Joelle Thomson

Writer, author, journalist

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Wine beauty in Bannockburn

When was the last time you visited Bannockburn? If the name resonates more with mountain bikers more than wine lovers, it might be time to pay this majestic corner of the country a visit. Both biking and wine were on my radar late last year when a visit to Felton Road Winery's 25th anniversary lured me to the deep south. More on Felton Road later this week because the wines are definitely worth writing home about, so to speak. The trip also included an opportunity to cycle down the road, li...

January 31, 2023

Winemaker of the week... Dave Sutton of Te Kano

This week's interviewee is Dave Sutton, winemaker at Te Kano in Central Otago, who gives his responses to questions based on the famous Proust Questionnaire, originally propelled to fame in the late 1800s.  Dave Sutton deplores double standards, would love to live in Mexico and thinks physical beauty is the most over rated virtue. The softly spoken winemaker works at Te Kano in Bannockburn, Central Otago or should that be, Bannockburn and Waitaki Valley since the latter is the new home...

January 30, 2023

Wine of the week... 23 January 2023 - Clayvin Pinot Noir

When is the best time to drink Pinot Noir - when it's young or when it's old?Like people, wines age in very different ways and there's no reliable barometer, but a five year old Pinot Noir from Marlborough makes a great case for waiting half a decade, especially seeing as this wine comes from one of New Zealand's top vineyards, created by a visionary and now owned by a family of similarly minded winemakers.This is the first wine of the week for 2023... Many more to come.Wine of the week19/2...

January 23, 2023

Top watering holes from Good magazine

This story was first published in Good magazine, November 2022Where is your favourite place to drink wine?If you’re anything like me, it probably doesn’t involve lugging a heavy bottle of wine to the top of a hill, especially given that the main reason for walking involves exercise, not drinking, right?Well, yes, and no. A bouncy three day four wheel drive trip around a game park in South Africa changed all that, for me. We weren’t walking up hills but the long days in the open air, surrou...

January 17, 2023

The Hard Pressed Podcast and Chard Farm The Viper

As if the year hasn't been busy enough, a friend and wine lover suggested we launch a podcast. Great idea! I'm in, I said, about eight months ago. Last week, we finally did it, in the middle of work, family and other life busyness. The result is The Hard Pressed Podcast, which features this week's top wine, among other top shelf new Pinot Noirs from Chard Farm in Central Otago. It was a choice to make because the past month has been a liquid feast of great Pinot Noirs from Central Otago, firstly...

December 24, 2022

Five of the best... places to drink outdoors

This story was first published in Good magazine, December-January 22/23Where is your favourite place to drink wine? Warmer days and longer nights make the great outdoors seem like the ideal spot and with the classic New Zealand Xmas Day barbecue looming fast, it seemed like the ideal time to repost a story published in the latest issue of Good magazine, which I write for, about my top five outdoor wine experiences. If you’re anything like me, favourite drinking spots probably don’t invo...

December 24, 2022

Tasting note... 2022 Jules Taylor Chardonnay RRP $22.99

18.5/20 2022 Jules Taylor Marlborough Chardonnay RRP $22.99 This is the jewel in the crown of the new releases from Jules Taylor in Marlborough. Rich, creamy, smooth, full bodied, totally dry in taste with citrus flavours but complex oatmeal and toasted almond notes coming through in every long, succulent sip. Another Chardonnay that shows a hint of how great New Zealand Chardonnays can be. This wine is exceptionally well balanced, expressing ripe Chardonnay characters without the reliance on h...

December 20, 2022

Tasting note... 2022 Jules Taylor Pinot Gris RRP $22.99

17.5/20 2022 Jules Taylor Marlborough Pinot Gris RRP $22.99 Big, fleshy and flavoursome with ripe guava leading the taste in this accessibly soft and lightly spicy Pinot Gris. It has lovely weight and texture thanks to wild yeast ferments, lees stirring while ageing in barrel and also the sheer ripeness of the grapes in the wine. This is a sensationally flavoursome Pinot Gris with body to burn. Bring on the sunshine to enjoy this wine in....

December 20, 2022

Tasting notes... 2021 Jules Taylor OTQ Sauvignon Blanc

17.5/202021 Jules Taylor OTQ Limited Release Sauvignon Blanc RRP $35Lees work leads into a medium bodied zesty style that hints at Sauvignon Blanc with its tropical fruit flavours and length. This wine has softness and a rich fuller body than most Sauvignons could dream of, which gives this wine its appealing elegance and lively flavoursome style....

December 20, 2022

Wines of the week... three top bubblies

It's called the silly season for a reason and here are three faves that stand the test of time. And, yes, all have been retasted this week, purely for verification purposes. Tough job and all that jazz. 18.5/20Hunter's Marlborough MiruMiru NV RRP $29 to $30 Bubbly in name and in nature, MiruMiru is the Maori word for sparkling and this méthode traditional is modelled on the world's best because it's made the same way as champagne - using the same grape varieties and with the sec...

December 14, 2022

Tasting notes... Astrolabe Pinot Gris

17.5/202022 Astrolabe Sleepers Vineyard Kekerengu Coast Pinot Gris RRP $25.99 The Sleepers Vineyard at Kekerengu, on the coast south of Blenheim, is a beautiful site and Astrolabe is the only wine producer using grapes from here. Cool coastal breezes add vibrancy and freshness to the wine in the form of enhanced acidity that makes it taste zesty and lifted with citrusy depth of flavour. This is all nicely balanced by a nearly dry style with a hint of residual sugar adding weight and fl...

December 14, 2022

Tasting note... 2021 Pegasus Bay Vergence Red MK II

18.5/202021 Pegasus Bay Vergence Red MK II Pegasus Bay has forged a reputation for great whites and powerful reds modelled on the great classic wines of the world, so here's one that breaks the mould. The second edition of Vergence is a blend of mostly Pinot Noir with approximately 15% Cabernet Sauvignon which was aged on skins to add power, depth and dark fruit, herb and black olive flavours to this intense, full bodied, dry wine. Winemaking includes one third whole bunch Pi...

December 9, 2022

Tasting note... 2020 Zen Chardonnay RRP $140

This week's WIne of the Week is the third vintage of Zen, one of New Zealand's best quality and highest priced Chardonnays. Does it live up to its name and its price tag? If ever there was a time of year to push the boat out and see, here it is with the silly season upon us. 19/202020 Zen Chardonnay RRP $140 New Zealand Chardonnay continues to rise in quality and with it, the styles continue to diversify as winemakers become comfortable in their winemaking skins, so to speak... The lat...

December 3, 2022

Tasting note... 2019 Doctors Flat Pinot Noir RRP $56 to $57

Doctors Flat is an elevated three hectare vineyard in Bannockburn, Central Otago, where schist sub soils, clay and fine silt all provide Pinot Noirs with great density and complexity. This is a full bodied, dark take on the Central Otago Pinot theme, made from three Dijon clones of Pinot; 115, 777 and 114 by winemaker Steve Davies. It was fermented in small tanks with wild yeasts with 22% whole bunches in the ferment followed by about 22 days on skins and 12 months ageing in French oak, 24% new....

December 3, 2022

Friday drinks with Justin Taylor, Adam Eggins, a hammock, a book and a wine...

'A hammock and a good book sort of wine' is the best tasting note I've heard all year, not least because it's nearing that time when hefty work loads and overwhelm take their toll, so a hammock, a good book and a great wine hold a lot appeal. The description comes from Justin Taylor, who was talking about the 2021 Taylors Merlot, made by winemaker Adam Eggins and which we three were tasting on a Zoom meeting last week. Taylors Wines is a family owned company based in the Clare Valley, Australi...

December 2, 2022

New era for Dry River Wines

One of Martinborough's oldest wineries has a new lease of life now that Dry River Wines has been purchased by Charlie Zheng, a Wellington businessman who also owns Luna Estate and Parehua Resort. Zheng has appointed a new winemaker to Dry River Wines with Ben McNab taking up the role.  McNab's most recent role was at Palliser Estate where he was named the 2021 Tonnellerie de Mercurey Young Winemaker of the Year. He will work alongside Dry River and Luna Estate's he...

November 29, 2022

Is Central Otago Chardonnay the Chablis of the Southern Hemisphere?

Central Otago Chardonnay has doubled in volume in the last five years but how’s it tracking in style and quality? The biggest Central Otago Chardonnay tasting ever held was last week at Felton Road Winery in Bannockburn. I attended, along with four other wine writers to put the wines to the road test. We tasted 38 wines at Felton Road winery in Bannockburn, Central Otago. All wines’ identities were concealed. I rated the wines out of 20 with 18.5 being a gold medal winne...

November 29, 2022

Felton Road's long history with Calvert Vineyard

Climate change is alive and well in Bannockburn, Central Otago, where vintages are warmer and harvest can be earlier and faster, all of which is resulting in wines that are, says winemaker Blair Walter, "undoubtedly better". The Felton Road winemaker has a longer history than anyone with the Calvert Vineyard, except for land owner Owen Calvert, of course, but Blair Walter remains the winemaker who has had the longest history of making wines from this exceptional vineyard site, producing his f...

November 25, 2022

Roam Central festival tickets now available

A new festival in Central Otago has launched and tickets are now availableLakes, brunches and wine tastings are all on the itinerary of a new festival in the Gibbston Valley, 30 to 40 minutes' drive from Queenstown in January next year. The four day festival is called Roam Central. It includes four separate events, kicking off at Cargo Cellar Door in Gibbston Valley on Saturday 28 January 2023. Three smaller events include a programme of master classes, cellar door tastings and brunch ...

November 21, 2022

Homage to Syrah... wine of the week

Good vintages come in pairs in Hawke's Bay, as the latest duo of 2019 and 2020 Homage Syrah show. This wine of the week is from the 2019 vintage and while I have had the privilege of tasting (as a critic and wine writer) the 2020, it will not be released for another year... bring it on. Both wines are exceptional expressions of Hawke's Bay Syrah. It's exactly what Homage is intended to be, says winemaker Damian Fischer.  Homage is Trinity Hill's top red made each year and is the result...

November 8, 2022

New tasting room in Martinborough...

Growing visitor numbers to Martinborough now have a new tasting room to visit before they even enter the village with the official opening of Nga Waka's new cellar door tasting room this week.The small winery is has more than doubled its vineyard holdings in the past seven years with the new owners of Jay Short and Peggy Dupey, who purchased the winery in 2015 from its founder, Roger Parkinson, who remains on as winemaker. The new cellar door is the first for Nga Waka and is sited prominent...

November 5, 2022

The under dog rises

It may not be the most flattering description but under dog definitely does describe the flagging fortunes of Riesling in New Zealand, which has shrunk from 713 hectares planted nationwide in 2013 to 619 hectares today. It's a continuation of a decline that has slowly trickled downwards as Sauvignon Blanc continues to rise, along with Pinot Gris, but Riesling is still hitting high notes with wine drinkers and in wine competitions. This week's top spot goes to a hugely successful wine, which...

November 1, 2022

New Dry River winemaker announced

One of New Zealand's most iconic wineries has announced a new head winemaker with Joel Watson adding Dry River to his business card, along with his existing role as winemaker at Luna Estate. The two Martinborough wineries are now owned by Charlie Zheng, who purchased Dry River Wines this month from the late United States billionaire, Julian Robertson, who passed away earlier this year. “ I’m very conscious of the vineyard’s legacy and was thrilled to be chosen to ...

October 25, 2022

Aussie winemakers head to Winetopia

A South Australian contingent of winemakers heads to Winetopia for the first time next weekend in Auckland. For the past seven years, Winetopia has focused solely on showcasing New Zealand wine and food producers but this year Auckland attendees will also be able to enjoy a taste of South Australia thanks to Thorn Clarke Wines, Rymill, Unico Zelo, Metala, Dandelion Vineyards, Sisters Run, Yalumba, Geoff Hardy, Portia Valley,Organic Hill...

October 25, 2022

Newly disgorged MiruMiru wine of the week

It's been a long time between drinks, if you'll excuse the cliché. Tastings have usurped writing time this month so now it's catch up time and the first wine to make it here is the biggest seller for Hunter's Wines in Marlborough - MiruMiru. The word MiruMiru is Maori for bubbles and this one is made from 66% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 4% Pinot Meunier. It'a non vintage wine - or would it better be described as multi vintage since because it is a blend of grapes from many yea...

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