Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author


What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week

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People, places and opportunities in wine

Mora is the Latin word for linger and it's hard to imagine a better place to take time out than Central Otago with its jaw dropping mountainous beauty, let alone the wine. In this interview, Catherine Douglas shares her inspiration for Mora Wines and Artisan Kitchen, for which she works as the direct sales manager, driving targets, operating the cellar door and wine club.   What do you consider your greatest achievement?Most recently, it would be the part that my team and I played in l...

November 4, 2023

No 1 Family launches new sparkling wine

Marlborough is a long way from Champagne at the best of times but it must have felt like another world when Daniel le Brun first laid eyes on the dusty plains of New Zealand's biggest wine region in 1978. The weather appealed. The grape varieties not so much.Muller Thurgau was the leading grape variety grown in the region at the time, but Le Brun took the plunge anyway, making his first sparkling wine in Marlborough in 1980. This year, he and his partner in wine and life, Adele, and their a...

October 31, 2023

King of Chardonnay's new releases

Posted 30 October 2023To say that Chardonnay is on a global roll again is to make a wild understatement. It is the world’s most popular grape today, if plantings globally are any indication. And it has a long history of styles, which meet a confluence today of flinty, full bodied and creamy through to wines that take some of our palates back to Chardonnay’s heyday in the 1980s when bigger was better (from shoulder pads in clothing to flavours in wine). Back then, a Chardonnay wasn’t consid...

October 30, 2023

Wines of the week for three budgets

When there are so many people in the world without a drop of water to drink, it sometimes seems incredibly banal to be writing about a choice of wines to consume when the mood takes us, but life does not deal us all an equal hand, as we see with increasing alarm every time we switch on the news.With that very thought in mind, for those of us who are fortunate enough to live with a choice of what to drink, here are three wines that have impressed me over the past week in my life as a privileged i...

October 25, 2023

On the hunt for great Pinot

Winemakers are discovering the benefits of less invasive techniques to coax the best out of the grapes they use to make wine. In a growing trend that has been dubbed natural, low fi and non interventionist winemaking, many winemakers are no longer routinely adding sulphur to freshly picked grapes, during stages of winemaking and even, sometimes, at bottling. Commercial yeasts are now often eschewed, in favour of native yeasts in the environment and many wines are now bottled unfined and unfilter...

October 25, 2023

Change of guard as Craggy Range appoints new chief winemaker

Craggy Range Winery has announced a new chief winemaker today with the promotion of Ben Tombs, who will take over from Julian Richards as head of the winery team. "When we first hired Ben, we did so with the vision that he would one day take the reins from Julian. Ben understands what we are trying to achieve; he is uncompromising in his pursuit of quality and understands our two great estates in Martinborough and Hawke's Bay," says Terry Peabody, Craggy Range founder. Tombs' journey in wine has...

October 17, 2023

Hawke's Bay's impressive 2020s and 2021s

Posted on 4 October 2023Hawke’s Bay has had an impressive number of devastating natural disasters, of which Cyclone Gabrielle earlier this year is the tip of the iceberg. The 1931 earthquake flattened much of Napier city, ensuring the rebuild created one of the world’s leading art deco cities, and there is regular rainfall and, surprisingly, even frost conditions in this diverse wine region. The 2023 vintage is far from ready for bottling yet but while we wait, there are wines from the outst...

October 4, 2023

Merlot that kicks ass

Of all the hackneyed expressions and well worn cliches, the term 'kicks ass' is hardly inventive  but here is a wine that really does put light bodied reds in perspective. I am suitably surprised by the power of this red, which features in a long line up being tasted and written about today.Merlot. It was the gateway soft, light and easy to enjoy smooth red wine back when Cabernet could not seem to fully ripen in New Zealand. And while Cabernet may still struggle on occasion to ripen, it do...

October 3, 2023

Wines of the week - new bubblies

Daniel and Adele Le Brun weren't messing around when they named their wine brand No 1 Family Estate. If it sounds like a lofty ambition to aim for the top, it only needs to be taken in context, which is that Daniel Le Brun comes from a family with 12 generations of winemaking in the Champagne region in France. He brings a lot of wine wisdom to this relatively youthful wine country, not to mention centuries of experience that he learnt while growing up. Not that every single wine produced at No 1...

October 3, 2023

The greatest global wine book's fifth edition

Great books are a subjective matter but there's no doubt that this one earns its place on the top shelf of all wine lovers. It is the long awaited fifth edition of The Oxford Companion to Wine.The 944 page tome was edited by a trio of respected wine writers, Julia Harding MW, Jancis Robinson OBE MW and Tara Thomas, as opposed to the first edition, which was released in 1994 and edited entirely by Jancis Robinson MW. It was no mean feat when the first edition was released, which was described va...

September 29, 2023

TK breaks new ground in Martinborough

One of New Zealand's most remote wine villages is having a new lease of life. Martinborough is a 90 minute drive from the windy capital city and its hospitality offerings have evolved in both subtle and ground breaking ways over the past four years, in tandem with growing visitor numbers. The new Runholder eatery, wine cellar and gin distillery is the newest on the restaurant horizon in this small village. Situated on the edge of the compact village, it breaks new ground in design with maje...

September 18, 2023

Wine of the week - best of Central's Pinot bunch

If Central Otago Pinot Noirs seem incredibly prolific, that's because Central is the southernmost wine region on Earth and its winemakers are devoted almost entirely to the cool-climate-loving Pinot grape variety. Pinot Noir occupies over 80 per cent of the region's disparate and highly varied terrain. Vineyards stretch from the western most, windy enclave of Lake Wanaka down to the arid moonscape like rocky soils of Alexandra, with the famous Bendigo, Bannockburn, Cromwell and Gibbston Valley w...

September 11, 2023

An expression of place... Rapaura Rohe reviews

Three new Sauvignon Blancs show how the influence of climate, proximity to the sea and free draining soils can create vastly different tastes in wines that are made from the same grape variety and the same broader region, in this case, Marlborough.This trio of Sauvignon Blancs are the Rohe collection from Rapaura Springs Wines in Marlborough. Rohe is the Maori word for territory and is a name used to pay homage both to Maori culture and land in New Zealand and also to the wine concept of place, ...

September 5, 2023

Defiant in name and in life, a toast to John McGrath

This week, the Wellington hospitality scene and the world lost a great friend, brother, son, lover of life and author, John McGrath. He loved wine and he especially loved aromatic white wines, so here is a toast to the man that many of us called Five Star McGrath. He will be missed by many and his life will be celebrated on Saturday 2 September. Here's to you, John.WIne of the week2021 Domain Road The Water Race RieslingRRP $27www.domainroad.co.nzCool sorbet, hot day and promising flavours of li...

August 31, 2023

How high can you go on a bottle of wine? $175, anyone?

What is the most expensive thing you have eaten consumed? And did you see the value in it?The most expensive wines are often such labours of love that they do not even make it to the commercial bottling line, but remain either in barrel or in a small bottle run for family and friends of the producer. It is always a privilege to try wines such as those, which happens infrequently but regularly enough to be a reminder that the best winemakers love creating something special, even if it doesn't alw...

August 29, 2023

Two different takes on Central Otago Pinot Noir

To be awarded best in the world is a tall order in any industry, let alone the world of Pinot Noir, which reveres Burgundy but generally holds that all other regions of the wine world can't quite hold a torch to it, but there are a growing number of wine regions that are home to extremely good Pinot Noir today. Central Otago is one of them. One of its wines took out the title of best in the world when the 2006 vintage of Wild Earth Pinot Noir was awarded the Trophy for Best Red Wine and Champion...

August 28, 2023

Trail blazer Dr Neil McCallum honoured this year

"I loved wine and, if I love something, I have to pursue it," says Dr Neil McCallum, founder of Dry River Wines in Martinborough.This year, he was recognised at a dinner in Martinborough with fellow early Pinot Noir pioneers, Derek Milne (soil scientist and co-founder of Martinborough Vineyards) and winemakers Larry McKenna (Martinborough Vineyard and then The Escarpment Vineyard) and Clive and Phyll Paton (Ata Rangi). It was not a linear journey into wine for McCallum, but the first wine t...

August 23, 2023

Four of the best for International Pinot Day

This year's International Pinot Noir Day was Friday 18 August and since this is typically the coldest time of year in New Zealand, here are four great Pinot Noirs that will see you through the entire month of August.19/202019 Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir RRP $55.99This is one of my Pinot Noir highlights this year and tastes incredibly smooth with velvety mouthfeel supporting its plum and ripe dark cherry flavours. Succulent acidity stretches every complex sip to a lingering finish. The wine...

August 18, 2023

Tempted to buy a vineyard? Wine of the week, 17 August

"Are you tempted to buy a vineyard in Bendigo?" The question came out of the blue in the middle of a casual wine tasting. Was it a trick question? I wondered. How many wine writers buy vineyards? To be fair, there is a vineyard for sale in Bendigo, Central Otago, and it is Quartz Reef, whose founder-winemaker Rudi Bauer is firmly focussed on Pinot Noir. Like most Central Otago winemakers. The only difference is that approximately 40% of his Pinot Noir goes into producing a wine that is...

August 16, 2023

Que Syrah Syrah

Marlborough winery Saint Clair is best known for its many faceted takes on Sauvignon Blanc, which have not always been easy to navigate, even if they have been all deliciously different, sometimes by a mere fraction. It has been an interesting and tasty journey for wine drinkers and also for the winemakers at this large family owned winery. The sheer number of different wines, similar looking labels and all from the same vintage all managed to confound those of us to whom single vineyard wa...

August 8, 2023

First organic wines from Palliser Estate

They say good things take time and after 36 years, the time has finally arrived for Guy McMaster to release his first organic wines at Palliser Estate in Martinborough.The organics in question is certified organics with BioGro NZ. Not, as a fellow wine colleague once suggested, "organic wine - a totally meaningless idea."There is meaning in organic certification and there is also plenty of confusion, if the viewpoints I hear from wine drinkers at tastings is anything to go by. So the release of ...

August 5, 2023

Wine of the week... What makes a wine taste fresh?

Like drinking a lime sorbet with a touch of alcohol cleverly intermingled in, except this is wine, made from grapes and most definitely containing alcohol, despite its deceptively drinkable flavours. This is Riesling. And I like it not because it has a hint of sweetness but because of its other polarising attribute - acidity. This is what makes wine taste fresh; red or white or rose and sparkling wine, for that matter. The greatest structural asset of freshness in wine is acidity. This...

August 3, 2023

Alcohol free wine sales rise by 66%

Some may say that subtle aromas are exactly what's to be expected in a wine that has had its alcohol removed, but the quality of two such wines is so convincing that they have won awards at one of the world's biggest wine competitions. The judges at the 2023 International Wine and Spirit Competition’s (IWSC) awarded the Giesen 0% Alcohol Pinot Gris the Best Low-Alcohol Trophy (<1.2% alcohol/volume), praising its "subtle buttered stone fruit" aromas. “The palate is full with bold...

August 1, 2023

Gamay on a roll... First ever Gamay makes wine of the week

How much would you pay to try something that is touted as the next big thing but has also been described as lolly water, tart and inferior?That something is Gamay, also known as Beaujolais, which is the name of the French region that has been its home since Gamay was thrown out of Burgundy in 1395 by Philip the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy at the time. He may have been onto something because there is no question that Pinot Noir has had a superior reputation ever since, but Gamay is having a bit of...

July 31, 2023

A lot to celebrate in Martinborough Pinot Noir

Martinborough is a small village that has made a big impact in the world of Pinot Noir, which is the queen of the region with 527 of the 1090 hectares of grapes planted in the area, which is known as the Wairarapa (not to be confused with Waipara Valley in North Canterbury - another great Pinot Noir region). This week, Martinborough winemakers and the Wairarapa Wine Region are putting their money where their mouths are by celebrating the region's earliest Pinot pioneers and its future leaders at...

July 25, 2023 Posts 26-50 of 309 | Page prev next