Joelle Thomson

Writer, author, journalist

Month: September 2016 (page 1 of 3)

Real wine bargains under $20

Alastair Picton-Warlow is the owner of a New Zealand wine brand called Supper Club and this year he added a new string to his professional bow by importing three new Shiraz from Australia. You could say he is keeping it real when it comes to the price. Two of this trio cost less than $20 to buy.

The wines are called Reillys (sic) and come from the Clare Valley in South Australia.

This means there is a Riesling and Grenache (both well known from the Clare Valley) in the range, but, for now, Picton-Warlow is focussing solely on Shiraz.

The new wines he is importing tick two important boxes for wine drinkers; they are affordable and they deliver impressively in terms of intensity of taste (dry, full bodied reds with rich fruit flavours and earthy complexity). They cost, respectively, $17.99, $19.99 and $34.99.

Reillys Clare Valley wines are named after an early settler in the valley whose name was Hugh Reilly. His slate cottage is now the cellar door for the wines, which were founded by Justin and Julie Ardill 1993.

The couple bought 12 acres of vines in Watervale that year and began producing wine in 1994, focussing on the region’s historic strengths of Grenache, Riesling and Shiraz, all of which are made at a newish winery (it was new back then) at Leasingham. Production expanded beyond the volume of grapes they were able to grow themselves, hence they now buy in a substantial proportion of grapes to supplement production.

“I found Reillys when I was looking for an Australian brand that had an X-factor, so I searched high and low and eventually came across this range from  Australian wine writer James Halliday’s up and coming brands. He rates these wines highly, so it’s great to get similar feedback from respected palates in this country,” says Picton-Warlow, who plans to add to his Australian wine portfolio in early 2017. Except next time round, he hopes to bring in wines from the Barossa Valley or the McLaren Vale.

Tasting Reillys Clare Valley wines


2014 Barking Mad $17.99, 15.5% ABV

Deep purple, dry and full bodied with high acid and big smooth tannins with  spicy flavours of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon, held in check with ripe smooth big black plum flavours and a lingering finish – no mean feat in a wine of this price – very good value for $17.99. This is a top drop for under $20.

2014 Reilly Clare Valley Shiraz $19.99, 15.5% ABV

Big dark purple colour with big soft smooth tannins, bone dry, shiraz as it should be; cloves, cedar, dark plums and big but beautiful. Shiraz as it should be.

2013 Dry Land Shiraz $34.99, 15.5% ABV

Outstanding, smooth, dry full bodied, big smooth tannins and a long soft, spicy finish give this opaque coloured Australian Shiraz the X-factor.

Fast facts on Reillys in New Zealand

For more information, contact Alastair Picton-Warlow at Supper Club Wines, phone 0064 275799463, email:  

North Island NZ orders from: 

Brent Hawkins:

Ian Isaacs:


Young wine talent shines

His name is Dion Wai, he works in Auckland’s newest restaurant precinct and this month he won the NZ Sommelier of the Year award – a return trip to Paris, hosted visit to Champagne Louis Roederer and the kudos of the award, which was designed to champion professional wine service in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Sommelier of the Year Awards are now in their third year and run at the New Zealand School of Food and Wine (NZSFW) in Auckland.

It’s good to see these awards make a comeback to New Zealand after a long gap between drinks. I judged the country’s annual wine service competition in the late 1990s in Auckland, held under different ownership and management and was sorry to see that competition bite the dust. It would be helpful to New Zealand’s hospitality scene to see the talent at the top trickle down into the mindset of staff waiting tables at this country’s cafes and bars, no matter how humble or how community oriented the venue.

Even a country as close as Australia has undoubtedly got its service sorted to a far higher level than New Zealand, in terms of speed, efficiency, general courtesy and humour.

It’s great when waiting staff are informed, able to serve drinks elegantly and know how to open a bottle of wine with confidence, regardless of its closure – screw capped bottles can be opened with every bit of care and attention as cork-sealed bottles. But what really rocks in wine and food service, for me, is eye contact, a menu and a little positive attention; it’s about the customer rather than the chef, the mixologist or the barista.

What makes service good for you?


Fast facts: NZ Sommelier of the Year Competition

“The calibre of people entering under 30 years was extremely high this year and the competition included four women, which reflects the growing interest amongst women in pursuing careers in professional wine service,” says Celia Hay, chair of the New Zealand Sommeliers and Wine Professionals Association (and founder/director of the NZSFW).

Wai works full time at Baduzzi for restaurateur Michael Dearth who also owns The Grove restaurant. He is also currently finishing his degree in hospitality management at AUT and is a student in the Court of Master Sommeliers certification programme.

The annual competition also includes a junior sommelier award, sponsored by Misha’s Vineyard in Otago. The awards are held under direction from Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas.


Wellington tastings diary

Spring has sprung, the rain has cleared,  the wine is ready to be poured at our World of Riesling tasting at Regional Wines & Spirits in Ellice Street (by the Basin Reserve), Wellington.

Here’s what’s in store or in our upstairs tasting room, to be precise:

Thursday 13 October, 6pm to 8pm: The World of Riesling
Thursday 17 November, 6pm to 8pm: Cellar busters: How to start a wine cellar for under $100
A tasting with cellar starter packs on sale afterwards
More details to follow on each of these accessible tastings.
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