Joelle Thomson Writer

Author, journalist, speaker

Month: November 2018 (page 1 of 2)

The Dawn of a new bubbly

The story of Dawn

It’s the dawn of a new era, only the Dawn in question is about to turn 104 and the wine made in her honour is now on its third vintage.

The first Dawn was 2012 – the year that its namesake, Dawn Ibbotson, turned 100

The third and latest vintage of the wine called Dawn was launched last night at Logan Brown restaurant in Cuba Street, Wellington, at a dinner hosted by a forward thinking group called Methode Marlborough. Members of Methode Marlborough make sparkling wine in the traditional method – using the same methods and traditional grapes as champagne, namely,  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

The newest member is Saint Clair Wines, founded by Neal Ibbotson, whose mother, Dawn, was born in Gore in December 1914, just after World War I began. She lives in Dunedin.

  • The first vintage of Dawn was first made in 2012. The new 2014 vintage is out now.


Three minutes with Saint Clair winemaker Stewart Maclennan 

Winemaker Stewart Maclennan

How did Dawn bubbly begin?

SM: One day in 2011, Neal burst into the winemaking office and excitedly proclaimed, “We’re gonna make a bubbly.”

The team was stoked and Neal explained the first bubbly was to celebrate his mother’s 100th birthday.

I started thinking about logistical matters, such as where the grapes would come from, when we would pick them, where we would store all the bottles while the wine aged on lees in the bottle and how we would manage it all.

Dawn Ibbotson pictured with her son, Neal, and a bottle of her namesake bubbly

What was the biggest challenge?

SM: The label design. Once we sorted that, my biggest challenges were  finding space in our barrel halls for fermentation and ageing and the steep learning curve of making traditional method, high quality sparkling wine.


How did you decide how long to age the wine on lees for?    

SM: Our winemaking team, Hamish, Kyle and I, felt strongly from the beginning that this wine would sit for 36 months on lees; the aging time in bottle after the secondary fermentation.


What led to this long time of aging before release?

SM: We tasted a lot of local and global wines and we agreed that 18 to 24 months wasn’t cutting it in too many cases. Too many producers were using dosage (sweetness) as a disguise for underaged wines.


Which wine or wines were your inspirations?

SM: We wanted to think locally, if Marlborough has nothing else, it has the incredible natural acidity needed to produce world class traditional method bubbles.

The wines of No1, Nautilus and Cloudy Bay are a few of the leaders of this style of sparkling wine.


What were your international sparkling inspirations?

SM: We tasted the full spectrum of sparkling wines from Australia, France, Spain and others to help steer our collective stylistic direction

Ultimately though, we were at the start of the journey, all we had to do was listen properly and the grapes would tell us where they wanted to go.

Considering the abundance of primary character we get in Marlborough, it was clear from pretty early on that we would be looking at a Chardonnay dominant base wine.


Do you plan to make Dawn every year?

SM: We haven’t made Dawn every year, Dawn is very much a vintage wine made only when the correct circumstances prevail.

Marlborough’s cool nights are so important for acid retention, so this becomes a big factor when growing the best grapes for sparkling wines


What’s your happiest winemaking moment with Dawn?

SM: Letting the first bottles ferment slowly in the halls while we tasted and monitored the fermentation dynamics gave me a sense of great feeling – and relief that it was working.

Hawke’ Bay Syrah is going places… into the cellar

Rod McDonald’s new flagship Syrah is out and it’s no surprise to taste such a class act – the 2015 Trademark Syrah is from the third great year in a row for Hawke’s Bay.

The proof is in the bottle.

The 2015 Trademark Syrah is from the third in a trio of outstanding vintages in Hawke’s Bay. A grape, region and wine that are going places; the wine is going into the cellar…

Last year McDonald won the Champion Red Trophy at the world’s biggest wine competition – the International Wine Challenge (IWC) in London. The win was for his humbly priced 2015 Quarter Acre Syrah, about $30, sometimes less. It’s no mean feat for a wine made from a grape that is relatively new not only to Hawke’s Bay but also to New Zealand. And, now, the brand new 2015 Trademark Syrah, $89.99, picks up where the Quarter Acre Syrah left off. It’s made in smaller quantities from four vineyards in the Bay; Maraekakaho, Bridge Pa, Tuki Tuki River Valley and Te Awanga. McDonald and his team manage these vineyards and their spread of geographic sites is all about maximising quality – fruit ripeness, balance of flavour, tannins, fresh acidity and body – rather than about hedging bets.

This Syrah is the best; dark purple, dry, full bodied, very good balance and a great long life ahead of it. If you can resist the urge to enjoy it right now. A stunner.

Rod McDonald’s new 2015 Trademark Syrah $89.99 is out now in specialist wine stores.

Craggy Range appoints new chief winemaker

Julian Grounds will take up the role of head winemaker at Craggy Range in 2019; date to be confirmed, but the role already has been

He was Dux of Viticulture and Oenology at Curtain University, winner of an award for future leadership and Dux of the 2017 Len Evans Tutorial and now Julian Grounds has been appointed to a powerful new role – chief winemaker at Craggy Range.

The Hawke’s Bay winery announced today that it was appointing Grounds as its new chief winemaker, a role he will take up over coming months. Exact timing had yet to be confirmed while Matt Stafford continues to work in the role.

Craggy Range CEO Michael Wilding said the Peabody family, which owns Craggy Rnage, was also about to make its biggest new vineyard investment in over a decade.

“Julian will play a pivotal role in defining the plantings and trials as we embark on this journey, which will not only support our growth, but most importantly will push our quality and leadership in the ultra-premium New Zealand wine category further,” says Wilding.

Grounds has made wine in Central Otago, Oregon, Burgundy, the Yarra Valley and  Margaret River, among other locations. He said that he saw the potential for New Zealand wine unrivalled on a world scale at the moment.

“I am really humbled by the opportunity and look forward to making a positive contribution to what is already an iconic New Zealand brand.”

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