Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Wine Matching For Christmas Feasting

Wine Matching for Christmas Feasting

I’m a big believer in wine being a superb digestive aide; therefore it’s inconceivable that I’d be without a glass of something at dinner time whether I’m having fish and chips or feta-filled figs.  Christmas is no exception.  Problem is, there are so many different dishes and flavours going on, it’s hard to settle on one wine to suit the occasion.  But if you want your guests to get the best they can from your feast, here are some winning combinations. 
Upon arrival.
I’m bored senseless by that whole ‘waiting for a special occasion’ concept. I think the birth of Christ counts as a bit of an occasion don’t you?  Don’t go letting money get in the way of treating yourself to something sensational – affordable fizz does exist…
 Champagne Lanvin & Fils Epernay Brut NV $40
This fine fizz has aromas of roast nuts and rising dough with subtle lime and biscuit notes.  Tiny, prickling beads and a delicate mousse lead to lovely rich flavours and zingy-fresh acidity
Morton Estate IQ3 $27
A special limited release bubbly which has spent three years maturing on its yeast lees which  has given it a heavenly, biscuity, brulee-ish character and excellent persistence of flavour. (ph 0800 MORTON) 
Jacobs Creek Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut $13
I love Christmas because inevitably this fantastic sparkler ends up on special pretty much everywhere and it’s fantastic.  Aromas of scone dough, almonds and lifted lemon lead to a delicate bead, soft minerality and a lovely, yeasty character.  Clean, crisp and utterly brilliant value for money.
If Turkey or Roast Chicken arrives on the table then you’ll want a wine that works with all that rich, white flesh, buttery new potatoes, baby peas, green beans and fatty gravy.  So I’d go chardonnay all the way – but not some unwooded example.  I’d opt for a big, ripe, fruit-laden, oaky, creamy one. 
The Dog Point Marlborough Chardonnay 2008 $34 has gorgeous bruleé and stonefruit aromas and pungent grapefruit and gun-smoke complexity in the mouth, which makes it the perfect partner here.  For stockists near you visit
The Mission Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2009 $26 is so clean, elegant and downright juicy.  Grapefruit, rich, tropical notes and toasty oak combine to create greatness.  Available at supermarkets, wine stores and via

Tradition has it there’ll be a Ham, and it will be studded with cloves, covered in orange zest and glazed with all sorts of cellulite-inducing sweeties like marmalade, brown sugar and brandy.  Choosing an appropriate wine for salty meat with a candied/savoury element to it wasn’t the easiest job, but after a dozen or so bottles (and one very seedy morning later) I think I cracked it.  Viognier.
Pronounced Vee-On-Yay, it is a white wine that sits somewhere between the peachy, creamy, tropical characters of chardonnay and the spicy citrus you’ll find in pinot gris.  The perfect wine for this season’s swine.
Villa Maria Private Bin East Coast Viognier 2009 $17
This gorgeous little wine has spicy, mandarin-peel, jasmine and apricot kernel characters abound.  Tangy and dry, it’s an absolute winner.
Selaks Winemakers Favourite Hawke’s Bay Viognier 2009 $24
I love the subtle white peach, almond and apricot aromas of this viognier, and its crisp, textural, flavoursome mandarin-like finish makes it a winner with the Christmas ham and one I'll definitely be buying again.  Widely available.
Up next, the obligatory Pavlova.  Fingers crossed your pav will turn out light, fluffy and deliciously sweet – so toast your success with something equally decadent like a honeyed, marmaladey, toffee-ish dessert wine to cut through that sweet meringue and compliment the fruity toppings and cream.
Any of these stickies will please the crowds: Brown Brothers Patricia Late Harvested Noble Riesling 2006 375ml $30, Hawke’s Ridge Late Harvest Viognier 2009 $20 or the Te Awa Noble Chardonnay 2009 375 ml $20. 
But what about the fruit-heavy, nutty, boozy Christmas puddings, Mince Pies and Christmas cake?  There are some intense flavour combinations like brandy and butter-soaked raisins, currants with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, mixed peel, nuts, almond icing, sweet pastry and sugar here, so I think the best option here is a soothing Stout.  Try the Townshend Brewery Number 9 $6.50 500ml.  It’s a deliciously dark, velvety brew that will work well with all of the above and best of all it’ll settle your digestion down a treat.
Art and science collide
Iconic New Zealand artist Dick Frizzell has launched his new collection of Frizzell Wines just in time for summer following the success of the inaugural range launched last year.
This new collection, produced by award winning wine maker Rod McDonald, includes a 2010 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a 2008 Hawkes Bay Chardonnay and a 2009 Central Otago Pinot Noir, all retaining the unique Dick Frizzell-designed label art.
“I’m thrilled with how well our wines have been received since we launched 18 months ago, and expanding our range was a natural next step.  When we started out on this adventure, we wanted to make a real contribution to the New Zealand wine scene, and we hope people enjoy the new range as much as we have enjoyed developing it,” says Dick Frizzell.   
In addition to the new releases, Frizzell has also launched a Limited Edition Reserve Range. “It’s very important to me that it’s not just about having a unique label on a bottle but the quality of the wine has to be exceptional too. I’ve been lucky enough to work with such a strong team who are all about keeping standards high and as a result our business has gone from strength to strength,” says Frizzell.  The packaging of the Reserve range cleverly resembles a restaurant ‘reserved’ sign – or a Toblerone on steroids – depending on how you look at it.  Either way, it’s “eye-catching as!” according to my ten year old daughter.  Visit for more info.
Grin and Beer it…
Paraparaumu’s Tuatara Brewery was set up in 2002 by Carl Vasta with the support of Sean Murrie from the Malthouse and Fraser McInnes of Bar Bodega.  It was a tiny operation turning out some of the best boutique brews of the day.  Today it’s pushing its 35000 litre capacity to the limit and was named in the Deloitte Fast 50 as one of NZ’s fastest growing companies.  They might be bigger, but the beers just keep getting better as I can well vouch for having just tried their Ardennes Strong Golden Ale which is rich, aromatic, sexy and malty and Munich Helles (hell-iz) Lager which has clean, herbaceous, hoppy freshness.  “We’ve just launched a mixed six-pack of our top selling brews” says Murrie, “it takes a bit of work because you’re only brewing one type of beer per day, but it’s what our customers have asked for so we’re going for it”. Visit for stockists near you.
Four of the Best
Frizzell Wines Reserve Hawke’s Bay Merlot Cabernet 2007 $45 êêêê½
This big, juicy Hawke’s Bay red oozes aromas of gunsmoke, baked prune, cocoa and dusty, earthy notes.  Solid, meaty and muscular in the mouth, with spicy, masculine length of flavour.  Available in fine wine stores or via
Wairau River Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 $20 êêêê
Super-clean lime and passionfruit flavours burst forth in this tangalicious, textural sauvignon.  Solid, punchy length of flavour adds to the experience, it’s a cracker.  Visit for stockists near you or to order online.
Brancott Estate Reserve Sparkling Pinot Noir NV $24 êêê
I’ve seen this red version of sparkling pinot noir (which is normally white) on special recently for as low as $12 which is crazy stuff.  This is fresh and frisky fizz that has lifted red fruits, floral aromatics and a firm, lingering finish.  Widely available.
Moa St. Josephs Belgian-style Tripel 2010 ($20 per 4pk)
It’s sweet, mouthfilling, herbaceous and seriously malty flavour is quite addictive.  But beware, at 9.5% alcohol, more than one glass of the St. Josephs might send you sideways.  To buy visit

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Something In The Soil

The French knew a thing or two when they decided to introduce the appellation system. It was a system of dividing the wine-land into designated areas that produced specific levels of quality wine. Areas like Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, Chablis and the like. I have a similar thing going on in my garden, the fertile right hand side is known as ‘good cabbage’ whereas the left hand side I call ‘average cabbage’ because the hose doesn’t reach that far and the handle fell off my watering can.

New Zealand is slowly starting to allocate names to its great grape-growing land too; the most famous of which is the Gimblett Gravels, an area that covers 800 hectares of gravely soils, laid down by the Ngaruroro River which was exposed after a huge flood in 1867. It’s an unattractive, infertile heat-trap that before the wine boom, was considered a waste of time for agriculture. I remember it wasn’t much more than a decade or so ago when crops wouldn’t grow, you couldn’t graze stock and word was the farmers ‘couldn’t give the land away’- now it’s some of the most expensive vineyard land in the country!

The thing that makes the Gravels so good is that every type of grape seems to grow well there. It’s where you’ll find succulent chardonnay, mouthfilling merlot’s, chunky, chewy cabernets, amazing aromatics and even international award-winning pinot noir for goodness sake! But the variety that’s ripping the wine-worlds knickers right now is Gimblett Gravels Syrah. Before I get started let’s get one thing clear, especially if you’re a first-time reader. Syrah and Shiraz are the same. Two wines, two different names, same grape.

But the Gimblett Gravels produces a unique style of Syrah that recently collected four out of the 7 gold medals awarded at the prestigious Air New Zealand Wine Awards last month.

Wines from the Gimblett Gravels also swept all 4 trophies for the fuller bodied red wine categories at the awards. Newly elected Chairman of the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association, Nick Aleksich of Mills Reef Winery, was especially pleased at the consistency demonstrated by the wines coming from three different vintages: 2007, 2008, and 2009.

“This result confirms what we in the Gimblett Gravels have long felt; that the Gimblett Gravels can produce fantastic quality wines consistently from vintage to vintage – marking it as a truly great terroir.

Wine lovers can take assurance from the fact that every vintage since 1998 has produced gold medal winning wines from the Gimblett Gravels.

Of course, we’re not resting on our laurels and are focused on continual improvement which is promising an extremely exciting future”.

The Champion Merlot trophy went to Church Road Cuve Series Merlot 2007, the Champion Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot Cabernet blend trophy went to Te Awa’s Leftfield Merlot Malbec 2009, while the trophy for Champion Syrah was awarded to Gavin Yortt for his Squawking Magpie “The Stoned Crow” Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2008. Trinity Hill’s Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2008 took home the “Other Red Styles” trophy.

Further cementing Gimblett Gravels’ performance was its dominance in the gold medals awarded to fuller-bodied red wines, dramatically scooping 10 of the 14 golds awarded. Before it was planted in grapes, this patch of land was home to a hot-rod drag strip, the Hastings dump, I think there was a motorcycle gang’s headquarters out there and I think not much else. However looking back over the last decade, wines from this formerly useless patch of dirt have amassed a whopping 400+ gold medals and over 140 trophies in domestic wine competitions. Congratulations are clearly in order.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Don't Confuse the Competition

I’m wrote this column whilst holed-up in a hotel on Auckland’s north shore; at least I think it was called the north shore. This whole Super-City 're-zoning' business is a tad confusing and the last thing I need after two days of tasting close to three hundred wines is to be confused. There was still one more day to go in judging at the New Zealand International Wine Show, which at over 2000 wines our nations largest wine competition. “Here’s an idea for your column Yvonne” said Kingsley Wood, owner of First Glass Wines in Takapuna and organiser of the event, “you can tell everyone that an unprecedented amount of gold medals have just been awarded for the new 2010 Marlborough sauvignon blancs – which is fantastic news”. “But my readers already know that I’m loving the 2010 Marlborough sauvignon blancs because I’ve been reviewing them for weeks” I retorted. “Tell them anyway” he snapped. He’s in retail. They’re all pretty grumpy at the moment.
Speaking of wine awards, the good folk at Seifried Estate in Nelson had only just cleaned up the mess from the party they threw after winning the trophy for New Zealand’s best Gewurztraminer at the Romeo Bragato Awards in Marlborough a fortnight ago, when the call came to string the coloured lightbulbs back up, crack open the chips and dip, plug in the jukebox and get jiggy with it once again because they’d scored a world-first trifecta. For the third time, this family-run company was awarded the Decanter International Sweet Wine Trophy over £10, last week for its Seifried Winemakers Collection Sweet Agnes Riesling 2009. Decanter Magazine is based in London and runs “the most prestigious wine competition on the planet” according to winemaker Heidi Seifried, and with 10,983 entries this year, it’s also the world’s largest. “Every year that Seifried has entered the Sweet Agnes Riesling in the Decanter competition it has been awarded a trophy” says Heidi.

Chris Seifried, Heidi’s brother and fellow winemaker, likens winning a Decanter trophy to being awarded a Michelin star. “This is a wine we work tirelessly on” he says. Using 100% Riesling fruit, the grapes were hand selected at the peak of ripeness with a large portion of the fruit shrivelled and raisined, due to natural dehydration. The fruit is then pressed, giving a rich syrup-like juice. Finally, the juice is fermented and a golden dessert wine is produced. Decanter’s judges described the 2009 Sweet Agnes (named after their mother, Agnes Seifried) as, “very honeyed and waxy on the nose with loads of floral character. It is aromatic, luscious, juicy and intense with a racy but balanced acidity and has excellent length.”

“Needless to say we are all absolutely over the moon here at the winery” says winemaker Heidi Seifried. “The performance of the Sweet Agnes really is quite unbelievable – this is the fourth year it has achieved at least one Decanter Trophy..... We are absolutely thrilled with our little star wine! And it has an impressive list of GOLD medals every vintage to support it too!”

Rule Britannia!

What’s not to love about the English? After all, they gave us chip butties, the Two Ronnie’s, Devonshire teas and David Attenborough (and where we’d be without him doesn’t bear thinking about) But one thing kiwis and Brits continually have in common is our never-ending pursuit of putting one over the French. When it comes to making wine it’s no secret that in recent years the quality coming out of New Zealand has given the French pause for thought. Now it’s the Brits turn. While the words ‘English Wine’ were once about as appealing as the words ‘well-done steak’, a huge victory at the Decanter World Wine Awards for a stunning English sparkling have well and truly got the French beaten at their own game. The winemakers at Sussex-based Ridgeview Wine Estate put English sparkling wines on the map by taking the Top Sparkling Wine Trophy. The International Sparkling Wine Trophy was awarded to their Ridgeview Grosvenor 2006, which beat stiff competition from at least five famous French Champagne houses including the likes of Taittinger, Charles Heidsieck and Thienot.

According to, Mardi Roberts, Sales & Marketing Manager reported that the family run company had absolutely no idea they were in the running to win. "It took us completely by surprise to firstly hear our names on the shortlist for the trophy, then to actually have our wine announced as the winner," she said. Proprietor Michael Roberts and his son, winemaker Simon went up to accept the trophy to rapturous applause.

"The whole family is just so pleased at this great accolade," added Mardi. "It's great for Ridgeview and fantastic for English sparkling wines."

Decanter's Tastings Director, Christelle Guibert, said this was an incredible home-grown success. 'What a result,' she said. 'As if further proof was ever needed, this unequivocally rubberstamps England's membership to that exclusive club of truly world class, sparkling wine producers. Up against a clutch of Champagne's finest, Ridgeview has produced a stupendous wine that defeated them all. It's a truly remarkable win.'

Disney gets savvy

Disneyland isn't just about spinning teacups, castles and life-size cartoon characters; the happiest place on earth also happens to be quite wine savvy as Kiwi winemaker Steve Bird recently found out.

The winemaker's 2008 Bird Sauvignon Blanc and 2008 Bird Big Barrel Pinot Noir has just been
selected by WALT DISNEY WORLD for their 2011 core wine list. “It's fantastic news because millions of tourists from around the world visit the theme parks every year, so the exposure for Bird Wines will be phenomenal,'' says Bird.  According to Steve, the Bird Big Barrel Pinot Noir stands out from others in its class because it's produced through Vernou Roll Fermentation, a process Bird pioneered for Pinot Noir.
This unique winemaking method uses 900 litre oak barrels which are gently rolled by hand during the fermentation process to ensure the most delicate flavours and aromas are preserved.
Maturing for almost a year, the wine never spends more than a day outside the barrel from crushing to bottling.

Register as a Consumer Judge for the NZ Week People's Choice Wine Awards 2010 now!


Turanga Creek Lone Oak Blend 2008 $26 (four stars)

Merlot, malbec and cabernet franc grapes are used to create a wine scented with blackcurrant, toasty oak and soft, earthy spices. To drink it is supple, slippery and elegant in the mouth, it oozes plump fruit and has a supple, clingy texture on the finish. A good drink indeed. Available from La Barrique stores or email for stockists near you.

Cellar 9 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 $10 (2.5 stars)

This cheap and cheerful quaffer ticks all the boxes. Capsicum, lime and preserved lemon aromas lead to a pleasant, passionfruity, refreshingly tangy taste sensation for only ten bucks. Bargain. Exclusive to and

Pierre André Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes-De-Nuits Beauversant 2008 $37 (4 stars)

Good French chardonnay is always a treat especially when it has lifted peach, mandarin and deliciously sweet and toasty oak aromas. Underpinned with a vein of grapefruit acidity and intense, multi-layered textural characters in the mouth, it is lovely and vibrant on the finish. Imported by Paul Treacher at Ballande New Zealand Limited ph. 09 638 9921

Jacobs Creek Sparkling Moscato Rosé $14 (3 stars)

Good Moscato is springtime in a bottle and this snappy example from Jacobs Creek has lifted stonefruit, creaming soda and strawberry aromas followed by a refreshingly sweet, spritzy, tropical finish. Widely available.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Pinot Gris Past & Present

Pinot Gris is here to stay and the volumes out there are increasing at a rate we haven’t seen since sauvignon blanc. So it’s a good thing that finally our winemakers are getting their heads around the potential of the fruit and what each region and sub-region are capable of. Finally we’re seeing crisp, clean intensity of flavour, textural elegance and, in a case proven by a 6-vintage vertical tasting of Bilancia’s example, solid ability to age.

I hardly ever get to taste pinot gris that’s over a year or two old, so when Lorraine Leheny from Bilancia delivered a half dozen bottles dating back to their first offering from 2004 I was excited. If I’m honest I was also a little doubtful – but as soon as the caps came off I was blown away. Grown from Hawke’s Bay’s Black Bridge vineyard in Haumoana, the 2004 was still pale yellow, straw-coloured and had delicate aromas of moist hay, dried herbs and minerals. In the mouth it still held fresh quince and hints of honeysuckle – incredible. The 2005 was scented with white flowers, hay and herbs and it held elegant pear character, mealy notes and tangy minerality on the finish. Five years old and still fresh and drinkable.

The 2006 had chalky minerality on the nose and splashes of pear and yellow plum. It’s slippery, elegant, multi-layered and textural with solid length of flavour. The 2007 is when the label changed from ‘grigio’ to ‘gris’ and it had soft pear and peach notes. The finish was crisp, clean and powdery. 2008 produced exceptional peach, quince and ginger aromas followed by solid, juicy, mouthfilling weight. A ribbon of minerality ran through it leaving a clean, dry finish.

And lastly, the Bilancia Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris 2009 (NZ$24) was perfumed with peach, pear and a lovely underlying almond-meal aroma. In the mouth it was clean, fresh and dry with elegant minerality and gentle, textural length. So there you go. There are still those who feel even the greatest pinot gris taste no better than Uncle Bob’s bathwater, but when made with care and obsessive attention by people like Lorraine Leheny and Warren Gibson – I think its stunning stuff.

Cows go large in Canada.

Who’d have thought that your steak could be marinated from the inside out? An enterprising farmer in British Columbia is helping the local wine industry to get a big boost from a new market segment: Cows. Sadly these cows meet with an unfortunate end, reported the Vancouver Sun last week, but they do spend the last 90 days of their lives relaxing, eating and drinking Okanagan red wine; and it looks as though they like it. Apparently they moo more and are much more social.

The idea of feeding wine to cows was hatched by Janice Ravndahl of Sezmu Meats in Kelowna. (Sezmu is the Egyptian god of wine.) After tasting the meat, local chefs in the area were suitably impressed.

The inspiration hit when she was sitting around, having a glass of wine, watching Gordon Ramsay’s The F Word tv show. She saw him giving a taste of beer to some pigs he was raising – although I’m not sure if that was because he thought it might improve the meat or whether it was some consolation gesture before he sent them off to slaughter – but nonetheless a light bulb went off. Coming from five generations of cattle ranchers, she thought, "why not cows?" She phoned her brother, who told her exactly why not. "Because the carbonation would bloat them," he said. Ravndahl then thought: "Why not wine?"

So they did some trial feeding her free-range, hormone-free, organic Angus cow’s homemade red wine. "We were thrilled with the results," she says. The cows are each fed a litre of red wine every day (the cheap stuff apparently) and they mix it into the feed, but some cows like to drink it.

“After they've had it for a while, when they see us coming with the pitchers, they don't run, but they come faster than usual” she says. Local chefs have been applauding the beef as the best they’d ever tasted.

Former Food Network celebrity chef Ned Bell (Cabana Grille in Kelowna), Stuart Klassen (Delta Grand Okanagan) and Matthew Batey (Mission Hill Winery chef) are serving Sezmu beef. Batey says there's a subtle difference with the wine-fed beef. "It's beautiful beef to begin with. It's just adding one more dimension."

Ravndahl says they fed the cows wine for 120 days, but the flavour difference between 120 days and 90 days wasn't pronounced. "The difference between 30 and 70 days, though, is outstanding." Her beef costs around 15% more than comparable free-range beef.

The Vancouver Sun reported that researchers at Thompson Rivers University's agriculture department are also interested in the wine-drinking cows. In one study involving the cows, they're hypothesizing that the wine diet lessens methane production. They're also wondering if resveratrol in red wine might have benefits for heart health or disease prevention in cows.

(if you like the cow picture above then I strongly suggest you visit - alan hayball is a talented UK-based artist who does gorgeous quirky cow-pics that are too cute. I hope he doesn't mind me using this one)

Five of the Best

Locharburn Central Otago Pinot Rosé 2009 $22 (4.5 stars)

Gorgeous salmon-pink colour and bursting with creaming soda, white peach and raspberry aromas. Super-clean and elegant to drink, it has amazing length of flavour and it’s one of the prettiest, most tasty rosés I’ve tried all year. Go directly to for details on where to buy.

Alluviale Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc 2008 $30 (4 stars)
Elegant, earthy notes of pepper, mace, prune and dark chocolate. Fleshed out with berryfruit and hints of peppermint, it’s a beautifully balanced, vibrant wine with gripping, sensuous tannins and a solid, masculine finish. Winemakers and life partners Kate Galloway and David Ramonteau have created a hearty, ribsticking red that works sensationally well with spice-crusted roast leg of lamb slathered in gravy. Buy at fine wine stores or via

Mission Estate Gewurztraminer 2010 $16 (3 stars)

It’s been aaaaages since I’ve tried a gewürztraminer from Mission Estate, no idea why, but clearly I’ve been missing something rather lovely. This has sexy rose petal and lychee aromas with hints of ginger and spice and a splash of tropical fruit to finish. Excellent value for money and a winner with sizzling Thai garlic and chilli prawns. Available in good wine stores or via

Corallo Nero d’Avola 2008 $8.99 (3 stars)

I’ve talked about this wine in the past but I think it’s timely to bring it up again because there’s a new vintage and it’s sensational. They might’ve been a little average at the soccer world cup but their winemaking is still world-class, and even though this wine is probably produced in the millions of gallons, the drinkability factor of this wine is too good to deny. Plum, chocolate, pepper and juicy spicy notes – smooth and warming, mouth-coating and gorgeous, it’s a wine that’ll definitely please the crowds. – online

Wild Rock Cupids Arrow Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008 $24 (4 stars)

Ripe, red cherry and chocolate aromas followed by voluptuous, fruit-driven flavours and warming, spicy notes in the mouth. It’s an injection of love that’s smooth and textural; this wine has excellent length of flavour, represents great value and is a perfect partner for duck confit. For stockists in your area visit

Friday, 16 July 2010

Heartbroken for Wine

I might be a happily married woman now, but back in the day I somehow managed to work my way through enough commitment-phobic artists, actors, musicians and bad boy bartenders to get my heart broken on a regular basis. Each time a relationship soured I turned to Crunchie bars and cabernet – usually simultaneously, but why? It seemed like such a cliché, so very Bridget Jones to turn to booze and chocolate in times of sorrow and woe. Thankfully research just out says that there is actually a very real reason why women turn to wine and chocolate in times of heartbreak; we simply can’t help it. According to an article in the UK’s Daily Mail last week, scientists have found that jilted women have a higher tendency to turn to these things because their bodies are trying to compensate for an addiction to love. New research has linked rejection in romance to brain activity associated with addiction and that romantic love, under both happy and unhappy circumstances may be a ‘natural’ addiction – just like food, wine, scrapbooking or cigarettes. So we’re not just looking for an excuse to ditch Weight Watchers and fall off the wagon, and we’re not just copying those silly, soppy women on telly and in films when we hit the pick ‘n’ mix section at the supermarket. We are in fact following a very primal, basic instinct and that is to love someone and be loved because we are all afflicted with a serious case of the Robert Palmers. When we suffer the pain of breaking up with someone it’s natural that women attempt to immediately fill the void with something that resembles a love fix, like a glass of good vino or a Luxury Flake.

Getting Fizzicle

Lindauer might have made the style the smash hit of summer 2010 by introducing it to the masses, but sparkling sauvignon blanc has actually been around for quite some time. Mount Riley wines of Marlborough were pioneers of the style with Savée ($20), their deliciously spritzy, lime-laden sparkling sauvignon. When I first tried it about 5 years ago it was eye-opening stuff, “why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?” It was elegant, sensuous and delicately flavoured with white peach and herbaceous notes and I’ve been a big fan since. A packaging makeover means it also now looks sensational on the table (shouldn’t be important, but it is) so it’s a must-have for your next dinner party. Last year Lindauer released their overt, grassy, passionfruity sparkling sauvignon ($12) and it was decidedly sweeter, but a real crowd pleaser nonetheless. Chilled down it’s a superb sip for those sun-kissed summer days (they can’t come soon enough) and as a bonus it’s super-affordable. Now a third sparkling Marlborough sauvignon has crossed by my desk and it’s by Goldridge Estate ($18). Oozing crisp capsicum, lemon and green herb characters, it’s clean and refreshingly dry and lengthy on the finish. Clearly sparkling sav is here to stay and that makes me a happy camper.

Four of the Best This Week
Lake Chalice Raptor Marlborough Chardonnay 2009 $27 (4 stars)

A fantastic chardonnay that’s worth every penny because it has punchy grapefruit, japonica and yellow plum flavours fleshed out with some juicy nectarine notes. Elegantly balanced oak and a creamy, textural finish makes for a satisfying chardonnay that works well with scallops wrapped in bacon and sizzled on the grill. The ‘raptor’ refers to the Karearea or NZ falcon, a rare, endemic raptor. Lake Chalice sponsors the Wingspan Birds of Prey Trust, dedicated to preserving these amazing birds.

Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 $10 (3½ stars)

Super-dry, limey and mineral-driven, this is a crisp, clean and classic example of a style we know and love. Vibrant passionfruit, lime and lemon with a hint of sugar-snap pea character makes this a super-sippable, spritzy sauvignon that'll perk up even the most jaded palate. Widely available.

Waimea Estate Nelson Gewurztraminer 2008 $15 (5 stars)

Again, the price of this wine floored me as this wine actually won an Elite Gold at last years Air New Zealand Wine Awards, which makes it one of the highest scoring Gewurztraminers in the country. Lovely lychee, white peach, hints of ginger and tangy tropical tastiness abound in this wine. And you simply can’t go wrong if you’re thinking about having a number 19 crispy squid with chilli coconut sauce from the thai takeaway – this wine is perfect.

Pegasus Bay Waipara Gewurztraminer 2009 $32 (4½ stars)

Sourced from the oldest gewurztraminer vines in the region, this is one perfectly poised and deliciously elegant example. Lifted lychee, rose, white peach and soft, musky spices mean it’s aromatically stunning and clean, fresh and ultimately drinkable.

Millton Vineyard Clos de Ste. Anne Narboth’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008 $53 (5 stars)

When you look at where the iconic pinot noirs of New Zealand come from, southern(ish) regions like Martinborough, Marlborough, Nelson, Waipara and Central Otago immediately spring to mind but from today onward I’m adding Gisborne to the list because I’ve just tried the sensational Millton Clos de Ste. Anne Narboth’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008. Fashioned by winemaker James Millton from biodynamically grown grapes from the tiny vineyard named after his wife Annie, this pinot has incredibly seductive, spicy, pine-needle aromas wrapped up with some dried herbs, baked strawberries and rhubarb. To drink it is ripe, lush, slippery and lithe, leaving a hint of bitter chocolate on the finish.
Available from fine wine stores or via


Sunday, 17 January 2010

Sommelier Sensations


“I’m off to Craggy to have dinner with some Master Sommeliers so you’ll have to cook tea” I told my husband last Monday night. “Smelliers? Aren’t they like people who sniff things for a living?” he asked, scratching his head and staring vacantly into the fridge. “No” I offered sweetly, “they’re highly skilled wine service professionals who’re also experts in wine procurement, wine storage, wine cellar rotation, and … (noting his eyes glazing over as I grabbed the car keys off the bench) yes honey, they smell stuff for a living”.
Craggy Range is a member of the Family of Twelve, a group of likeminded wine producers who decided that the best way to get their many and varied stories across is to have overseas wine professionals experience New Zealand themselves. “With this in mind we’ve established a programme that’ll see us investing in bringing key influential people from many markets down to NZ where they’ll receive a guided tour with experienced and well-recognised winemakers in all the quality regions of NZ” says Michael Henley of Craggy Range, “from Kumeu River in the North to Felton Road in Central Otago. We believe that by doing this we will create ambassadors for the quality wines of New Zealand”.

The first such sponsored trip focused on three shiny, young, rising-star sommeliers from the USA, who were accompanied by New Zealand’s own and only Master Sommelier, Cameron Douglas.
As Megan Yelanowski, (Wine and Beverage Manager at the San Diago Bayfront Hilton and the first woman in San Diego to obtain her Advanced Level in the Court of Master Sommeliers); Hristo Zisovski, (Head Sommelier for Jean George restaurant in New York also a qualified ‘Advanced Sommelier’) and Geoff Kruth, (Master Sommelier and Director of Operations for the Guild of Sommeliers) tasted their way through some sensational wine and food they talked openly about their ambition and total devotion to their chosen career path.
“This is something we need to get across to young people in New Zealand” said Cameron, “that the role of a Professional Sommelier is a very real career option within the hospitality industry” and went on to explain the fantastic mentoring and training resources available here for anyone interested in furthering their skills to international standard.
In the US young people wanting a career in wine service are encouraged, respected by their employers and customers alike and, well paid.
Sadly while most kiwi restaurateurs know there’s excellent money to be made in wine sales, and to get those sales you need to train, employ and retain skilled wine staff, many still don’t understand that twelve bucks an hour is an insult, not an incentive.
For info on getting ahead in the wine service business email Cameron Douglas MS at



Premium organic chocolate makers Green & Black’s decided to team up with yours truly to bring the latest food and wine matching sensation to the Harvest Hawke’s Bay Festival. Wine and chocolate matching is huge overseas but I couldn’t think of anything more gag-inducing. That was until I actually took part in a wine and chocolate matching workshop in Auckland last year, and it is with much joy and jubilation that I can now happily concede that I was wrong and that there are some fabulous combos that’ll definitely get you salivating your socks off. We’ll be sampling delicate white chocolate through to Green & Black’s new, squint-inducingly dry 85% Dark chocolate. And put your airs and graces aside because it’s all about getting our fingers sticky, spitting and generally making a bit of a mess together – all in the best possible taste of course. To book your place call 0800 44 294 630, register at 

Ola! To Sophie Cotter and her Spanish importing company St Vincent’s Cave who specialise in supplying high quality Spanish wines, beers and beverages. One of my favourites is the Vins Padro Sangria $16.95. It’s clean, super-fresh and far better than any sangria I’ve ever cobbled together myself. Only high-quality 100% Tempranillo wine is used to make it according to Sophie; no orange juice or spirits are added, only natural Mediterranean fruit extracts. “This way the Sangría conserves the colour, aromas, structure and flavour of the wine intact as opposed to camouflaging a cheap wine with spirits and excessive sugar” she says. Sophie suggests serving it over ice with a slice each of lemon & orange, “it's much nicer than adding soda water or anything to it”.

They’re also bringing in the marvellous Moritz beer, brewed by Cervesas Moritz from the spring waters of the Montseny Mountains of Catalonia and using hops from Saaz. Founded by Alsatian brewmaster Louis Moritz in 1856 the recipe is largely unchanged since. Beautifully malty with hints of caramel and fig on the nose this beer is full-flavoured and Moorish with an incredibly refreshing, tangy length of flavour. To find a stockist near you visit or call Sophie on 07 839 0414.

Speaking of Spanish, Scenic Cellars in Taupo are holding the 2010 version of their legendary Spanish Fiesta Cellar Dinner on Saturday March 13th. $130 per ticket includes at least 3 courses of fabulous food, all wine and superb entertainment, but I’ve been told half the tickets have already gone so be quick – ring 07 378 5704 or visit to book.

Four of the Best
Misha’s Vineyard Limelight Central Otago Riesling 2009 $26 (four stars)
Crisp, tangy granny smith apple, beeswax and limey notes burst out of the glass followed by ripe citrus flavours, clean, mineral-driven texture and solid, lovely length of flavour. Contact for stockists.

Brennan Gibbston Pinot Noir 2007 $40 (four and a half stars)
Seductive, exotic aromas of black tea, plum and spiced cherries lead to a warm, meaty, muscular explosion of flavour in the mouth and rich, juicy length of flavour. A big wine from a small producer who’s clearly capable of great things.
Visit for more info.

Matakana Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 $22
(four stars)  Leafy and limey on the nose with some intriguing aromas of anise, preserved lemon and passionfruit. A tiny portion is left to rest on its lees in older French oak which, if you can tear the wine away from your nose adds some rich, creamy, tropical complexity of flavour. Available only in fine wine stores and selected restaurants.

Esk Valley Gimblett Gravels Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2008 $20 (five stars)
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…first the aromas of coconut husk, baked prune and molasses made me swoon. The smooth yet spicy, muscular, cocoa-laden loveliness took me over the moon; and the deliciously warming mouthfeel and sexy length of flavour all for only $20 made me feel like a lucky dish who’d just run away with a very expensive spoon. Widely available and superlative value for money indeed.


Hand’s up who thinks it’s a good idea to produce scratch ‘n’ sniff wine stamps. Neil Pendock, a South African wine commentator definitely thinks so. According to his blog, the Germans just released a series of fruity stamps and the Brazilians had coffee-scented ones a few years back - so Neil thinks wine producers should get on the bandwagon. Perhaps NZ Post could work with NZ Winegrowers to produce a stamp perfumed with pinot noir, or to educate those still clinging to the romance of the traditional closure, an ‘identifying cork taint’ stamp infused with the aroma of rotting cardboard - ahh yes, the possibilities are endless.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Myths about Wine

There are many myths (urban and otherwise) out there about wine. But perhaps the one that sticks in my mind more than most is the one my mother told me when I was young. ‘‘Yvonne, there’s nothing cool or grown-up about drinking too much,’’ she said. Actually, that happens to be true, but at 15 it sounded like the biggest crock I’d ever heard. After busting me so many times for taking sneaky sips from her treasured box of Blenheimer when I was a teen, it’s no surprise she still finds it hard to believe that nowadays I actually get paid to drink. But I digress. The myths are still out there and my mother still drinks Blenheimer; but at least I can correct the myths.
Myth number 1 Uncorking a bottle for a few hours before drinking to ‘‘let it breathe’’ will improve and soften the wine. This is bog-standard bollocks because of the small surface area of the wine exposed to air. It’s a bit like expecting a weary backpacker to feel zippy and refreshed nearing the end of a 12-hourbus ride up the Khyber simply because the driver decides to open his air vent. To really let the wine breathe you need to decant it, slosh it around a bit and let it stretch its legs.
Which brings me to myth number 2. That the ‘‘legs’’, ‘‘tears’’ or ‘‘churchwindows’’ inside a glass of wine that’s been swirled indicate thatit’s a high quality wine. All it actuallyshows is that the wine may contain sturdy amounts of alcohol. Despite this being very important to some sippers, it doesn’t really detail whether the wine is going tobe delicious or dishwater.

Speaking of quality, myth number 3 says that smelling the cork will tell you if a wine’sworth drinking. The waiter or sommelier at a restaurant might hand you the cork so you can check to see if there is mould or if the cork is broken. But sniffing it won’t tell you if the wine is faulty or not, it will just announce to everyone else that you’re a ponce. A wine is ‘‘corked’’ when it smells like damp cardboard or a mouldy sack.Thanks to screw caps, these days fewer wines end up being spoiled. But trust some zealously politically correct Californians to be complete spoilsports.

An award-winning adaptation of LittleRed Riding Hood was withdrawn from a recommended reading list by a schoolboard in Culver City, simply because the heroine had included a bottle of wine in thebasket she brought to her grandmother. Only in America.

Political correctness aside, in New Zealand we’re told that drinking and driving is extremely naughty. But that’s a myth if you reside in Uruguay because apparently over there‘‘intoxication’’ is a legal excuse for having a prang in your car. Just imagine. ‘‘Officer I honestly don’t know what happened? One minute I was having my tenth tequila layback and the next minute I’m in my car, wrapped around this tree.’’ ‘‘I completely understand sir, here’s a note for your insurance company. You take care now.’’

Believe it or not one thing I know is true is that I still can’t tell what day of the week it is. Don’t you just love January? Now I’m off to go crank up the barbecue and pop my merlot in the microwave to burn off all those harsh tannins. What? Everybody does it . . .
Matua Paretai Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 $23★★★★1/2
Tangy tomato-stalk,lip-smacking lime and steely, mineral-driven flavours make Matua’s flagship sauvignon rather fantastic for any occasion; but it’s particularly fabulous with fresh-caught,beer-battered gurnard and crunchy salad. Ask for it at your local wine shop or visit for stockists.

Marsden Estate Black Rocks Chardonnay 2007 $35 ★★★★★
With more medals on its front than Col.Gaddafi’s best jacket and so golden in the glass it could pass for liquid yellow diamonds. This is stunning stuff from theBay of Islands, scentedwith grapefruit,toasted almonds, preserved lemon andpeach; it also oozesripe nectarine and juicy tropical characters on the palate. The finish is long and luxurious and chardonnay lovers should get their skates on because only small amounts were made. Order now from

Bellbird Spring Block8 Pinot Gris 2009 $30★★★★★
If you’d asked me a couple of years ago whether I’d part with thirty bucks for a bottle of pinot gris I’dhave questioned your sanity. But those werethe bad old days before the likes of Bellbird Spring and their addictively good gris. Subtle pear, jazz apple,lychee and soft spiceson the nose but in the mouth it bursts with opulent, oily tropical juiciness. Big, sweet, sensational bang for your buck—visit

Vin Alto Fizzante NV $24★★★
Sometimes the oddest combinations work wonders and that’s why it didn’t surprise me that this fizz from Clevedon ended up as the perfect partner for our summer calamari, fennel and chickpea salad.
I have no idea what this wine’s madefrom, but it’s a limited edition, Italian-style sparkling wine that’slight and tangy with a citrus edge and a hint of spritz.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Down on the Farm

It’s not everyday you get to try a trophy-winning wine down at your local farmers market, but for visitors to the Hastings Farmers Market (held every Sunday morning) that’s all about to change. You see the Trophy for Best Dessert Wine at the 2009 Air New Zealand Awards went to Farmgate Wines (regular farmer’s market fixtures) for their Noble Harvest Riesling 2007,
FARMGATE winemaker and poetry fan, Peter Gough, has long had a penchant for making dessert wine.
“I love Keats description of Autumn” Peter says “as the “season of mist and mellow fruitfulness.”
It’s those autumn mists in our Riesling vineyard that encourage the botrytis infection
(or noble rot) which is the start of the process of producing a dessert wine.”

At a hip-swelling 280g/l of residual sugar Peter describe’s Farmgate Noble Harvest Riesling 2007 as being “…decadent with aromas of apricot, honey and marmalade – a rich unctuous palate
with stonefruit, orange and mandarin – balanced with a pineappley acid cut.” So if you’re planning a stay in the ‘Bay make sure you take advantage of the opportunity to taste before it’s all gone.

Everyone’s a Winner

Occasionally I receive press releases that don’t actually make me want to scoop my own eyeballs out with a spoon and this is one of them.
Early Learning Centre Country Kids, in the Moutere Valley and Tasman School near Nelson have both been presented with donations by Blackenbrook Vineyard after a successful first-time fund-raising initiative.
Parents and staff at Country Kids and Tasman School were able to buy heavily reduced bottles of Blackenbrook wine with proceeds going back into the daycare and school. Co-owner of Blackenbrook, Ursula Schwarzenbach says as her children have both been to Country Kids and her son now goes to Tasman, they were delighted to be able to give something back.
“It’s not easy for these places to raise funds, so as a local business we were happy to help out. We also like the fact that we get the chance to thank the people who buy local wine by donating back to help our community’s children,” she says. Country Kids Manager Nickie Hodgkinson says the wine idea was a winner.
“It was hugely popular with parents and staff alike. It was just such easy fundraising and we’re really thrilled that Blackenbrook came up with the idea and were prepared to donate these funds. The money raised will be spent on new bulldozers for the sandpit,” she says. Schwarzenbach says the concept was so successful they’ll definitely look at doing it again in the future.
I love the idea that buying wine might help put more bulldozers in sandpits, as well as encouraging more New Zealanders to buy wine locally, and I hope more wineries give this idea some thought. To find out more about how it was done, contact Blackenbrook at

Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Moscato $13

This recently picked up the Trophy for Best Apéritif-Style Australian Sparkling Wine at the Sydney International Wine Competition and also scooped Top 100 status and a Blue-Gold medal – but shiny medals aside, this is one fabulous little fizz with summer written all over it. It’s compulsory to serve it super-cold to enjoy the delicious tropical pineapple and peach flavours and crisp, spritzy acidity. Light but so lovely. Widely available.
Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2009 $35
Marlborough’s big guns just keep firing from the 2009 sauvignon blanc vintage, and Saint Clair have proved once again that their flagship, the Wairau Reserve is no short-range missile. Boasting pungent aromas of white-flesh nectarine, passionfruit, lemon-verbena and lawn clippings followed by a heart-stopping burst of classic gooseberry, pineapple and lime-laden lusciousness on the palate. Stunning stuff that can be found in good wine stores or via
Montana ‘P’ Patutahi Gewurztraminer 2008 $36
This is one of my favourite gewürztraminers because it’s always so fresh, exotically spicy, floral and fabulous. In the 2008 version expect dense concentration of lychee, rose petal, guava and citrus flavours, bold complexity and beautiful length on the finish. Find it in good wine stores nationwide.
Full Circle Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 $16
The latest offering from green-guru’s Yealands Estate is grassy and classy but definitely not glassy. Locked inside this lightweight plastic squeezy bottle is a lean, limey, fresh and frisky sauvignon which carries some classic capsicum and herbal characters to round out all that citrus. It might be certified carbon-zero but it’s definitely full-emission where flavour’s concerned. Find it at wine stores and supermarkets everywhere. To find out more visit
The Ned Waihopai River Sauvignon Blanc 2009 $18
Don’t be fooled by the soft, pillowy nose because this wine positively erupts with punchy pineapple, passionfruit and lime-driven flavours. Clean and minerally to finish, it’s a sure-fire hit with seafood of any description. Good wine stores and supermarkets will stock this or visit
Sacred Hill HALO Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2008 $26
Heavenly aromas of hotcross buns, Christmas pudding, pickled walnuts and pepper numb the nostrils while the tastebuds are coated with warm, plump and plummy flavours which leave a lovely, clinging finish. Dangerously easy to drink and perfect with old-fashioned leg of lamb studded with rosemary and garlic. Widely available