What was in the glass this Christmas


This year I travelled up-country with LG to visit my folks for Christmas. My sister came down from south Auckland to join us. It was the first time all of us adults had been together at Christmastime for maybe 20 years. Wow.

As usual, I lined up a few bottles to enjoy over the period. Over the preceding year I deposited money each grocery shop into my supermarket’s Christmas Club to buy the feast food and some good wines and not break the bank doing it. I bought nothing at all ‘prestige’ this time, but grabbed a few new and interesting wines worth a look by both my reckoning and that of others.

We started the afternoon with a few glasses of bubbles. First up was my parents choice; Hihi Gizzy Fizzy NV from Gisborne. I knew nothing about this wine beforehand and even less after drinking it, cos it was cut with orange juice. A sparkling “blanc de blanc” made from chardonnay grapes. Nice to drink, but impossible to score.

Then I splashed out on Lindauer Special Brut NV – $. Heh. This wine is a cliché. Pound for pound, it should be claimed as NZ’s best wine if you allow for the volume in which it is produced, its uniformity of style, and price. The Reserve is better, but this always scores a solid 3. Dependable bargain bracing bubbliness, if a bit metallic.

Sister then brought out the Deutz NV – $$$. Methode Traditionale from Marlborough. Brioche and bubbles and elegant dryness. 3.75.

Then we got down to the serious business of the turkey and ham. For that I opened a Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Viognier 2013 – $$. Pale gold. 14%. Gorgeous aroma of apricots and bush honey. Dry and spicy in the mouth, with more apricots. Full on palate with ripe fruit, but restrained. Not as oily as other examples I have tasted, and better for it I think. If a wine can express a sense of a place like Hawkes Bay this one does. I can see the heat and rolling golden summertime hills in its flavours and texture. 3.75


The next day over leftover Christmas ham and salad we shared a bottle of Framingham Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 – $$. My parents like savs. Fruit from the Wairau Valley. 13%. Pale straw colour.  Pungent aroma of pears. Mouthfuls of grapefruit and passionfruit. Fresh, herby, slightly sweet. Wet stone minerals. 4

Along the way I also had a few bottles of Mac’s Sassy Red beer with Dad. Hoppy and bitter; proper ale, and not sweet like the childs beer this country is awash with.

What’s in the glass tonight Dec 8th

Villa Maria CS Dry Riesling 2012 2

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Dry Riesling 2012 – $

This is my third-go-round with this beauty. I just can’t get enough. The wine just keeps getting better.

Acidic and fruity, and fresh and enlivening.

Bursting with limes and pears. Delicious.

Buy half a case and go book a beach holiday now. Outstanding. 5

What’s in the glass tonight Sept 22nd

Villa Maria CS Marlb Chardonnay 2011

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Chardonnay 2011 – $$

L and I shared this bottle while we ate Jax Hamilton’s Chicken Biriyany. Yum both ways.

13.5%. Very pale. Fresh, lightly aromatic. Refined, restrained, Chablis-ish. Citrus. Mealy. 3.75


They call the wind, Mariah. Or, I’ll have a Cardonnay, the ‘h’ is silent

Villa Maria CS Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon HB 2010(2)

Names can be funny things. Ask a Nigel.

Tonight I am enjoying a glass of 2010 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon. I love this wine. I reviewed it back on April 1st.  It wasn’t a joke then, and it isn’t one now: it is dark and smells great; a rich mouthful of plums and boysenberries and fruitcake. 4.

Me being an English speaker, and monolingual, there are a few fishhooks to be found in pronouncing the name of the grape blend of this wine. It is no accident that a lot of folks shorten it to Cab Sav.

Yesterday I was listening to an interesting discussion on the radio between Jim Mora and Yvonne Lorkin. Yvonne was talking about how some wine producers were claiming to suffer reduced sales of their Gewurtztraminer or Viognier wines because customers were unsure how to pronounce their names. Rather than be embarrassed, they reckoned a buyer would choose a wine type that they could pronounce, instead of trying a new variety. I don’t know how true this is, but then I don’t remember what I did before I learnt that the ‘w’ is a ’v’, and the ‘g’ is silent and the ‘er’ is ‘ay’.

Those suppliers were thinking about inventing new names for these varieties, perhaps a name with a local or kiwi flavour, or an informal name. The names ‘Trammy’ or “Vinny’ were bandied about. I’m not sure those are an improvement, but it’s an idea.

The radio people talked also about how some Hawkes Bay producers of fine reds were not happy at having their products described as ‘Bordeaux-blends’. They would prefer a name that was more expressive of the local terroir, rather than borrow the nomenclature of an insular wine-producing community on the other side of the world, no matter that it is a useful shorthand to describe the wine-style. I agree, but what? Any ‘premium’ name with a local or Maori connection is likely already be bound-up with an established brand i.e. a red wine blend being a Pohutukawa, or say, Kotuku for a white.

Another issue was the idea of labelling a Chardonnay as Unoaked or Unwooded. This implies to the uneducated consumer that something has been left out, and the resulting wine is inferior. It isn’t – a Chablis, anyone? But you are talking about ‘no oak’ and oak is expensive innit? It is a dilemma, and those producers are also in the market for a name that implies that something great has been created, rather than removed.

Here is my stab at it:

An Unwooded Chardonnay is a Long White Chardonnay (Aotearoa) and a Bordeaux-blend is a Rata. Done.

Ps. The Cardonnay gag in the title is from the great Aussie comedy Kath ‘n Kim. I have dined out on it ever since. Thanks Kim. And the Mariah thing is a song title from the great film, Paint Your Wagon