Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author


What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week

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What's in my glass this week... maverick wines

A chilly barrel tasting of Lagrein at a small New Zealand winery this week sparked a conversation about climate change, diversity and the need to future proof our wine industry. It can be challenging to find ways of future proofing ourselves in a world where the climate is becoming increasingly unpredictable and yet it was exactly that sentiment that leads winemaker Jane Cooper to explore grape varieties that are off the beaten track. Lagrein is one of the quirkier grape varieties that she is exploring on the vineyard site she manages in the lee of the Tararua Ranges. The vineyard is called Manuka Flats and is an approximately 10 hectare site, planted in some of the usual suspects, including Pinot Noir, as well as the unusual ones; Chenin Blanc, Syrah, Lagrein, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Gew├╝rztraminer and Viognier. 

Cooper is exploring their potential at a time when climate change is making itself known with force. She is keen to explore the potential not only of these but of other grape varieties not only to future proof her own wine brand, Alexia, but also to champion diversity. Her wines are in tank and barrel awaiting bottling as they gently mature over the chilly months.

As we talked this week, I was reminded of another new wine that has been waiting in the wings to be released from the South Island's Pegasus Bay winery. 

This wine is a new take on an old theme from the maverick winemaking team at Pegasus Bay in North Canterbury.  

What's in my glass this week?

Two wines of the week - one coming soon, one available now

Many diverse things have appeared in my glass this week from far flung places in Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The local stars have been wines that show a creative streak as well as expressing a sense of place.

There has been a new ros├ę from a secluded vineyard in the Te Muna Valley, Martinborough (more to come on that one) to Lagrein and Chenin Blanc from Alexia Wines in Greytown to this stunning expression of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon from North Canterbury.

18.5/20

2021 Pegasus Bay Minuetto Sauvignon Semillon RRP $39.99

Sneak preview - this wine will be released during 2024

If you're a fan of dry white wine, innovative winemaking and classic Bordeaux inspired white blends, try this blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The Sauvignon grapes spent 200 days fermented as whole bunches in stainless tanks followed by pressing while the Semillon was fermented entirely in old oak puncheons. The finished blend is approximately 60% Sauvignon and 40% Semillon.

This is the first vintage of Minuetto, which joins the Pegasus Bay reserve range of wines, adding stature and complexity to an outstanding stable of collectible, ageworthy wines, inspired by great wines of the world, made to champion the climate and place in which they grow. Delicious, succulent and finds it place into my top 10 wines of the year already. 

17.5/20

2023 Fugitive Sauvignon Blanc, certified organic, 2 litre box RRP $59

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is the most successful wine in the New Zealand wine industry and made in such high volumes that it takes only a short stretch of the imagination to pack it in boxes to reduce the impact of packaging on the environment. This wine is a lively, fresh and fruit forward expression of Sauvignon, made from the Te Manawa Vineyard in Renwick, Marlborough, owned by Geoff and Gaye Banks.

Winemaker Nadine Worley added cultured yeasts to a cool ferment in stainless tanks, giving the wine a little time on lees, post ferment, to add a note of weight. The wine was filtered and packaged into two litre bag in boxes. 

www.fugitiveorganic.co.nz