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.