Joelle Thomson

Author, journalist, writer

Month: December 2017 (page 2 of 3)

Champagne Larmandier open at our last Wine Wednesday of the year… tonight at 5.30pm…

We’re sharing the love at our last official Wellington Wine Wednesday of the year at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington tonight from 5.30pm to 7pm…

We are cracking open this outstanding champagne, which ticks all the taste boxes and then some, thanks to winemaker Pierre Larmandier…

Champagne Larmandier Bernier Latitude is…

Made from biodynamically grown grapes (think: organic but on a whole new level)

Hand harvested and fermented with wild yeasts (no commercial yeasts added)

Fermented in a combo of wood and stainless steel

Aged on lees in the bottle for 2 years, which is 6 months longer than the legal minimum aging time

Given a super low 4 grams per litre of dosage – it’s extra dry, in other words

Bottled aged for 6 months prior to release

Come and join us for a free taste of one of a 100% Chardonnay (blancs de blanc) champagne, which we usually sell for $95.99 and today it is on special for $89.99… it’s not an every day price but then this is not an everyday wine – it’s something super special.

We will also be selling Robert Walters’ new book Champagne – A Secret History for $36.99 – a book that shakes up all your thinking about what champagne is, should be and could be.


Wine Wednesdays 2018… kick off again on 10 January

PS: Our next Wine Wednesday will be on Wednesday 10 January and we’ll have 2016 Fromm Riesling Spatlese open for free tasting, with a discount on the bottle that night.

Top drops… 5 wines with the X factor

I was once invited to post 5 positive things that happen to me every day on a private Facebook page. It’s a nice idea, but every day? Needless to say, posting 5 top wines once a week can be also be challenging but for different reasons…

There are simply so many tasty wines made in and imported to New Zealand today. This weekly blog is about the creme de la creme of them. The following wines are the absolute bests that I’ve tried over the past seven days in my work as a wine writer and as Wine Programme Director (tastings, writing) at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington and also as a wine lover.

So here we go… it’s the silly season but here are some very un-silly sparkling wines and lovely whites.

Big flavour, small name Champagne

Champagne Gatinois Aÿ Grand Cru Brut Tradition NV France $67.99 


Gatinois is based in the village of Aÿ in the Champagne region and is run by the father son team Pierre and Louis Cheval-Gatinois, who own 7.5 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards and sell half their grapes to Bollinger and other top champagne producers. They also make their own wines. This  blend of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay spends at least three years on lees (decomposing yeast cells) after secondary fermentation in bottle and this is where its rich toasty flavours come from. It’s full bodied, nutty, dry and complex with a slightly oxidative style which provides balancing softness to the refreshing acidity and long finish. Amazing wine.

Another similarly beautiful, Pinot Noir dominant bubbly is Andre Clouet about $54 – toasty and delicious.

Blanc de Blancs

Champagne Larmandier-Bernier Latitude $95.99


  • On special for $88.99 next Wednesday at Regional Wines & Spirits

Biodynamic, blanc de blancs (champagne speak for 100% Chardonnay) which is made from hand harvested grapes fermented in a combo of wood and stainless steel tanks with wild yeasts. Reserve (older) wines make up about a third of the blend and this is aged in the bottle on lees (decomposing yeast cells) for 2 years – 6 months longer than the legal minimum waging time for non vintage champagnes. The dosage is low at 4 grams per litre, which means this wine tastes drier than most champagnes but not austere, thanks to the richness supplied by the long lees aging and full body from the softening creamy effects of aging Chardonnay in wood.


Method in Marlborough

Nautilus Brut NV $41.99


Modelled on Bollinger, this Pinot Noir dominant Marlborough bubbly is made in the traditional method, which is another way of saying like champagne – second fermentation in the bottle. It’s then ages on lees (decomposing cells after fermentation) for an extended period of time, which provides big rich toasty flavours; the hallmark of Bollly and Pinot Noir dominant sparkling wine styles. A stunner.


Italian fizz

Vezzoli Franciacorta Brut $32.99


Italian top end fizz made 100% from Chardonnay grown in the Franciacorta DOCG in Lombardia; northern Italy. This is also made in the traditional method – the same way as champagne – and it tastes fresh, dry, full bodied and creamy – a dead giveaway this is Chardonnay.


Great name, great wine 

2014 Tongue in Groove Riesling $ , % ABV


I’m a sucker for a great name and this is one of the best because the wine lives up to its moniker, filling every groove in the mouth with its full bodied ripe peachiness. The refreshing citrusy flavours add an amazingly long, zesty, complex finish and every sip is hard to forget. This is a wine of beauty, thanks to Riesling devotee Lynnette Hudson and Angela Clifford; the front face duo behind this wine (which includes other silent team members too).

Help at hand for food and drinks businesses…

Here’s a question for you: what do dreamers, hospitality students and restaurateurs all have in common?

The answer: all of them need a little help when it comes to maximising their business potential, which is where Celia Hay’s new book, How to Grow Your Hospitality Business, may  come in handy.

 This book could come in very handy, thanks to the practical nature of its writing and diagrams, particularly the advice dispensed on page 25 of the Hospitality Business Life Cycle, which explains the ebbs and flows of how hospitality businesses work.

“The easy part is setting up a restaurant, café or bar; the hard part is sticking at it when customers come and go because floods of customers can sometimes turn into a trickle for no obvious reason,” says Hay, explaining the rationale of her business life cycle diagram, which she refined for this book.

It’s her third edition of How to Grow Your Hospitality Business and it was launched in Auckland a fortnight ago at the New Zealand School of Food & Wine, which Hay relocated from Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake devastated her school there.

She began working on the new book in 2010, prior to the biggest Christchurch earthquake,  and it has been a work in progress since the relocation to Auckland.

I have worked for Hay at her school in Auckland for the past seven years as a wine tutor and while I no longer teach regularly for her, we remain in contact.

We had a chat this week about her new book.

What do you think of hospitality as an industry to work in?

Celia Hay: It’s much better entertainment than sitting on a couch and watching TV.

What’s the most rewarding part of working in hospitality?

Celia Hay: It’s very addictive creating food and sharing it with people and setting up for special events. I find it very rewarding and greatly enjoy doing events. It’s about being curious about your guests and sharing food, wine and laughter. It’s all very human and that’s the most rewarding part of it.

What is your biggest hope for the book and those who read it? 

Celia Hay: It’s a book to help people succeed in the hospitality business but also for those people who dream to own their own place one day. I want to help people on the pathway to success.

When did the first edition of your book come out?

Celia Hay: In 2000…

What inspired you to write your first edition?

Celia Hay: This book was to provide a text book for the Certificate in Restaurant and Cafe Management that we launched in 1998 at our school in Christchurch.

What’s the biggest change over the years in the books?

Celia Hay: The compliance side of the hospitality industry has become incredibly complicated. Even the Sale of Alcohol Licence and the Food Control Plan are both very detailed from a compliance point of view. And then there is the new Health & Safety at Work Act and the Food Act and all the challenges of employment law.

Who is the target market?

Celia Hay: The dreamer, the student of hospitality management and the restaurateur or café owner who wants to do some professional development.

What’s next at the NZ School of Food & Wine?

Celia Hay: We are just going through NZQA approval for the Diploma of Cookery (Level 5) and Diploma of Hospitality Management at Level 6. We also have a new professional wine diploma to be launched at the school in the middle of 2018.

Where can people buy the book?

Celia Hay: Online at and also at Unity Books in Auckland and Scorpio Books at Christchurch.

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