Joelle Thomson

Writer, author and wine scribe


Weekly wine tastings, news and delicious ideas

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In my wine glass this week

Sparkling wine, champagne, prosecco or simply bubbles (the pet hate word of some wine lovers I know, sorry guys). It goes by many names but sparkling wine is definitely one of my favourite drinks and ever since I have spent part of my working week at a large independent wine retailer in a multi faceted role, I have literally been able to indulge my champagne tastes with my, hmmm, more humble budget. Until this year. Not only are there fewer interesting quirky champagnes arriving on New Zealand's somewhat rainy shores, but the prices of the best ones have risen astronomically. Take one of the champagne world's top shelf rosés, for instance, which rose from approximately $88.99 on the shelf to $155 in the latest shipment. There are many reasons given for this. Excise tax rises, fewer ships travelling around the world, post covid, apparently, and the general rising cost of living. It's enough to make a woman weep, but instead, I have turned to the best sparkling wines made in New Zealand. The best are, in my view, produced in the southern half of New Zealand where the day to night temperature variation is wider, which means the nights are cooler and the days warm and dry. This is ideal for retaining natural acidity in both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as allowing grapes to ripen in relatively dry conditions. These two big name grapes (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) are the key ingredients in the Champagne region, along with Pinot Meunier, of which there is but a smidgeon planted in New Zealand.

There is a handful of very good sparkling wines made in the North Island, but always in cooler areas, such as Martinborough, which is home to Palliser Estate's The Griffin. 

Much as I miss the affordable champagnes I once had access to, I am loving the refined expressions of sparkling wine made using the same methods of production as the champagne industry. In fact one of these producers, No 1 Family Estate, was founded by the son of a champagne family from France. Daniel Le Brun and his family are now onto their second generation of New Zealand méthode traditional sparkling winemakers. And it shows.

Now, onto that magnum of Bollinger Special Cuvee, which I purchased four years ago and is being opened this week to celebrate the end of one era in my life and the beginning of a new one. 

18.5/20

Hunter's MiruMiru RRP $29.99

MiruMiru is Maori for sparkling and a beautiful homage to New Zealand as well as being one of the country's best bubblies at one of the most affordable prices. Did I just say that? We need wines like Hunter's MiruMiru; fresh as a daisy but bone dry in flavour with beautiful depth and crisp fresh cut through on the finish of every succulent sip. It is also the winner of the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships for the third year in a row with MiruMiru.

Edward Macdonald from Hunter's Wines told me last week that the winery has now purchased its own disgorging line, installed next to the bottling line. "No 1 did all the disgorgement for us up until now and a great job too but it made sense that if we have the staff and know-how to bottle our wine, it is only natural that we should also disgorge it. We have wanted to do it ourselves for many years, but the high cost of capital has held us back."

It definitely adds to the authenticity of creating a beautiful expression of sparkling wine from two of Marlborough's most under rated grapes; Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Hunters.co.nz

17.5/20

2019 Vilaura Methode Traditionelle Blanc de Blancs RRP $65

Vilaura is the freshest wine on the New Zealand bubbly circuit and has just been launched late brand owners Sanne Witteveen and Jacha Oldham-Selak. They were inspired to make sparkling wine after studying wine science and viticulture together at the Eastern Institute of Technology in Hawke's Bay. This wine is product of their first harvest in 2019 and all the grapes are grown in Hawke’s Bay. It is an impressive start with citrus flavours driving the wine's freshness and taste. Vilaura is an amalgamation of the words Villa and Aura, which translates to house of energy. Vilaura.co.nz

19/20

No 1 Rosé RRP $63

This outstanding pink sparkling wine could be labelled a blanc de noir because it is made entirely from Pinot Noir grapes, which are delicate pressed to provide a clean pale pink colour to the wine and dialled up flavours of toasty complexity. I love the full bodied, crisply fresh style of this sparkling rosé, which excels every year and can age, if the mood takes you. It is the freshness of new releases that I personally enjoy the most, which is the way that top notch sparkling wines are intended to be enjoyed at their best. www.no1familyestate.co.nz/our-story/the-no-1-family