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2021 Festive Sparkling Picks

With Christmas fast approaching, here are a few thoughts on some sparkling wines for the festive season. Hopefully these wines will give you interesting new options to consider, but if you are contemplating buying Champagne this year, it's worth casting your net further than the three or four brand leaders that dominate New Zealand sales. There are so many other wonderful Champagne choices out there; many of which undoubtedly offer better value. Chance your arm. You are very likely to find a new favourite.

 

Alpha Domus Cumulus Blanc de Blanc Methode Traditionelle

Alpha Domus Cumulus Blanc de Blanc Methode Traditionelle 2019 – Hawke’s Bay

Available from $27.99
This is excellent buying. Vinted by Alpha Domus using the Methode Traditionelle process (the same labour intensive method used in Champagne production where the wine undergoes a second fermentation inside the bottle), this is crisp and dry sparkling vinted from 100% chardonnay. Malolactic fermentation to the base wine has brought some creamy notes into play but zero dosage (meaning no sugar was added to kick off the second fermentation) has maintained a tight, dry line throughout the palate that keeps the conversation very clean and focused. The flavours fall into the crisp granny smith apple and zesty citrus spectrum and the finish is very long with good fruit / acid balance. That lingering fresh acidity also makes this 2019 vintage release an excellent aperitif sparkling; a perfect first wine before moving onto other fuller bodied offerings.

 

Squawking Magpie SQM Methode Traditionelle Brut

Squawking Magpie SQM Methode Traditionelle Brut NV– Hawke’s Bay

Available from $28.99
This is richly weighted, generous Methode Traditionelle vinted from the classic Champagne blend of chardonnay and pinot noir. (People are often confused when they see pinot noir in sparkling releases, but this is white bubbles. The pinot skins are removed before they impart colour to the base wine). Extended lees contact has brought some yeasty / brioche notes to the bouquet and those bready notes flow through to the palate where citrus, stone fruits and very subtle red berry notes begin to shine. This is bolder Methode than the Cumulus detailed above and a more complex style. It’s a great option for those who like fuller, more flavoursome bubbles and an excellent match with salads, seafoods or lighter white meat dishes.

 

 

Huia Blanc de Blancs Methode Traditionelle

Huia Blanc de Blanc Methode Traditionelle 2017 – Marlborough

Available from $34.99
Huia Blanc de Blanc has long been a personal favourite. Vinted from 100% estate grown chardonnay, this is another fulsome sparkling with notes of sweet citrus and baked bread on the nose. The palate is near perfectly pitched with layers of creamy nectarine and peach, interlaced with some nutty, tea biscuit characters. The finish is long and softly acidic and that closing freshness beautifully offsets those creamy palate characters. Of the three New Zealand Methodes discussed today, this is perhaps the most ‘Champagne-like.’ As with the SQM above, it’s a match made in heaven with shellfish and seafoods but has the power to complement soft white cheeses as well.

 

 

Laurent Perrier La Cuvee Brut NV

Champagne Laurent Perrier La Cuvee Brut NV – France

Available from $69.99
Established in 1812, Laurent Perrier is known throughout the world and remains one of the great family owned Champagne houses. After languishing for some decades, the cellar masters reinvented the house style for their La Cuvee blend and there can be no doubt that recent disgorgements have reengaged buyers and attracted significant critical acclaim. Classic lemon / brioche / lees notes dominate the nose, before a palate laden with zingy citrus takes over proceedings. La Cuvee is always chardonnay dominant (the current release is 55% chardonnay, 35% pinot noir, 10% pinot meunier) and it’s that fresh, intense citrus drive that sets this wine apart. It’s the definition of understated power and the finish is both wonderfully long and completely refreshing. At a recent staff gathering we chose to celebrate with Laurent Perrier La Cuvee and it was a resounding success with our team. If you like your Champagne vibrant and stylish, this would be a very good place to start.

 

H. Lanvin & Fils Champagne

Champagne H. Lanvin & Fils Brut NV – France

Available from $44.99
H. Lanvin is a sub brand of Lombard & Cie, a family owned house that has been making Champagne since 1925. It seems to have found a natural home in Australasia, and H. Lanvin & Fils has long been considered one of the markets best Champagne buys both here in New Zealand and across the Tasman. Lanvin has also enjoyed significant critical acclaim over the years - a fact that is especially remarkable given the price that this Champagne operates at. The current disgorgement (a blend of 40% Pinot Meunier, 40% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay) is looking especially sharp. It is full-bodied by Champagne standards and while clearly dry, it has the softest acidity of the three Champagnes discussed in this column; a fact that may make it the most pleasurable to some buyers. It’s certainly the silkiest Champagne in this list, with real texture in the mouth and a rounded plushness that the others don’t exhibit. It’s quite the bargain and H. Lanvin & Fils is definitely Champagne for those who love plenty of flavour in the glass.

 

Champagne Charles de Cazanove

Champagne Charles de Cazanove Brut NV – France

Available from $46.99
Founded in Reims in 1811, Champagne Charles de Cazanove is one of the oldest Champagne houses and remains 100% family owned by 4th generation winemakers. Though little known in New Zealand, Charles de Cazanove is one of the top 5 selling Champagne brands sold in France and has carved out an enviable reputation in fine dining restaurants and quality cafes throughout Europe. Like Champagne H. Lanvin & Fils, it is tremendous value. It’s not as full on the palate as Lanvin but still boasts plenty of gentle power – from the lemon tinged freshly baked bread notes on the nose, through to a palate the brims with citrus, yeast and semi-ripe peach characters. The finish is fresh and long with good acid drive and the overall impression is very harmonious. It’s a perfect ‘one size fits all’ style that Champagne lovers will instantly feel at home with, and it is so easy to see why this cuvee enjoys such great success in France.

2021 Festive Sparkling Picks

With Christmas fast approaching, here are a few thoughts on some sparkling wines for the festive season. Hopefully these wines will give you interesting new options to consider, but if you are contemplating buying Champagne this year, it's worth casting your net further than the three or four brand leaders that dominate New Zealand sales. There are so many other wonderful Champagne choices out there; many of which undoubtedly offer better value. Chance your arm. You are very likely to find a new favourite.

 

Alpha Domus Cumulus Blanc de Blanc Methode Traditionelle

Alpha Domus Cumulus Blanc de Blanc Methode Traditionelle 2019 – Hawke’s Bay

Available from $27.99
This is excellent buying. Vinted by Alpha Domus using the Methode Traditionelle process (the same labour intensive method used in Champagne production where the wine undergoes a second fermentation inside the bottle), this is crisp and dry sparkling vinted from 100% chardonnay. Malolactic fermentation to the base wine has brought some creamy notes into play but zero dosage (meaning no sugar was added to kick off the second fermentation) has maintained a tight, dry line throughout the palate that keeps the conversation very clean and focused. The flavours fall into the crisp granny smith apple and zesty citrus spectrum and the finish is very long with good fruit / acid balance. That lingering fresh acidity also makes this 2019 vintage release an excellent aperitif sparkling; a perfect first wine before moving onto other fuller bodied offerings.

 

Squawking Magpie SQM Methode Traditionelle Brut

Squawking Magpie SQM Methode Traditionelle Brut NV– Hawke’s Bay

Available from $28.99
This is richly weighted, generous Methode Traditionelle vinted from the classic Champagne blend of chardonnay and pinot noir. (People are often confused when they see pinot noir in sparkling releases, but this is white bubbles. The pinot skins are removed before they impart colour to the base wine). Extended lees contact has brought some yeasty / brioche notes to the bouquet and those bready notes flow through to the palate where citrus, stone fruits and very subtle red berry notes begin to shine. This is bolder Methode than the Cumulus detailed above and a more complex style. It’s a great option for those who like fuller, more flavoursome bubbles and an excellent match with salads, seafoods or lighter white meat dishes.

 

 

Huia Blanc de Blancs Methode Traditionelle

Huia Blanc de Blanc Methode Traditionelle 2017 – Marlborough

Available from $34.99
Huia Blanc de Blanc has long been a personal favourite. Vinted from 100% estate grown chardonnay, this is another fulsome sparkling with notes of sweet citrus and baked bread on the nose. The palate is near perfectly pitched with layers of creamy nectarine and peach, interlaced with some nutty, tea biscuit characters. The finish is long and softly acidic and that closing freshness beautifully offsets those creamy palate characters. Of the three New Zealand Methodes discussed today, this is perhaps the most ‘Champagne-like.’ As with the SQM above, it’s a match made in heaven with shellfish and seafoods but has the power to complement soft white cheeses as well.

 

 

Laurent Perrier La Cuvee Brut NV

Champagne Laurent Perrier La Cuvee Brut NV – France

Available from $69.99
Established in 1812, Laurent Perrier is known throughout the world and remains one of the great family owned Champagne houses. After languishing for some decades, the cellar masters reinvented the house style for their La Cuvee blend and there can be no doubt that recent disgorgements have reengaged buyers and attracted significant critical acclaim. Classic lemon / brioche / lees notes dominate the nose, before a palate laden with zingy citrus takes over proceedings. La Cuvee is always chardonnay dominant (the current release is 55% chardonnay, 35% pinot noir, 10% pinot meunier) and it’s that fresh, intense citrus drive that sets this wine apart. It’s the definition of understated power and the finish is both wonderfully long and completely refreshing. At a recent staff gathering we chose to celebrate with Laurent Perrier La Cuvee and it was a resounding success with our team. If you like your Champagne vibrant and stylish, this would be a very good place to start.

 

H. Lanvin & Fils Champagne

Champagne H. Lanvin & Fils Brut NV – France

Available from $44.99
H. Lanvin is a sub brand of Lombard & Cie, a family owned house that has been making Champagne since 1925. It seems to have found a natural home in Australasia, and H. Lanvin & Fils has long been considered one of the markets best Champagne buys both here in New Zealand and across the Tasman. Lanvin has also enjoyed significant critical acclaim over the years - a fact that is especially remarkable given the price that this Champagne operates at. The current disgorgement (a blend of 40% Pinot Meunier, 40% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay) is looking especially sharp. It is full-bodied by Champagne standards and while clearly dry, it has the softest acidity of the three Champagnes discussed in this column; a fact that may make it the most pleasurable to some buyers. It’s certainly the silkiest Champagne in this list, with real texture in the mouth and a rounded plushness that the others don’t exhibit. It’s quite the bargain and H. Lanvin & Fils is definitely Champagne for those who love plenty of flavour in the glass.

 

Champagne Charles de Cazanove

Champagne Charles de Cazanove Brut NV – France

Available from $46.99
Founded in Reims in 1811, Champagne Charles de Cazanove is one of the oldest Champagne houses and remains 100% family owned by 4th generation winemakers. Though little known in New Zealand, Charles de Cazanove is one of the top 5 selling Champagne brands sold in France and has carved out an enviable reputation in fine dining restaurants and quality cafes throughout Europe. Like Champagne H. Lanvin & Fils, it is tremendous value. It’s not as full on the palate as Lanvin but still boasts plenty of gentle power – from the lemon tinged freshly baked bread notes on the nose, through to a palate the brims with citrus, yeast and semi-ripe peach characters. The finish is fresh and long with good acid drive and the overall impression is very harmonious. It’s a perfect ‘one size fits all’ style that Champagne lovers will instantly feel at home with, and it is so easy to see why this cuvee enjoys such great success in France.

Recent Posts

Mac's Picks 15 June 2024

Mac's Picks 15 June 2024

Welcome to this week’s column – a down to earth look at some interesting local and international releases that I have come across over the last few weeks.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 28 Pinot Blanc 2022 - MarlboroughSaint Clair Pioneer Block 28 Pinot Blanc 2022 - Marlborough

Available from $18.99

Pinot blanc is not so well known in New Zealand - but there have been some excellent examples produced here over the years, and this is one of them. Though it’s a white wine, pinot blanc is a genetic mutation of pinot noir- and is typically a floral, lightly spicy style with flavours in the apple / stonefruit spectrum and good acidity on the finish. That’s exactly what is on offer here – but some very attractive honeyed notes have crept into the palate, giving texture and presence to a 2022 release that already brims with confidence. Lingering spice notes complete a pretty compelling argument to add this wine to your collection. Match with white meats or creamy shellfish dishes for a winter treat.

 

LV Oaked Aged Sauvignon Blanc 2019 - Marlborough

LV Oaked Aged Sauvignon Blanc 2019 - Marlborough

Available from $22.99

Produced by Marlborough stalwarts Louis Vavasour, the LV range celebrates an ‘all guns blazing’ attitude to winemaking, and this boldly flavoured wine certainly walks on a different side of the street than the vast majority of its sauvignon contemporaries. Offered for sale in luxe, super heavyweight glass, this wine makes quite the statement on the table and that initial visual impression is backed up with a wildly complex example of oak-aged sauvignon blanc. You could describe this as ‘sauvignon blanc for chardonnays lovers’ – but it’s a much better wine than that simple description suggests. Look for layers of smoky grapefruit and citrus notes on the nose, complexed with toasty barrel and baking spice aromas. Those primary characters flow through to a very textural palate that’s full of interest and swagger. The finish is long and refined, and the overall impression here is truly satisfying. It’s been a long time since I have bought a six pack of sauvignon blanc, but one of these will be going home with me. Bring on a creamy, smoked fish pie for a match made in heaven.


Brunton Estate Golden Queen Chardonnay 2021 - Gisborne

Brunton Estate Golden Queen Chardonnay 2021 - Gisborne

Available from $14.99

If ever a wine tasted like its name, this is it. Produced from whole bunch pressed Mendoza fruit, this very sharply priced chardonnay explodes on the nose and palate with bottled Golden Queen peach characters. 2021 was a brilliant vintage in Gisborne and the optimal fruit ripeness achieved in the vineyards is here for all to taste. Full malolactic ferment has added loads of creamy texture to proceedings, and while some obvious oak influence has bought another area of interest into play, those bold, juicy peach characters remain the star of the show throughout. The wine was described by the winemaker as “Kiwi Chardonnay for American Chardonnay fans”, and its hard to argue with his perspective. Put a roast chook in the oven immediately.

 

 

Via Terra Selection Organic Garnacha 2020 - Spain

 

Via Terra Selection Organic Garnacha 2020 - Spain

Available from $18.99

I have a long held soft spot for the easy ways of Spanish Grenache, and constantly recommend it as a value alternative to entry level New Zealand Pinot Noir - a category that seldom pushes any buttons for me. Glossy and bright, Via Terra is a rounded, silky expression of organic grenache that brings masses of red and black fruits and touches of green herbage and anise into play. Slinky tannins and good acidity further elevate this release above the rest of the pack, but the sheer ‘user-friendliness’ of Spanish Grenache remains the key attribute. This would be a great option to bust out when the gang gathers for a casual glass, or to match with a deli-platter or tomato based mediterranean fare. Great value.

 

Elephant Hill Reserve Merlot Cabernet 2018 - Hawke's Bay

 

Elephant Hill Reserve Merlot Cabernet 2018 - Hawke's Bay

Available from $29.99

Any Elephant Hill wine from their esteemed Reserve range is sure to garner my attention, but it’s always an added pleasure tasting their blended Reserve reds a few years on from harvest. 2018 was a solid vintage in Hawke’s Bay and this refined release shows all the benefits of bottle age, looking considerably more fulsome and detailed than it was on first release. Blended from 86% merlot, 9% cabernet sauvignon and 5% cabernet franc from a combination of Gimblett Gravels and Bridge Pa fruit, it opens with plum and blackcurrant characters on the nose with a wonderful array of leather, tobacco, and wood spice adding a little bit of extra magic. Though broader and deeper now, the palate remains elegantly expressed, with supple tannins and soft acidity bringing things to a very harmonious close. Excellent, thoughtful wine.

Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection Zinfandel 2020 - California

 

Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection Zinfandel 2020 - California

Available from $29.99

This is a textbook rendition of fleshy Californian Zinfandel from the stable of wines originally produced by famed Hollywood movie director, Francis Ford Coppola. Now under the ownership of Delicato Family Wines, this 2020 release is a classic Coppola ‘Zin’ – boldly weighted, with masses of savoury cherry / strawberry fruits and rich Christmas cake flavours leading the charge. All sorts of spicy characters make up the second wave, with anise and pepper the main players. Though not necessarily ‘a big wine’ by Californian standards, there is still boatloads of action going on here – and zinfandel disciples will find plenty to enjoy here. Match with a spicy venison casserole or a fat, peppered steak to elevate it to a higher plane.

Mac's Picks 15 June 2024

Mac's Picks 15 June 2024

Welcome to this week’s column – a down to earth look at some interesting local and international releases that I have come across over the last few weeks.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 28 Pinot Blanc 2022 - MarlboroughSaint Clair Pioneer Block 28 Pinot Blanc 2022 - Marlborough

Available from $18.99

Pinot blanc is not so well known in New Zealand - but there have been some excellent examples produced here over the years, and this is one of them. Though it’s a white wine, pinot blanc is a genetic mutation of pinot noir- and is typically a floral, lightly spicy style with flavours in the apple / stonefruit spectrum and good acidity on the finish. That’s exactly what is on offer here – but some very attractive honeyed notes have crept into the palate, giving texture and presence to a 2022 release that already brims with confidence. Lingering spice notes complete a pretty compelling argument to add this wine to your collection. Match with white meats or creamy shellfish dishes for a winter treat.

 

LV Oaked Aged Sauvignon Blanc 2019 - Marlborough

LV Oaked Aged Sauvignon Blanc 2019 - Marlborough

Available from $22.99

Produced by Marlborough stalwarts Louis Vavasour, the LV range celebrates an ‘all guns blazing’ attitude to winemaking, and this boldly flavoured wine certainly walks on a different side of the street than the vast majority of its sauvignon contemporaries. Offered for sale in luxe, super heavyweight glass, this wine makes quite the statement on the table and that initial visual impression is backed up with a wildly complex example of oak-aged sauvignon blanc. You could describe this as ‘sauvignon blanc for chardonnays lovers’ – but it’s a much better wine than that simple description suggests. Look for layers of smoky grapefruit and citrus notes on the nose, complexed with toasty barrel and baking spice aromas. Those primary characters flow through to a very textural palate that’s full of interest and swagger. The finish is long and refined, and the overall impression here is truly satisfying. It’s been a long time since I have bought a six pack of sauvignon blanc, but one of these will be going home with me. Bring on a creamy, smoked fish pie for a match made in heaven.


Brunton Estate Golden Queen Chardonnay 2021 - Gisborne

Brunton Estate Golden Queen Chardonnay 2021 - Gisborne

Available from $14.99

If ever a wine tasted like its name, this is it. Produced from whole bunch pressed Mendoza fruit, this very sharply priced chardonnay explodes on the nose and palate with bottled Golden Queen peach characters. 2021 was a brilliant vintage in Gisborne and the optimal fruit ripeness achieved in the vineyards is here for all to taste. Full malolactic ferment has added loads of creamy texture to proceedings, and while some obvious oak influence has bought another area of interest into play, those bold, juicy peach characters remain the star of the show throughout. The wine was described by the winemaker as “Kiwi Chardonnay for American Chardonnay fans”, and its hard to argue with his perspective. Put a roast chook in the oven immediately.

 

 

Via Terra Selection Organic Garnacha 2020 - Spain

 

Via Terra Selection Organic Garnacha 2020 - Spain

Available from $18.99

I have a long held soft spot for the easy ways of Spanish Grenache, and constantly recommend it as a value alternative to entry level New Zealand Pinot Noir - a category that seldom pushes any buttons for me. Glossy and bright, Via Terra is a rounded, silky expression of organic grenache that brings masses of red and black fruits and touches of green herbage and anise into play. Slinky tannins and good acidity further elevate this release above the rest of the pack, but the sheer ‘user-friendliness’ of Spanish Grenache remains the key attribute. This would be a great option to bust out when the gang gathers for a casual glass, or to match with a deli-platter or tomato based mediterranean fare. Great value.

 

Elephant Hill Reserve Merlot Cabernet 2018 - Hawke's Bay

 

Elephant Hill Reserve Merlot Cabernet 2018 - Hawke's Bay

Available from $29.99

Any Elephant Hill wine from their esteemed Reserve range is sure to garner my attention, but it’s always an added pleasure tasting their blended Reserve reds a few years on from harvest. 2018 was a solid vintage in Hawke’s Bay and this refined release shows all the benefits of bottle age, looking considerably more fulsome and detailed than it was on first release. Blended from 86% merlot, 9% cabernet sauvignon and 5% cabernet franc from a combination of Gimblett Gravels and Bridge Pa fruit, it opens with plum and blackcurrant characters on the nose with a wonderful array of leather, tobacco, and wood spice adding a little bit of extra magic. Though broader and deeper now, the palate remains elegantly expressed, with supple tannins and soft acidity bringing things to a very harmonious close. Excellent, thoughtful wine.

Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection Zinfandel 2020 - California

 

Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection Zinfandel 2020 - California

Available from $29.99

This is a textbook rendition of fleshy Californian Zinfandel from the stable of wines originally produced by famed Hollywood movie director, Francis Ford Coppola. Now under the ownership of Delicato Family Wines, this 2020 release is a classic Coppola ‘Zin’ – boldly weighted, with masses of savoury cherry / strawberry fruits and rich Christmas cake flavours leading the charge. All sorts of spicy characters make up the second wave, with anise and pepper the main players. Though not necessarily ‘a big wine’ by Californian standards, there is still boatloads of action going on here – and zinfandel disciples will find plenty to enjoy here. Match with a spicy venison casserole or a fat, peppered steak to elevate it to a higher plane.

Mac's Picks 1 June 2024

Mac's Picks 1 June 2024

Welcome to this week’s column – a down to earth look at some interesting local and international releases that I have come across over the last few weeks.

Combe Rocher Reserve Pays dOc Rose 2022Combe Rocher Reserve Pays d'Oc Rosé 2022 - France

Available from $19.99

This is a lovely example of modern Mediterranean Rosé from the Pays d’Oc region of Southern France. Vinted from grenache, this is a crunchy, vibrant expression with a textbook bouquet of red fruits, white flowers and citrus. The palate is just a kiss off bone-dry, and the central core of semi-ripe red fruits is balanced with a juicier element from those glossy grenache grapes. That ‘glossiness’ brings a luxe feeling to proceedings, elevating this 2022 release above the vast majority of the French Rosés I have tasted in this price band this year. Fresh acidity and a touch of mineral salinity rounds off the finish, and the result is both deliciously fresh and very well balanced – a perfect rosé option to enjoy with or without food. It comes highly recommended.

 

Waimea Sauvignon Blanc 2022

Waimea Sauvignon Blanc 2022 - Nelson

Available from $12.99

Never fall into the trap of thinking that good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t have the ability to age gracefully. Two years on from harvest this lush 2022 Waimea release is looking particularly sharp and still has years of gas left in the tank. Personally, I far prefer Kiwi Sauvignons with at least a year’s bottle age, when that initial, overt acidity has dialed down a bit and the wine takes on a softer, less aggressive stance. That’s definitely what’s going on here. The zip and zing of Nelson Sauvignon remains in full effect, but the passionfruit and tropical fruits the region is so well known for shine a bit clearer with that racy acidity running less interference. Some subtle herbal and tomato leaf tinges add a complexing touch on the nose and palate – and there is certainly a lot of good things going on in the glass here. An absolute bargain for sauvignon disciples to seek out.


Calmel and Joseph Collection Chardonnay 2022

Calmel & Joseph Collection Chardonnay 2022 – France

Available from $19.99

The explosion of quality winemaking in southern France over the last two decades has revolutionised French wine exports - with Pays d’Oc and the wider Languedoc-Roussillon region responsible for a plethora of truly rewarding labels.  And it’s not just ‘Provence-esque’ Rosé making waves in the international market. Rock solid releases like this lovely Calmel & Joseph Chardonnay are gaining wide attention as a value alternative to the more expensive Burgundian options. From the 2022 vintage, this is a fine example of middleweight French Chardonnay with plenty of creamy palate weight and detail packed into the glass. Oak aging in seasoned barrels has added plush texture and spice to the wine, but those clean chardonnay fruits remain the star of the show. It's warm and friendly chardonnay with the generosity that New Zealanders are typically drawn to, while a touch of minerality on the finish brings a layer of extra sophistication.

 

Anciano Tempranillo Classico 2020 - Spain


Anciano Tempranillo Classico 2020 - Spain

Available from $16.99

The Anciano range, imported into New Zealand by the inimitable Steve Bennett MW, has a well won reputation with Spanish wine fans in the New Zealand market, and this juicy tempranillo is another Anciano wine to add to your must try list. Vinted from 30-year-old vines, this is a middleweight expression made for any occasion drinking. The inherent ‘user-friendliness’ of tempranillo’s spicy, fleshy red and black fruits is immediately apparent, making it a great ‘one size fits all‘ option to open on a mid-week night when you’re after something interesting and satisfying - but you don’t want to push the boat out too far. While this is technically a dry wine, those supple tempranillo fruits and mellow tannins mean you don’t need food to pour yourself a glass but match it with Mediterranean dishes for added enjoyment. Great value.

 

Theory and Practice Merlot 2020 - Hawke's Bay

 

Theory & Practice Merlot 2020 - Hawke's Bay

Available from $16.99

Produced by respected Hawke’s Bay based winemaker Ant Mackenzie, this is polished, highly detailed merlot from the excellent 2020 growing season.  Notes of blackcurrant, plum, vanilla and graphite show on the nose and flow through to a silky, full-bodied palate that brims with character and charm. Touches of ‘pencil lead’ and sweet mocha bring complexity and further interest to the party, while the finish is long and fresh, with slinky tannins and layers of creamy acidity. This is good wine – and no one could argue that buying wine of this calibre under the key $20 mark is a godsend for fans of small batch Hawke’s Bay reds. Put a couple of bottles on the table the next time you have the family around for a classic roast and wait for the compliments on your wine choice to come your way.

Taylors Historical Collection Reserve Tawny Port

 

Taylors Historical Collection Reserve Tawny Port – Portugal

Available from $68.99

A decadent glass of Port at the end of a memorable meal is a fast-dying ritual in this part of the world, so I wanted to remind you of the sheer joy that a glass of decent Port can offer.  The Taylor's Historical series is a collection of specially blended, cask-aged Ports presented in exclusive bespoke bottles inspired by historic bottle moulds.  ‘The Mallet’ is the third wine in the series and is an assemblage from Taylor’s extensive aged tawny stocks. Opulent, rich and mellow, it comes loaded with plum and raisin characters that are complexed with oak spice and cashew / hazelnut notes. It fills every crevice of your palate with these flavours – with a warming finish that moves into the caramel, sweet toffee spectrum. Match with roasted nuts and hard cheeses at the end of the night and wait for the angels to chime in.

Mac's Picks 1 June 2024

Mac's Picks 1 June 2024

Welcome to this week’s column – a down to earth look at some interesting local and international releases that I have come across over the last few weeks.

Combe Rocher Reserve Pays dOc Rose 2022Combe Rocher Reserve Pays d'Oc Rosé 2022 - France

Available from $19.99

This is a lovely example of modern Mediterranean Rosé from the Pays d’Oc region of Southern France. Vinted from grenache, this is a crunchy, vibrant expression with a textbook bouquet of red fruits, white flowers and citrus. The palate is just a kiss off bone-dry, and the central core of semi-ripe red fruits is balanced with a juicier element from those glossy grenache grapes. That ‘glossiness’ brings a luxe feeling to proceedings, elevating this 2022 release above the vast majority of the French Rosés I have tasted in this price band this year. Fresh acidity and a touch of mineral salinity rounds off the finish, and the result is both deliciously fresh and very well balanced – a perfect rosé option to enjoy with or without food. It comes highly recommended.

 

Waimea Sauvignon Blanc 2022

Waimea Sauvignon Blanc 2022 - Nelson

Available from $12.99

Never fall into the trap of thinking that good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t have the ability to age gracefully. Two years on from harvest this lush 2022 Waimea release is looking particularly sharp and still has years of gas left in the tank. Personally, I far prefer Kiwi Sauvignons with at least a year’s bottle age, when that initial, overt acidity has dialed down a bit and the wine takes on a softer, less aggressive stance. That’s definitely what’s going on here. The zip and zing of Nelson Sauvignon remains in full effect, but the passionfruit and tropical fruits the region is so well known for shine a bit clearer with that racy acidity running less interference. Some subtle herbal and tomato leaf tinges add a complexing touch on the nose and palate – and there is certainly a lot of good things going on in the glass here. An absolute bargain for sauvignon disciples to seek out.


Calmel and Joseph Collection Chardonnay 2022

Calmel & Joseph Collection Chardonnay 2022 – France

Available from $19.99

The explosion of quality winemaking in southern France over the last two decades has revolutionised French wine exports - with Pays d’Oc and the wider Languedoc-Roussillon region responsible for a plethora of truly rewarding labels.  And it’s not just ‘Provence-esque’ Rosé making waves in the international market. Rock solid releases like this lovely Calmel & Joseph Chardonnay are gaining wide attention as a value alternative to the more expensive Burgundian options. From the 2022 vintage, this is a fine example of middleweight French Chardonnay with plenty of creamy palate weight and detail packed into the glass. Oak aging in seasoned barrels has added plush texture and spice to the wine, but those clean chardonnay fruits remain the star of the show. It's warm and friendly chardonnay with the generosity that New Zealanders are typically drawn to, while a touch of minerality on the finish brings a layer of extra sophistication.

 

Anciano Tempranillo Classico 2020 - Spain


Anciano Tempranillo Classico 2020 - Spain

Available from $16.99

The Anciano range, imported into New Zealand by the inimitable Steve Bennett MW, has a well won reputation with Spanish wine fans in the New Zealand market, and this juicy tempranillo is another Anciano wine to add to your must try list. Vinted from 30-year-old vines, this is a middleweight expression made for any occasion drinking. The inherent ‘user-friendliness’ of tempranillo’s spicy, fleshy red and black fruits is immediately apparent, making it a great ‘one size fits all‘ option to open on a mid-week night when you’re after something interesting and satisfying - but you don’t want to push the boat out too far. While this is technically a dry wine, those supple tempranillo fruits and mellow tannins mean you don’t need food to pour yourself a glass but match it with Mediterranean dishes for added enjoyment. Great value.

 

Theory and Practice Merlot 2020 - Hawke's Bay

 

Theory & Practice Merlot 2020 - Hawke's Bay

Available from $16.99

Produced by respected Hawke’s Bay based winemaker Ant Mackenzie, this is polished, highly detailed merlot from the excellent 2020 growing season.  Notes of blackcurrant, plum, vanilla and graphite show on the nose and flow through to a silky, full-bodied palate that brims with character and charm. Touches of ‘pencil lead’ and sweet mocha bring complexity and further interest to the party, while the finish is long and fresh, with slinky tannins and layers of creamy acidity. This is good wine – and no one could argue that buying wine of this calibre under the key $20 mark is a godsend for fans of small batch Hawke’s Bay reds. Put a couple of bottles on the table the next time you have the family around for a classic roast and wait for the compliments on your wine choice to come your way.

Taylors Historical Collection Reserve Tawny Port

 

Taylors Historical Collection Reserve Tawny Port – Portugal

Available from $68.99

A decadent glass of Port at the end of a memorable meal is a fast-dying ritual in this part of the world, so I wanted to remind you of the sheer joy that a glass of decent Port can offer.  The Taylor's Historical series is a collection of specially blended, cask-aged Ports presented in exclusive bespoke bottles inspired by historic bottle moulds.  ‘The Mallet’ is the third wine in the series and is an assemblage from Taylor’s extensive aged tawny stocks. Opulent, rich and mellow, it comes loaded with plum and raisin characters that are complexed with oak spice and cashew / hazelnut notes. It fills every crevice of your palate with these flavours – with a warming finish that moves into the caramel, sweet toffee spectrum. Match with roasted nuts and hard cheeses at the end of the night and wait for the angels to chime in.

Mac's Picks 18 May 2024

Mac's Picks 18 May 2024

Welcome to this week’s column – a down to earth look at some interesting local and international releases that I have come across over the last few weeks.

The BoneLine Sauvignon Blanc 2023 - WaiparaThe BoneLine Sauvignon Blanc 2023 - Waipara

Available from $28.99

If you’re looking for a new sauvignon blanc to try, and don’t mind paying a bit extra for something extra good, this 2023 release from The Boneline gets two thumbs up from me. I have a long-held love affair with the aromatic wines of North Canterbury’s Waipara sub-region. Fruit from this special place carries a generosity and lushness that few other places in New Zealand can match - and while this Boneline Sauvignon has been fermented to dry, those juicy Waipara fruits shine like a diamond here. Partial fermentation in seasoned oak has added extra weight and texture, but the tropical flavours the world loves in New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc are kept fresh and pristine. Some herbal tinges and mineral salinity add a complex touch on the finish. The fruit / acid balance is very harmonious. Everything is pushing in the same direction. This is lovely wine from a quality producer, and well worth seeking out.

 

Waimea Sauvignon Gris 2022

Waimea Sauvignon Gris 2023 - Nelson

Available from $19.99

Sauvignon gris has its spiritual home in Bordeaux, where it was discovered as a clonal mutation of sauvignon blanc. It has a pink tinge to the grapes – like pinot gris - and in our local vineyards it typically produces crisp, dry wines that are full of vibrant fruit characters, but without the overt exuberance that New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is so famous for. This example from Waimea certainly follows those guidelines, adding plenty of crisp apple and white stonefruits to a palate that is complemented with herbal and white flower aromas. Texturally, it carries a bit more palate weight than the ubiquitous sauvignon blanc model, and this example has a nice waxy, honeysuckle note that adds an extra bit of magic. A soft line of fresh acidity rounds things out, and if you’re looking for a sauvignon blanc alternative, this delicious wine is well worth a punt. Match with a deli-platter laden with soft cheeses the next time the gang call around.


Empirical Chardonnay 2019 - Hawke's Bay

Empirical Chardonnay 2019 - Hawke's Bay

Available from $29.99

Here’s a real showstopper. Produced by the international Constellation Brands conglomerate, this is an all-out attempt to capture the power that Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay is capable of. Certainly, the heavy, tissue-wrapped bottles and lavishly embossed labels create a big first impression – and the palate lives up to the hype with a tour de force display of small batch chardonnay winemaking. The nose is full of the classic characters of barrel fermented chardonnay. It’s loaded with lemon, sizzled butter, and yeasty characters with some reductive gun smoke / flinty notes and obvious oak spice adding complexity. The palate is full-bodied and looking very harmonious 5 years on from harvest – but maintains a good sense of dignity and isn’t too ‘showboaty’ or over the top. This luxuriously framed Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay is sure to find an adoring audience with ‘old school’ chardonnay fans. That includes me, by the way. I grabbed a six pack.



Cognoscente Pinot Noir 2020


Cognoscente Pinot Noir 2020 - Marlborough

Available from $16.99

Well-known Hawke’s Bay Winemaker Ant Mackenzie has a knack for putting lots of flavour in the wines he oversees, and this 2020 Marlborough Pinot Noir is another release that carries his signature touch. It’s a broody and savoury release that, in my book, could easily be confused for an upper end Martinborough label. It’s full of dark cherry and game flavours with some darker black and blue fruit characters entering the conversation as the wine moves through the mouth. Elements of baking spice and hard green herbs bring in some extra interest, and sit above a supple palate that flows with good weight and plenty of ready charm. Excellent value. 

 

Azabache Organic Rioja 2020 - Spain

 

Azabache Organic Rioja 2020 - Spain

Available from $21.99

You have to love a good Rioja. It’s such a lovely ‘one size fits all’ wine style that brings the sheer user-friendliness of tempranillo to centre stage – and in this case Azabache adds a supporting act of garnacha and graciano into the performance. This 2020 release is very aromatic with layers of spicy dark fruits, oak and toasted nuts on the nose. Those flavours transition to a dry, medium-bodied palate that sees lots of tannin and acid action, and a satisfying finish that really goes the distance.  Those firm tannins make this a wine that should be enjoyed with food, and this solid expression would be a fine match for hearty mediterranean dishes - or hard cheese at the end of a meal.

Calmel & Joseph Collection Syrah 2022 - France

 

Calmel and Joseph Collection Syrah 2022 - France

Available from $19.99

This is very rewarding southern French Syrah from Calmel and Joseph - who have been making wine in the Languedoc-Roussillon sub region since 1995. This is an instantly appealing, unashamedly modern style with lots of sweetly ripe flavours framed in a very generous, rounded palate that brims with strawberry, blackberry and spicy dark fruits. I picked up some subtle mocha and vanilla hints in the mix, but more obvious is a creamy texture that brings a luxe character not normally seen in French reds at this price point. The tannins are integrated and softly expressed, making this a lovely choice for casual, any occasion drinking – especially when you are looking for something truly satisfying but don’t want to push the boat out too far.

Mac's Picks 18 May 2024

Mac's Picks 18 May 2024

Welcome to this week’s column – a down to earth look at some interesting local and international releases that I have come across over the last few weeks.

The BoneLine Sauvignon Blanc 2023 - WaiparaThe BoneLine Sauvignon Blanc 2023 - Waipara

Available from $28.99

If you’re looking for a new sauvignon blanc to try, and don’t mind paying a bit extra for something extra good, this 2023 release from The Boneline gets two thumbs up from me. I have a long-held love affair with the aromatic wines of North Canterbury’s Waipara sub-region. Fruit from this special place carries a generosity and lushness that few other places in New Zealand can match - and while this Boneline Sauvignon has been fermented to dry, those juicy Waipara fruits shine like a diamond here. Partial fermentation in seasoned oak has added extra weight and texture, but the tropical flavours the world loves in New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc are kept fresh and pristine. Some herbal tinges and mineral salinity add a complex touch on the finish. The fruit / acid balance is very harmonious. Everything is pushing in the same direction. This is lovely wine from a quality producer, and well worth seeking out.

 

Waimea Sauvignon Gris 2022

Waimea Sauvignon Gris 2023 - Nelson

Available from $19.99

Sauvignon gris has its spiritual home in Bordeaux, where it was discovered as a clonal mutation of sauvignon blanc. It has a pink tinge to the grapes – like pinot gris - and in our local vineyards it typically produces crisp, dry wines that are full of vibrant fruit characters, but without the overt exuberance that New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is so famous for. This example from Waimea certainly follows those guidelines, adding plenty of crisp apple and white stonefruits to a palate that is complemented with herbal and white flower aromas. Texturally, it carries a bit more palate weight than the ubiquitous sauvignon blanc model, and this example has a nice waxy, honeysuckle note that adds an extra bit of magic. A soft line of fresh acidity rounds things out, and if you’re looking for a sauvignon blanc alternative, this delicious wine is well worth a punt. Match with a deli-platter laden with soft cheeses the next time the gang call around.


Empirical Chardonnay 2019 - Hawke's Bay

Empirical Chardonnay 2019 - Hawke's Bay

Available from $29.99

Here’s a real showstopper. Produced by the international Constellation Brands conglomerate, this is an all-out attempt to capture the power that Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay is capable of. Certainly, the heavy, tissue-wrapped bottles and lavishly embossed labels create a big first impression – and the palate lives up to the hype with a tour de force display of small batch chardonnay winemaking. The nose is full of the classic characters of barrel fermented chardonnay. It’s loaded with lemon, sizzled butter, and yeasty characters with some reductive gun smoke / flinty notes and obvious oak spice adding complexity. The palate is full-bodied and looking very harmonious 5 years on from harvest – but maintains a good sense of dignity and isn’t too ‘showboaty’ or over the top. This luxuriously framed Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay is sure to find an adoring audience with ‘old school’ chardonnay fans. That includes me, by the way. I grabbed a six pack.



Cognoscente Pinot Noir 2020


Cognoscente Pinot Noir 2020 - Marlborough

Available from $16.99

Well-known Hawke’s Bay Winemaker Ant Mackenzie has a knack for putting lots of flavour in the wines he oversees, and this 2020 Marlborough Pinot Noir is another release that carries his signature touch. It’s a broody and savoury release that, in my book, could easily be confused for an upper end Martinborough label. It’s full of dark cherry and game flavours with some darker black and blue fruit characters entering the conversation as the wine moves through the mouth. Elements of baking spice and hard green herbs bring in some extra interest, and sit above a supple palate that flows with good weight and plenty of ready charm. Excellent value. 

 

Azabache Organic Rioja 2020 - Spain

 

Azabache Organic Rioja 2020 - Spain

Available from $21.99

You have to love a good Rioja. It’s such a lovely ‘one size fits all’ wine style that brings the sheer user-friendliness of tempranillo to centre stage – and in this case Azabache adds a supporting act of garnacha and graciano into the performance. This 2020 release is very aromatic with layers of spicy dark fruits, oak and toasted nuts on the nose. Those flavours transition to a dry, medium-bodied palate that sees lots of tannin and acid action, and a satisfying finish that really goes the distance.  Those firm tannins make this a wine that should be enjoyed with food, and this solid expression would be a fine match for hearty mediterranean dishes - or hard cheese at the end of a meal.

Calmel & Joseph Collection Syrah 2022 - France

 

Calmel and Joseph Collection Syrah 2022 - France

Available from $19.99

This is very rewarding southern French Syrah from Calmel and Joseph - who have been making wine in the Languedoc-Roussillon sub region since 1995. This is an instantly appealing, unashamedly modern style with lots of sweetly ripe flavours framed in a very generous, rounded palate that brims with strawberry, blackberry and spicy dark fruits. I picked up some subtle mocha and vanilla hints in the mix, but more obvious is a creamy texture that brings a luxe character not normally seen in French reds at this price point. The tannins are integrated and softly expressed, making this a lovely choice for casual, any occasion drinking – especially when you are looking for something truly satisfying but don’t want to push the boat out too far.

Mac's Picks 4 May 2024

Mac's Picks 4 May 2024

Welcome to this week’s column – a down to earth look at some interesting local and international releases that I have come across over the last few weeks.

Decibel Giunta Pinot Gris 2022Decibel Giunta Pinot Gris 2022 - Hawke's Bay

Available from $15.99

Let’s kick off this column with a great value offering from Decibel’s, Dan Brennan. Vinted in a very attractive, fragrant style, this 2022 Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris is a zesty, friendly release that brings classic flavours of pear, apple and nectarine to the party. Initially crunchy and dry, the conversation widens to a juicier state with a subtle hint of fruit sweetness adding a luxe touch to the mid-palate. The finish is long and bright, with those off-dry pear and citrus characters ever present. I really liked how this wine shows plenty of varietal character and texture but remained fresh and light in the mouth – and the cool labels complete a compelling argument to get on board. It comes highly recommended.

 

Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2023

Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2023 - Marlborough

Available from $16.99

As I have said many times, sauvignon blanc drinkers are blessed in this country. There aren’t many wine categories around the globe where buyers can pick up a world class example of their favourite varietal for well under twenty dollars, but we have a plethora of great options to choose from – and the 2023 Wairau River is one option in banging form. Quality sauvignon blanc is all about exuberant tropical fruits, great texture and a magical balance between those punchy fruits and the acid component. When everything comes together – as they have with this release – the total far exceeds the sum of its parts.  Throw in a lick of mineral complexity and it’s all on. Match with a pot of freshly steamed mussels spiked with chili and ginger for a classic Marlborough combo.


Zaria Chardonnay 2022 - Hawke's Bay

Zaria Chardonnay 2022 - Hawke's Bay

Available from $32.99

Zaria is a small Hawke’s Bay producer gaining a real following for their well-made, thoughtful wines. Befitting their boutique status, their wines typically have a ‘hand-crafted’ feeling about them and this lovely 2022 chardonnay was certainly a pleasure to taste. Barrel-fermentation in French oak (20% new) and full malolactic ferment has brought weight and texture to this wine, but freshness and vibrancy remain the calling cards here. Stonefruit and grapefruit characters dominate the nose and palate – and those tangy grapefruit flavours drive things towards a long finish that combines some creamy elements under that solid citrus core. It’s a thoroughly modern expression and a credit to winemaker Bryce Edmonds and his team. For such a young wine, it’s already looking quite harmonious but tuck a few bottles away for a few years and some magic is sure to unfold.



Wine Gringo Grenache Nouveau 2023 - Australia


Wine Gringo Grenache Nouveau 2023 - Australia

Available from $14.99

Though Kiwis have been a bit slow on the uptake, lighter-bodied chilled red wines are becoming mainstream in global markets, as buyers discover the simple joys of this deliciously satisfying wine style. Produced from South Australian Grenache, Wine Gringo would be an excellent place to start on your chilled red journey. It’s a fleshy, flowing release that showcases the natural cherry and sweet plum flavours of grenache without the tannin and acidity you would normally associate with this varietal. Glossy mouthfeel and sheer drinkability is the order of the day here, and the secret is to serve the wine chilled but not too cold. I’d put a bottle in the fridge half an hour before you need it – and serve it as an aperitif with a sunny autumn lunch. Expect to watch that initial skepticism on your guests’ faces fade into nods of appreciation. Happy days. 

 

Little Giant Grenache 2022 - Australia

 

Little Giant Grenache 2022 - Australia

Available from $21.99

Playing the grenache model with a significantly straighter bat than Wine Gringo, is this excellent release from Little Giant – a wildly popular label produced under the watchful eye of South Australian wine empresario, Corey Ryan. Vinted from McLaren Vale fruit, this is a full-bodied, rounded wine with those glossy dark grenache fruits in full effect. As the Aussies say, ‘grenache delivers what pinot noir promises’ and if you think of this wine like an amplified version of broody, old school Central Otago Pinot Noir, you’re on the right track. It’s plush and juicy. It’s dark and attractive. And it’s a wine style that needs more exposure in the New Zealand market. I am a longstanding fan of McLaren Vale Grenache, and whenever I pour a glass for friends, the comments are always positive. Throw in the cute squat bottles, and you can’t go wrong here.

Badia al Colle Appassimento Puglia IGT 2021 - Italy

 

Badia al Colle Appasssimento Puglia IGT 2021 - Italy

Available from $19.99

It’s always good to finish these columns with a bit of a showstopper, and this 2021 Puglia blend certainly foots that bill. A full-bodied, very generous amalgam of negroamaro (80%) and primitivo, this wine come from the Apulia region in Southern Italy.  Those sultry, dark flavours of negroamaro have been further concentrated with the addition of a sun-dried fruit component – while the primitivo aspect of the blend brings brighter red fruits and plenty of spice. It’s a recipe that works particularly well. Those appassimento / sun-dried flavours bring a rich, dark caramel character on the palate – and they act as a natural counterpoint to the tannins on the finish. A hint of vanillin oak adds another layer of decadence as the wine moves through the mouth, but the lasting impression here is all Italian power and grace. If you’re looking for a well-priced, powerful European red to accompany a hearty main course, this would be a brilliant option.

Mac's Picks 4 May 2024

Mac's Picks 4 May 2024

Welcome to this week’s column – a down to earth look at some interesting local and international releases that I have come across over the last few weeks.

Decibel Giunta Pinot Gris 2022Decibel Giunta Pinot Gris 2022 - Hawke's Bay

Available from $15.99

Let’s kick off this column with a great value offering from Decibel’s, Dan Brennan. Vinted in a very attractive, fragrant style, this 2022 Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris is a zesty, friendly release that brings classic flavours of pear, apple and nectarine to the party. Initially crunchy and dry, the conversation widens to a juicier state with a subtle hint of fruit sweetness adding a luxe touch to the mid-palate. The finish is long and bright, with those off-dry pear and citrus characters ever present. I really liked how this wine shows plenty of varietal character and texture but remained fresh and light in the mouth – and the cool labels complete a compelling argument to get on board. It comes highly recommended.

 

Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2023

Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2023 - Marlborough

Available from $16.99

As I have said many times, sauvignon blanc drinkers are blessed in this country. There aren’t many wine categories around the globe where buyers can pick up a world class example of their favourite varietal for well under twenty dollars, but we have a plethora of great options to choose from – and the 2023 Wairau River is one option in banging form. Quality sauvignon blanc is all about exuberant tropical fruits, great texture and a magical balance between those punchy fruits and the acid component. When everything comes together – as they have with this release – the total far exceeds the sum of its parts.  Throw in a lick of mineral complexity and it’s all on. Match with a pot of freshly steamed mussels spiked with chili and ginger for a classic Marlborough combo.


Zaria Chardonnay 2022 - Hawke's Bay

Zaria Chardonnay 2022 - Hawke's Bay

Available from $32.99

Zaria is a small Hawke’s Bay producer gaining a real following for their well-made, thoughtful wines. Befitting their boutique status, their wines typically have a ‘hand-crafted’ feeling about them and this lovely 2022 chardonnay was certainly a pleasure to taste. Barrel-fermentation in French oak (20% new) and full malolactic ferment has brought weight and texture to this wine, but freshness and vibrancy remain the calling cards here. Stonefruit and grapefruit characters dominate the nose and palate – and those tangy grapefruit flavours drive things towards a long finish that combines some creamy elements under that solid citrus core. It’s a thoroughly modern expression and a credit to winemaker Bryce Edmonds and his team. For such a young wine, it’s already looking quite harmonious but tuck a few bottles away for a few years and some magic is sure to unfold.



Wine Gringo Grenache Nouveau 2023 - Australia


Wine Gringo Grenache Nouveau 2023 - Australia

Available from $14.99

Though Kiwis have been a bit slow on the uptake, lighter-bodied chilled red wines are becoming mainstream in global markets, as buyers discover the simple joys of this deliciously satisfying wine style. Produced from South Australian Grenache, Wine Gringo would be an excellent place to start on your chilled red journey. It’s a fleshy, flowing release that showcases the natural cherry and sweet plum flavours of grenache without the tannin and acidity you would normally associate with this varietal. Glossy mouthfeel and sheer drinkability is the order of the day here, and the secret is to serve the wine chilled but not too cold. I’d put a bottle in the fridge half an hour before you need it – and serve it as an aperitif with a sunny autumn lunch. Expect to watch that initial skepticism on your guests’ faces fade into nods of appreciation. Happy days. 

 

Little Giant Grenache 2022 - Australia

 

Little Giant Grenache 2022 - Australia

Available from $21.99

Playing the grenache model with a significantly straighter bat than Wine Gringo, is this excellent release from Little Giant – a wildly popular label produced under the watchful eye of South Australian wine empresario, Corey Ryan. Vinted from McLaren Vale fruit, this is a full-bodied, rounded wine with those glossy dark grenache fruits in full effect. As the Aussies say, ‘grenache delivers what pinot noir promises’ and if you think of this wine like an amplified version of broody, old school Central Otago Pinot Noir, you’re on the right track. It’s plush and juicy. It’s dark and attractive. And it’s a wine style that needs more exposure in the New Zealand market. I am a longstanding fan of McLaren Vale Grenache, and whenever I pour a glass for friends, the comments are always positive. Throw in the cute squat bottles, and you can’t go wrong here.

Badia al Colle Appassimento Puglia IGT 2021 - Italy

 

Badia al Colle Appasssimento Puglia IGT 2021 - Italy

Available from $19.99

It’s always good to finish these columns with a bit of a showstopper, and this 2021 Puglia blend certainly foots that bill. A full-bodied, very generous amalgam of negroamaro (80%) and primitivo, this wine come from the Apulia region in Southern Italy.  Those sultry, dark flavours of negroamaro have been further concentrated with the addition of a sun-dried fruit component – while the primitivo aspect of the blend brings brighter red fruits and plenty of spice. It’s a recipe that works particularly well. Those appassimento / sun-dried flavours bring a rich, dark caramel character on the palate – and they act as a natural counterpoint to the tannins on the finish. A hint of vanillin oak adds another layer of decadence as the wine moves through the mouth, but the lasting impression here is all Italian power and grace. If you’re looking for a well-priced, powerful European red to accompany a hearty main course, this would be a brilliant option.

Mac's Picks - 20 April 2024

Mac's Picks - 20 April 2024

Welcome to this week’s column – a down to earth look at some interesting local and international releases that I have come across over the last few weeks.

JK.14 Ombra Prosecco DOC BrutJK.14 Ombra Prosecco DOC Brut NV - Italy

Available from $23.99

The JK.14 brand is a fast-growing side hustle for Sir John Kirwan and his family. Kirwan’s association with Italy and his love of Italian food and wine is well documented, so a foray into wine importation was always on the cards. The business model is to rebrand or co-brand with wines that have caught his eye, and the standard of wines I have tasted from his portfolio has been consistently high. This DOC Prosecco is a lovely wine. Vinted from Treviso fruit, it’s an engaging, dry expression with creamy mouthfeel and flavours in the ripe citrus spectrum, with some underlying hazelnut complexity. Soft acidity closes the show and the lasting impression here is fresh and uncomplicated – but ultimately very pleasing. It’s a perfect wine to kick off a late afternoon drinks party – and of course the Kirwan family links provide an easy conversation starter.

 

Odyssey Chardonnay 2022

Odyssey Chardonnay 2022 -  Gisborne

Available from $21.99

Vigneron Rebecca Salmond has built up an enviable following for her brand after launching the Odyssey label in 1994. Chardonnay has consistently been her trump card over those 30 years. The Odyssey style is ripe and complex, but with more finesse and vibrancy than you would normally associate with Gisborne Chardonnay – and this 2022 estate chardonnay certainly sings from that well-practiced song sheet. Barrel and partial malolactic fermentation have done their job and delivered a wine with good texture and presence. The classic regional peach and stone fruit flavours of Gisborne Chardonnay are always front and centre and supported on the palate with a lightly creamy texture and hints of oak spice. This is a smart wine that is showing very well in its youth – especially given the lesser growing season. Throw a lemon spiked roast chicken in the oven as soon as possible.


Awakohu Rose 2023 - Hawke's Bay

Awakohu Rosé 2023 - Hawke's Bay

Available from $12.99

Here’s an absolute bargain. Produced from Hawke’s Bay Merlot, with a splash of pinot noir adding extra freshness and flow, this new release from Awakohu is looking very sharp indeed. Attractive in the glass with glowing, light-salmon hues, this 2023 rosé has a bouquet that brims with strawberry, watermelon, and cranberry notes – while a kiss of confectionary adds a subtle touch of decadence. Those characters carry on to an essentially dry palate that’s laden with those crunchy red summer fruits. A juicy and more generous texture on the mid-palate adds a luxe element while the finish is crisp and long with soft, rounded acidity. This is good, obviously well-made wine – especially given the price it sells at. Great value.



Linden Estate Pinotage 2020 - Hawke's Bay


Linden Estate Pinotage 2020 - Hawke's Bay

Available from $17.99

With its spiritual home in South Africa, pinotage was created 100 years ago by crossing pinot noir with cinsault. Though still wildly popular there, it’s a relatively rare varietal in New Zealand, and our pinotage is middleweight by South African standards (where it typically has Australian Shiraz-like proportions). 2020 was an excellent vintage in Hawke’s Bay and this interesting wine is looking bolder and more robust than previous vintages I have tried. On the nose it’s gamey and dark fruited, with some obvious spice and herbal elements. On the palate those fruits are expressed in a savoury fashion with plenty of grippy, tannic structure. The finish shows good length and plenty of acid – but this is definitely a food wine, that needs some hearty cooking to counter those robust layers of tannin and acidity. It would be a wonderful match with slow roasted venison or duck – especially if they were prepared with lots of sage and rosemary. 

 

Deen de Bortoli Vat 8 Shiraz 2018 - Australia

 

Deen de Bortoli Vat 8 Shiraz - Australia

Available from $16.99

Here’s an outright winner that you need to put in your shopping list. This unassuming little red fell into the limelight last year when Cuisine Magazine gave it their #1 ranking in their annual Australian Shiraz tasting. Results like that can do wonders for an entry level brand like de Bortoli’s ‘Deen’ label, and consequently, a large part of de Bortoli’s stock of this wine ended up being sold in New Zealand. Now, 6 years on from harvest, it’s certainly a very satisfying wine. Notes of blue and black berry fruits show on the nose with some mocha and spicy barrel complexity. The palate is warm and surprisingly full-bodied with masses of ripe fruits and sweet oak. Bottle aging has done its work, and some nice secondary characters are starting to show. The finish is long and harmonious, with fruit weight, tannin and acidity all nicely aligned. It’s the ultimate bargain. If you see this wine, buy it. End of story.

Boccantino Nero dAvola Nerello 2019

 

Boccantino Nero d’Avola Nerello Mascalese 2019 – Italy

Available from $21.99

Let’s finish this column with a bang. This excellent 2019 Boccantino release is a blend of two Sicilian varietals - nero d’avola and nerello mascalese. Nero d’avola – the most important Sicilian variety - provides weighty, dark, rounded flavours of black fruits, and brings the power and glossy palate-flow to the party. Nerello mascalese offers brightness and freshness to the blend, with a pinot-noir-like savoury cherry character. It also brings the acidity that makes this impressive wine such a winner with food. Now entering its ideal dinking window, this wine will continue to age gracefully over the coming 8-10 years. Match it with a strong cheese course after a hearty dinner for a memorable conclusion to a good night with friends.

Mac's Picks - 20 April 2024

Mac's Picks - 20 April 2024

Welcome to this week’s column – a down to earth look at some interesting local and international releases that I have come across over the last few weeks.

JK.14 Ombra Prosecco DOC BrutJK.14 Ombra Prosecco DOC Brut NV - Italy

Available from $23.99

The JK.14 brand is a fast-growing side hustle for Sir John Kirwan and his family. Kirwan’s association with Italy and his love of Italian food and wine is well documented, so a foray into wine importation was always on the cards. The business model is to rebrand or co-brand with wines that have caught his eye, and the standard of wines I have tasted from his portfolio has been consistently high. This DOC Prosecco is a lovely wine. Vinted from Treviso fruit, it’s an engaging, dry expression with creamy mouthfeel and flavours in the ripe citrus spectrum, with some underlying hazelnut complexity. Soft acidity closes the show and the lasting impression here is fresh and uncomplicated – but ultimately very pleasing. It’s a perfect wine to kick off a late afternoon drinks party – and of course the Kirwan family links provide an easy conversation starter.

 

Odyssey Chardonnay 2022

Odyssey Chardonnay 2022 -  Gisborne

Available from $21.99

Vigneron Rebecca Salmond has built up an enviable following for her brand after launching the Odyssey label in 1994. Chardonnay has consistently been her trump card over those 30 years. The Odyssey style is ripe and complex, but with more finesse and vibrancy than you would normally associate with Gisborne Chardonnay – and this 2022 estate chardonnay certainly sings from that well-practiced song sheet. Barrel and partial malolactic fermentation have done their job and delivered a wine with good texture and presence. The classic regional peach and stone fruit flavours of Gisborne Chardonnay are always front and centre and supported on the palate with a lightly creamy texture and hints of oak spice. This is a smart wine that is showing very well in its youth – especially given the lesser growing season. Throw a lemon spiked roast chicken in the oven as soon as possible.


Awakohu Rose 2023 - Hawke's Bay

Awakohu Rosé 2023 - Hawke's Bay

Available from $12.99

Here’s an absolute bargain. Produced from Hawke’s Bay Merlot, with a splash of pinot noir adding extra freshness and flow, this new release from Awakohu is looking very sharp indeed. Attractive in the glass with glowing, light-salmon hues, this 2023 rosé has a bouquet that brims with strawberry, watermelon, and cranberry notes – while a kiss of confectionary adds a subtle touch of decadence. Those characters carry on to an essentially dry palate that’s laden with those crunchy red summer fruits. A juicy and more generous texture on the mid-palate adds a luxe element while the finish is crisp and long with soft, rounded acidity. This is good, obviously well-made wine – especially given the price it sells at. Great value.



Linden Estate Pinotage 2020 - Hawke's Bay


Linden Estate Pinotage 2020 - Hawke's Bay

Available from $17.99

With its spiritual home in South Africa, pinotage was created 100 years ago by crossing pinot noir with cinsault. Though still wildly popular there, it’s a relatively rare varietal in New Zealand, and our pinotage is middleweight by South African standards (where it typically has Australian Shiraz-like proportions). 2020 was an excellent vintage in Hawke’s Bay and this interesting wine is looking bolder and more robust than previous vintages I have tried. On the nose it’s gamey and dark fruited, with some obvious spice and herbal elements. On the palate those fruits are expressed in a savoury fashion with plenty of grippy, tannic structure. The finish shows good length and plenty of acid – but this is definitely a food wine, that needs some hearty cooking to counter those robust layers of tannin and acidity. It would be a wonderful match with slow roasted venison or duck – especially if they were prepared with lots of sage and rosemary. 

 

Deen de Bortoli Vat 8 Shiraz 2018 - Australia

 

Deen de Bortoli Vat 8 Shiraz - Australia

Available from $16.99

Here’s an outright winner that you need to put in your shopping list. This unassuming little red fell into the limelight last year when Cuisine Magazine gave it their #1 ranking in their annual Australian Shiraz tasting. Results like that can do wonders for an entry level brand like de Bortoli’s ‘Deen’ label, and consequently, a large part of de Bortoli’s stock of this wine ended up being sold in New Zealand. Now, 6 years on from harvest, it’s certainly a very satisfying wine. Notes of blue and black berry fruits show on the nose with some mocha and spicy barrel complexity. The palate is warm and surprisingly full-bodied with masses of ripe fruits and sweet oak. Bottle aging has done its work, and some nice secondary characters are starting to show. The finish is long and harmonious, with fruit weight, tannin and acidity all nicely aligned. It’s the ultimate bargain. If you see this wine, buy it. End of story.

Boccantino Nero dAvola Nerello 2019

 

Boccantino Nero d’Avola Nerello Mascalese 2019 – Italy

Available from $21.99

Let’s finish this column with a bang. This excellent 2019 Boccantino release is a blend of two Sicilian varietals - nero d’avola and nerello mascalese. Nero d’avola – the most important Sicilian variety - provides weighty, dark, rounded flavours of black fruits, and brings the power and glossy palate-flow to the party. Nerello mascalese offers brightness and freshness to the blend, with a pinot-noir-like savoury cherry character. It also brings the acidity that makes this impressive wine such a winner with food. Now entering its ideal dinking window, this wine will continue to age gracefully over the coming 8-10 years. Match it with a strong cheese course after a hearty dinner for a memorable conclusion to a good night with friends.

Mac's Picks - 6 April 2024

Mac's Picks - 6 April 2024

Welcome to this week’s column – a down to earth look at some interesting local and international releases that I have come across over the last few weeks.

Blackenbrook Sauvignon Blanc 2023Blackenbrook Sauvignon Blanc 2023 - Nelson

Available from $19.99

The Schwarzenbach family has been producing wine in Nelson under the Blackenbrook masthead since the early 2000s, and I have always been a fan of their ‘stay small and improve quality’ approach.  Given their geographical position, sauvignon has long been a trump card for the Blackenbrook team, and the house style is a fairly serious one – dry, and tight with pronounced minerality and bright acid structure. Certainly, those characteristics are there in full effect with this very good 2023 release. Throw in some punchy, regional tropical fruits, a touch of salinity and an undercard of green herbage, and there’s plenty to like here. It’s an expression that needs food to be seen at its best – with fresh shellfish an obvious choice. Give that combo a crack on a sunny autumn afternoon and wash the worries of the world away.

 

Spy Valley Pinot Gris 2022

Spy Valley Pinot Gris 2022 - Marlborough

Available from $23.99

Famously named after the Waihopai spy base that’s just down the road from the winery, Spy Valley have carved out an enviable reputation for their energetic wines – with a brace of aromatic whites leading the charge. Just a kiss off-dry, this 2022 release is a fine representation of modern Marlborough Pinot Gris. It shows an amalgam of semi-ripe pear and zingy ginger flavours wrapped up in a plush palate that has rounded weight and mouthfeel. The finish has good length and softly expressed acidity - with those spicy ginger and juicy pear characters present all the way. I’d love to try a bottle with a baked smoked salmon– especially one that has been elevated with a spicy miso glaze. (Note to self: this weekend!)


Whitehaven Pinot Noir Rosé 2023 - Marlborough

Whitehaven Pinot Noir Rosé 2023 - Marlborough

Available from $23.99

Produced from a blend of Southern Valleys and Raupara Pinot Noir fruit, this dry rosé is a typically refined effort from Whitehaven. The colour is wonderful. With so many New Zealand producers going down a Provence lookalike / ‘pale as possible’ rabbit hole, it’s nice to see some inviting colour in the glass – and this 2023 release radiates with inviting salmon hues. It’s equally inviting on the nose with notes of red summer fruits to the fore, while the palate shows crunchy red fruits in the strawberry, cranberry and watermelon spectrum. Some subtle touches of baking spice complex the palate, but this wine remains all about those dry red fruits and the long, fresh finish line they wander towards. It’s delicious.



Doctors Flat Pinot Noir 2020 - Central Otago


Doctors Flat Pinot Noir 2020 - Central Otago

Available from $56.99

This is excellent small batch, organic pinot noir from well-known Central Otago winemaker, Steve Davies. Vinted from a tiny 3ha block in Bannockburn, everything about this wine has been micro-managed to extract the full potential of a special growing site. The 2020 is another excellent effort; a polished, savoury wine that shows classic dark cherry flavours with lovely palate flow and underlying touches of oak and fruit spice. For such a young wine, the finish is wonderfully soft and velvety – but don’t let that fool you. Though already looking very integrated and complete, this wine has been vinted to go the distance. Cellar over the coming decade for added complexity and the chance to see those Central Otago Pinot Noir fruits develop some darker, secondary magic. Great value – and an absolute steal by global pinot noir standards. 

 

Bonpas Dames de Bonpas Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan de Dieu 2021

 

Bonpas Dames de Bonpas Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan de Dieu 2021 - France

Available from $24.99

On the subject of outright bargains, here is another wine that completely outperforms its price point – in fact it’s hard to understand how Cotes du Rhone of this calibre can come halfway around the world and be sold here in New Zealand for under $30. Grenache dominant, with a healthy dose of syrah rounding out the blend, this is deeply savoury Rhone red with lots going on the glass. Those exuberant, glossy grenache flavours have been dialed down to showcase their more serious side, while the syrah component adds structure, length and dryness to the conversation. It’s packed with cherry and spicy plum flavours and the tannins are long and fine. It’s one of those wines that effortlessly straddles the gap between pure pleasure and savoury, structured charm – a real gem that is sure to take your palate to a higher plane. I bought a case.

Some Young Punks Passion by Punks Shiraz Cab 2020

 

Some Young Punks Passion by Punks Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 - Australia

Available from $18.99

The funky name and pulp fiction labels may lead you to think you’ll be walking on the wild side of the street, but Some Young Punks collaborators Col McBryde and Jen Gardner, take the winemaking side of their craft very seriously than their branding suggests. They have carved out a real name for themselves in the South Australian scene, and this delightful, small batch McLaren Vale blend has been given all the love and attention in the vineyard and winery. Dominated by shiraz (85%) this is lush, fulsome red with plenty of swagger and confidence. The cabernet component brings dryness and some nice tobacco herbal hints to the finish, but that driving shiraz percentage is always centre stage. This is smart, well-made Aussie red. Match with hearty roasted meats and vegetables as we head into the cooler months. You’ll be very pleased you did.

Mac's Picks - 6 April 2024

Mac's Picks - 6 April 2024

Welcome to this week’s column – a down to earth look at some interesting local and international releases that I have come across over the last few weeks.

Blackenbrook Sauvignon Blanc 2023Blackenbrook Sauvignon Blanc 2023 - Nelson

Available from $19.99

The Schwarzenbach family has been producing wine in Nelson under the Blackenbrook masthead since the early 2000s, and I have always been a fan of their ‘stay small and improve quality’ approach.  Given their geographical position, sauvignon has long been a trump card for the Blackenbrook team, and the house style is a fairly serious one – dry, and tight with pronounced minerality and bright acid structure. Certainly, those characteristics are there in full effect with this very good 2023 release. Throw in some punchy, regional tropical fruits, a touch of salinity and an undercard of green herbage, and there’s plenty to like here. It’s an expression that needs food to be seen at its best – with fresh shellfish an obvious choice. Give that combo a crack on a sunny autumn afternoon and wash the worries of the world away.

 

Spy Valley Pinot Gris 2022

Spy Valley Pinot Gris 2022 - Marlborough

Available from $23.99

Famously named after the Waihopai spy base that’s just down the road from the winery, Spy Valley have carved out an enviable reputation for their energetic wines – with a brace of aromatic whites leading the charge. Just a kiss off-dry, this 2022 release is a fine representation of modern Marlborough Pinot Gris. It shows an amalgam of semi-ripe pear and zingy ginger flavours wrapped up in a plush palate that has rounded weight and mouthfeel. The finish has good length and softly expressed acidity - with those spicy ginger and juicy pear characters present all the way. I’d love to try a bottle with a baked smoked salmon– especially one that has been elevated with a spicy miso glaze. (Note to self: this weekend!)


Whitehaven Pinot Noir Rosé 2023 - Marlborough

Whitehaven Pinot Noir Rosé 2023 - Marlborough

Available from $23.99

Produced from a blend of Southern Valleys and Raupara Pinot Noir fruit, this dry rosé is a typically refined effort from Whitehaven. The colour is wonderful. With so many New Zealand producers going down a Provence lookalike / ‘pale as possible’ rabbit hole, it’s nice to see some inviting colour in the glass – and this 2023 release radiates with inviting salmon hues. It’s equally inviting on the nose with notes of red summer fruits to the fore, while the palate shows crunchy red fruits in the strawberry, cranberry and watermelon spectrum. Some subtle touches of baking spice complex the palate, but this wine remains all about those dry red fruits and the long, fresh finish line they wander towards. It’s delicious.



Doctors Flat Pinot Noir 2020 - Central Otago


Doctors Flat Pinot Noir 2020 - Central Otago

Available from $56.99

This is excellent small batch, organic pinot noir from well-known Central Otago winemaker, Steve Davies. Vinted from a tiny 3ha block in Bannockburn, everything about this wine has been micro-managed to extract the full potential of a special growing site. The 2020 is another excellent effort; a polished, savoury wine that shows classic dark cherry flavours with lovely palate flow and underlying touches of oak and fruit spice. For such a young wine, the finish is wonderfully soft and velvety – but don’t let that fool you. Though already looking very integrated and complete, this wine has been vinted to go the distance. Cellar over the coming decade for added complexity and the chance to see those Central Otago Pinot Noir fruits develop some darker, secondary magic. Great value – and an absolute steal by global pinot noir standards. 

 

Bonpas Dames de Bonpas Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan de Dieu 2021

 

Bonpas Dames de Bonpas Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan de Dieu 2021 - France

Available from $24.99

On the subject of outright bargains, here is another wine that completely outperforms its price point – in fact it’s hard to understand how Cotes du Rhone of this calibre can come halfway around the world and be sold here in New Zealand for under $30. Grenache dominant, with a healthy dose of syrah rounding out the blend, this is deeply savoury Rhone red with lots going on the glass. Those exuberant, glossy grenache flavours have been dialed down to showcase their more serious side, while the syrah component adds structure, length and dryness to the conversation. It’s packed with cherry and spicy plum flavours and the tannins are long and fine. It’s one of those wines that effortlessly straddles the gap between pure pleasure and savoury, structured charm – a real gem that is sure to take your palate to a higher plane. I bought a case.

Some Young Punks Passion by Punks Shiraz Cab 2020

 

Some Young Punks Passion by Punks Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 - Australia

Available from $18.99

The funky name and pulp fiction labels may lead you to think you’ll be walking on the wild side of the street, but Some Young Punks collaborators Col McBryde and Jen Gardner, take the winemaking side of their craft very seriously than their branding suggests. They have carved out a real name for themselves in the South Australian scene, and this delightful, small batch McLaren Vale blend has been given all the love and attention in the vineyard and winery. Dominated by shiraz (85%) this is lush, fulsome red with plenty of swagger and confidence. The cabernet component brings dryness and some nice tobacco herbal hints to the finish, but that driving shiraz percentage is always centre stage. This is smart, well-made Aussie red. Match with hearty roasted meats and vegetables as we head into the cooler months. You’ll be very pleased you did.