Yvonne Lorkin wine column for week beginning Sat March 31 2018

Fans of the fizz will have noticed in recent years, a wave of new and highly affordable sparkles flooding into New Zealand from the likes of Spain and Italy. Us New Zealanders, we love our sparkling wine and have always ranked highly on the ‘bubbles consumption per capita’ stakes. I’m not sure why that is, but I think it’s a great thing. Clearly importers of the sparkly stuff have had positive exchange rates and a thirsty market going for them and it’s meant there’s now a huge amount of choice out there for those who fancy good fizz. For a tiny country at the bottom of the world, we consume a large amount of high-end, premium Champagne, however at the more affordable end of the spectrum, the two main rivals to our regular diet of Lindauer and Asti Spumante, are Prosecco and Cava. The differences between the three styles are many. Champagne is a sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France around the city of Reims about 130 kms Northeast of Paris. It’s traditionally made using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes and the bubbles are produced using a complex, costly method of secondary fermentation in the bottle. Champagne can be dry ‘Brut’ or sweeter ‘Sec’, the alcohol will be around 12% and you won’t be parting with less than $50 for an entry-level bottle. Prosecco is a sparkling wine made in the Veneto region of Italy around the city of Treviso about 24 km North of Venice. It’s made with ‘Glera’ grapes and can be bone dry or tending towards sweet depending on the label. ‘Dry’ will actually be a teensy bit sweet, ‘Extra Dry’ will have more of a classic dry, yet generous mouthfeel and ‘extra dry’ will be practically skeletal to drink. Prosecco is produced using the ‘Tank Method’ where the bubbles are created by a secondary ferment in tank before being bottled under pressure. You can get good prosecco here in NZ for $17-$25.

Cava on the other hand is closer to Champagne in terms of taste than prosecco. The sparkling wine of Spain is made in exactly the same, bottle-fermented style, yet they use a traditional blend of native grapes Macabeu (adds soft, lemony flavours), Parellada (boosts the citrus) and Xarel.lo (pronounced sharel-lo, adds pear and floral notes) The driest styles are labelled “Brut Nature” while the sweeter ones are “Semi Seco”. Good Cava’s start around $20.

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Tosti Prosecco DOC NV $17.99 (3.5 stars)
Pouring this wine into your glass, it looks like liquid meringue, so fluffy, creamy and pillow-like as it fills. Scented with soft coconut, guava and white peach characters and leaving a lick of lemony lightness on the palate. It’s a beautifully balanced prosecco with just enough natural sweetness and good, racy acidity to keep it fresh – it’s my kind of fizz. Made from traditional glera grapes, this is beyond perfect with pan fried courgette flowers with ricotta, basil and macadamias.
www.glengarrywines.co.nz

Mas Candi Cava Brut Nature NV $23 (4 stars)
Cava is the Spanish version of Champagne, it’s made in exactly the same way and it’s the perfect way to welcome the cooling down of the seasons. This is a blend of 60% xarel.lo, 20% macabeo and 5% parellada, alongside 15% that’s comprised of other indigenous Penedès grape varieties. Maturation time of at least two years on yeast lees has injected a creamy, macadamia-like texture on top of the soft peachy, lemony flavours. Seriously sippable with cashew and ricotta ravioli.
www.planetwine.co.nz

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The days are cooling, so have these cockle-warming reds on hand to ease into Autumn…

Sacred Hill Hawke’s Bay Helmsman 2015 $80 (5 stars)
My first taste of this wine was a few years before the millennium and back then I was told the name represented something that led the way that stood ahead of the pack and steered you in the right direction. This new vintage lives up to its reputation of focus and drive. A Helmsman is released only in years when the fruit is unrivalled and when winemaker Tony Bish is confident it’ll stand the test of time. Expect a nose of vanilla and smoke, fruitcake, tobcco and hints of leather carpenters apron. The tannins are elegant and elastic and help create a long, beautifully lithe finish.
www.finewinedelivery.co.nz

Vinteloper Urban Project Red 2016 $39.90 (4.5 stars)
I LOVED the bottle so much that no sooner was it empty than I bunged a candle down it’s spout and popped it on the mantlepiece. Art right there. Shiraz and Malbec are an unusual twosome, but this blend by the unconventional coterie of Vinteloper kids works on so many levels. Aromas of plum, raspberry, soft pepper and a lick of leather are followed by a ripe and velvety-smooth palate awash with berry tea, cocoa and raspberry liquorice. Lasagne?  Pronto!
www.greatlittlevineyards.com

Coopers Creek Select Vineyards Saint John Hawke’s Bay Malbec 2013 $26.60 (5 stars)
Named after Mr St. John York, the original owner of the Bridge Pa vineyard where the fruit was sourced, this malbec went on to scoop the Championship trophy at the Bragato Wine Awards in 2016. Fleshy and full to the brim with aromas of roasting pan juices, dark berryfruit, red apple leather and Christmas pudding spices that all tsunami through the palate, this is a fruit-saturated glass of fabulousness right here. Vibrant, saucy and seductive. Lamb and rosemary sausages anyone?
www.cooperscreek.co.nz

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