Joelle Thomson

Writer, author, journalist

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Women in wine profile - MJ from Craggy Range

She loves champagne, Riesling and her family and she loathes cork taint. Mary-Jeanne Hutchinson is the woman behind the stories of Craggy Range Wines, a Hawke's Bay winery with more vineyard land in Martinborough's majestic Te Muna Valley. She works as an ambassador for Craggy Range wines and the brand. Her parents are Terry and Mary Peabody, who have established a 1000 year trust for their company. This legally binding arrangement means the winery and brand cannot be sold.  "The 1000 year ...

May 20, 2022

Wines of the week - trio of Pinots

When we think of Pinot, it tends to be Pinot Noir but there are many variations on the theme, most of them white, including the perenially popular Pinot Gris, which features in this week's top three wines of the week. While Pinot Noir is often characterised by its naturally high acidity, which adds tension and freshness to wines, the opposite can often true of Pinot Gris which can be low in acidity, even though both grapes are genetically the same in terms of their DNA. Variety is the spice of l...

May 19, 2022

New foraged gins

Eight years of trial and error finally came to fruition for Mark and Zoe Rose who launched their new Elsewhere gins late last year, just in the nick of time for Christmas. The duo behind the country’s newest gin brand are a couple in life as well as in work, so there was plenty of opportunity to taste test their products during their eight years of development work. He is a winemaker while she is the marketing brains behind the brand. Each of the six Elsewhere gins is named after a place in Ne...

May 13, 2022

Wine of the week - Quirky dry white

Semillon is one of the great white grapes of Bordeaux in south west France and was once a popular grape in New Zealand but it has declined hugely these days, making wines like these a relative rarity. It seems surprising that there is so little Semillon in this country, given the superb quality and style of this wine, not only now but history shows that its aging potential is also outstanding.  Only 200 cases (six packs) were made and it is available direct from Forrest Estate.  2021 F...

May 2, 2022

Central Otago's newest $140 Pinot Noir

The words Central Otago conjure up mountains and majesty but the region's most planted wine grape variety is also hitting new highs right now with the release of a top priced new Pinot Noir from one of the region's smallest wineries - Coal Pit in the Gibbston Valley. It is owned by Rosie Dunphy and the wines are made by Anika Willner. Both are on a quest to coax the absolute best Pinot Noir they can from their small vineyard site, which is situated in one of Central's coolest clim...

April 22, 2022

Friday wine with Larry McKenna in Martinborough

He is often referred to as the king of Pinot and for good reason. Larry McKenna is one of the most experienced winemakers in New Zealand, having forged a name for producing a vast number of the best Pinot Noirs in the country since the early days of Martinborough Vineyards. He was one of the first four winemakers in this remote rural wine region, a place he remains, despite his passion for the mountains and majesty of Central Otago. Here is an earlier Friday wine chat with Larry, published ...

April 19, 2022

Roadshow dates for wine tasting

The 2022 Negociants Fine Wine Tour dates have been announced for both public and trade tastings in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Wine brands to be tasted are listed below, following the dates in these three major centres. Auckland Monday 25 July at The Royal NZ Yacht Squadron Wellington Tuesday 26 July at Te Wharewaka o Poneke on the waterfrontChristchurch Wednesday 27 July at the Christchurch Town Hall Trade sessions will be held from 1pm to 5pm and public...

April 14, 2022

Friday drinks with Ben Glover of Zephyr Wines

Ben Glover has just taken his first deep breath since the start of vintage 2022, a manically busy period of the year at the best of times, but even more so when harvest crews are in short supply. Given the challenges of vintage busyness, Glover shared these questions with the four children he shares with his life partner, Susie Glover. Here are their (collective) thoughts.  The weekly interview on this website is inspired by the Proust questionnaire What do you consider your great...

April 14, 2022

Five great whites for Easter

Winery founder Rachael Carter of the glamorously named Soho brand featured as our Friday drinks interview last Friday and this week we moved south to North Canterbury over on this blog to meet Cameron Woodhouse, the new chef at Greystone.  In the meantime, with Easter about to give the chocoholics in our lives a chance to break out the cocoa, here are five great white wines to enjoy over this holiday weekend. They range from Chardonnay to Pinot Gris to Sauvignon Blanc, all from the South Is...

April 14, 2022

Hawke's Bay's ode to the fig... and more

A Foodie Film Festival will be held alongside food and wine workshops at this year’s Winter Food and Wine Classic in Hawke's Bay, which will be held on all four weekends in June this year. Events, dates and tickets were announced today and with prices per event ranging from $15 to $260, there is something for everyone. Participants include Black Barn Bistro, Craggy Range, the Mangapapa Hotel, Simon Pepping of Egmont St Eatery, Rogue Burger and The Catering Studio and also Te Mata Figs, wh...

April 11, 2022

Dates change for Auckland Winetopia

Winetopia Auckland has been postponed to 28 and 29 October 2022 after the Government's announcement on Monday 4 April that New Zealand would stay at the Red traffic light setting due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The Winetopia team, in consultation with sponsors and venue managers, agreed it would be best to postpone the event in the interests of providing confidence to it attend in safety and comfort.Tickets will automatically be valid on the new dates and if ticket holders cannot atte...

April 7, 2022

Friday drinks with Duncan Shouler, fan of La Tache

If he is ever reincarnated, Duncan Shouler would like to come back as a bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti La Tache, one of the great grand cru wines of the world, but in the meantime his family remains his greatest achievement, despite all the innovation going on in his current role as chief winemaker for the Giesen Group. This winery's humble beginnings were in Canterbury when the German born Giesen brothers, Theo, Alex and Marcel, founded the company after emigrating to New Zealand fr...

April 7, 2022

Friday drinks with Cameron Woodhouse of Greystone Wines

Greystone Wines is one of the jewels in North Canterbury's wine crown and it now has a new chef at its cellar door restaurant.  Meet Cameron Woodhouse, who has worked at Miro, Inati and Eliza’s Manor in Christchurch, at Jack’s Point and Amisfield in Central Otago and at Gleneagle’s Hotel in the Scottish highlands.  This weekly interview on this website is inspired by the Proust questionnaire What do you consider your greatest achievement? My partner and I recently bough...

April 4, 2022

'Wine' of the week - but is it wine if it contains no alcohol?

Two new zero alcohol 'wines' were released this week by the Giesen Group, the first company in New Zealand to create zero percent alcohol wine with the launch of its first zero alcohol Sauvignon Blanc in 2020.  This week the company launched a new zero percent alcohol Riesling and a Merlot, one of which tasted uncannily like wine with alcohol while the other one remains, in my view, a work in progress. The Merlot is good quality but the Riesling is excellent.  The parenthesis in the fi...

March 31, 2022

Friday wine with Rachael Carter who loves Fleetwood Mac and loathes wine snobs

Rachael Carter began importing screwcaps to New Zealand a year after declaring that they weren't her preference when it came to wine closures, but within half a decade, they had over taken the wine industry in this country, building a substantial business for her. Despite which, she greatest achievement is her daughter, Maren, whose namesake is a dry Riesling from Marlborough. Carter worked for her father for most of her working life but has now branched out and created the successful Soho Wine ...

March 30, 2022

Friday wine with Di Donaldson, health and wellness guru

Di Donaldson loves the great outdoors, Pinot Noir and empowering people to feel healthy in body and mind. She has been a competitive wind surfer, the owner-operator of a chain of gyms in Christchurch, prior to the 2011 earthquakes, and did work alongside her winemaker husband Mat Donaldson at Pegasus Bay in North Canterbury. She has now begun a new business called Reyouvenate, which builds on a fasting retreat that has been running for 20 years, mostly via word of mouth. She has added yoga and m...

March 25, 2022

Friday wine with Matt Connell in Central Otago

Matt Connell doesn't believe in a life after this one and aims to live by a mantra of making the most of each day - "since this is the one life I've got". He wishes he could play the guitar and that he had met his wife earlier in his life but on the eve of vintage 2022 in the world's southernmost wine region, he is full of anticipation to what this year will bring in the wines he makes, which he will begin selling at the Aurum winery and cellar door, which he has leased.  Connell is a winem...

March 17, 2022

Wine of the week - Italian Petite Arvine

It's not every day that a wine seems good enough to totally blow me away and here's an absolute stunner from the dramatic Vallee d'Aosta in northern Italy where the Swiss white grape Petite Arvine grows at 550 metres above sea level on the Rovettaz vineyard. This wine has freshness to burn, is bone dry, full bodied and has layers of flavour from ripe grapefruit to fresh lemon juice to beautifully structured salty minerality. I usually avoid the 'm' word but it seems apt here. This drinks beautif...

March 11, 2022

Friday wine with Ata Rangi's Helen Masters

Aromas of freshly fermenting grape juice float through the crisp morning air as the sun peeks through the misty clouds in Martinborough this morning and Helen Masters is busy heading up the winemaking at Ata Rangi, one of the first four wineries in this remote rural village in the Wairarapa.Masters arrived at Ata Rangi in Martinborough in 1990, ideal timing to help over vintage when the founder Clive Paton and his partner, Phyll Pattie, had a new baby on their hands. It was Masters' gap year and...

March 11, 2022

Central Otago names its first wine GI

The name Bannockburn is the first formally registered Geographical Indication for wine in Central Otago.  This provides legal protection for the identity of the Bannockburn sub region, both in and outside  New Zealand. “Whilst the Central Otago brand name will always be first and foremost for the region, there has always been a concern that sub regions may also be exposed to misrepresentation," says Jake Tipler, Central Otago Winemakers Association general manager. “Our sub regions...

March 9, 2022

Winetopia dates confirmed

Winetopia is now in its seventh year and the two day event is packed with fun, food, music and talks as well as informal wine tastings, masterclasses and live music. The events include regular 15 minute sessions of wine options, an informal  guessing game on a mini scale, designed to allow wine lovers of all levels to have a shot at checking how well their knowledge stacks up in recognising aromas and flavours in well known wine styles.There will be approximately 250 wines at each event and...

March 3, 2022

Tuesday wine talk with Judy Finn of Neudorf Vineyards

Weekly wine talk is usually published every Friday but this week’s appears today due to the following week being on annual leave (at a yoga and fasting retreat). This great interview with Judy Finn took place today but is based on over two decades of having known and followed the wines that she and her partner in life and in wine, Tim Finn, produce in Nelson.This high achieving couple own Neudorf Vineyards, which they  founded in 1978 in Nelson's Moutere Hills, an enclave of excellence wh...

March 1, 2022

Russian vodka banned and replaced with Ukranian flag

The West Auckland Trust will remove thousands of bottles of Russian vodka and beer from its 26 stores today and replace them with the Ukrainian flag. The West Auckland Trusts owns 26 retail stores as well as hospitality venues throughout the region and will stop selling thousands of Russian made products from today in a move to show solidarity with Ukraine.The empty shelf space will display a Ukrainian flag, says Allan Pollard, Trusts chief executive officer."The immediate removal of Russian vod...

March 1, 2022

What does well aged wine taste like?

Pegasus Bay winery in North Canterbury has released three aged wines onto the market, all of them drawn from the temperature controlled cellars at the winery.The wines are part of the company’s Aged Release programme, which began in 2006 with wines that were 10 years old at the time. This year’s new Aged Release trio of wines includes the 2012 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir, 2012 Pegasus Bay Riesling and 2012 Pegasus Bay Prima Donna Pinot Noir; an aptly named wine which is a blend of the best tastin...

March 1, 2022

Where can I find a good Pinot Noir? Six top drops

“I find Pinot Noir a bit of a mixed bag and it’s not always easy finding a good one – can you help?” It’s a common question from readers of this blog, friends and family, and it's a question that is usually answered with a “Yes and sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but it nearly always relates to price. Pinot simply isn’t cheap to produce so it’s rarely going to deliver excellence at a low price, despite a slowly growing range of very good wines under $25 and, occasionally e...

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