Nelson Persuasive Pét Nat  $NZD 33.00  ( )
This is Tincan’s take on a natural sparkling wine style. Barrel fermented, skin fermented and carbonic fermented. Predominantly sauvignon blanc with a small amount of riesling juice added for the secondary ferment. To me, it tastes more like a Belgian wheat beer. Fruity and yeasty with a clean finish. Hints of apricot and peach. Again, no additives at all. 10.5% alcohol.

In summary – the Quartz Reef and the Loveblock are more conventional. Filtered and very approachable as most commercial wines. The other three are definitely outside the square, yet interesting and complex, but will probably appeal to a niche market. It’s all about your personal palate.

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland New Zealand                                         

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Family Business - Wines from Pegasus Bay and Allan Scott

In an age where many NZ family wineries are being bought out by large corporates, or even closing down completely, it is very heartening to see some who are still going strong.

Pegasus Bay is entirely family-owned and operated. The Donaldson family were pioneers of grape growing and wine making in north Canterbury in the early 1970s. Ivan Donaldson oversees viticulture and wine styles. His wife Christine established the gardens at Pegasus Bay. Eldest son, Matthew is winemaker and Matthew’s wife Di helps with winery logistics. Another son, Edward is Marketing Manager; his wife Belinda directs the winery’s multi award winning restaurant. The youngest son Paul is the winery’s General Manager, while another son Michael is the local sales manager.

The Alan Scott winery is owned by founder Allan Scott and his family. Allan was another pioneering wine grower, planting the first vines in the Marlborough region back in 1973 when he worked as viticulturist for Montana. He subsequently worked for Corbans before starting his own label. Wife, Catherine runs the cellar door and also oversee their Twelve Trees Restaurant at the winery. Son Josh (who founded the Moa beer) is wine maker. Daughters Sara and Victoria are involved in viticulture and marketing, respectively.

Main Divide North Canterbury Sauvignon Blanc 2017 $NZ 21
Lime citrus and green capsicum flavours without the OTT acid of many Marlborough Savs. Herbal and complex. (Main Divide is Pegasus Bay’s second label).

Pegasus Bay North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2014  $NZ 50
Aromas of baking spices, black cherry and ripe plum. Flavours of cherry, spice, black pepper, savoury truffle and silky, lengthy tannins. A classic pinot noir. 

Pegasus Bay North Canterbury Bel Canto Dry Riesling 2015  $NZ 37
Technically dry, but lush and full on the palate. Flavours of grapefruit, honeysuckle and mango. Gloriously intense and will get even better with time.

Allan Scott Generations Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2016 $26
Aromas of lychee fruit and Turkish delight, it opens up with a just off-dry palate of tinned lychee, perfumey Turkish delight, with added tangy yeast and hint of green herbs. Time in oak has added extra complexity.

Allan Scott Generations Marlborough Pinot Noir 2016 $NZ 36
Just shows how far Marlborough Pinots have progressed. Spicy and fruity, with soft silky tannins, Black Doris plum and a lengthy smoky finish.

Allan Scott Cecilia Vintage Methode Traditionelle 2013 $NZ 28
Very much in the classic Champagne blanc de blancs style, with 100% chardonnay. Yeasty brioche aromas, and pale gold in the glass. A frothy mousse in the mouth with lush flavours of apple, nougat and toasted almond and a nudge of clover honey. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Good Year for the Rosés

There has been a huge surge in the popularity of rosé style wines in NZ in the last 5 years.
And particularly in summer, the allure of a chilled pink rosé on a hot, blue-skied day is hard to resist. Rosé wines essentially pair with any food style, appeal to both red and white wine drinkers and are particularly suited to picnic fare and barbecues. The dominant style now has moved way away from the ‘candy water’ sweet rosés of the 70s and 80s to the traditional Provence bone dry or just off-dry style. Indeed, we are starting to see some French rosés on the shelves at wine stores and on some restaurant menus. Here’s some local and imported examples.
Spade Oak Heart of Gold Gisborne Tempranillo Rosé 2017 $NZ 23
A new twist on the Spanish grape variety Tempranillo. Salmon pink in the glass.  Aromas of summer fruit compote and cherry. In the mouth it is just nudging off-dry with complex and elegant flavours of strawberry, marzipan and sour cherry with a medium dry lengthy finish. Available from Countdown.
La Mascaronne Quat Saisonas Provence French Rosé 2017 $NZ 27
Sealed with a DIAM composite cork closure. Classic Provence style, with aromas of watermelon and a whiff of strawberry compote. Crisp, clean and tangy with a hint of strawberry and ripe pineapple. Complex and mouth filling. Available from Glengarry.
Tupari ‘Pink Pukeko’ Marlborough Rosé 2017 $NZ 20
Pale rose pink, with aromas of strawberry and a whiff of confectionary. Very much in the Provence style – bone dry, with cranberry and red berry fruit flavours. Finishes dry, clean and tangy. Available from Glengarry.
Soho ‘Pink Sheep’ Marlborough Rosé 2017 $NZ 22.99
Aromas of canned peach and rhubarb. Just nudging dry at 12.5% alcohol.  Flavours of red apple and watermelon.  A clean fruity finish. But wait, there’s more – 50c per bottle sold goes to mental health charity ‘Key to Life’ charitable trust, spearheaded by Mike King. Available from Herne Bay Cellars.
‘R’ Château Riotor Côtes de Provence 2016 $NZ 20
Provence wine, sealed with a screwcap (zut alors!) Flavours of summer red berries, sour cherry and cranberry with a lengthy tangy bone dry - almost astringent finish that reminds me of canned pink guava. Available from Glengarry.