I set my alarm for 4am to begin writing this column. That’s when my house is quiet and calm and no one is yelling at me to help find their socks/tie/glasses/sports gear/keys and cellphones. It’s when I can just tap away on my computer, turning notes from the previous week into something semi-readable and when I can bask in the Zen of no one needing anything from me. But I kept hitting the snooze button. I was reluctant to start writing because this will be my last weekly wine column. Newspapers are changing, costs need cutting and paid, local weekly wine content isn’t part of the new direction. So after 14 years I want to say an ocean liners’ sized thanks to everyone who has ever picked up a newspaper and spent a minute or five reading about wine. This column is something I’ve looked forward to writing every week since my children were toddlers (they’re now tall, smelly teenagers). It’s been an outlet for me to tell some stories about great wine people, dispel some myths about wine drinking, introduce new styles, varieties and trends in our almost $1.8b export industry and generally just have a yarn about how the occasional glass of really lovely wine can soothe heartache, provide calm at the end of a stressful day, help people connect over a great meal and provide excellent conversation fodder. While I’d always been fascinated by it, wine was not my first choice of a career. My background was in the music industry, record companies, radio stations, TV networks etc. It was the 1990’s and my life was very Auckland, and very “rawk”. When I was made redundant from TVNZ/MTV at the age of 24 and found myself back home in Hastings, I made a choice to study a new thing called wine marketing. After graduating and having babies, some local newspapers let me have a crack at writing about it and things just spiderwebbed from there. I want to thank Mark Story, Louis Pierard, Laura Franklin and Paul Taggart for giving me a chance to write newspaper columns back in the early 2000’s because those opportunities changed my life and I’m incredibly grateful. And thank you to my long-suffering sub-editor Colleen Thorpe, who will be checking this column and rolling her eyes over my appalling grammar. Cheers everyone!
Mills Reef Elspeth Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2016 (4.5 stars)
The winemaking wizardry team of Tim Preston and Paul Dawick only make an ‘Elspeth’ wine when the fruit is outstanding and this 2016 syrah is seriously good. Named after Tim’s grandmother Elspeth Preston (try saying that really fast five times), this new release syrah has the lifted pepper, violet, complex berry characters and chocolate-covered liquorice layers on the nose and palate that you expect in great syrah, yet it is elegantly structured, restrained, with fine grained tannins, softly textured and succulent. Gorgeous stuff.
The Landing Bay of Islands Pinot Gris 2018 $26.99 (4 stars)
If experiences with soupy-sweet pinot gris have put you off in the past, fret not because here’s a style that’ll be totally up your cul-de-sac. Deliciously dry, textural and softly scented with nashi, baked apple and crushed seashells, it’s a clean, mineral-driven gris with generosity of flavour and great length.
Giesen Gemstone Marlborough Riesling 2018 $15.99 (3.5 stars)
If you like a smack of sweetness in your riesling then you’ve come to the right place, because this mandarin, apple and lime-laden lovely is saturated with zesty citrus sweetness, gumtingling acidity and hefty, honeyed notes on the finish. Unique in that it’s fermented in a granite tank which kind of lets the wine ‘sweat’ and increases concentration. Granite tanks are made from one giant slab of plutonic rock and the French have been fermenting in them for centuries.
Mount Michael the Mountaineer Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 $28 (4 stars)
Brand new from winemaker Jody Pagey, comes this incredibly vibrant and hugely aromatic pinot boasting classic black tea, cherry, hedgerow fruits and spice. The palate has a dusting of cocoa and tannins that leap out, take you by surprise and demand your valuables. Of course you hand them over because you’re seduced by this saucy, Central Otago sip. Good now, but sensational if you’re disciplined enough to cellar it.
Vidal Reserve Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2017 $15.99 (3.5 stars)
Made using fruit from their ‘Keltern’, ‘Lyons’ and ‘Kokako’ vineyards, partially fermented with wild, indigenous yeasts and then matured for ten months in French oak barrels has imparted a smoky, funky, mineral and flint-focused flavour spectrum into this wine. If you’re hoping for loads of fresh, peachy notes then turn around because this wine headss off on a different direction, hugging the grilled grapefruit line at the edge of the road.