Ah, we’ve reached the Queen’s Birthday side of the year. The ducks are quacking, the stags are on the roar, mushrooms are mushrooming and the days of foraging for figs and feijoas are finished. Daylight saving is also long done and dusted, a serious dent has already formed in the firewood pile and my slow-cooker is operating on overtime.
I love winter because it gives me an excuse to wear woolly tights, shapeless jumpers and scarves coiled all the way up to my eyebags. I can let my leg hair get spiky and my shins and elbows can grow as scaley as anything because (thanks to the freezy season) I don’t have to exfoliate to “maintain a smooth, sunkissed glow” anymore.
Working from home means slippers are my flipper of choice and I can consume as many yummy, garlicky things as I want because a) I’m “warding off winter chills” and b) my husband has taken to sleeping in the spare room due to my prickly legs and distinct lack of glow.
And while our travel bubble is expanding this winter, I for one, am opting to spend more time appreciating our home-grown aristocrats in the drinks department.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2019 ($115)
You can’t begin a feature about our own local liquid aristocracy without including New Zealand’s most famous red wine, Coleraine. Pronounced “cole – rain”, it’s named after the vineyard surrounding the home of owners John and Wendy Buck, on the foothills of Te Mata Peak, a vineyard named after the Irish birthplace of John’s late grandfather. The “fairy tale” 2019 vintage marks its 35th release. A blend of 59 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 37 per cent merlot and 4 per cent cabernet franc, it’s an expansive, ultra-stylish, muscular wine boasting a core of dark boysenberry, cocoa, fruitwood smoke and florals. Left for a minute or seven in the glass, it unfurls layers of complex spices and bouquet-garni notes. Hide it somewhere cool and dark for at least a decade – and I mean “at least”. Drinking this vintage any earlier is basically committing infanticide. A single Coleraine bottle from 1982 sold for $760 at auction last February.
Paritua Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2018 ($49)
Well, well, well, if it isn’t the talents of winemaker Jason Stent on display in the tastiest way possible. Peppercorn, blackcurrant, blueberry, a hint of black forest gateau and all manner of smooth, smoky, seductive syrahness are on offer here, so get amongst it because there’s precious little available. Soothing, warming, and fabulously floral, it’s a sexy sip sourced from the iron-saturated soils of the Bridge Pa Triangle. Chorizo-braised oxtail with smoked paprika? Hold me back! Drink now through 2030.
Giesen The August Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($41)
Named after the grandfather of brothers Marcel, Alex and Theo Giesen; August (Aww-goost) was born in 1888 and became a sommelier and total party animal who loved liquid refreshment, the ladies and the high life – in that order. After a particularly large night, he overslept and missed the train to Cologne where he was to supervise a banquet for Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last German Emperor. So he chartered a whole empty train to get him there, the job went spiffingly and guess who made the front page of the newspaper the next day. Not the Kaiser. The 2018 August is stunning. One-third of the juice was fermented with wild yeasts in a combo of 1000L German oak Fuder barrels and older French oak barriques, which adds a crazy-delicious, creamy, smoky, textural layer to the citrus and stonefruit core. Rich, powerful and getting its freak on in all the right places, it’s superb. Drink now through to 2028.
Spy Valley Echelon Methode Traditionnelle NV ($40)
This new release from one of the Methode Marlborough group’s main players, the Echelon blends pinot noir and chardonnay from different vintages dating back to a decade ago to create a creamy, cashew-dusted, lemon-layered, biscuity bubbly that will win friends and influence people. Crisp, delicate, lithe and leggy, it’s a supermodel sparkler.
Sawmill Homegrown Lager 4.0 per cent ($80 x 24 330ml cans)
Crafting a brew that champions our very own Kiwi producers, Sawmill Brewery has released “Homegrown”, a crisp, crunchy-fresh, gum-numbingly tasty, locavore-of-sorts lager that showcases just how good we are at growing all the hops and malts you need to make a bonza brew. Twelve years after they started back in 2004 on the site of what was once an 1860s timber mill in Leigh, their small-but-talented team moved to new premises near Matakana and soon became New Zealand’s first B Corp certified brewery, an international certification recognising their commitment to social and environmental responsibility and transparency.
Palliser Hua Nui Martinborough Pinot Noir 2019 ($85)
This is the first single vineyard wine crafted by Guy McMaster and only the second Hua Nui release that Palliser have ever made. Completely organic and bottled during lockdown in March 2020, it’s crafted from a mix of six clones grown in what used to be known as their Wharekahau vineyard. It is intensely complex and erupts with a smorgasbord of black fruits, sandalwood, bitter citrus, pomegranate and rosehip tea. On the palate it roars with flavour, buckets of berries and spice saturation and the tannins are slippery-smooth. Of course it’s drool-inducing now, but give it sleepy time in the cellar until 2031 and you’ll be rewarded.