Joelle Thomson

Writer, author, journalist

Month: October 2016 (page 1 of 3)

Wines of the week: Top drops for $20

What’s your wine budget looking like this week?
If it’s anything like mine, a new range of $17 to $20 wines from Mud House in Marlborough may appeal – all five wines are widely available in New Zealand supermarkets and at Glengarry’s stores.

The launch this week of the new Mud House Sub Region Series wines is also timely for another reason – the affordable prices fit right into the new Top drops for $20 section on this website, which will appeal to those who periodically write in to lament the loss of  “Joelle Thomson’s Under $15  Wine Guide (yes, it was later called Joelle Thomson’s Under $20 Wine Guide), which was published every year in New Zealand from 1999 to 2007.

Books can provide great memories but, with publishing in a state of highly contentious change right now, the most logical place to write about all the great wine bargains that winemakers send me happens to be right here – online.

So, the new Mud House Sub Region wines are made with grapes grown in five different areas, hence, the brand name. They are Rapaura Sauvignon Blanc, Grovetown Pinot Gris, The Narrows Pinot Noir, Burleigh Rose (made from Pinot Noir) and Omaka Chardonnay.

The Mud House Sub Region wines

2016 Mud House Sub Region Sauvignon Blanc  $16 to $20

Take a bunch of Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Rapaura in Marlborough, ferment them into a dry wine in a stainless steel tank at cool temperatures to preserve their fruity aromas of lime, green apple and passionfruit, and here you have it – a wine that’s like a white dove because it’s so clean and pure, says its maker, Cleighten Cornelius.

2016 Mud House Sub Region Burleigh Rose  $16 to $20

“It’s now respectable for blokes to drink pink wine too,” says Jack Glover, of Mud House wines, when launching this pale pink, light bodied, dry wine, which is made 100% from Pinot Noir grapes that were grown specifically for a rose rather than a red. The result is a wine with refreshing high acidity that’s nicely balanced by red fruit flavours, without notes of sweetness. It’s a tasty light bodied pink wine, which makes it a crisp, refreshing lead-in to a fuller bodied wine.

Speaking of which…

2015 Mud House Sub Region Omaka Chardonnay $16 to $20

Silt, gravel and clay soils were home to the grapes used to make this   crisp Chardonnay, which puts its freshest, most citrusy foot forward in a  Chablis-like style (think: high acid, super refreshing, light to medium bodied and you’re spot on).

2016 Mud House Sub Region Grovetown Pinot Gris $16 to $20

Grovetown is the closest area to the coast in this new range of wines, so the Pinot Gris grapes in this wine have a zingy touch of acidity, thanks to the slightly cooler site that they were grown on. The wine was fermented at slightly warmer temperatures than the other whites in the range to encourage savoury flavours to develop. It was also regularly lees stirred to develop flavour (the lees are the left over yeast cells, after fermentation).

2015 Mud House Sub Region The Narrows Pinot Noir  $16 to $20

This Pinot Noir comes from grapes grown on a vineyard in the narrowing upper Wairau Valley on a north facing slope, sheltered by large, established pine trees. It’s pale ruby in colour, smooth and tastes of red and dried fruit; raspberries, cherries and cranberries all provide the signature flavours in this lovely fresh young South Island Pinot. (Just 20% new oak was used in the winemaking here, so fruit comes first while savoury, cedar notes are in the background.)

Winemaker Cleighten Cornelius on these wines…

“They are made from grapes grown on vineyards that we have liked for some time and we wanted to divert these grapes into specific wine styles that play to their biggest strengths. The Pinot Noir grapes for the pink wine have higher acidity than many other Pinot grapes we have access to, so it made sense to turn them to good use in a wine style that needs that acidity for freshness while the Pinot Gris comes from a mixture of heavy clay and dark soils, which provides the grapes with more intense flavours and enabled us to make a spicy wine. Each wine is made solely from grapes grown in that sub region of Marlborough, which also gives them a real story of origin.”

Speaking of origins… The New Zealand Geographic Indications Act is expected to be passed by Parliament and able to be used within the next six months, says New Zealand Winegrowers CEO Philip Gregan.

Pinot watch… a daily dose (almost) of NZ’s most popular red

Pinot Noir NZ 2017 is to be held on Wellington’s waterfront from 31 January to 2 February and is open to all wine drinkers, thinkers and lovers of Pinot Noir:

Here’s my daily dose (well, almost daily) of Kiwi Pinot…

2013 Lauregan Single Vineyard Pinot Noir $40, 14.5% ABV

Central Hawke’s Bay winemaker Mike Old always tended to be more of a Bordeaux drinker than a Pinot Noir one, but when he was battling with Sangiovese (a slow ripening Italian grape that is the main ingredient in Chianti) on his cool, inland Hawke’s Bay vineyard, he had to think outside the Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot box.

Enter Pinot Noir.

He made his first in 2013 and branded it Lauregan, forging a new direction for his vineyard and for Kiwi Pinot. This one is deep ruby  with massive dark fruit flavours – think black plums and black cherries, and you get the picture.

Mike is a Cantabrian, born and bred, but he left the South Island when he was 21 – “I’ve been back a few times but it’s too cold for me now,” he says, admitting that Central Hawke’s Bay is hardly the hottest place in the country, but, having lived in Italy for several years, Hawke’s Bay is the only place he reckons he can live in New Zealand.

Find out more about Lauregan Wines (as yours truly intends to with a planned visit in the not too distant future) at:

Vino of the week: $20 Spanish red

2011 Rioja Gran Familia $20, 13% ABV – 4 stars – Joelle Thomson

Where to buy: Farro and Fine Wine Delivery Company in Auckland; Regional Wines and Moore Wilsons, Wellington; Vino Fino, Christchurch.

This Spanish red is new to New Zealand this year…

Here is the low down: It’s a Rioja so it’s a blend of two Spanish grapes – Tempranillo and Garnacha – with (potentially) smaller amounts of Mazuelo and Graciano,which can range from zero to around 10% of the blend, but often do not appear at all. Tempranillo is an early ripening red grape that plays the lead character in Rioja, providing savoury flavours, acidity and structure that allows these wines to age. This one spent 12 months in oak and three years (in total – that’s including the time in oak) in the Bodega, prior to being released for sale.

Its flavours?

Like most Rioja, it offers significant complexity, particularly when you take the price into account. This wine wine has pronounced aromas of red plums, black cherries, fresh wet leaves, wet stones, cigar leaves and a clean earthy taste… While fruity flavours dominate, it’s interestingly savoury too and makes a very good value glass (or three) of wine right now and will hold for 3-4 years. Very good value for money.

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