Christmas the Kiwi way

If you ask me what my favourite wine is, my immediate answer is ALWAYS New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Not all of them by any means – the mass production that has gone on in the last 20 years or so from the region means there are some awful cheap bottles out there. But the real gems – the wines that are complex, fruity, crisp, refreshing and zingy are a true delight. 

So it was a natural choice to choose to spend our honeymoon (yes, I will get round to doing a post on wedding wine at some point) in New Zealand – and Christmas staying in Marlborough. It didn’t disappoint – sunny days and cool nights, friendly people, lovely food, more cellar doors than you could ever visit and vines as far as the eye can see.

DSC00562

We stayed at the fantastic Vintners Hotel, where we had our own cabin, and most importantly were close to many of the best vineyards in the area.

We hired bikes on Christmas Eve and set off to see what wines we could taste. We visited far too many to list them all here, but I’ll pick out a few highlights and try and keep it to wines that you can find in the UK too.

DSC00459First up was Whitehaven, who have their cellar door as part of the lovely Vines Village on Rapaura Road. Their Pinot Gris was standout – it’s actually the same grape variety as Pinot Grigio, but this really packed a punch. There was plenty of peach, grapefruit and almond notes going on, with a really crisp fresh finish. The Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc was similarly enjoyable – and you can buy it via Ocado here.

A short distance down the road was the cellar door for No1 Family Estate – a vineyard which only produces sparkling wine. Established by Daniel Le Brun, they produce gorgeous premium Méthode Traditionelle wine. Our favourite was the 100% chardonnay Cuvee Blanc de Blanc, which you can buy via a specialist importer here. If you’re looking for a real talking point next time you serve up some fizz, this is it.

From there we visited Nautilus, Forrest, Fromm and Framingham. Of these, Version 2Framingham was particularly special – they’re known for their Riesling, but for us the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir were some of the best we had. If you want to try the Pinot Noir for yourself, check out The New Zealand House of Wine website. Expect a beautifully rounded, very drinkable wine, with a lot more character than your standard bottle. That’s because they use a few whole bunches of grapes in the production process, with the stems giving silky tannins and a gorgeous nose. They also use a smoky oak barrel to add further layers of complexity to the wine, meaning a few savoury and spice notes along with those fruit flavours you’d expect.

20191225_121527

Christmas lunch was, of course, accompanied by wine pairing at the very special Hans Herzog winery. We had sparkling wine to start (80% pinot noir grapes, so a very different style of fizz), as well as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and a dessert Riesling. The Hans Herzog wines are organic and as natural as possible, which was a real experience. Natural wine is much more interesting to taste, do give it a go if you get the chance.

On Boxing Day we set off to New Zealand’s most coastal vineyard, Yealands. It was simply stunning – a huge expanse of vines right on the coast, with beautiful cliff views and even farmyard animals on the self-drive tour! DSC00532At the tasting we sampled a couple of their Yealands Estate Single Vineyard offerings which were fantastic. You could really taste the difference in the Sauvignon Blanc with the influences of the very mineral soil and seaspray misting over the vines. They also have a much more affordable and accessible version of their Sauvignon that’s available in the UK, including at Co-Op stores and Sainsbury’s.

Do get in touch and let us know what your favourite New Zealand wines are – twitter.com/wineblag or comment below.

 

Mistletoe and Wine (The Reds)

As you can see here, I had a lovely Christmas enjoying some very nice wine. Here are the reds that I was lucky enough to kick back and enjoy by the fire.

This 2013 Wine Society Cotes du Rhone was opened on Christmas Day evening, but to be honest I wasn’t that impressed. It seemed a bit flat and unflavoursome. But after being decanted the next day and left to breathe, it really improved and those big, bold flavours that I was expecting were much more prevalent. I’d still probably pick something different next time, but it was an easy-drinking red (in the end). For a hopefully more reliable option, this bottle from Sainsbury’s would be a good option.

 

 

In contrast, big, full-bodied flavours practically punched you in the face from this really special Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Naked Wines. It was bold, tasty with big tannins and lovely smoky flavours. 2010 was a particularly good vintage – this bottle would easily have kept for another 5+ years and matured nicely, but the temptation to enjoy it was just too much! It worked brilliantly with a lovely baked ham with cloves, and the 15.5% alcohol content speaks for itself. High street offerings include this bottle from Ocado, or this from Majestic.

 

And finally a really special wine, courtesy of my Dad. This 1962 Pauillac was bought for the significance of the year it was made (ahem, same age as Dad). Now it was a touch-and-go experience. The cork had disintegrated quite a lot, and the amount of sediment in the bottle was unbelievable. But after being strained, decanted, strained again and left to breathe, this 52-year-old wine was ready. And boy was it worth the wait. The colour had transformed to a really pale red, and it was one of the smoothest red wines I have ever drunk. The flavour was very different to anything I would normally drink, but the balance between oak and fruit flavours was perfect. No high street equivalent I’m afraid, but hey, you could always choose a good quality, full-bodied red from a supermarket and lay it down for 50 years yourself!