Tales of wine, people and travel

Guigal Cotes du Rhone on a roll

Wine of the week

2014 Guigal Cotes du Rhone $19.99

It’s surprising how tasty this humbly priced southern French red is. And it has improved immeasurably over the past decade, ever since the family owned Guigal winery moved all their wine aging to Ampuis, in the northern Rhone.


This month the New Zealand wine trade were privileged to have Rod Hull visiting the country to introduce nearly the entire range of Guigal wines, providing indepth detail about what makes these wines so good. Hull is an Englishman based in Bordeaux where he works with a wide range of top European wine brands, including Guigal and Chave, among many others. He was in New Zealand liaising with Negociants NZ, which import and distributor the Guigal wines here.

While it was a privilege to taste a lot of great Guigal and other wines, it was the detail about the lovely, lively Cotes du Rhone that really blew me away. I’ve enjoyed this wine for many years but in the past 5 to 10 years, I have noticed a massive improvement in quality and style – and the price remains the same. That’s no mean feat.

Guigal is a large family owned Rhone Valley winery, which makes great wines from northern and southern Rhone Valley. The Cotes du Rhone may be entry level but great effort has gone into raising its quality over the past decade. This means that about three years’ worth of stock is held back to ensure quality remains consistent.

And, as mentioned above, the wine is now aged at the family owned winery facility in Ampuis in the northern Rhone, to allow the family full control of its aging process. The blend is a complex, consistent one too; 65% Syrah, 35% Grenache and 5% Mourvedre, which no doubt adds the body and oomph to this exceptionally tasty red wine.

The style is all about velvety smoothness, soft mouth feel and fresh fruit flavours with an interesting chocolatey twist. That would be the Mourvedre kicking in. Talk about a lovely red – and outstanding value at $19.99.

This wine sells its socks off so it barely needs promoting, but the facts and figures we learnt this month blew us away, explaining just why it tastes so consistent and so good.

Do expensive glasses make wine taste better?

If you’ve ever really loved a wine, it’s possible that the company, the environment and maybe even the picnic rug, the sand on the beach, the beauty of the rugged mountaintop or dusky pink sunset where you drank it all contributed to its flavours, just as much as the style of the wine itself.

So, what difference does an expensive glass make to how wine tastes?

The easy answer is: a big one.

It’s pretty easy to quantify why too but fortunately great glasses don’t always cost half an arm or a leg to buy. Read on.

Earlier this year, my already extensive glass collection grew yet again when Simon Bell from MacVine International kindly gave me three different Spiegelau Authentis glasses to take for a road test to see how well they deliver on flavour, quality and price.

The first written record of Spiegelau glass production was 1521 and the company has been owned by its big brother, Riedel Glass Works, since 2004.

Like Riedel, its glasses tend to be classic traditional shapes, often without stems, more often with stems. Unlike Riedel, whose production focuses on varietal-specific glassware (Sauvignon Blanc has a specific glass, white burgundy does, and so on), Spiegelau’s glassware is tailored to the wine professional so there are fewer overall glasses.

I trialled three from the Spiegelau Authentis range. Rumour has it that this range is the preferred glassware of the Deutschland Sommelier Association. I can see why.

The Authentis glasses are elegant and fine but sturdier than many large wine  glasses, so they feel safer to use than many of my other great wine glasses, which look like they may be about to shatter if I so much as glance at them sideways.

Two of the three Authentis glasses I tried came out tops, for me. I found the white wine glass great for aromatic whites. And the Authentis Burgundy glass is now my red wine glass of choice. I found the Bordeaux glass too large, which is a personal thing. My perception is also that it accentuates hard tannins while burgundy glasses make reds seem seductively smooth and softer.

The benefits of good glasses 

Their narrow rims concentrate aromas in all wines

Fine lipped glasses bring wine in closer contact with you; the drinker

Sparkling wine has more flavour in white wine glasses than in narrow flutes

Lower priced wines tastes better from bigger glasses

Great wines also taste better from larger glasses with bigger bowls

Fuller bodied whites taste super expressive in large red glasses; try Gewurz’ in a burgundy glass

Temperature of wine makes a massive difference to its taste

Stems prevent wine from warming up – white wine is best in a stem glass

Just because you drink from a big glass, you don’t have to fill it to the brim.


Glass conclusion

Like any wine lover, I have sometimes spent excessive amounts on good glasses, and have been given more than my fair share of crazy looking ones.

Glasses with hollow stems, thin stems, no stems, precariously fine stems. Deep glasses, shallow ones, tiny ones, a pair that could take an entire bottle per glass… Lead crystal glass, recycled, coloured, clear, black glass.

You name it, I’ve tried it. Many of the best have been Riedel, thanks to the excellent job the Austrian glass manufacturer Georg Riedel does in comparing and contrasting the same wine in different glasses to show the difference good glasses can make. And there is no doubt about it – a well chosen glass can be the biggest investment you can make in your wine experience, but having a specific different glass for every style of wine all gets a little too exacting, for me.


The verdict on Spiegelau Authentis

These glasses cost a fraction of the price of many flash wine glasses. They are slightly smaller with shorter stems, slightly thicker rims (though still fine) and  feel sturdier. This makes me relaxed and confident using them as everyday glassware as well as for professional tasting.

Find out more and buy the glasses from


PS: Why wait for the weekend to drink wine out of great glasses?

It’s like wearing uncomfortable shoes for five days and your most comfortable ones only on special occasions.

As the old adage goes, today is the special occasion.

Clean glasses

Streaks and smears are part of every wine lover’s nightmare. Hand polishing often results in cracks and breakage, so it was with a mixture of cynicism and hope that I tried out The Gourmet’s Choice (TGC), which promises to make glasses as clean as a whistle, so to speak.

One squirt in the dishwasher works wonders – as long as the dishwasher is clean, as I discovered when it wasn’t.

TGC is 100% biodegradable and available online at

On the Quiet

It’s 17 years since Jules Taylor created her own wine brand and when she first began it was with 400 cases. That’s modest production, by anyone’s standards. She has since built Jules Taylor Wines into a well known, commercially successful wine and added a side brand. It’s called OTQ.

It stands for On the Quiet.

It began under the radar as a labour of love but OTQ has grown well beyond that now. Last month’s launch of her latest OTQ wines in Christchurch proved the point.

The restaurant was buzzing with wine trade and the odd writer (yours truly). And while the event was fun – it’s always great to catch up with Jules and the Sauvignon cocktail tasted delicious, by the way – the wines have grown in quality and push boundaries of flavour well outside the straightforward fruity spectrum, while remaining true to type – the South Island’s hallmark fresh acidity cuts a refreshing path through these interesting savoury wines. My picks of the new OTQ wines are the 2017 OTQ Chardonnay and her two Pinots – 2017 OTQ Pinot Noir and 2018 OTQ Rosé (intentionally made from grapes grown specifically for rosé – rather than bled off Pinot Noir to concentrate colour – aka the saignée method).

A word about colour in rosé and pink wines

The new OTQ Rosé is pale pink, very good quality and dry as a bone but that’s not because of its colour. The colour of pink wine has nothing to do with whether it tastes dry – that’s all about the winemaking, although it would seem mad right now not to run with the pale theme, given the urban myth that pale equals dry.

Jules made her first OTQ Rose in 2017 and, yes, she also makes a rosé from Merlot grapes grown in Gisborne, which is bottled under the banner of her Jules Taylor wine. That’s another story.

I love the new OTQ Chardonnay, which shows yet again that Marlborough has a hell of a lot more than one string to its white wine bow.

2018 Jules Taylor OTQ Rosé $32.99

Marlborough Pinot rosés often tend to be made as a result of Pinot Noir production rather than as an intentional wine but here’s a lovely dry pinkie with a difference; it’s made from the Branken Hill Vineyard in the Hawkesbury area in Marlborough’s Southern Valleys. The grapes were all hand harvested and the wine is pale in colour with crisp acidity and bright fresh red fruity flavours. It not only looks pretty, it tastes it.


2017 Jules Taylor OTQ Pinot Noir $42.99

Hand harvested, wild fermented and aged in French oak. This fresh new Pinot Noir is made from grapes grown on the Wrekin Vineyard in Marlborough’s Brancott Valley, an elevated sloping hillside where grapes benefit from more intense sunshine, due to elevation. This provides riper flavours, which retain their hall mark fresh acidity, due to Marlborough’s cool nights. It’s a youthful Pinot Noir with savoury flavours that I’m looking forward to checking out in years to come; it has at least seven to eight years up its youthful sleeve, potentially a lot longer in optimum cellars – cool, dark, temperature-stable and all that jazz.

Lovely wines, yet again from the not so quiet OTQ.

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