Joelle Thomson

Author, journalist, writer

Month: July 2017 (page 2 of 4)

Blast from the past… buy wine from Peg’ Bay and Dog Point’s cellars

One of the most frequently asked wine questions is this: Can I cellar this wine and what will it taste like in 10 years’ time?

This month two New Zealand wineries have put their money where their mouths are and opened up their cellars for the public to buy 10 year old wines.

Pegasus Bay in North Canterbury and Dog Point Vineyards in Marlborough have done the cellaring for us so that we can taste well cellared wines and track the progress of flavour over a decade. It’s an interesting – and tasty – concept.

Lest this sound like a marketing ploy, the wineries in question have chosen one of the best vintages of the past decade and are not flogging off second tier wines, but their flagships. And they’re damned good too, as I have been finding out while tasting samples.

Both wineries make maverick styles of wines at prices people can afford and – for those of us who personally know the makers – they also have a deep love of the great wines of the world, which inspire their styles.

Why keep it

Now that wine is New Zealand’s fifth biggest export earner (and rising), it’s only natural that we would, could and, perhaps, should start keeping some of the best bottles made here. Not everything has to be consumed right now. It’s fun, decadent and delicious to have a small wine cellar. My own dwindled a tad when I relocated from Auckland to Wellington 18 months back because I was trying to rationalise everything I owned, so I shared, drank, swapped and gave away many old bottles. But it’s growing again and these two wineries have a growing place in it because I know their wines can age reliably well – and taste even better five or 10 years down the track.

It’s been great to retaste Dog Point Section 94, Dog Point Chardonnay, Dog Point Pinot Noir, Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir and Pegasus Bay Riesling (all from 2007), but it’s far from the first time I have tried and enjoyed old wines from these two producers.

If you want a wine cellar…

By the way, if you want to cellar wine, then the team at White Refrigeration makes custom-built cellars and consultations are free. If you can convert that unused wardrobe, spot under the stairs or spare space into a wine cellar, why not?

The cellar wines available

2007 Dog Point Vineyard Pinot Noir

2007 Dog Point Chardonnay

2007 Dog Point Section 94

2007 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Aged Release

2007 Pegasus Bay Riesling Aged Release

My top picks

2007 Dog Point Section 94

The 2007 Dog Point Section 94 shows Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in a bright new light – it’s 10 years old and incredibly fresh, no doubt the high acidity preserves it, as do the dialled up flavours and long finish. Here’s a succulent and complex Sauvignon that says more about the place than the grapes grown there, which were 100% barrel fermented, which adds beautiful bells and whistles to this Sauvignon.

2007 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Aged Release

It’s a delicious treat to revisit this North Canterbury Pinot Noir’s silky, fresh and complex flavours – every sip taste of black cherries on speed and the zesty acidity (which is Pinot’s hallmark) makes every mouthful linger. It drinks well now and still has many years up its lovely sleeve yet.

How to get them

Dog Point Vineyards… is selling cellared wines now in 6-packs through the Dog Point Vineyard Library Wine Club. Membership is free and includes information and preview offers.

More information at

Pegasus Bay Wines… is selling cellared wines from August via three different channels – at the winery cellar door, via mail order and at some specialist wine stores.

More information at



Cellaring wine

If you’re going to drink old wines now, then it only stands to reason that new ones should go straight into the cellar… or under the stairs, if that’s the place you store tasty treats. Try stashing these for 5 or 10 years.

2015 Pegasus Bay Riesling 12.5% ABV

This is the brand new outrageously good Riesling from New Zealand’s king of spatlese styles – Mat Donaldson, winemaker and eldest son of the Peg’ Bay winemaking dynasty in North Canterbury. Mat is a man on a mission to progressively produce Rieslings that taste ever so slightly drier in style and this is an elegant step in that direction. Concentrated lemon zest, ripe mandarins and fresh peach all combine in this great new wine. (And yes, it is Mat – with one ‘t’.)

2016 Palliser Estate Riesling Martinborough 12% ABV

Dry, deliciously lemony with zingy freshness to burn. If you like this wine now, check it out in 5, 10, or 15 years, depending on your willpower. I have regularly enjoyed many Palliser Estate Rieslings up to 15 years old and been consistently impressed by its freshness and intense flavours.

NZ’s most promising or most challenging wine region?

Waitaki Valley. Small, remote, bone chillingly cold now but super hot in summer…

Waitaki Valley is home to so much limestone and so few people that it looks more like a cross between Scotland and somewhere in the north of France than a remote region in New Zealand. But there you have it – a surprise in the making, as are its wines. It’s hard not to fall for the charms of this eye poppingly stunning region, but one step outside into the cold can easily put paid to a belief that natural beauty alone results in great wines.

If the ability to age is any indication of good wine quality, then the Waitaki Valley has plenty of high quality potential up its wine-y sleeve. And if any proof was needed of the region’s ability to provide conditions for grapes that can make age-worthy wines, it was provided last weekend when Waitaki wine pioneer Jim Jerram flew to Oamaru to pick me up for a bird’s eye view over this spectacularly beautiful valley.

The light plane he flew was close enough to give us an outstanding view of the valley’s plentiful limestone deposits and its patchwork of vines. Jerram later opened his 2011 Ostler Caroline’s Waitaki Valley Pinot Noir and 2012 Ostler Blue House Vines Riesling, both of which clearly have plenty of life up their sleeves. The Riesling was incredibly pale in colour with the high acidity you’d expect from such a cool climate part of the world, balanced by intense flavours of lime and green apple, with lemon zest flavours starting to appear.

The Pinot, on the other hand, was definitely heading down the ‘I’ve been cellared’ path of savoury, earthy flavours and its brick-orange rim revealed a wine that is clearly in its development phase of life. That said, I believe that Pinot has plenty more time up its sleeve because the wine was still driven by fresh acidity, which provided the support structure to its surprisingly full body and its unsurprisingly long finish.

The wines of the Waitaki are defiantly different in style to their Central Otago counterparts – the whites taste more austere while the reds are more savoury and perhaps have more in common with those from North Canterbury, a few hours up the road.

Taste the Waitaki Valley

Taste the wines of the Waitaki on Thursday 17 August from 6pm to 8pm at Regional Wines in Wellington. I am hosting this tasting and the winemakers have all contributed their wines to what we believe is the most comprehensive tasting yet of Waitaki Valley wines. Details to book a spot in this tasting are here:


The wines we will taste include

2015 Ostler Audrey’s Pinot Noir

2015 Ostler Caroline’s Pinot Noir

2016 Pasquale Riesling

2012 Pasquale Chardonnay

2011 Pasquale Pinot Noir

2016 Valli Waitaki Pinot Noir

2015 Valli Waitaki Riesling (off dry)

2014 Valli Waitaki Late Harvest Riesling

2010 John Forrest Collection Waitaki Pinot Noir

2012 John Forrest Collection Waitaki Pinot Noir

2010 John Forrest Collection Waitaki Chardonnay

The Ostler story

Ostler Wines is headed up by Jim Jerram and the wines are made by Jeff Sinnott, who doubles as winemaker and brother in law to Jerram, whose wife Anne (sister of Jeff), is also involved actively in the business.

The Jerrams bought 37 hectares of limestone hillside in the valley  in 2001 when they were holidaying in the Coromandel. They lived in Dunedin at the time, where Jim practised medicine as a GP but (there’s always been a ‘but’, he says), he was looking for an alternative plan.

“I always had been. I’d worked on a high country South Island station as a youth and spent all my holidays in Otago, hunting and flying a plane and bringing a barge down the lake. I always wanted to be a producer and export something because New Zealand needs export, and I wanted to work in an industry with some slightly altruistic aspect too,” he says, adding later on that he worked for two years in Nepal as a young doctor, many moons ago now.

So he knows all about growing things in cool climates – he grew tomatoes in a plastic ‘greenhouse’ at 12,000 feet in Nepal.

Fast forward to today and the Jerram own eight hectares of vines on their limestone walled vineyard, Clos Ostler, which was planted in 2001 to 6 hectares of Pinot Noir and 2 of Pinot Gris. Their first experimental wine was made in 2004. They own other vineyard land in the Waitaki and have a permanent cellar door in Kurow, a town in the valley. There are plans for further expansion at Ostler, which clearly has great potential for high quality wine going forward.

Watch this space.

Vineyard tales with Lauren Swift

Lauren Swift is the winemaker at Ash Ridge in the Bridge Pa Triangle, Hawke’s Bay, and she’s in Wellington today to taste her new wines with writers here.

The winery she works for is owned by Chris Wilcox (who runs the vineyard in a hands-on fashion) and Sonia, his wife. He is an ex banker who dreamt about having his own winery and bought 9 hectares of land in 2000, which was planted in grapes in four stages from 2005 onwards. In 2007, he retired from corporate life, moved his family to the Bay and made his first wine, a Syrah, in 2007. Initially, the contract winemaker was Trinity Hill.

Winemaker Lauren Swift began at the end of 2012 and has since grown production by about eight fold from 1500 cases to 8000-9000 cases. The estate vineyard is planted in Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and a little Viognier – used to co-ferment with the Syrah.

The Ash Ridge wines

There are three tiers of wine made at Ash Ridge. The estate range  includes a barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Rose, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah, all priced at $20; the premium range (which often includes one off wines that Swift likes to experiment with) and includes Malbec, Viognier, Chardonnay and Syrah, all priced at $30, and the reserve wines, which include Chardonnay at $40 and a Syrah at $50.

The closures… everything is sealed with a screw cap

Cork was used to seal the reserve wines in the past (Diam) and Swift does not think it added anything to the wines but she prefers the screw caps – “much prefer them”.

The wine tasting…

Body to burn Chardonnay

2016 Ash Ridge Reserve Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay $40, 12.5% ABV

Chardonnay clones 15 and 95 were used to make this wine from grapes grown on the Ash Ridge estate at Bridge Pa, Hawke’s Bay. This is a succulent wine with high acid, balanced by a full body, soft mid palate lactic tones and ripe grapefruit, peach and nectarine fruit flavours with a  long finish. Lots of lees stirring, 25% new oak, no fining but the wine has been filtered.

Fruit is the hero Syrah

2015 Ash Ridge Reserve Hawke’s Bay Syrah, $50, % ABV

Two clones of Syrah are grown at Ash Ridge estate vineyard and this wine is a near 50/50 blend of both – the Chave clone and MS (mass selection).  It was bottled unfined and unfiltered.

The wine included 25% whole bunches in the fermentation. It’s ruby in colour and overtly peppery in aroma with juicy, bright, intense deep black fruit flavours; 30 per cent new oak was used but the fruit is the hero on the long finish.

Fortifed Syrah…

The 2016 Ash Ridge Ruby Syrah is 20% alcohol and is fermented on skins with 90 grams residual sugar in the wine when it’s fortified. It’s barrel aged for 12 months and sells for $25 at the cellar door.

Hot new Syrahs – Doppio, $150 for two-pack

Doppio is a new wine range from Ash Ridge in Hawke’s Bay was to conceived by winemaker Lauren Swift pin point differences in two Syrah clones – MS and Chave.

“It’s not so we can say one is better, although we all have our preferences,” says Swift.

The two new wines were made from the same vineyard site from which Swift had noticed big differences in the taste of the wines made from each clone. “The Chave clone behaves extremely differently and is always balanced with very little done to it. We spur prune it and have a very open canopy and hardly fruit thin at all whereas with the MS you need to fruit thin a lot – the bunches are huge, it grows a lot of leaf that you’ve got to remove and we trim it two to three times a season whereas the Chave we only trim once when it gets to the top of the posts.”

MS is the clone that is most widely used in Hawke’s Bay.

The wines were aged in barrel for nearly two years and bottled a year prior to release. They are available only in two-packs directly from the winery and were bottled straight from barrel with a smidgeon of SO2. Just 280 two-packs were produced. See website below for further details.

2014 Doppio MS 13% ABV

Bigger bunches of grapes provide big red and black fruit flavours in this full bodied, fleshy and succulent Syrah, which has been the crowd favourite, to date.

2014 Doppio Chave 13% ABV

Thicker skins and smaller bunches are characteristic of the Chave clone, which results in a wine with darker fruit flavours, more mocha and chocolate notes, a fuller body and longer finish. The brix are typically 21 at harvest.

Find out more at:

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