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Phil’s Blog

 Phil’s Wine Blog

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.
Availability: www.waiparasprings.co.nz

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.
Availability: www.advintage.co.nz

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.
Availability: www.pegasusbay.com

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.
Availability: www.waiparahillswines.co.nz

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.
Availability: www.pegasusbay.com


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.
Availability: cooperscreek.co.nz

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.

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