Phil’s Wine Blog
Off? Or On?
Wine Faults 101
When is a wine ‘off’?
There are a lot of misconceptions around the concept of wine that has gone off.
Okay – the classic example is a wine that has been tainted by a bad cork or by unhygienic winemaking. I.e. a ‘corked’ wine. This is why people often sniff the cork as part of the wine tasting ritual. The culprit here is a chemical compound called TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole). It is present in moulds that can grow in a cork tree, and can also exist in damp surfaces within a winery environment. The chemical is so powerful, that we can detect a few parts per trillion. Typically, and at its worst, TCA smells like mouldy damp cardboard. In diluted amounts it robs the wine of any fruit flavours. Hence the gamble of wines sealed with a natural cork – and why I am such a fan of the screw top closure.
Probably the second most common fault is a wine that is oxidised. This can happen when a cork breaks down over time and oxygen interacts with the wine, making it smell like sherry – or even vinegar. Also if a wine is opened for a few days, oxidation will start to happen. (That’s why I hardly ever order wine by the glass at a restaurant or wine bar).
Less commonly are sulphides as a result of faulty winemaking, which typically results in a smell like rotten eggs or burnt rubber. Another fault – volatile acidity (VA) gives the wine aromas of acetone (nail polish remover). VA is acceptable in sweet dessert wines, but is a fault if you discover it in a normal dry table wine.
Anyway, here is a selection of wines that have definitely passed the test and come out squeaky clean!
Tohu Whenua Awa Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 $NZ 30.00
A very approachable style of sauvignon. Typical aromas of gooseberry and passionfruit, but an unusually softer medium palate with rich guava, green capsicum and passion fruit, with a tad of lychee fruit.
Main Divide North Canterbury Sauvignon Blanc 2019 $NZ 21.00
Second tier label from Pegasus Bay, delivers great bang for buck across the whole range. Cape gooseberry and passionfruit aromas and a big hit of crisp elderberry, pink tinned guava and fresh cut pineapple, with clean mineral acidity.
Giesen Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 $NZ 13.00
Nice and juicy pinot gris from Giesen. Great value for a fruity, drink any time wine. Flavours of stewed apple, nashi pear and a dash of fresh pineapple.
Hera Gisborne Chardonnay 2018 $NZ 70.00
From consistent Gisborne producer, Odyssey wines, this is a premium chardonnay with a great pedigree. Handpicked Mendoza clone fruit and fermented in 50% new French oak. A very elegant chardonnay that reminds me of Kumeu River. Creamy palate with toasty hazelnut woven through ripe nectarine and pear, with a lengthy crisp finish.
Availability: Caros Wines
Dry River Martinborough Syrah 2016 $NZ 70.00
Another stunner from Dry River. Who says that you can’t make fab syrah south of Hawke’s Bay? Inky crimson in the glass, this wine is big and bold with firm tannins, lush ripe Black Doris plum and black cherry. Laced with a hint of peppery spice and fruitcake, this one’s a definite keeper. Very drinkable now, but could cellar for ten years.
It’s all about the Taste.
Are you a supertaster?
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.
Quite possibly the sensitive palate folk are supertasters i.e. they have many more taste buds than others. This means that they react strongly to sweet, bitter, salt and sour.
May not like: Brussels sprouts, broad beans, strong blue cheeses, mustard, bitter dark chocolate, horseradish, wasabi, salt & vinegar chips, strong black coffee, hot chilli sauce, vinegary pickles, sauvignon blanc, acidic riesling, cabernet sauvignon and other very tannic (dry) red wines such as Barolo, cabernet or shiraz. Also in general, hates very hoppy and bitter craft beers, and sweet wines – especially dessert wines.
Probably likes: pinot gris, fruity soft chardonnay, soft and silky pinot noir, ripe and soft syrah and merlot.
May not like: soft fruity chardonnay, pinot gris, gewürztraminer, pinot noir or merlot.
Probably likes: dark chocolate, hot spicy foods, strong coffee, vinegary foods, Brussels sprouts, salt & vinegar chips, salty foods, mineral chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, big butterychardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, malbec, zinfandel and other very tannic dry reds. Also loves bitter hoppy IPA beers and whiskey. Also, may enjoy a cigarette or a good cigar.
Unfortunately for me, I am of the Sensitive Palate family. 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 $NZ 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: organicwines.co.nz
Tohu Pinot Blanc Whenua Awa Marlborough 2018 $NZ 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 $NZ 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.
Rockburn The Chosen Central Otago Pinot Noir 2018 $NZ 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.
Outback Jack Brenton Vineyard Australin Cabernet Merlot 2017 $NZ 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 red.
Little x Hawkes Bay Syrah 2014 $NZ 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.
Two by Three
A pair of wines from each of three very different wineries.
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.
Dry River Martinborough Pinot Noir 2017 $94 This new release is an opulent and ripe pinot with a firm backbone of acidity. Funky aromas give way to pot pourri, cigar box and black berry fruits. Silky tannins support a rich complex and juicy ripe palate of cassis, blackberry and a hint of spice. Gorgeous wine that will reward cellaring.
Champagne and all that
Okay. Bubbles. Fizz. Popping the cork for celebration! Nothing wrong with that. Enjoy. Wine- like food, humour and company is for sharing.
Grapes traditionally used in making true branded French Champagne are chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. All three are usually blended in the familiar mass-produced French fizz we see in NZ as Moët, Veuve Cliquot, Bollinger, Lanson, Pol Roger etc.
And I do mean mass production. We are talking millions upon millions bottles of bottles per year pumped out by French Champagne houses to satisfy the thirsty masses. There are variations on the theme: Blanc de Noir (pinot noir and/or pinot meunier), and Blanc De Blanc (100% chardonnay). And then, there are Rosé style “pink Champagne” sparklers, where sometimes the pinot noir has been left on the skins a short while to ferment and extract a blush of pink colour.
And the characteristic fine beaded frothy bubbles are the result of a secondary fermentation in the bottle after the wine has been sealed with added yeast and sugar. And … it’s the CO2 bubbles in the wine which make the alcohol absorb more quickly into the bloodstream and the brain. It may make you feel a little bit dizzy, totally fabulous, funny … and also may make you fancy complete strangers. (So I have been told.)
‘NV’ on a bottle means non-vintage i.e. the Champagne is made from a blend of various years’ base wines. Vintage Champagne is made solely from the grapes of a particularly good year, and that year is determined by the region’s producers. It is these vintage wines which can last ten years or more. NV Sparklers are designed to be consumed on release and won’t benefit from extended cellaring.
Anyway. Here are some fantastic small production local New Zealand Champenoise styles that – in my opinion, totally rival some of the best pretentious French labels. And at about half the price. Drink local. Drink fabulous. Enjoy.
Mudbrick Vineyard Methode Traditionelle (NV) $NZ 30
Wow. 24 carat gold colour. Aromas of beeswax, brioche and clover honey. In the mouth, it’s a complex and lush palate of preserved peach, ripe apricot, toffee and hint of toasty oak with a slow golden sunset finish. I’m in love.
Peacock Sky Reserve Waiheke Blanc de Noirs 2014 $NZ 45
Black grapes – 59% merlot and 41% cabernet sauvignon. Pale rose gold pink with fine beaded bubbles. Smells like almond nougat and brioche with a good whiff of CO2. Lovely rich, ripe and generous palate of sour cherry, almond and summer fruit compote.
West Brook Waimauku Methode Traditionelle 2012 $NZ 39.90
Blanc de Noir style from Waimauku pinot noir. Very subtle and mineral French style that is best served just lightly chilled. Gold hues. Aromas of almond croissant. On the palate it’s crisp, dry, and restrained with hints of apple, almond nougat and mandarin.
Soljans Brut Methode Traditionelle 2012 $NZ 33.00
Award-winning Kumeu sparkler from third generation family winemakers. Traditional pinot noir/ chardonnay blend. Yellow gold colour. Aromas of yeasty baked bread. Rich, complex and integrated palate of mandarin, peach crumble, and rock melon, with a dry crisp finish.
Soljans Brut Methode Traditionelle 2013 $NZ 33.00
A drier style than the 2102. Yellow gold. Smells like Packham pear, apricots and hazelnut nougat. Frothy bubbles on the palate with flavours of frangipane tart, yeasty croissant and canned peach – with a crisp dry finish.
RANDOM ROUNDUP May 2019
Matakana Estate Matakana Pinot Gris 2017 $NZ 15
A very slightly reductive funky nose of citrus, minerality and grassy herbs. A dry style with a mouthful of poached pear, Braeburn apple, a hint of anise and a lengthy very dry finish. Great aperitif wine
Pegasus Bay North Canterbury Chardonnay 2017 $NZ 43
Okay, I’m not a fan of the ‘reductive’ funky chardonnays TBH. But this is a stunner. It does have that initial nasal hit of struck match sulphur thing, but that gives way to toasty oak, crème brûlée and grapefruit. In the mouth, it’s poached pear, toffee apple, canned peach, blond tobacco and mandarine, with a long finish. Creamy Chicken or pasta.
Soljans Estate Fifth Generation Series Kumeu Chardonnay 2016 $NZ 48
Delicate and elegant wine with a nose of yeasty brioche, stone fruit, vanilla with a hint of herbaceous fennel. Rich and complex palate of canned peach, fresh pineapple, and almond toffee, with a creamy and lengthy dry finish. Very classy and expressive of the Kumeu clay minerality.
Roast chicken, veal or cheese dishes.
Undivided ‘Vin De France’ Chardonnay 2017 $NZ 18.99
Great value bargain Chardonnay from France with a screw top. Vin De France pretty well means nothing as to where it came from. It could very well be a blend from different regions. Anyhoo – smells like pineapple and peach with a hint of spicy oak. Crisp and fruity with toasty spiced oak and pineapple, stone fruit and ripe pear, with a clean finish. Match with seafood.
Matakana Estate Marlborough Pinot Noir 2017 $ NZ 22
Pale brick red in the glass. Smoky, spicy aromas plus black cherry and plum. Flavours of red cherry, toasty oak and tar, with a hint of red summer berry fruit compote and cranberry. Dry finish. Great with lamb or ratatouille.
Vergence Red by Pegasus Bay North Canterbury 2017 $NZ 40
Dense deep garnet red in the glass. Tar, damp earth, black currant and pot pourri aromas.
Flavours of cassis, blackberry truffle, black olive and poached tamarillo with medium tannins and long finish. Match with venison or rich tomato based Italian dishes.
Saint Clair Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Origin Merlot $NZ 24.90
Dusty aromas, with plum and pot pourri. Cherry and plum, full bodied and fruity. Persistent tannins and a lengthy finish. One to put away for a few years. Roast beef or Lasagne.
Hits and Misses …
No major theme this month, folks. Just a random selection of wines that I picked up and sampled.
Giesen Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 $NZ 15.00
Very consistent pinot gris from Nelson based Giesen label. Smells a bit like clover honey and citrus blossom with a whiff of hay. Tastes like Roses lime juice, crisp apple and quince with a dry finish. Pan fried Snapper with olive oil, capers and parsley.
Millton Te Arai Chenin Blanc Gisborne Chenin Blanc 2017 $NZ 29.99
From organic Millton label, has spent time in old oak. Nose of blond tobacco, lantana and a hint of fennel. Crisp, clean and very dry on the palate with clover honey, tangy yeast and a nudge of fresh cut pineapple. Great match for seafood – Gurnard pan fried in olive oil.
Cleanskin South Africa Chardonnay 2018 $NZ 7.00
Okay. This is a bargain bin chardonnay from Pt. Chev Countdown. I bought it on a whim when shopping for groceries today. It’s actually really good value. Smells like stone fruit with a hint of oak. Palate of peach, pineapple and a bit of nectarine. Clean, crisp and dry finish. Calamari salad. Nom nom.
Selaks Taste Collection Buttery Chardonnay Hawke’s Bay 2018 $NZ 21.99
Smells like grapefruit with a whiff of vanilla and lanoline. A tad disappointing for the fan of truly big and buttery chardonnays, but still delivers a good medium style without too much acid. Flavours of grapefruit, peach and a bit of dried apricot. Dry finish. Match with creamy chicken pasta, or cheese based dishes.
Cupcake Chardonnay Monterey County USA Chardonnay 2015 $NZ 22.99
A big oaky Californian style chardonnay for those who are a bit over the current NZ fad for the acidic mineral style. Still very fruity in the mid palate with lots of peach and nectarine. Vanilla oaky sweetness and a medium dry finish. A great match with scallops.
Fat Bastard California Chardonnay 2015 $NZ 20
Pretty well lives up to its label. Big American Oak! Lots of vanillin American oak extraction – no doubt from a while sitting in brand new barrels. But to be honest, it’s a bit out of balance. The oak way overpowers any fruit flavours but it does have some peachy fruit and crème brûlée toffee/toast characters. It would match a big creamy pasta dish with loads of cheese.
The Big Top Lodi California Zinfandel 2016 $NZ 19.99
I suspect that this is mass produced. Just the same – it has easy drinking appeal to those with a sweet palate who like ripe Aussie shiraz. Black cherry, cassis and a hint of smoke. Soft tannins and little or no oak influence. A medium priced BBQ quaffer
Youth Vs Age – drink now or drink later?
Over the last month I have opened a few wines, as one does, and this time it was a mixture of new and older vintages.
I often get this question – how long should I keep a wine before I drink it?
Anecdotally, in NZ the average time from purchase to consumption is about 30 minutes. So we are not all that great at cellaring. Fresh, fruity wines such as sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, gewürztraminer, semillon and rosés are best consumed within about 2 years. Oak-aged white wines such as chardonnay will improve and become more complex over 5 years. Most reds will soften and integrate over 5 to ten years. Full-bodied tannic reds can last even longer. But it’s all a bit of guesswork in my experience. The best idea is to buy six or a dozen and pop one open very six months to see how the wine is progressing.
But as one of my elderly tour clients once said, after being told to cellar a wine for 15 years: “Honestly, at my age I don’t even buy green bananas.”
Mission Vineyard Selection Pinot Gris 2014At five years old, pretty well at its peak, but still has a lot of complex, aged characters. Smells like canned apricots. The palate is rich and oily with pineapple, quince, marmalade and almond, with a lengthy very dry finish.
Gisselbrecht Alsace Pinot Gris 2016
Fresh, fruity and fab. A French wine under screw cap – zut alors! Smells like honeysuckle and citrus blossom. Just nudging off-dry and at 13.5% alcohol. Flavours of nectarine, tonic water and ginger spice.
Spy Valley Marlborough Pinot Noir 2012
A lovely example of what a bit of bottle age can do to a NZ pinot. Very gamey and savoury on the nose. In the mouth it’s all about soft tannins and earthy spice with mushroom, truffle, a hint of salty minerality.
Mudbrick Shepherds Point Waiheke Merlot / Cabernet / Petit Verdot 2017
A real youngster that I opened in error very late at night last week. Moving right along … Nose of florals, spice rack and tar. Amazingly approachable as a fresh young thing. Palate of ripe blackberries, cassis, soft dusty tannins, spiced plum and a hint of Vegemite (in a good way).
Rod McDonald Quarter Acre Hawkes Bay Merlot / Malbec 2013Again – a fab red that has developed secondary characters from a bit of bottle age. Slightly earthy nose, with fruitcake and cherry. In the mouth it’s warm ripe and soft with black berry fruits, earthy truffle, cassis and liquorice.
What I drank in The Holidays
Our Auckland summer keeps going and going and long may it last. Grapes love dry, hot weather – so bring it on.
Most folks will now be in denial, having returned to work after the summer holiday break. Summer is my busy season in wine tourism – driving people to drink in Kumeu and Waiheke Island. Still, there have been many wines to sample over the last month or two and here are some highlights.
Happy New Year – and cheers!
Loveblock Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 $NZ 21.99 (Glengarry)
From Kim Crawford’s organic boutique winery. Aromas of stone fruit and citrus. Lush and fruity, with crisp pear, rock melon and a lengthy finish. Great with seafood.
Pegasus Bay North Canterbury Sauvignon / Semillon $NZ 32.00 (Glengarry and Caro’s)
Sauvignon blanc and semillon 70/30 blend in a full-bodied, flavoursome style. Semillon was oak aged to add texture. Flinty aromas with a whiff of gooseberry. A big lengthy palate of gooseberry, pineapple, green capsicum and grass. Good match with seafood. Try a Thai fish curry.
Church Road McDonald Series Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2017 $NZ 22 (widely available)
Church Road chardonnay was the gateway wine that led me on my journey of discovery about 20 years ago. Respec. It has varied a bit in style over the years, but has always been a good value chard from the Brancott stable (formerly known as Montana). Nice nose of hazelnut and stone fruit. Creamy palate of grapefruit, nectarine and a dry crisp finish. Great with chicken and mango salad.
Main Divide North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2015 $NZ 25 (Glengarry, Vino Fino, blackmarket.co.nz)
Knockout great value pinot from Pegasus Bay’s second tier label. Aromas of spices black cherry and ripe plum. Flavours of cherry, spice, black pepper, savoury truffle and silky, lengthy tannins. Fab with any red meats, and spiced duck.
No 1 Family Estate Marlborough Rosé NV $NZ 47 (Glengarry)
Stunningly good traditional method 100% Marlborough pinot noir rosé from Daniel Le Brun 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. Drink any time!
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 (spencerhillwine.com)
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 (www.pirathon.com)
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 MéthodeTraditionelle 2013 $NZ 49.00 (www.WineNZ.com)
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 Rosé 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
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.
Availability: Glengarry has some of the 2016s but will no doubt be bringing in the 2017s
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.
I See Red. (I see red, I see red )
Red wines for 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 nose. Opens up with firm grippy tannins as big bold wine. Flavours of Christmas cake, plums, tobacco, dark fruit and plums. Definitely one to put away for 2-3 years. Drink with steak, or hearty beef casserole.
Availability: Widely available and at Glengarry.
Back To the Garden
Natural and organic NZ 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 ( tincanwines.co.nz )
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 ( tincanwines.co.nz )
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.
Family Business – wines from Allan Scott and Pegasus Bay
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.
Rockin’ the South – Canterbury’s Rockburn wines
A Central Otago high-flyer, Rockburn has done very well, with their pinot noir picking up numerous awards.
Winery owner is Dunedin cardiothoracic surgeon Richard Bunton. The winemaker is former microbiologist Malcolm Rees-Francis who spent four years at Felton Road Wines as assistant winemaker. A very stylish cellar door and winery was opened in 2006, and features a back wall of Central Otago river stones and a long dark polished wooden waka (Māori canoe) shaped tasting room counter.
Their wines are available throughout New Zealand and are exported to the UK, US, Australia, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Southeast Asia and beyond. And also, like Wooing Tree, their Rosé – Stolen Kiss – has been highly successful
Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Gris 2016 $NZ 45.00
Poached pear aromas. A rich and unctuous palate of mandarin citrus, pineapple and ripe pear with a hint of sweetness and an off-dry finish.
Rockburn Central Otago Estate Pinot Noir 2016 $NZ 45.00
Aromas of dark berry fruit and spicy liquorice. Fruity palate with red and black cherry, rich mocha and supple silky tannins with a long finish.
Rockburn Seven Barrels Pinot Noir 2016 $NZ 97.00
Spicy aromas, with a bit of tar, wood smoke and black berry compote. Smoky and savoury flavours of dustiness, with fruity black cherry, plum and a hint of truffle.
Rockburn The Art Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 $NZ 97.00
Smells like pot pourri with a hint of gaminess and ripe plum.
Rounded, soft and feminine. Floral and subtle with red fruit flavours, cherry and liquorice.
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 ‘lolly 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.