What’s in the glass tonight June 21st – Sauvignon Blanc

Greystone SB

Greystone Barrel-Fermented Sauvignon Blanc Waipara 2016 – $

13.5% alc. Pale straw colour.

A gorgeous textural wine. Indigenous yeasts and oak handling give this wine complexity and engagement. Perhaps not a classical NZ sav in style, but it still shows tropical fruit notes and open airs of citrus.

Sweet entry on palate, mealy, rich ripe fruit flavours. Golden goodness I say. Unmistakably a savvy, but this is sav+. I think this is fantastic, and a keeper.

A new fav.

Outstanding 95 points.

What’s in the glass tonight March 24th – Pinot Noir


From the Cellar: Greystone Pinot Noir Waipara 2012 – $$

This wine won ‘Pure Elite Gold’ at the Air NZ Wine Awards in 2013 by showing up and showing off, so I thought it might be a bit good and cellared a bottle then to try later.

Now it’s later, and now, and I see it’s a typical carmine colour, and 13.5% ABV.

On the nose it’s elegant, with floral notes of violets and herbage of thyme, savoury, lightly fruitful, luscious and brambly. Good so far…

There is a sweet attack in the mouth. Fresh acidity with bright red fruit flavours. Great body and extract, depth and length.  A raspy finish, with heat lingering at the back of the throat. A tasty one with no bad habits.

Highly recommended 91 Points

Regional Wines In-Store Mini NZ Pinot Noir Tasting – Jan 2017


Clos Henri ‘Petit Clos’ Pinot Noir Marlborough 2015 -$23.55 Juicy & approachable, with structure and depth.

Kiritea ‘ Te Hera’ Pinot Noir Martinborough 2013  -$21.65 – savoury, peppery  & aromatic. A layered, typical Wairarapa style.

Folding Hill Pinot Noir, Bendigo Central Otago 2013 -$28.95 – Elegant, wild thyme notes

Neudorf ‘Tom’s Block’ Pinot Noir Nelson 2014 -$30.25 – A quality quaffer.


Greystone Pinot Noir Waipara 2014 – $33.95 – Hand-harvested from the Omihi Vineyard. Wild yeast ferment with 15% whole bunch to add complexity.

This wine was commented at the tasting as being ‘cerebral’. If you think about anything long enough it becomes cerebral. I thought it had a velvet quality on the nose, with spice, some herbal character, and scents of red roses. So there!

Smooth mouthfeel, with a powerful and dense core of statement fruit. Elegant. It finished hot. No thinness or metallic notes, just deliciousness throughout.

Highly Recommended. 91 Points

Worth Cellaring Tasting – New Zealand Pinot Noirs over $37.50

worth cellaring PN 20161

Wow, this year has gone quickly. I found myself once again upstairs in the Regional Wines tasting room blind-evaluating current vintage NZ Pinots for their ‘cellarability’ at the annual Pinot Noir Worth Cellaring tasting hosted by Geoff Kelly and Richard Sherriff.

There was some talk about Pinots losing some of their appeal, as the previous nights tasting of sub-$37.50 Pinot Noirs had to be cancelled due to extreme lack of interest. I knew I wasn’t keen, and I wasn’t alone. The previous year’s events have been a reliable sell-out, but this tasting showed a few empty chairs.

We wondered why this was. Fashion has to be a factor – Rhones, Syrahs, and other red varieties are all gaining favour, and there are more import choices available to the wine-types who frequent these tastings. Also, there is a glut of very same-y, simple NZ Pinots, which closely resemble cordials that express red fruit characters rather than nuance and fine fragrance. The price point has a lot to do with this. I have to spend in the mid-$30s and above to get a good NZ Pinot Noir; the really good ones start in the mid-$60s; and up to $90+ for the rock stars. So I’m not going to be pulling the cork from those bottles all that often. So I buy the cheaper ones, and am left disappointed, or I buy by the glass, and am even more disappointed (with the exception of, say, Johner, or Roaring Meg, to be fair). So when it comes to a tasting like this, it is hard to summon the enthusiasm…

The line-up was as follows:

2014 Akarua Pinot Noir Bannockburn Central Otago $40

2014 Craggy Range Aroha Pinot Noir Martinborough $122

2013 Dog Point Pinot Noir Marlborough $44

2014 Escarpment Kiwa Pinot Noir Martinborough $67

2014 Fromm Clayvin Pinot Noir Marlborough $82

2014 Greystone Thomas Brothers Pinot Noir Waipara $97

2014 Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Bannockburn Central Otago $43

2014 Maude Pinot Noir Reserve Wanaka Central Otago $49

2013 Neudorf Pinot Noir Moutere $63

2013 Peregrine Pinot Noir Bendigo Central Otago $39

2014 Shubert Pinot Noir Marion’s Vineyard Waiparapa $53

2014 Two Paddocks Pinot Noir Proprietor’s Reserve The Fusillier Bannockburn Central Otago $70

worth cellaring PN 2016 2jpg

So on to these wines, and to be frank, I thought half were very average. To my palate they lacked enough ripeness, extract and showed too much green stalk. You have to have some leaf to express the floral characters that makes a good Pinot Noir so appealing, but there has to be fruit weight and flavour behind it giving the wine the oomph it needs. For this money they have to taste great.

I am only going to write up the wines I liked here, cos it’s late and I don’t feel like wading through my notes to write up what disappointed me. Everyone has their bad days…

2014 Akarua Pinot Noir Bannockburn Central Otago – Pinot ruby, 14.3% alc – Fragrant, light red cherries, slightly green on bouquet. Bright fruit to taste, fresh acid, good weight and ripeness.  Appealing. A good ‘sighter’ wine for the flight. 91 points

2013 Neudorf Pinot Noir Moutere – Deep Pinot ruby, 14% alc – Intense darker fruits than the Akarua, compact. It appeared Burgundian, and showed softness on standing in the glass. Intense flavours of dark cherries, long, with heat on the back palate. Light and spritely also, and piquant. 92 points

2014 Greystone Thomas Brothers Pinot Noir Waipara– Deep Pinot ruby, 13.5% alc – Big and fragrant. It seemed attractively raspy and spicy on the nose, with notes of deep pink English roses. Flavoursome red cherries, generous and gorgeous fruit weight. Chewy. 91 points.

2014 Shubert Pinot Noir Marion’s Vineyard Waiparapa  – Pinot ruby, 14.5% alc – Peppery and bold, impressive wonderfully floral character. I thought Burgundian, someone else said similar to Cotê de Beaune. Great weight of fruit in the mouth. Peppery and intense, complex lithe and spritely, with a tough, taut core. 93 points

2013 Dog Point Pinot Noir Marlborough – Deep Pinot ruby, 14% alc – Perfumed and floral, with slight leaf notes. Delicate, very fine bouquet. Good attack, quite sweet. Gracious, light and somewhat ethereal to taste, darker fruit flavours, balanced, and savoury. Quite long. 91 points.

2014 Escarpment Kiwa Pinot Noir Martinborough – Pinot ruby, 13% – Peppery and elegant nose with dark fruits. There was florality, depth and perfect ripeness. All of the that showed on the palate, with good acid and a fantastically  expressive mouthfeel. Intense, long and finishes firm. This needs time. 92 points.

I was disappointed with how the Aroha, Peregrine, Maude, Fromm and Mt Difficulty wines looked here. They should have been the rock stars. Maybe I am jaded, but they didn’t look good on the night. Was it the vintage? Hard to say – these wines were from three of NZ’s main growing areas, and I have the Aroha and Maude in my cellar already.

Bah. Who knows. Better times next year perhaps…


What’s in the glass tonight February 16th

Greystone PN 2012

Greystone Pinot Noir Waipara 2012 – $$$

I’m in Timaru for the night, on the way down to Twizel in South Canterbury for business. Picked this wine up to drink with a client.

This is a gorgeous pinot noir that has been attracting plenty of attention in wine shows and from critics, and did very well at the Worth Cellaring Pinot tasting I attended last year. I have a couple of bottles in the Pool Room.

Deep ruby red, almost black. 13.5%. Wonderfully fragrant aromatics – fruity and earthy. Dense and full-bodied with great fruit weight and flavours of spice and vanilla and black cherries and red roses on the front and mid-palate, with savoury characters and fine silky tannins at the finish. This a great value Pinot.

VG 4

Straight to the Pool Room – Oct 2014

CDR A foreign crop for the cellar:

Leaving the Reservation: Côtes du Rhone wines, and one other

In September L and I attended a Côtes du Rhone: Worth Cellaring evaluation tasting with Geoff Kelly.

He contends that for wine-lovers of average means, the wines of the Southern Rhone valley are the most appealing, food-friendly and affordable red wines on earth.

In his opinion, affordable Aussie reds are too alcoholic, young, raw and oaky; too many cab / merlots are either unripe or too oaky; and good bordeaux and all burgundy’s simply too expensive, as are the better NZ pinot noirs. Reds of Spain and Italy offer good value, but are an unknown quantity to most New World drinkers.

For Geoff, good quality CdRs are well suitable for the cellar, contrary to the views of some overseas winewriters who favour consumption within 3-5yrs over longer conservation.

So, during the course of the tasting we tried blind 16 different CdRs – including Côtes du Rhone, CdR-Villages, CdR Named-Villages and odd wines from districts graduated to their own appellation i.e Cairanne. Chateauneuf-du Pape and Gigondas are the most noted so a couple of Gigondas wines were included in the hope that they set a benchmark.

As further background to the tasting, we were told that the better Southern Rhone reds are made from blends which must include Grenache (min 40% and upwards) and the noble grapes syrah and mourvedre in the greater wines, and carignan and cinsault in the lesser ones. Such wines when not over-ripened are gloriously fragrant, and redolent of pink roses, Sweet William, carnations, thru dark roses to cinnamon and black pepper.

Also, as we southern-hemisphere drinkers are used to ‘clean’ wines ie not tainted by sulphides, it was suggested we might find it a challenge to discover Rhones that are not ‘dumb’ with sulphide compounds. As I personally have found such funky wines appealing in the past, this ‘threat’ did not faze me in the slightest…

Vintage notes:

2010 – vintage with good ripeness and fine balance. The best wines will cellar very well.

2011 – generous crop in average temperatures. Commercial vintage. Some cellar-worthy wines.

So we drank, and judged, and discussed, and between L and I we selected a bunch of wines to buy for the cellar; as listed below, with comments from us and others:

Dom. Guigal Côtes du Rhone 2010 – $$ – drink 2015-2020 – Dark carmine colour. 14%. Floral nose, precision; tannic, rich, good extract and intensity, purity and expression. Epitomises the idea of CdR. Pure and wine-y, with a touch of oak. Long finish. 2.6m litres made!.

Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhone Reserve 2010 – $$$ – drink 2015-2016 – Dark carmine. 13.5%. Warm nose, floral. Soft in the mouth, with some spice. Correct depth and finish. Mellow and more substantial that other Rhones in the tasting, more ripeness and fruit weight. L liked this one.

Dom. Des Espiers Gigondas 2011 – $$$+ – drink 2015 – 2020 – Dark carmine. 14.5%. Slightly funky (ha!) and reductive. Pleasing richness of fruit. Very deep, bags of flavour, spice, pepper. Long finish. Wonderful aromas of black doris plums – it truly ‘rests on it’s fruit’.

Dom. Guigal Gigondas 2010 – $$$+ – drink 2016-2022 – dark carmine. 14%. A great nose. No words. Superb wine. Wonderful fruit, with cinnamon notes and cedar. Greater oak complexity in this wine, with stronger grip than others seen here. The last wine of the tasting, and what a finish!

We also absolutely loved the inexpensive Dom. Les Grands Bois Côtes du Rhone-Villages Cairanne Cuvee Maximilien 2011. It was up there with the Guigal Gigondas, and would have lasted 30 years but alas, RW’s allocation was sold out, and we couldn’t get any…:-)

Therefore, as our  case had a couple of holes, I filled one with a bottle of:

Greystone Pinot Noir Waipara 2012 – $$$ – drink 2016-2018 – This was the leading wine from the Under $30 Worth Cellaring NZ Pinot Noir tasting.

And the other with:

Plaisir De Merle Chardonnay Western Cape 2011 – $ – drink 2016. The SA cheapie L and I have enjoyed a few of recently. Let’s see how well it sleeps-in.

What’s in the glass tonight October 4th

Thistle Ridge Pinot Noir 2013

Thistle Ridge Waipara Pinot Noir 2013 – $$

A Pinot Noir from Waipara. Planted on the Teviotdale Hills towards the north end of the Valley. Named for a ridge cleared of thistles and planted in vines. Of course.

This is a region most noted (to date) for its Riesling wines, so I’m interested to see how it stacks up. The wine was voted Champion Red at the recent New World Wine Awards. Given the low-ish price point for wines considered for these awards, it should be acknowledged that we are fishing in a somewhat shallow pool.

Pinot Noir is considered a tricky grape to grow and ripen here, and the resulting wine is pricier than, say, Sav Blanc to make. I suspect this encourages producers to lift their cropping levels, ripen more fruit and thus increase wine production, so to get the price down and the supply volumes up to the point where supermarket chains would be interested. As pinot quality is directly influenced by dry extract and careful ripening, it is a careful balance a volume producer must strike.

However, the judges taste blind, and this wine must have shown the goods to win. And further investigation uncovers that this wine is the ‘younger brother’ of leading Waipara producer Greystone wines, whose own Pinot Noir I rated pretty well when I tasted it a while back, and intend to buy for my own cellar. The pedigree is there.

In the glass the wine is very deep pink carmine. 12.5%. Spice and dark stonefruit on nose, with some savoury character. It took 24hrs to open up and lose a metallic aroma, which also influenced the palate, so I would recommend splashy decanting if you want to drink it in one sitting. Not a good look, to be frank. Most supermarket wines are consumed immediately following the shopping excursion, so it should have been primed and ready to go.

After a day’s rest the aroma softened markedly. Savoury and floral characters came forward. Good fruit weight showed to taste, quite sweet and rich, with ripeness galore. Smooth, not dense. A simple wine, and a good return on the $$. Could improve with a year off. 3+

I followed this up the same night with a wine that tasted like it was truly from somewhere else. A startling expression of a foreign terroir:

Plaisir De Merle Western Cape Chardonnay 2011 – $$

Plaisir de Merle Chardonnay SA 2011

I am so used to NZ Chardonnays. It was a surprise to taste my first mouthful of this South African wine from the Paarl Winelands in the Groot Drakenstein Valley. A Meursault-like nose. Rich and buttery and spicy, with toasted nuts. Yum! Not sure really how good it is cos I couldn’t get my head around it. Really cheap at $10 a bottle, so will have another go quite soon 🙂