Wines of the earth from Urlar

Urlar means of the earth in Gaelic and is a fitting name for wines made from grapes that are certified organic and grown biodynamically. The winery was started by Angus and Davinia Thomson, who have now sold the business, but who laid the foundations for a winery that lives up to the integrity of its certified organic, biodynamic claims. This week I tasted three of this relatively small winery’s new wines, which I have reviewed here.

2019 Urlar Gladstone Pinot Gris $25
Dry, rounded, creamy and full of flavour. This Pinot Gris is made from hand picked grapes grown on stony free draining river terraces in the Gladston region of the Wairarapa, one of the smallest wine regions in New Zealand, and a place where Pinot Gris are typically made in a dry style thanks to dry late summer and autumn weather, which allows the grapes to ripen on the vine for longer than usual. A small but tasty portion of this wine (just 12%) was destemmed and fermented on its grape skins then aged in mature French oak barriques with a range of yeasts. A portion of malolactic fermentation accentuates the weight and lees stirring adds to this with roundness and creamy mouthfeel as well as taste.
Super rich but beautifully balanced by moderate acidity and flavoursome creamy textures. Vegan friendly.

2018 Urlar Gladstone Riesling $25
Certified BioGro NZ
Winemaker Jannine Rickards makes this delicious dry Riesling from hand picked grapes grown on free draining stony soils on old river beds in the Wairarapa. It’s fresh acidity and moderate alcohol of 11.5% make it taste super refreshing, which balances the pronounced citrus aromas of grapefruit, lemon zest and limes. This wine won a bronze medal at the New Zealand Organic Wine Awards and it’s easy to taste why. Vegan friendly. 

2020 Urlar The Mediator White $19.99
This tasty, unconventional blend is defined by Pinot Gris, which makes up 54% of the wine with the balance being a fleshy 20% Viognier, 16% of creamy Chardonnay with 5% each of Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, both of which add zesty zingy attitude to this first ever Mediator white. It’s made in the cool climate of Gladstone in the central Wairarapa, a grape growing region which provides refreshing moderate acidity to the relatively low acid grapes of Pinot Gris and Viognier, which, along with Chardonnay, add weight and texture to the wine. This is a new wave blend with style and freshness to burn. A great year round drink thanks to its body and crisp style.

New bubbles day launches in Marlborough

A group of 12 Marlborough winemakers are embracing the late Lily Bollinger’s mantra to drink top notch bubbles any time, to celebrate with it when happy and commiserate with it when sad. The ‘it’ in question is  New Zealand sparkling wine made by members of Méthode Marlborough, a group of likeminded winemakers who use 100% locally grown grapes and the traditional French method for producing their sparkling wine.

The group launched their first annual Méthode Marlborough Day at the end of this year’s sparkling wine harvest, which takes places earlier than that of grapes harvested to make still wine. The aim of picking grapes earlier for bubbly is to preserve the acidity in the grapes and the freshness in wines made from them.

“Our group is dedicated to producing sparkling wines in the traditional method of Champagne. But we are crafting our wines right here in the centre of New Zealand, so whilst you are confidently purchasing a bottle of delicious and premium méthode, you are also supporting local,” says Taylor.

The grapes sparkling wines are generally harvested earlier than those for still wine to ensure moderate sugar levels and higher acid levels. Marlborough is known for its high sunshine hours and cool nights. This combination can produce crisp and zesty wines, which can suit high quality méthode traditionnelle bubbles.

“When I first visited Marlborough in 1978 I was immediately convinced this was the best place in New Zealand to produce méthode traditionelle. he soil and the climate reminded me of Champagne in the best vintage years, yet it happens every year here in Marlborough,” says Daniel Le Brun, owner and winemaker at No.1 Family Estate.

Méthode Marlborough Day will be held at the end of sparkling wine harvest in Marlborough each year by the 12 members of the group, which includes Allan Scott Family Winemakers, Hunter’s Wines, Johanneshof Cellars, LV Wines, Nautilus Estate, No1 Family Estate, Pernod Ricard (Deutz), Saint Clair Family Estate, Spy Valley Wines, Tohu Wines, Whitehaven Wines and  Wither Hills (Daniel Le Brun).

Spritzy best wine of the month

If you’ve ever stumbled onto this website before, it will come as no surprise to find a mini rave about Riesling, one of my top five wine grapes and wines in the world. I know it’s very fashionable to talk dry and drink sweet, but I’ve always craved dryness in Riesling. It’s the succulence of the acidity that balances great Rieslings that really excites my mind and my mouth when drinking wines such as this outstanding North Canterbury dry white. North Canterbury has a long track record when it comes to long lived, delicious wines made from the Riesling grape, in a variety of styles too – from bone dry to unctuously rich and sweet. The region’s long, relatively dry autumn weather means that grapes can hang out longer than in many other regions, benefiting from the higher sugars and riper flavours they gain during this long-ish growing season in New Zealand’s cool maritime climate.
This new release, made in tiny volumes, simply is the best wine I’ve tasted in the past month. And it’s been one of the toughest months of my life with losing my sister. Without further ado, here is a great white to drink a toast to all those who we love and hold dear. A reminder to appreciate what’s right here, right now. Available in tiny volumes from Black Estate here.


2020 Black Estate Damsteep Riesling $35
Small volume wine sold only at Black Estate’s cellar door in North Canterbury and made from the sloping Damsteep Vineyard, which was planted in 1999 on clay and limestone soils. This two hectare vineyard has since become certified organic. The grapes in this wine were whole bunch pressed, fermented to dryness with a vineyard derived yeast and given extended lees contact in stainless steel with a little in old barrels.
This dry Riesling takes the palate by surprise with its medium body, full flavours and bone dry finish. Balance is both acidity and lees work in barrel and tank. Superb? At least that good.
Certified organic with BioGro NZ and vegan friendly.