Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


What I'm drinking this weekend

When it comes to surnames, it could have gone either way for the Dicey brothers but Matt and James have turned their name into a positive and given one of the wine world's most tired, dire and old fashioned bits of packaging (bag-in-box wine) a total makeover. This month they launched their second vintage of two litre Dice by Dicey Pinot Noir, hot on the heels of growing sales of the first vintage to about 50% of their online business. That's no mean feat in a slump of a year, such as 2023 has been.

The first Dice by Dicey bag in box winestruck a strong chord of resonance with Pinot Noir lovers who typically spend $30 to $40 (NZ dollars) on a bottle of wine, at least, and are more than a little relieved to get two litres of very good quality Central Otago Pinot Noir for less than $80. It's hardly stretching the point to say that wine very rarely gets a makeover with its packaging. Screwcaps were launched in New Zealand in 2001 and immediately raised the bar of quality for all wine sealed with them but they also met intense controversy and push back. Since then, what have we seen that is different? Mount Edward winemaker Duncan Forsyth launched very good quality Pinot Noir in steel kegs for glass pours at restaurants, which continues to be met with positive affirmation. And there is wine in cans, which is also finally being met with enthusiasm, but the Dicey brothers wanted to do something in higher volume with less wastage per single use. Enter the bag in box. The bag is recyclable and the volume of two litres means fewer bottles, labels and closures to recycle or re-use.

Their surname just so happens to fit pretty well with the new Dice by Dicey, which I tasted this week alongside its bottled counterpart. The source of grapes differs slightly for the boxed Pinot Noir compared to the bottled wine, but the quality remains impressive. A handful of wine professionals, including a winemaker, viticulturist, sommelier and chef, were all surprised to find they were enjoying a Pinot Noir poured from a box, when I shared a sample with them. Sales online are growing beyond  Matt and James' highest hopes and it is only 18 months or so into the new wave.

Here are three wines I highly recommend for the weekend. 


2021 Dicey Pinot Noir RRP $49.99

This is one of my top five Central Otago Pinot Noirs tasted over the past year. Velvet smooth in texture, impressively concentrated in taste with dark fruit flavours supported by beautifully balanced freshness and mid palate succulence. It is delicious. It is also a blend of grapes from two very hand tended rocky vineyards in Bannockburn, which are owned by the Diceys. Viticulturist James Dicey farms The Inlet Vineyard, which contributes 60% to this wine and winemaker 'caretaker' of the grapes, Matt Dicey, owns the Black Rabbit Vineyard, which contributes the remainder. There were five per cent of whole clusters in the fermentation and the grapes spent 23 days on skins in total with punch downs once a day during fermentation. It spent the year in barrel, a judicious 20% new oak. It's a seductively drinkable wine now and has the structure to age well. 


2023 Big Sky Novello RRP $35

Jeremy Corban and Katherine Jacobs are not only a formidable winemaking team, they are producing outstanding wines even in the trickiest of vintages, which 2023 most definitely was. This beautiful crisp Pinot Noir is a medium ruby colour and made with the intention to be enjoyed as a chillable red (not chilled to within an inch of its life, however). It's a beautiful drink now thanks to lifted fruit aromatic intensity which comes from the wine starting life with carbonic maceration. It then went through classic fermentation and is a clean, bright, bold new take on Pinot Noir with youthful freshness and superb refreshing qualities. 


2022 Dice by Dicey Pinot Noir RRP $82.99

Three vineyards in the Cromwell area contributed grapes to this soft, smooth and fruit forward Pinot Noir, which expresses Central Otago well with its medium bodied style. Half of the grapes were treated to whole bunch fermentation with indigenous yeasts and the wine spent 11 months in barrel in 18% new French oak. It is given all the same bells and whistles as many of the very best Central Otago Pinot Noirs but if price comes into the equation, it costs a fraction of many.