Joelle Thomson

Writer, author, journalist

Author: Joelle Thomson (page 2 of 118)

Wines of the week… Doctors’ wines and beautiful stones

It’s been a wine kind of a week. What other sort is there when wine is work and duty calls.

This week that duty included a day with mountain biker and winemaker Steve Davies, who headed up north from his home in Central Otago for a day of show and tell in the windy city. I had the pleasure of introducing him to a bunch of Wellingtonians so that they could taste his latest 2016 Doctors Flat Pinot Noir, one of my wines.

There have been many great wines this week. Here are the top three. It’s been a tough choice.

Bargain buy

2018 The Doctors’ Riesling $19.99


John Forrest is one of the doctors and his wife Brigid is the other one behind this low alcohol Riesling, which contains 9% alcohol and enough residual sugar from the grapes to fit firmly in the sweet category. It’s light bodied and balanced by high acidity (a hallmark of Riesling), so it tastes refreshing, crisp and long on the finish.vHistory shows it ages well too, moving into concentrated flavours of lime and peach.


Treat of the week

2016 Doctors Flat Central Otago Pinot Noir $49.50


Doctors Flat winemaker Steve Davies named his 3 hectare vineyard land after an historic map (which no apostrophe on it, hence the name). It’s planted solely in Pinot Noir on an elevated site in Bannockburn, 100 metres above the region’s best known vineyards; Felton Road and Mt Difficulty.

Steve’s production is small and that’s how he intends to keep it. He made 970 cases of wine in the 2016 vintage; a comfortable amount for both grapes harvested and high quality.

The 2016 Pinot Noir grapes from Doctors Flat were harvested at 22.5 brix; lower than in the past. He has also reduced punchdowns to make a lighter Pinot Noir in colour and body. His vineyard is dry farmed along organic guidelines, which means there’s no irrigation and no sprays used, with the exception of sulphur dioxide (permitted in organics). He has also planted white alyssum flowers between vines as a bio companion to attract wasps which deters caterpillars.


Reaching for the stars

2017 Craggy Range Les Beaux Cailloux $139.99


Craggy Range has a new winemaker this year with Julian Grounds, who winged his way in from West Australia to work at the Hawke’s Bay winery. This month he introduced Craggy’s top reds and two great whites to a team of Wellingtonians, myself included.

Les Beaux Cailloux is my pick of the pair, despite its high price.

The words are French for the beautiful stones; Craggy Range’s name for its Chardonnay vines on Gimblett Gravels – an area way better known for red grapes than white. This is the second vintage of Les Beaux Cailloux from new vines and was picked at a relatively low 19 brix (sugar measurement in grapes). The wine retains freshness along with a full body, dry style and a long life ahead; or maybe just a short one, once you taste it.

Volcanic wine tasting in Auckland

Volcanic wines are hot, literally. It’s no secret that Mount Etna in Sicily, the Canary Islands and the Yamanashi region near Mount Fuji are all home to some of the world’s most diverse and exciting wines, which is why one of the leading authorities on volcanic wines is coming to New Zealand to host tastings on Saturday 28 July and Sunday 29 July.

Master Sommelier John Szabo will lead two tastings on volcanic wines at the New Zealand School of Food & Wine’s annual W&F Celebration.

He was the first Canadian to add the letters MS (Master Sommelier) to his name, in 2004, and has since written Volcanic Wines, Salt Grit and Power – a book about volcanic wine regions.

Auckland is a fitting city to host Szabo since the greater Auckland region’s volcanic field has at least 52 volcanoes. The city’s scoria cones range from 10 to 120 meters in height, contributing an unexplored aspect to Auckland’s wine terroir.

“The question is how we can enhance the reputations of wines grown in the Auckland region, given most of this region’s wineries are on volcanically derived sedimentary rock,” says Celia Hay of the NZ School of Food & Wine.

Szabo will speak at the school’s annual Wine & Food Celebration on Saturday 27July and Sunday 28 July in central Auckland.

Wineries targeted in Young Wine Professionals Competition

New Zealand wineries are being targeted to enter their most promising young staff into this year’s New Zealand Young Wine Professional Competition in Auckland on Sunday 28 July run by the New Zealand Sommeliers and Wine Professionals.

This competition recognizes the importance of people working with wine beyond the sommelier role.

The New Zealand Young Wine Professional Competition is open to entrants throughout the country who work at cellar door, in retail and other areas of wine businesses.

“The hospitality and wine world has opportunities for many diverse careers, not only in restaurants but also for people working as wine professionals, in sales and marketing. The New Zealand Young Wine Professional competition can provide an outstanding platform to showcase these skills and help people to become better communicators about wine,” says Hay.

The Sommelier of the Year and the New Zealand Young Sommelier of the Year competitions will also be held on Sunday 28 July at the New Zealand School of Food & Wine.

“If wineries have someone on their staff who is really shining in their cellar door sales, then we would love them to have a go and champion this aspect of the wine industry.”

A travel scholarship of $200 is available to applicants from outside the greater Auckland/Northland area.

Wine professionals can enter this year’s New Zealand Young Wine Professional competition here:

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