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Organically Good

Organically Good

After quietly simmering away in the background, organic winemaking in New Zealand is now on the move. Approximately ten percent of New Zealand wineries are now organically certified and all indicators point to that number rising sharply in the next few years as more and more producers undertake the organic conversion process.

It’s pleasing to see and, slowly, the public is coming along for the ride. Personally, I am excited to witness this change in perception but it has to be said that organic winemaking has been a mixed bag over the years. While many long term organic producers have done a superb job with their organic portfolios, there have also been plenty of wine crimes released under the organic masthead.

Thankfully those days are now largely behind us but there will still be consumers who feel that by buying organic wine they will be sacrificing flavour in the interests of ecological good. The sooner that mind set dies away the better.

Organic New Zealand producers are a proud lot and tend to reference their organic  status whenever the opportunity arises. Interestingly, many old world wineries who produce  their wines organically do not mention their organic practises on their labels or in their marketing drives. I look forward to the day where organic winemaking is so common place here that our domestic producers no longer feel the need to push the ecological message.

 Millton Crazy by Nature Sirius White 2018 - Gisborne
Available from $19.99
Funky blended white wine from one of New Zealand’s preeminent organic wineries.  The 2018 is driven predominantly by Chardonnay with smaller percentages of Viognier and Marsanne adding  slippery, textural mouthfeel and an array of tropical fruits. This is delightful wine; supple and immediately attractive. A great match with seafood or simply brilliant with the clean flavours of Japanese cuisine. 

Little X ‘Upper Moutere’  Organic Nelson Pinot Noir 2015 - Nelson 
Available from $19.99
Punchy Nelson wine vinted by Tim Adams – a man who understands how to put real flavour in the bottle. Sourced from a single Moutere vineyard, this is fulsome  Pinot that is firmly in the dark berry spectrum. Some whole bunch fermentation has added some complexity but the old school robust flavours of full bodied Nelson Pinot Noir remain the star of the show. 

El Picoteo Organic Monastrell Syrah 2016 – Spain
Available from $17.99
A very attractive, silky smooth blend from the Piqueras winery  in Almansa, in south-east Spain. Monastrell brings an array of dark, juicy choco-berry flavours to the party while the Syrah component adds some  mid palate drive and more serious, drier notes to the finish. This is the consummate ‘pleasure wine ‘ – a softly seductive release with very wide appeal.  

Organically Good

Organically Good

After quietly simmering away in the background, organic winemaking in New Zealand is now on the move. Approximately ten percent of New Zealand wineries are now organically certified and all indicators point to that number rising sharply in the next few years as more and more producers undertake the organic conversion process.

It’s pleasing to see and, slowly, the public is coming along for the ride. Personally, I am excited to witness this change in perception but it has to be said that organic winemaking has been a mixed bag over the years. While many long term organic producers have done a superb job with their organic portfolios, there have also been plenty of wine crimes released under the organic masthead.

Thankfully those days are now largely behind us but there will still be consumers who feel that by buying organic wine they will be sacrificing flavour in the interests of ecological good. The sooner that mind set dies away the better.

Organic New Zealand producers are a proud lot and tend to reference their organic  status whenever the opportunity arises. Interestingly, many old world wineries who produce  their wines organically do not mention their organic practises on their labels or in their marketing drives. I look forward to the day where organic winemaking is so common place here that our domestic producers no longer feel the need to push the ecological message.

 Millton Crazy by Nature Sirius White 2018 - Gisborne
Available from $19.99
Funky blended white wine from one of New Zealand’s preeminent organic wineries.  The 2018 is driven predominantly by Chardonnay with smaller percentages of Viognier and Marsanne adding  slippery, textural mouthfeel and an array of tropical fruits. This is delightful wine; supple and immediately attractive. A great match with seafood or simply brilliant with the clean flavours of Japanese cuisine. 

Little X ‘Upper Moutere’  Organic Nelson Pinot Noir 2015 - Nelson 
Available from $19.99
Punchy Nelson wine vinted by Tim Adams – a man who understands how to put real flavour in the bottle. Sourced from a single Moutere vineyard, this is fulsome  Pinot that is firmly in the dark berry spectrum. Some whole bunch fermentation has added some complexity but the old school robust flavours of full bodied Nelson Pinot Noir remain the star of the show. 

El Picoteo Organic Monastrell Syrah 2016 – Spain
Available from $17.99
A very attractive, silky smooth blend from the Piqueras winery  in Almansa, in south-east Spain. Monastrell brings an array of dark, juicy choco-berry flavours to the party while the Syrah component adds some  mid palate drive and more serious, drier notes to the finish. This is the consummate ‘pleasure wine ‘ – a softly seductive release with very wide appeal.  

For the love of Viognier

FOR THE LOVE OF VIOGNIER

I fell in love with Viognier in the late 90’s when a bottle from Millton Vineyards in Gisborne came my way. The flower shop nose; the plush tropical fruits on the palate and the slippery, lightly oily mouthfeel was unforgettable  and ,twenty years later, Viognier still regularly  features in my year round play list.

Viognier initially made its mark in the Condrieu appellation in France’s northern Rhone Valley but it was an Australian, Robert Hill-Smith from Yalumba, who is credited with saving  Viognier from becoming an oddity and taking  the variety to a wider global audience.  We have a lot to thank him for.  Viognier (pron. vee-YOHN-yay) is a versatile grape that makes excellent wine in its own right but has quite magical properties when blended with other varieties – both red and white.  

Most of our domestic production is centred here in Hawke’s Bay and we are blessed with many producers doing great things with Viognier - Elephant Hill, Te Mata Estate and Petane Station spring to mind. A number of local producers also blend small percentages of Viognier into their Syrah releases; a tiny 2-3% Viognier addition can give Syrah a floral lift  on the nose and a lovely unctuous texture on the palate.

Viognier also adds both tropical fruit flavours and a silky roundness when blended or co-fermented with white wines. I’ll be surprised if we don’t start seeing more Chardonnay Viognier blends in our local market. It seems like a match made in heaven to me.

Yalumba Y Series Viognier  2018 - South Australia
Available from $10.99
This is easily the best value Viognier in the world, and gets my vote as the best quaffing white wine available in the New Zealand market. On the nose it’s all orange blossom and citrus and the palate shows perfectly pitched mouthfeel and tangy dry apricot flavours. It’s a year round constant in our family fridge.

Te Awanga Estate One Off Double Happy Chardonnay Viognier 2018 – Hawkes Bay
Available from $24.99
An exciting release  from Rod McDonald’s hugely successful One Off small batch winemaking project. This wine overlays Chardonnay’s natural mid-palate weight with ethereal flavours of tropical fruits from the Viognier component. This is pretty wine that shows a delightfully rich and juicy texture and underlying power.

Langmeil Hangin’ Snakes Shiraz Viognier 2016 – Barossa, Australia
Available from $29.99
A powerhouse co-fermentation of 96% Shiraz with 4% Viognier. This is a glowing example of how Viognier can add lifted florals on the nose and a lovely glycerol aspect to the palate without undermining the strength and robust nature of Barossa Shiraz. Immediately attractive wine with good mid-term cellaring ability.


 

 

For the love of Viognier

FOR THE LOVE OF VIOGNIER

I fell in love with Viognier in the late 90’s when a bottle from Millton Vineyards in Gisborne came my way. The flower shop nose; the plush tropical fruits on the palate and the slippery, lightly oily mouthfeel was unforgettable  and ,twenty years later, Viognier still regularly  features in my year round play list.

Viognier initially made its mark in the Condrieu appellation in France’s northern Rhone Valley but it was an Australian, Robert Hill-Smith from Yalumba, who is credited with saving  Viognier from becoming an oddity and taking  the variety to a wider global audience.  We have a lot to thank him for.  Viognier (pron. vee-YOHN-yay) is a versatile grape that makes excellent wine in its own right but has quite magical properties when blended with other varieties – both red and white.  

Most of our domestic production is centred here in Hawke’s Bay and we are blessed with many producers doing great things with Viognier - Elephant Hill, Te Mata Estate and Petane Station spring to mind. A number of local producers also blend small percentages of Viognier into their Syrah releases; a tiny 2-3% Viognier addition can give Syrah a floral lift  on the nose and a lovely unctuous texture on the palate.

Viognier also adds both tropical fruit flavours and a silky roundness when blended or co-fermented with white wines. I’ll be surprised if we don’t start seeing more Chardonnay Viognier blends in our local market. It seems like a match made in heaven to me.

Yalumba Y Series Viognier  2018 - South Australia
Available from $10.99
This is easily the best value Viognier in the world, and gets my vote as the best quaffing white wine available in the New Zealand market. On the nose it’s all orange blossom and citrus and the palate shows perfectly pitched mouthfeel and tangy dry apricot flavours. It’s a year round constant in our family fridge.

Te Awanga Estate One Off Double Happy Chardonnay Viognier 2018 – Hawkes Bay
Available from $24.99
An exciting release  from Rod McDonald’s hugely successful One Off small batch winemaking project. This wine overlays Chardonnay’s natural mid-palate weight with ethereal flavours of tropical fruits from the Viognier component. This is pretty wine that shows a delightfully rich and juicy texture and underlying power.

Langmeil Hangin’ Snakes Shiraz Viognier 2016 – Barossa, Australia
Available from $29.99
A powerhouse co-fermentation of 96% Shiraz with 4% Viognier. This is a glowing example of how Viognier can add lifted florals on the nose and a lovely glycerol aspect to the palate without undermining the strength and robust nature of Barossa Shiraz. Immediately attractive wine with good mid-term cellaring ability.


 

 

Autumn Reds

AUTUMN REDS

As another glorious Hawke's Bay summer fades away and we enter the cooler autumn months, a whole new world of flavour awaits.

In our household this means we enter the season of slow cooked foods. Soothing risottos; tender braised meats and slow roasted vegetables move centre stage and it's time for comforting red wines to warm us as winter approaches.

I like to drink widely as a rule and try as many new wines as I can, but every year at this time I buy case lots of some of the favourite reds I have tried in recent months. Typically these wines are not expensive and they form the basis of our mid week drinking. They are what I call 'pleasure wines' - uncomplicated but nonetheless delicious releases that I can open with confidence whenever friends come around but a special occasion wine isn't called for. Here is a selection of the wines that made the cut this year.

 

Quarisa Q Malbec 2017 - South Australia
Available from $15.99
This is a luxuriously full bodied release produced by Johnny Quarisa - a man who knows more than most about packing flavour into a glass of red wine. It showcases the meaty characters that Malbec is so famous for, but frames those flavours in a silken palate that can only be South Australian. It's rich and opulent but the supple tannins make it a great any occasion red. Habitual Shiraz buyers will love it.

 

Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2015 - Rhone, France
Available from $21.99
This remarkable wine always features in my winter playlist and the 2015 is another class act from this iconic Rhone producer. Syrah dominant with beautifully ripe Grenache in support, this savoury wine is loaded with dark fruits on a medium bodied palate. It's an affordable option when you want to open a truly classic French red but don't want to push the boat out too far.

 

Elefante el Valiente Tempranillo 2017 - Spain
Available from $16.99
We drink a lot of Tempranillo in our house. It's the 'blue jeans' of wine - a comfortable, friendly varietal that pretty much goes with everything. This one from the lauded Fourth Wave portfolio is a typically medium bodied release with juicy red Tempranillo fruits sitting over a darker and quite concentrated palate. There's some spicy oak and creamy acidity on the finish but this wine is all about simple, easy pleasure.

 

Autumn Reds

AUTUMN REDS

As another glorious Hawke's Bay summer fades away and we enter the cooler autumn months, a whole new world of flavour awaits.

In our household this means we enter the season of slow cooked foods. Soothing risottos; tender braised meats and slow roasted vegetables move centre stage and it's time for comforting red wines to warm us as winter approaches.

I like to drink widely as a rule and try as many new wines as I can, but every year at this time I buy case lots of some of the favourite reds I have tried in recent months. Typically these wines are not expensive and they form the basis of our mid week drinking. They are what I call 'pleasure wines' - uncomplicated but nonetheless delicious releases that I can open with confidence whenever friends come around but a special occasion wine isn't called for. Here is a selection of the wines that made the cut this year.

 

Quarisa Q Malbec 2017 - South Australia
Available from $15.99
This is a luxuriously full bodied release produced by Johnny Quarisa - a man who knows more than most about packing flavour into a glass of red wine. It showcases the meaty characters that Malbec is so famous for, but frames those flavours in a silken palate that can only be South Australian. It's rich and opulent but the supple tannins make it a great any occasion red. Habitual Shiraz buyers will love it.

 

Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2015 - Rhone, France
Available from $21.99
This remarkable wine always features in my winter playlist and the 2015 is another class act from this iconic Rhone producer. Syrah dominant with beautifully ripe Grenache in support, this savoury wine is loaded with dark fruits on a medium bodied palate. It's an affordable option when you want to open a truly classic French red but don't want to push the boat out too far.

 

Elefante el Valiente Tempranillo 2017 - Spain
Available from $16.99
We drink a lot of Tempranillo in our house. It's the 'blue jeans' of wine - a comfortable, friendly varietal that pretty much goes with everything. This one from the lauded Fourth Wave portfolio is a typically medium bodied release with juicy red Tempranillo fruits sitting over a darker and quite concentrated palate. There's some spicy oak and creamy acidity on the finish but this wine is all about simple, easy pleasure.

 

Chardonnay : you be the judge.

CHARDONNAY: YOU BE THE JUDGE

There has always been a fashion element to the wine industry and, like fashion, wine styles come and go. Our annual wine award rounds are always an important indicator of the varietal styles that are in vogue and the judging panels who select the trophy winners are effectively steering the direction and future trends that consumers will see on shelves. As soon as trophies are announced in a major New Zealand show, winemakers all over the country will head to their favourite retailer to buy the category winners. They need to understand what impressed the judges and ask themselves if their own releases should move in a new direction and be in contention for future medal rounds.

At the 2019 Royal Easter Show Wine Awards, Giesen The Brothers 2017 Chardonnay took out the Trophy for Champion Chardonnay and went on to take the coveted Trophy for Champion Wine of Show. It’s a thoroughly modern wine and another clear statement from a senior judging panel that Chardonnay fruit characters should be enhanced but not overly influenced by oak fermentation.

And while the judges have their current criteria, there is no doubt that old fashioned robustly oaked Chardonnay still has a significant fan base. As a retailer, it is the wine style that more of our clients request than any other. Some things obviously never go out of fashion.

Giesen The Brothers Chardonnay 2017 – Marlborough
Available from $19.99
Three time New Zealand Winemaker of the Year, Nikolai St George is taking  Giesen to new heights. This exciting wine showcases pristine Marlborough fruits with spicy oak adding an important but secondary role. It’s got a hint of flinty aromatics and a succulently creamy palate. The finish is freshly acidic and perfectly pitched.

Matchbook Old Head Chardonnay 2016 – California
Available from $19.99
Californian Chardonnay has become increasingly popular in our local market offering fans of richly weighted, oak aged Chardonnay a reliable  alternative at an affordable price point. This release from the Dunnigan Hills sub-region overflows with ripe stonefruit, lemon crème brûlée, and toasty oak flavours.

Mission Estate Vineyard Selection Chardonnay 2017– Hawkes Bay
Available from $14.99
This is a fresh and vibrant, medium-bodied wine. Some partial barrel fermentation has added weight and texture but the focus remains on the punchy stonefruit characters of Hawkes Bay Chardonnay. A perfect anytime option for those who find more heavily oaked examples too fulsome or overpowering.  

Chardonnay : you be the judge.

CHARDONNAY: YOU BE THE JUDGE

There has always been a fashion element to the wine industry and, like fashion, wine styles come and go. Our annual wine award rounds are always an important indicator of the varietal styles that are in vogue and the judging panels who select the trophy winners are effectively steering the direction and future trends that consumers will see on shelves. As soon as trophies are announced in a major New Zealand show, winemakers all over the country will head to their favourite retailer to buy the category winners. They need to understand what impressed the judges and ask themselves if their own releases should move in a new direction and be in contention for future medal rounds.

At the 2019 Royal Easter Show Wine Awards, Giesen The Brothers 2017 Chardonnay took out the Trophy for Champion Chardonnay and went on to take the coveted Trophy for Champion Wine of Show. It’s a thoroughly modern wine and another clear statement from a senior judging panel that Chardonnay fruit characters should be enhanced but not overly influenced by oak fermentation.

And while the judges have their current criteria, there is no doubt that old fashioned robustly oaked Chardonnay still has a significant fan base. As a retailer, it is the wine style that more of our clients request than any other. Some things obviously never go out of fashion.

Giesen The Brothers Chardonnay 2017 – Marlborough
Available from $19.99
Three time New Zealand Winemaker of the Year, Nikolai St George is taking  Giesen to new heights. This exciting wine showcases pristine Marlborough fruits with spicy oak adding an important but secondary role. It’s got a hint of flinty aromatics and a succulently creamy palate. The finish is freshly acidic and perfectly pitched.

Matchbook Old Head Chardonnay 2016 – California
Available from $19.99
Californian Chardonnay has become increasingly popular in our local market offering fans of richly weighted, oak aged Chardonnay a reliable  alternative at an affordable price point. This release from the Dunnigan Hills sub-region overflows with ripe stonefruit, lemon crème brûlée, and toasty oak flavours.

Mission Estate Vineyard Selection Chardonnay 2017– Hawkes Bay
Available from $14.99
This is a fresh and vibrant, medium-bodied wine. Some partial barrel fermentation has added weight and texture but the focus remains on the punchy stonefruit characters of Hawkes Bay Chardonnay. A perfect anytime option for those who find more heavily oaked examples too fulsome or overpowering.  

The Never Ending Summer of Rosé

THE NEVER ENDING SUMMER OF ROSÉ

The rise and rise of rosé in our domestic market shows no sign of letting up. The last few years has seen rosé sales explode worldwide and, here in New Zealand, retailers are reporting year on year growth of over 60% for this once insignificant category. 

A few things are apparent. Rosé is no longer just a summer drink and as our season shifts into autumn , rosé sales nationwide  continue to be very strong. Stylistically the market is moving to lighter coloured and drier examples. It is also clear that more and more men are enjoying a glass of pink wine that anyone would have guessed 10 years ago. The ‘bro-sé’ phenomenon is real.

 The reasons behind this growth are many fold. Few would argue that Rosé is the most visually attractive wine to sit on retailer shelves and it is a consummate ‘pleasure wine’ style  - uncomplicated, easy drinking  and fresh.  As rosé usually tastes like white wine and typically has less alcohol that red wine, it has the ability to match the most delicate foods but don’t be fooled into thinking that is where the food match potential ends. Try a glass of lightly chilled rosé with rare roast beef. You’ll soon see what I mean.  

 

Durvillea Rosé 2018 – Marlborough
Available from $13.99
Vinted by the highly regarded Astrolabe winemaker Simon Waghorne in the crisp and light Provençal style , this is an excellent example of modern, bone dry rosé. In the glass it is the classic  colour of onion skin and shows subtle flavours of tangy strawberry and red berries on the palate. 

 

Beach House Rosé 2018 – Hawkes Bay
Available from $14.99
A just off dry style that has been produced from merlot and syrah grown in Hawkes Bay’s famed Gimblett Gravels. Deeper in colour and with a more savoury palate profile than the Durvillea, this 2018 release is loaded with tangy dark red fruits and lingering fresh acidity.

 

Rockburn Stolen Kiss Rosé 2018 – Central Otago
Available from $25.99
A luxurious and quite opulent style with upfront fruit sweetness expertly balanced by a refreshing lick of acidity on the finish. Some may find it a little too sweet and swimming against the modern tide, but I admit to being a huge fan. For many years, ‘Stolen Kiss’ is the wine that my family buys more of each year than any other.


 

The Never Ending Summer of Rosé

THE NEVER ENDING SUMMER OF ROSÉ

The rise and rise of rosé in our domestic market shows no sign of letting up. The last few years has seen rosé sales explode worldwide and, here in New Zealand, retailers are reporting year on year growth of over 60% for this once insignificant category. 

A few things are apparent. Rosé is no longer just a summer drink and as our season shifts into autumn , rosé sales nationwide  continue to be very strong. Stylistically the market is moving to lighter coloured and drier examples. It is also clear that more and more men are enjoying a glass of pink wine that anyone would have guessed 10 years ago. The ‘bro-sé’ phenomenon is real.

 The reasons behind this growth are many fold. Few would argue that Rosé is the most visually attractive wine to sit on retailer shelves and it is a consummate ‘pleasure wine’ style  - uncomplicated, easy drinking  and fresh.  As rosé usually tastes like white wine and typically has less alcohol that red wine, it has the ability to match the most delicate foods but don’t be fooled into thinking that is where the food match potential ends. Try a glass of lightly chilled rosé with rare roast beef. You’ll soon see what I mean.  

 

Durvillea Rosé 2018 – Marlborough
Available from $13.99
Vinted by the highly regarded Astrolabe winemaker Simon Waghorne in the crisp and light Provençal style , this is an excellent example of modern, bone dry rosé. In the glass it is the classic  colour of onion skin and shows subtle flavours of tangy strawberry and red berries on the palate. 

 

Beach House Rosé 2018 – Hawkes Bay
Available from $14.99
A just off dry style that has been produced from merlot and syrah grown in Hawkes Bay’s famed Gimblett Gravels. Deeper in colour and with a more savoury palate profile than the Durvillea, this 2018 release is loaded with tangy dark red fruits and lingering fresh acidity.

 

Rockburn Stolen Kiss Rosé 2018 – Central Otago
Available from $25.99
A luxurious and quite opulent style with upfront fruit sweetness expertly balanced by a refreshing lick of acidity on the finish. Some may find it a little too sweet and swimming against the modern tide, but I admit to being a huge fan. For many years, ‘Stolen Kiss’ is the wine that my family buys more of each year than any other.