Joelle Thomson

Words on wine

Author: Joelle Thomson (page 3 of 152)

Wines of the week, 15 May 2020 – loving local and beyond

We are all about loving local at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington where I work as wine adviser, organising tastings and writing copious product information. And yet, much as we do love local wines, some of our biggest sellers this month have been international wines, thanks to a great vintage in the southern Rhone in France and successful experimentation in the Clare Valley in Australia. Both regions feature as highlights in my top three wines of this week for good reason. Click throughs to buy are featured below too, just in case you’d like to check out the wines for yourself.

The Florita Vineyard deserves special mention because it’s home to some of Australia’s finest Rieslings and, as of, late, a small block of adventurous Assyrtiko from the island of Santorini.

Wines of the week

2014 Seresin Dry Riesling Marlborough $18.99
If you’re feeling the pinch and want an outstanding bargain dry white, here it is. If you’re simply after a great white, here it is. This wine may be seven years old but it still drinks in a beautifully youthful fashion, thanks to Riesling’s naturally fresh acidity, which preserves the wine and adds zesty flavours and great length to every sip. It’s a light bodied wine with depth of flavour and great value for money.

Buy it here.

2016 Guigal Cotes du Rhone $23.99 (or $26-ish, depending where you shop)

I bought a couple more of these last week because it’s just so next level. And, yes, well, I did feature it a few weeks back but since it keeps selling its socks off and tastes so good, here it is again. It is always hard to believe that 4 million bottles of Guigal’s famous Cotes du Rhone are produced every year. It’s a blend of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 10% Mourvèdre, aged for 18 months in large oak foudres in the northern Rhone, in Ampuis.

Buy it here

2017 Jim Barry Clare Valley Assyrtiko $33

Jim Barry’s Clare Valley Assyrtiko (pronounced ‘As-err-teek-oh’) comes from 15 kilometres south of Clare township in the village of Watervale on the Florita Vineyard, best known for fino sherry prior to 1962 and great Riesling ever since. A small block of this elevated vineyard is devoted to the Assyrtiko grape, which originally comes from the volcanic island of Santorini where hot days and cool nights allow it to retain freshness derived from the grape’s naturally high acidity. The result is an outstandingly succulent, refreshing dry white. This wine will take you by surprise, in the best possible way. It was Australia’s first Assyrtiko, made by Peter Barry, who fell for the grape and wine after a trip to Greece.

Buy it here.

Wine reviews, 13 May 2020, Folding Hill Pinot Noirs

We live in strange times. Tim and Nikki Kerruish had hoped to get back to New Zealand to give their winemaker a hand during vintage 2020 in Central Otago but the best laid plans don’t always eventuate, especially when a global pandemic looms large on the horizon. Prior to the pandemic, they had a tough choice to make – move to their rammed earth Central Otago home on their vineyard in Bendigo or do a stint back in the United Kingdom where they were both born and bred.

“It was now or never,” said Tim, “Our teenagers are growing up so we decided to take them to the UK so we do some European travels before they flew the nest, and then this happened,” he told me, as we chatted on Facetime during lockdown Alert Level 4.

The move has been a good one, despite the pandemic, he says. While in lockdown, they have been able to enjoy copious amounts of good European wine, much of which is not so easily available in New Zealand. And since they are living on the Isle of Mann, where Tim was born and bred, they have fresh lobster and scallops are part of their weekly food delivery. Wine is also delivered to the door and Tim is working, fully kitted up in PPE. Both Tim and Nikki are doctors who love wine. Their dream was to make a little wine and sell out, in the hope it would enable them to focus on small scale production. So far, so good. Like most small businesses, however, it has not been all plain sailing. They planted the first four hectares of Pinot Noir in 2003, had their first vintage in 2007 and have since added Chardonnay, the first of which was harvested this year. They have also bought out the other partners they went into the vineyard venture with. It’s one thing to want to grow grapes and make wine but quite another when financial realities come home to roost… So, now the Folding Hill brand is now 100% owned by Tim and Nikki Kerruish, who plan to live on their vineyard at some stage in the next five years.

The wines below are all current vintages. All grapes are hand harvested and the wine is made at Black Ridge in Alexandra by Fred Reinds and, when he is able to get there in time for vintage, by Tim Kerruish as well. All the oak they use is Francois Frere, between 25% to 33% new oak in the two top wines and no new oak in the earlier drinking Ballasalla.

Here are my tasting notes and ratings.

Folding Hill Pinot Noirs


2017 Ballasalla Central Otago Pinot Noir $32

Ballasalla Pinot Noir is the introductory wine to the Folding Hill’s Pinot Noirs and it is a consistently fresh and fruity young style of Central Otago Pinot Noir, delivering outstanding value with a clean, fruity style that puts Pinot Noir’s best foot forward in a consistently great value wine from one year to the next.

High silver

2015 Folding Hill Orchard Block Bendigo Pinot Noir $50, 14% ABV

Orchard Block is a small portion of Folding Hill Vineyard in Bendigo, the first area to harvest grapes in Central Otago each year. It’s a warm, dry and windy corner of this evocatively beautiful southern wine region and Pinot Noirs from here tend to be typically earthy, savoury and full bodied. This wine lives up to that and drinks well now while also having four to five years more time up its tasty sleeve.


2016 Folding Hill Bendigo Pinot Noir $45

My pick of this trio of Folding Hill Pinot Noirs, thanks to its round, smooth, silky style, its full body and firm dry finish. This reflects a very strong, high quality vintage in the Central Otago wine region where grapes ripened beautifully from the relatively warm, relatively settled vintage. This wine drinks beautifully now and has the weight and firm structure to age further, potentially for another 8 to 10 years.

The Huntress releases her second vintage

The end of lockdown may be looming fast but with the weather taking a chilly turn, the irony is that many of us will be hunkering down rather than venturing out. And what better wine to do it with than the country’s most popular and most important red, Pinot Noir. There are 5,625 hectares of Pinot Noir grown in New Zealand, making it the second most planted grape variety overall and the most planted red. It suits New Zealand’s relatively cool climate well because it is an early ripening red grape. And so without further ado, here are two brand spanking new Pinot Noirs, which were delivered to my front door by hand – and by social distancing with a conversation with the woman who produces the wines.

Wairarapa winemaker Jannine Rickards works at Urlar Estate in Gladstone and also makes her own Huntress wines. This new pair from the 2018 vintage have just been released and are her second vintages of two Pinot Noirs made from some of Martinborough’s oldest vines, including the On Giants Shoulders’ Vineyard, planted in 1986 by the late Jack McCreanor.

The Huntress wines were released for the first time last year by Rickards, who is a hunter as well as a winemaker, hence the name. More information on each wine with my tasting notes and ratings follow below, along with images of the wines whose labels depict native birds, specially designed for Rickard’s wines.
New wines from Martinborough


2019 The Huntress Waikura Rosé, 12.9% ABV, $28

The Maori name Waikura refers to the red glow in the sky, which ties it to the bright ruby hue of this very pretty, bold, savoury take on the rosé theme. It’s made from two  different clones and three different vineyards of Pinot Noir grown in Martinborough.

The much revered Abel clone (also known as the gumboot clone, due to its not so illustrious covert importation into New Zealand) forms part of the blend, along with the 10/5 clone from On Giants Shoulders Vineyard and more Abel from The Cliffs in Gladstone. Abel has relatively thick skins and small bunches, which contribute to the earthy style. The wine was given 65 % whole cluster carbonic fermentation with the remaining 35% destemmed and pressed, cold settled and fermented in old French oak barriques. It had no fining and was given 45ppm of sulphur dioxide at bottling and sterile filtration.

It’s dry, medium bodied with dried cranberry and plum flavours followed by a long, refreshing and succulent finish. It opens up after a day and tastes best lightly chilled (30 minutes in the fridge) served in a large glass.

2018 Huntress Pinot Noir, 13% ABV, $50

The grapes in this wine come from the On Giants Shoulders’ Vineyard in Princess Street, Martinborough, planted in 1986 by the late Jack McCreanor. It’s a co-ferment of hand harvested Pinot Noir clones 5, 828, Abel and 10/5 with 40% whole bunch fermentation with wild yeasts, 28 days on skins and 10 months aging in older French oak barriques followed by six months aging in tank before bottling. Total production of the 2018 Huntress Pinot Noir was 1111 bottles.

Like its lighter bodied sibling, the Huntress rosé, this wine opens up with time, revealing a softer side to its dry, savoury flavours, the day after it’s initially opened. It tastes youthful and its savoury structure suggests it can age and evolve for four to five years and possibly longer. Flavours are of juicy red and dark fruit with a long, succulent finish. Super tasty.

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