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.

Author: Joelle Thomson

I am a wine writer, author and educator... first bitten by a big buttery Chardonnay on a dark and stormy night in the 1980s and there was no turning back... Follow my tastings and join some too on this new site.

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