Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Wines of the week… Chardonnay at $20 and $30

Many people are happy to have a job in these increasingly uncertain, global pandemic times, but for those who feel heavily invested in their work, the first wine of this week will ring a few bells. Its name is a clever play on words.

Where did the name Skin in the Game come from? I asked winemaker Tony Bish this question over a glass of wine a couple of weeks ago and the reply was: “It’s mandatory when you’re a winemaker to have some skin in the game.”

He has forged a  bit of a reputation as New Zealand’s king of Chardonnay, specialising in a grape and wine he loves by exploring and experimenting with many different styles, including this, the second vintage of the newest kid on his Chardonnay block – the 2019 Skin in the Game. A cheeky and clever play on words and available from specialist wine stores or directly online from

2019 Skin in the Game Chardonnay $30
Chardonnay grapes were hand harvested from the Skeetfield Vineyard in Fernhill, Hawke’s Bay, to make this dry, medium bodied and interestingly different take on a skin contact wine. It’s recognisably Chardonnay with its creamy, savoury flavours and nutty nuances. It’s made from 100% dry farmed grapes which can reduce yields and increase concentration. It was gently destemmed and foot crushed then open top fermented and hand plunged. Overall, that’s a lot of hand work for a Chardonnay at this price, which may be next level for many but which offers very good value for money for an interesting new take on the world’s most popular white wine.

2019 Fat & Sassy $19.99
Speaking of the world’s most popular white wine, this full bodied Chardonnay is citrusy, dry and fresh with buttery flavours from its barrel fermentation but it’s the nutty, lightly savoury flavours that really drive this wine’s appeal for me. Fat & Sassy does live up to its name but it’s also got a fine thread of balanced adicity adding an edge so there’s more than purely creamy appeal here.