Not many New Zealand retailers have sold more wine than Mac and his personal recommendations come from one of the industry's safest sets of hands. Regardless of the price point you like to shop in, Mac's Picks will always be great buying and totally delicious. You have his word on it.
Available from $14.99
Let’s kick off with an absolute bargain. Gewurztraminer may have fallen out of favour with Kiwi consumers over the last 15 years, but a devoted fan base still exists for this personality-filled, spicy white wine. From its spiritual home in France’s Alsace region, gewurztraminer has always performed well in New Zealand, with Gisborne the growing area most closely aligned with its domestic production. Gisborne ‘Gewurz’ is typically lush and quite powerfully weighted - and that’s exactly what you get here. In classic Alsace style, the Longbush nose explodes with Turkish Delight characters and baking spice notes. The palate is medium-dry with lush layers of exotic fruits and lychee characters and the residual sugar / acid balance has been very well handled. Spicy ginger flavours linger on the finish and the lasting impression is balanced and very satisfying. For the uninitiated, gewurztraminer is the perfect partner for spicy Asian curries or chili spiked meals. If you haven’t tried it before, you’re missing one of the great wine matches – and Longbush 2021 is a perfect option to give that special combo a crack.
Available from $24.99
This is another lovely, medium-dry wine that would go wonderfully with an array of spicy foods. Made from chenin blanc from a family estate that has been producing wines since 1885, Bougrier Vouvray is a fresh, vibrant wine with white flowers and citrus on the nose and a palate that shines with apricot, almond and honey. The flavours are nicely focused with some wet stone minerality adding a touch of complexity, but those juicy, tangy chenin blanc notes drive the conversation through to a dry finish that sparkles with citrus led acidity. It’s delicious. The initial fruit sweetness and that crunchy, dry finish work wonderfully together, and those juicy honey / citrus flavours go on forever. In the European style, you could open a bottle with a deli platter when friends call around – but I’d opt for a spicy chicken or pork curry. Bring it on.
Available from $26.99
This is a lovely example of small batch, barrel-fermented chardonnay from highly respected Hawke’s Bay winemaker, Tony Prichard – the former head winemaker behind the juggernaut Church Road brand. This is a real ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ style. Initially understated, the wine builds on the palate as you taste, with stonefruit and wood spice on the nose flowing through to a complex palate that keeps those stonefruit, oak and grilled citrus flavours in the spotlight. The focus here is clearly on the fruit - and while touches of creamy, malolactic characters are apparent, this wine remains elegant and refined. A year on from harvest, it’s already looking composed and very smart - but my advice is to lay some down and watch its quiet power amplify over the coming 5-7 years.
Available from $24.99
Produced by Chard Farm as an unashamedly commercial, upfront expression of Central Otago Pinot Noir, Rabbit Ranch does an admirable job at this increasingly competitive price point. Dark fruits, with touches of oak and thyme on the nose, lead through to a glossy palate that is medium-bodied with soft acidity and supple tannins. It’s straightforward and relatively uncomplicated - but with the price of Central Otago Pinot Noir always on the rise, it offers buyers a good value option that does what it says on the tin. Match with a Netflix binge session and family block of dark forest chocolate.
Available from $16.99
Regular readers of this column will know by now that Spanish Tempranillo is one of the safest categories for European red wine buyers – and the very nicely packaged Protocolo will do nothing but add further weight to that argument. Loaded with dark cherry and ripe plum flavours, it’s a classically middleweight style with some mocha and spice adding a little bit of magic on the palate. Unoaked tempranillo like this is made to be enjoyed with great gusto; sloshed into glasses and shared with casual food and good company, rather than sipped and analyzed for its hidden secrets. Indeed, Protocolo’s attraction lies in its ‘one size fits all’, easy drinking charm - and the sheer value for money it offers Kiwi drinkers who are willing to look outside the merlot / syrah / pinot noir categories that dominate our domestic red wine sales. Recommended.
Available from $19.99
Californian Zinfandel fans will find much to like here, and this 2020 Clay Creek release is one of the best Zinfandels I have tried at this price level in quite some time. This is bold, expressive wine. Savoury red cherry and blueberry fruits meld with cocoa and spice on the nose, while the palate is boldly structured with ‘Christmas cake’ flavours and layers of creamy, rounded acidity. This is supple and textural wine with rounded mouthfeel, and the finish is plush and quite juicy with soft tannins and a fresh lingering finish. No one could possibly argue that it isn’t very good buying. Match with hearty roasted meats or a spicy vegetable lasagna and enjoy the 2020 vintage over the coming 5+ years.