Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Wine of the week… A family milestone in Marlborough

This year marks the 40th for Daniel and Adele le Brun, who have pared back their plans to celebrate on a large scale due to Covid-19. The pair pioneered sparkling winemaking in New Zealand in the early 1980s, producing high quality  méthode traditionelle (the same winemaking method as champagne) from the start. They released their first bubbly in 1985, only to run into anti-French sentiment in the wake of the Rainbow Warrior sinking in New Zealand. “But Adele turned a negative into a positive by using the anti-French atmosphere to promote New Zealand wine made the same way as champagne, only at a fraction of the cost,” said Daniel le Brun, in a phone interview with me this week.

The challenges of making wine in Marlborough’s early days were numerous, including restrictive land subdivision laws, difficulty obtaining finance due to wine being an untested industry at the time and a lack of available grapevines to plan. Not to mention a beer drinking, farming culture to contend with. But Le Brun comes from a long line of French winemakers (whose winemaking and viticulture date back to 1684) and he couldn’t believe his luck when he arrived in New Zealand as a curious traveller to find such ideal weather.

“I’ve never had a bad vintage because the climate here is so much more reliable and better than it is in Champagne,” he told me when recalling the struggles, joys and long journey to make it this far from nothing but bare paddocks of land in Marlborough, when he first arrived there with wife and partner, Adele, their six month old daughter Virginie and three dogs. They now have a son, Remy, and the entire family is involved in the winemaking. They own four hectares of land and buy the remaining grapes they need.

This pink bubbly is my pick of their line up. I love its flavours and the history that went into making the wine.

Wine of the week
No 1 Family Estate Rosé NV $47

This toasty little pink bubbly is 100% Marlborough grapes and 100% Pinot Noir, fermented to 12.5% ABV with 7.5 grams of residual sugar per litre – almost bone dry and it tastes like it. It was aged for 18 months on lees prior to disgorgement, initially in December 2019, with ongoing disgorgements to retain fresh wines to meet market demand.
To say this wine delivers great value for money is a wild understatement.