Top drops under $20 (and over) and wine news from Joelle Thomson

Category: Bubbles (page 1 of 2)

Kiwi bubbles wow the world…

Hunter’s Wines has been awarded Best New Zealand Sparkling Wine for the third year running at this year’s Sparkling Wine World Championships for the third year in a row…

The Marlborough bubbly was celebrated at a retrospective tasting in Auckland this month to mark the 20th year of production. Jane Hunter of the eponymous winery says production of MiruMiru will grow, but will be capped – “The resources tied up in making high end sparkling wine are so big so that it’s best for us to continue focussing strongly on quality as well as growing the quantity a little,” she said at the tasting.

“MiruMiru is the jewel in the crown of our winemaking and I have watched production grow over the past years as well as the range expand from the Reserve MiruMiru to include Non Vintage and Rosé,” she says.

Hunter collected the trophy for Best Sparkling Wine for the 2013 MiruMiru Reserve at the Vintner’s Hall in London last week. Hunter also received two gold medals at the event for the Hunter’s MiruMiru Non Vintage, and the 2013 Hunter’s MiruMiru Reserve.

The Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships is the most comprehensive international sparkling wine competition in the world and was founded in 2014. All wines are tasted blind at the competition, which is judged by Tom Stevenson, Essi Avellan MW and Dr Tony Jordan, who also consults to Hunter’s Wines.


Contact Hunter’s Wines here:

Bubble bubble… NZ’s next big thing?

Hunter’s Miru Miru fizz turns 20 – and it’s growing

“We are growing our sparkling winemaking because it has a strong future,” says Jane Hunter, of Marlborough’s eponymous Hunter’s Wines, which celebrated 20 years of MiruMiru bubbles this week.

Hunter’s Wines was one of the first in the modern Marlborough wine industry, but bubbly is one of the last things you expect from any Marlborough winery these days because Sauvignon Blanc rules the roost, has done for 25 years and is likely to remain that way for the foreseeable.

All of which may make it surprising that Hunter is putting her money where her mouth is and focussing on a strong sparkling wine future for her iconic wine brand.

This week some of that money was spent hosting an interesting tasting in Auckland, flying in writers from around the country to taste her sparkling wines, and I was lucky enough to be invited.

We tasted, talked and, later, ate lunch at Meredith’s on Dominion Road. Then we flew back to our respective homes and I have since bought a couple of bottles of Hunter’s MiruMiru so that I am putting my money where my mouth is.

It’s not the first time I have ever tasted MiruMiru bubbly and been impressed, but this week is the first time I have ever tasted a comparative line up of old, new and pink MiruMiru bubbles, and I am strongly impressed by the high quality and incredible affordability of these wines.

Like a small handful of other New Zealand sparkling wines, MiruMiru puts many champagnes to shame because its yeasty complexity, fresh crisp acidity and long finish makes it outstanding value for money at NZ$29.99. Call it $30 if you will, but it’s outrageously good value.


Why isn’t New Zealand sparkling wine rocking?

Perhaps it is, but in modest volumes.

New Zealand has commercially successful big name, low priced, high volume bubbles, but it is the top shelf bubbles that really get me going. They don’t cost much compared to their classic European counterparts and they can offer exceptionally high quality. As do the best Franciacortas from Italy (another traditional method sparkling wine, made using the same techniques and grape varieties as champagne) and as do many good comparable wines from Tasmania, Argentina, California and a few other places.

With New Zealand’s cool climate, burgeoning South Island wine industry and exceptional commercial success with white wines, it seems obvious that sparkling wine – made in the traditional method – has a bright, shiny future.


The history of MiruMiru – and the future

The first Hunter’s MiruMiru was made in 1997 and was produced with the expertise of winemaking consultant Dr Tony Jordan (as was the first sparkling wine produced at the winery).

“High end bubbly has a huge amount of capital tied up in making it, due to the tank space it takes up, the barrel space we need to allocate for it and the money we don’t make while we are aging the wines,” says Jordan

Jane Hunter agrees:  “I don’t think we want to get too big because of the cost of the stock tied up in aging sparkling wines prior to release.”

That said, she and Jordan are committed to growing their sparkling wine production, as are their winemakers James McDonald and Inus Van Der Westhuizen.

“In our mind’s eye, we are modeling our bubblies on Bollinger,” says McDonald.

This means that barrel fermentation is a technique they are using more than in the past. And the non vintage MIruMiru contains a significant proportion of reserve wines too, as Champagne Bollinger famously does too.

Hunter’s Wines was founded by Ernie Hunter in 1979. He made his first wine in 1982 and the first sparkling was produced in 1987 and named Hunter’s Marlborough Estate Brut. Jane Hunter took over the winery in 1987.


Top drop under $30

Hunter’s MiruMiru NV $29.99

Hunter’s Wines is one of Marlborough’s first wineries and is the region’s second winery ever to produce bubblies made using the traditional technique used in Champagne – the so called traditional method of creating bubbles in the bottle during a second fermentation. This results in greater density of bubbles and massively more complex, yeasty flavours than most sparkling wines made in sealed tanks where the CO2 from fermentation dissolves into the wine.

MiruMiru NV is super fresh in flavour with intense yeasty aromas and fresh bakery flavours in every complex sip. Its bubbles are fine and lingering, just like champagne, only a hell of a lot more affordable.


The MiruMiru sparkling stable

Hunter’s MiruMiru NV $29.99

This is a blend of 57% Chardonnay, 32% Pinot Noir and 11% Pinot Meunier, which are fermented in a combo of stainless steel and old French oak barrels. The wine spends a minimum of 18 months on lees before disgorging.

MiruMiru Rose NV RRP $49.99

A blend of 55% Pinot Noir, 41% Chardonnay and 4% Pinot Meunier. Full bodied with fresh bread and toasty aromas, a creamy palate and  dry style. Lovely step up from the already very good MiruMiru NV.

2013 MiruMiru RRP $49.99

A blend of 62% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Meunier. This reserve wine has more of everything; more depth of flavour, more body, a longer, more memorable finish, which lingers… the mark of a great wine.

5 of the best… wines this year…

Reposted by request as the top blog to end the year on a high note…

It’s still early days and the highs and lows of relocating from this country’s largest city to its capital are still intense. Not only because of 7.8 earthquakes over the past month but because 17 years is a long time in any place and Auckland and Wellington are like chalk and cheese. One contains our closest friends, the other is home to family and my new partner. One is warm, wet and cloudy while the other has intense sunshine but is cooler. One is where we had to be, the other is where we wanted to be.

It was a big decision to move but it was the easiest big decision I have ever made.

Still, 2016 has not been an easy year. For many, it has been one shocking political event after another, while on the home front, my year has been one of intense travel for the three ‘t’s – teaching, talking and tasting wine.

First world problems.

So, without further ado, here’s another:  how does a wine writer whittle thousands of wines down to the 5 best?

With difficulty. But these  5 wines made the most positive impression on yours truly this year.

5 of the best… wines in 2016

Prices are recommended retail

Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut, $99, 12% ABV

Big and beautiful. Bollinger never fails to impress. This year I have tried and enjoyed old and new bottles of Bolly – from 1966, 1976, 1982 and 1990 at a retrospective champagne tasting in May – followed by brand spanking new bottles to celebrate a milestone. It has everything I love about champagne; character, toasty aromas and savoury flavours, richness and depth and a long finish. What more could you ask for? Stunning.

2014 Terrazas de los Andes Malbec, $27, 14.5% ABV

Take a man with great foresight, an under-appreciated black grape (Malbec) and a little known corner of the wine world (Argentina) and meet one of the best value, high quality reds on Earth – in my view. The late Robert Jean de Vogue pioneered this wine on high altitude terraced vineyards (above 1000 metres in the Andes mountains) in the 1950s, and this latest wine does him proud – it’s deep purple in colour with a burst of intense fruit flavour and a long finish. It has a full body, is earthy and bone dry in taste. A stunner.

2005 Pegasus Bay Chardonnay, $50

This bottle was pulled from the best place possible – the winery’s own cellar – and it was enjoyed outside on a warm autumn morning at Pegasus Bay in North Canterbury. The disclaimer is that I worked (unpaid) a couple of days of vintage there (for the third time) this year, which was to gain insight into wine’s finer details. This full bodied, rich and savoury, complex and delicious Chardonnay is underpinned by zesty citrus notes and a fine thread of bright acidity providing its nerve and zing. Sensation.

2007 Quartz Reef Pinot Noir, $50, 14% ABV

If only I had bought more of this Pinot Noir; half a case wasn’t enough but 9 years of ageing did seem like the perfect time to catch this deep southern red at its tastiest peak of savouriness (is that even a word?). There’s no shortage of good Central Otago Pinot Noir but, in my view, eight to nine years of patience is a small price to pay to enjoy the great ones at their best. Bravo to Rudi Bauer; winemaker of this exceptional drop.

2008 Mount Edward Morrison Vineyard Pinot Noir $65, 14% ABV

Another aged stunner from Central Otago, pulled from my modest wine cellar, which now has a walk-in home (it’s called the other half of the laundry and is not a bad space to mature wine in). This wine still has plenty of time up its tasty sleeve but its soft smooth tannins and bright fruit flavours are moving into a delicious earthy taste.


This year, I have been woed and wowed by vintage champagnes, great bottles of dry Austrian Riesling and exceptionally good French Vouvray, but the wines above are those that have provided the most pleasure – and the biggest sense of surprise.

Every day in Wellington rewards me with the feeling of clarity when I look out of the vast two storey windows of our apartment at the harbour, the hills and the houses precipitously perched on their seemingly impossibly steep slopes. The architecture seems to defy logic as much as our decision to move to a quieter place, which has brought with it an unpredictable sense of relief.

 The sense of clutter I felt when living in Auckland has evaporated and I even enjoy frequent trips back there for work. So, was I suffering from other issues than merely a sense of feeling cluttered?

Undoubtedly. But as an old friend and therapist, Jill Goldson said earlier this year, when suffering from anxiety, feeling overwhelmed or under connected, the best path forward is kindness – to yourself. She sums it up perfectly: “Take time to reflect on conflicted feelings and to seek another perspective, which might be the very best place to start.”

And it’s also a high note to end a strangely conflicted year on.

Happy holidays.

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