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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."


Saturday, September 14, 2019

Two By Three

One of the things that I love about working around wine in New Zealand is the huge diversity of labels, wine varieties, regions and personalities that make up our wine industry. This month I have six wines to talk about – three pairs of wines, from three very different producers.

First up, Pleasant Valley Wines from Auckland’s historic Henderson wine region. They claim to be the oldest winery in NZ – founded in 1895 by Stipan Jelich (later anglicised to Steven Yelas). Winemaker Lee Winston is now stepping out with a new concept - blended wines.
Next, Main Divide, the second tier label from North Canterbury’s Pegasus Bay winery.  Owned by the extensive Donaldson family, Pegasus Bay is the local star in Waipara, with both their wines and superb restaurant having won many awards. Founder Ivan Donaldson is a professor of neurology, wine writer and wine judge. Son Mathew is in charge of winemaking.
In 1979 Neil and Dawn McCallum planted a vineyard a few kilometres from Dyerville in the very dry, gravely and free-draining Martinborough region, an hour north of Wellington. They named the enterprise Dry River, and in short order became a high end producer of premium wines. There have been changes of ownership and winemakers over the years. Current winemaker is the very talented Wilco Lam. Great wines and not very easy to find outside the winery website.

Untitled White Blend   $NZ 25
Untitled Wines is a project by Lee Winston, winemaker at Pleasant Valley Wines. His approach is to make an assemblage from wines of different years, and regions to produce a unique blend. This wine has aromas of citrus and floral with a whiff of minerality. It has a clean, crisp palate of clear apple juice, jasmine and stone fruit, with a dry finish.

Untitled Pink Blend Rosé   $NZ 20
Crisp, fresh and dry, with aromas of red apple skin. In the mouth there’s a hint of candy floss, with cherry, and strawberry jam. (By entering the code on the back label into your search engine, you can discover the wines that go into each of Lee’s wines.)

Main Divide North Canterbury Gewürztraminer  2018  $NZ 21
Definitely has the wow factor. Intense aromas of lychee fruit and pink sticky pink Turkish delight. Rich and lengthy oily and medium sweet palate of ginger in syrup, lychee, marmalade and jasmine.

Main Divide North Canterbury Pinot Gris  2016  $NZ 21
Lovely full-flavoured style of pinot gris from Pegasus Bay’s second label. Aromas of poached pear and ripe grapefruit. Unctuous and generous palate of beeswax, quince, grapefruit marmalade and a hint of spice. Finishes dry after a total party in your mouth!

Dry River The Twelve Spies Martinborough 2017  $NZ 65 
Something new for Dry River, a blend: pinot noir, tempranillo, syrah and viognier. Aromas of cherry and spice and fruitcake. Palate of ripe black cherry, black pepper, poached tamarillo and black olive. One to keep for a few more years.

Friday, September 6, 2019

It's all about the taste ...

Having been a wine tour guide, plus doing wine writing gigs for over twenty years, I have observed literally thousands of people tasting thousands of wines.

And I have noticed that they do fall into two general categories. So, here is my own take on why people like certain wines. And why people don’t like other wines. The Phil Parker Theory of Wine Palate goes something like this: Some (not many) people have a Sensitive Palate. And conversely, most other people have a Robust Palate. No shame about being in either group. It’s not a competition. It’s like having brown eyes or green eyes. Get over it. Thus, my completely unproven theory divides you into two groups.

Sensitive Palate
Does not like: Brussels sprouts, broad beans, very strong cheeses, salt & vinegar chips, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and very tannic (dry) red wines such as Barolo, Australian Cabernet or Shiraz. Also in general, hates very hoppy and bitter craft beers, and sweet wines – especially dessert wines.
Likes: Pinot Gris, buttery soft chardonnay, soft and silky Pinot Noir, ripe and soft Syrah, Merlot.

Robust Palate
Does not like
: soft, light Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir or Merlot.
Likes: Sauvignon Blanc,  Highly oaked Chardonnay, Riesling, vinegary foods, Brussels sprouts, salt & vinegar chips, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Malbec, Zinfandel and other tannic dry reds. Also loves bitter hoppy IPA beers. Also, may enjoy a cigarette or a good cigar.

Unfortunately for me, I am of the Sensitive Palate whanau. To me, sauvignon blanc tastes like battery acid and a hoppy IPA can wipe out my sense of taste for about 3 hours. But, as a wine writer I have to know a good sav when I see one, so I don’t skew my reviews toward my personal palate.
Anyway, here are some recent tastings.

Richmond Plains Blanc de Noir Marlborough 2018  $23.40
I discovered this fab wine on a winter trip to the south this July. Certified organic and biodynamic, vegetarian and made from 100% Pinot Noir. Crisp, fresh and fruity. Flavours of baked pear, nectarine and apple. Availability:

Tohu Pinot Blanc Whenua Awa Marlborough 2018  $29.00
Pinot Blanc, along with Pinot Gris is a cousin of Pinot Noir. This is a crisp refreshing wine, ideal slightly chilled. In the mouth, it’s fresh and fruity with flavours of mandarin, nectarine and hint of Riesling-like bees’ wax. Great match for seafood.
Availability: Glengarry

Tohu Albariño Whenua Matua Nelson 2018  $29.00
This Spanish grape variety (pronounced Al-Ba-Reenyo). produces crisp white wines with stone fruit flavours not unlike Viognier.  In Portugal it is known as Alvarinho. To me – ripe pear, mandarin and minerality with a crisp finish.
Availability: Glengarry

Rockburn The Chosen Central Otago Pinot Noir 2018  $65
Inviting aromas of ripe, juicy black cherries and Christmas plum cake. A rich, soft generous and silky palate of red and black berry compote with a hint of mixed spices, and a soft tannic lengthy finish. Another knockout Pinot Noir from Rockburn.
Availability: Glengarry

Outback Jack Brenton Vineyard Australin Cabernet Merlot 2017 $8.99
Not a typo. This is a very drinkable, fruit forward with plums and fruitcake, with not too much tannin. A total bargain Aus

Little x Hawkes Bay Syrah $14.99
Again. Total bargain. Honestly - one of the best Hawkes bay Syrahs that I have tasted from the memorable 2014 vintage. Soft spicy and seamless. With black pepper, stewed plum, black currant and plum pudding.

Phil hosts wine tours in Auckland to Waiheke Island, Kumeu and Matakana.