Joelle Thomson Writer

Author, journalist, speaker

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Wine of the week… Inspiration behind the wine Dawn

What will you be doing when you’re 104 years old?

It’s a tough question at the best of times, not least because most of us probably don’t expect to make it that far, but retired school teacher and once keen tramper, Dawn Ibbotson, has the ultimate answer. She enjoys a glass of bubbly every lunch time, which is named after her.

The word on the grapevine is that she would prefer to enjoy more than one glass but she still heeds the moderation advice given to her. And if that’s how she got to 104, along with the tramping, public talking and teaching, then who am I to argue.

The new 2015 Dawn is new on the market now.

The quality of the wine remains consistently high, even if the taste represents a slight style departure – it is drier by a small margin, which is noticeable in flavour as this wine seems more restrained and fresh.

It also has a higher percentage of Chardonnay grapes this vintage (65% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier compared to the 2014 Dawn, which was 52% Chardonnay, 43% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier).

I like and miss the higher Pinot Noir percentage of the 2014 Dawn, which I find is more expressive and toasty right now, but the 2015 has possibly a longer life ahead. Which seems like a fitting tribute to the wine’s namesake.


2015 Saint Clair Dawn Méthode Traditionelle $49

Dawn is one of New Zealand’s top traditional method sparkling wines, made in the same way as champagne with its secondary fermentation in the bottle.

The first vintage was from the 2012 harvest and made to celebrate centenarian Dawn Ibbotson’s 100th birthday. Dawn is the mother of Saint Clair winery founder, Neil Ibbotson.

The wine is made from grapes off a 20 year old vineyard on stony and sandy soils on Rapaura Road, overlooked by Saint Clair Vineyard Kitchen.

It’s a blend of 65 percent clone 95 Chardonnay, 30 percent clone 5 Pinot Noir and 5 percent Pinot Meunier. The free run Chardonnay juice was steel tank fermented with malolactic fermentation in late spring and lees stirring throughout. The Pinot Noir was lightly pressed and fermented at cool temperatures in seasoned French barriques, then aged on light lees until blending in  January 2014. The wine was then blended with secondary bottle fermentation over three months followed by thirty-nine months  aging before disgorgement to eject the decomposing yeast cells.

Residual sugar in the 2015 Dawn is 6 grams per litre compared to 6.2 grams per litre for the 2014 Saint Clair Dawn Méthode Traditionelle. It’s a small step towards a drier style but a big flavour difference from winemakers Stewart Maclennan and Hamish Clark.

The new Dawn drinks well now and has very good potential for aging and evolving into a fuller, rounder bubbly with more pronounced butterscotch and honey flavours with citrusy freshness for balance.

A sip of indulgence or an instant regret? Find out this month…

Why do some wines taste like rotten eggs, and others like passionfruit?

It’s a tricky question at the best of times and one that chemical scientist Rebecca Deed aims to answer at a one off free event called Raising the Bar in Auckland on Tuesday 27 August on K Road at 6.30pm.

Deed will talk about wine aromas at Carmen Jones on K Road. She is one of 20 academics selected to give free public talks at 10 Auckland central bars for one night only as part of the University of Auckland’s Raising the Bar event on Tuesday 27 August.

Deed studies sulfur compounds that make up taste characteristics of wine varietal and says sulfur compounds can completely change the flavour of a wine.

“Even a nanogram amount, the equivalent to one drop in a swimming pool, can alter a wine’s aroma and taste.”

Her talk will explore the wine making process and explain how sulfur compounds, which make up around 10 percent of wine aroma compounds, can be the difference between a sip of indulgence or an instant regret.

She is a member of the School of Chemical and Biological Sciences and a lecturer in wine science at the University of Auckland.

Her talk is titled From rotten eggs to passionfruit – the pungent world of wine sulfer compounds.

Entry is free.

Central Otago leads organic wine certification

Nearly 25% of Central Otago’s vineyard land is now producing certified organic grapes, according to a new survey, results of which were released last week by the Central Otago Winegrowers Association (COWA). The aim of the survey was to assess the level of certified organic and biodynamic vineyard production in Central Otago. Results revealed that 17% (320 hectares) of vineyard land in Central is now fully certified in organic and biodynamic production, with another 6% (115 hectares) in the official three year organic conversion process. This means that 23% of Central’s vineyard land is now being farmed under certified organic and biodynamic practices.

The region has had a long term focus on organics, says Aotearoa New Zealand Fine Wine Estates Estate Manager and COWA Chairperson Nick Paulin.

Organics has been a long term focus for Central Otago winemakers who agreed to move towards a collective approach to adopting organic practices in 2007. Funding received from Organics Aotearoa New Zealand (OANZ) helped the region’s winemakers to implement a pilot programme  to support winemakers to transition towards organic practices.

Organic Winegrowers New Zealand (OWNZ) has also helped to achieve this high proportion of certified organic wine through projects such as the Organic Focus Vineyard project and other  workshops.  

  • Land must be managed to a certified organic standard for three years before full organic status is granted by an organic certifying body.
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