My cup runneth over – with English wine

Tigchandler is back! Wine is in my blood – metaphorically not literally! After a break from writing, a rising star has reignited that passion, the tingling taste buds, the wide-eyed excitement of new experiences. That rising star is English wine. World-beating quality sparkling and delicious whites are putting English wine firmly on the map.

Like the rest of the wine world I have seen the English wine industry evolve and grow, particularly since about 2000 – a trend often touted as a positive effect of climate change! However, the south of England has always been along similar latitudes to northern France which encompasses Champagne and Alsace, so it is more likely that it is fashion and markets that have had the most impact on this trend (not to mention the legal and spatial limitations on French growers and winemakers who have come to England to further their production without those limitations).

It is no surprise then that the eminent wines in England are sparklings made in the traditional method (as in the Champagne region with specific grapes of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, secondary fermentation, minimum periods on lees, and other requirements) and fruity crisp whites made from grapes that are popular in northern Europe, particularly Germany, northern France and Austria.

So let me take you on a little journey through the English countryside…

Tigs with Martin Clunes

Tigs with Martin Clunes

Buckham Fair
In summer 2018 I was excited to be driving through Devon and Dorset country lanes to Buckham Fair. A little celebrity worship – this event is organised by Martin Clunes and his wife on their property. A lovely man respected by everyone in the area, the event was for charity and had the most wonderfully friendly and inclusive atmosphere of a traditional English country show.

Horses and dogs featured in displays and competitions all day. For the dogs there was agility around an obstacle course; best in show for pedigree groups including gundogs, terriers and working dogs, and for non-pedigrees; best rescue dogs; the waggiest tail; and best biscuit catcher to name a few! For the horse lovers there was showjumping, showing – serious and fun showing including best Thelwell lookalike! For me the grand finale was the heavy horse display. I have included some photos of the stunning heavy horses in the gallery below to enjoy along with the wine pics.

Among the many stalls, I spotted a pleasant surprise – the Langham Wine Estate stall. Here was a chance to try an award-winning English sparkling wine from Langham Wine Estate, a Dorset winery using only grapes grown in its own vineyards.

Langham Wine Estate Classic Cuvée 
As they state on their website ‘We take a low-intervention approach to both grape growing and wine production, constantly striving to minimise our environmental impact and produce honest wines that reflect our terroir.’ I love to hear the words ‘low-intervention approach’ which I believe contributes to superior wines.

Langham Wine Estate 2014 Classic Cuvée

The 2014 Classic Cuvée is a blend of the three traditional French Champagne grapes, with

50% chardonnay, 25% pinot noir and 25% pinot meunier. With partial barrel fermentation (like Bollinger and Krug!) and 24 months on lees, and aged a further six months in the bottle before release, hence the current vintage being 2014, this rich golden wine with fine bubbles has a lively bready nose and the flavour is astounding!

I love Champagne but could instantly see how English sparkling is winning awards in blind tastings against sparklings worldwide. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, considering the very similar climate and chalky soils that contribute to Champagne’s success.

The palate is generous, fresh, fruity with flavours like honeydew melon, and very long. Just beautiful. Matthieu Longuère MS of Le Cordon Bleu London (as cited on Langham’s website) described it exactly, noting its ‘floral, nutty, fruity and elegant nose, and friendly, fresh and quite juicy palate’. I knew it would be good but it surpassed any expectations. I don’t normally do this, but I unreservedly say to any reader – get a bottle of this wine and you will never forget it.

Unsurprisingly this wine has won a number of awards including gold at the WineGB Awards 2018 and gold at the 2018 Sommelier Wine Awards.

Not bad for a winery that has been producing on a commercial scale for less than a decade!

Pop Up English Wine Company

Peter on the Pop Up English Wine Company stall

Another joyful discovery at Buckham Fair was the Pop Up English Wine Company hosted by Peter (pictured), presenting a range of English wines from counties extending the width of southern England including Cornwall: Polgoon Vineyard; Devon: Lyme Bay Vineyard; Dorset: Langham Wine Estate; Portesham Vineyard; Hampshire: Coates & Seely; Surrey: Greyfriars Vineyard; Sussex: Stopham Estate; Wiston Estate; Bolney Estate; Essex: New Hall Vineyards; and Kent: Westwell Vineyard.

Amazing sparklings were on display including the 2014 Langham described above plus their rosé. I tried a glass of the Coates & Seely Brut Reserve NV (pictured), made from 65% chardonnay and 35% pinot noir. Made the traditional way (i.e. consistent with the Champagne region), it had the biscuit notes and lively fine mousse with cleansing acidity, the nose youthful and fruity and fresh. A lighter colour and body than the Langham, it is another beautiful example of English sparkling.

Coates & Seely Brut Reserve NV

Méthode Britannique was written on the bottle – which struck me as a strange way to say that this is specifically made the British way, by writing it in French. If you are confused – I think they really mean Traditional Method – then we all know where we are!

The Wiston Estate 2013 Cuvée Brut was not available to taste but Peter said it too was a leader in English sparkling, winning Best UK Sparkling White, Decanter World Wine Awards 2017. It is made from 47% pinot noir, 33% chardonnay and 20% pinot meunier and is all aged in barrel. The emphasis on fruit quality and unhurried ageing and release promises a stunning wine that is on my ‘to do’ list!

God of the whites
With most of my wine experience having been gleaned from my time living in Australia and New Zealand I am new to grape varieties such as Bacchus, Seyval and Ortega which are among the popular varieties grown in England, besides the Champagne grapes. My expectations were undoubtedly coloured by my English heritage – I want the wine to be good! But the reality exceeded my expectations.

Lyme Bay Sandbar

Bacchus of course is named after the God of Wine and as stated in Decanter magazine 22 May 2017:

‘If English wine is to have a ‘poster grape’ of its own, then bacchus is the front-runner.’

From the same article: ‘It is believed to be a combination of a riesling-silvaner cross with Müller-Thurgau, first achieved in Germany in the 1930s.’

Müller-Thurgau is itself the result of the crossing of two grapes: riesling and Madeleine Royale, created in 1882 by Dr Herman Müller (of Thurgau, Switzerland).

Müller-Thurgau will be a familiar name to New Zealand wine lovers as this grape was once the poster grape Down Under, being central to the early establishment of the wine industry in New Zealand as far back as the 1950s, introduced by German wine experts. It has since been mostly removed from New Zealand vineyards, as the country moved strongly towards sauvignon blanc and other varieties.

Bacchus suits the English climate and has been referred to as England’s sauvignon blanc, with grassy notes, succulent flavours of pear, honeysuckle and elderflower, and refreshing acidity.

I tried the Lyme Bay Sandbar bacchus that Peter had on tasting. A perfect tipple for a summer’s day, it was fresh and citrusy with light honeysuckle and balanced acidity.

I also bought a bottle of the New Hall Vineyards Signature 2017 and to my surprise needed a corkscrew to open it – a rarity with New Zealand and Australian whites where stelvin (screwtop) dominates. A very pale wine, it was zingy and fresh with soft fruits, a crisp minerality, floral, fruity and rich, a perfect summer wine. Great structure and balance, it was truly delicious. And only 11% alcohol meant I could have a second one.



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‘Greener’ wine steals the show at Go Green Expo

At the Go Green Expo in Wellington I was not expecting to encounter one of the country’s most well known brands, served by the founder and winemaker himself. Konrad Hengstler of the famed Konrad Wines (pictured) was serving his range of sauvignon blanc, riesling, grüner veltliner, gewürztraminer and pinot noir.

Konrad with his iconic Marlborough sauvignon blanc

Konrad with his iconic Marlborough sauvignon blanc

Originally from Germany, the family first settled in Melbourne, Australia, but when visiting New Zealand, Konrad discovered Marlborough sauvignon blanc and was drawn to the region to make outstanding wine. The family planted their first vines in 1996 in the Wairau and Waihopai Valleys of Marlborough.

While most famous for his iconic Marlborough sauvignon blanc, and this wine was stunningly good – one of the best and most elegant from the region – on this day at the Go Green Expo, it was the grüner veltliner which stood out for me – grüner bring German for ‘greener’. Being the green expo, I should mention that all the wine grapes have fully certified organic, BioGro status and as such are grown without the use of synthetic fungicides, insecticides or herbicides.

What is grüner veltliner?

Grüner veltliner is the most commonly grown wine grape in Austria. In the Weinviertel region in the northeast, along the border with the Czech Republic and Slovakia, over half of the country’s grüner is grown, and it is the only permitted grape variety. This region is known for high yields and for simple wines with fresh acidity and crisp citrus fruit flavours. The more selective producers can make wines with the typical pepper and mineral notes, and more full-bodied, dry grüners. Along the Danube the warmer area produces more full bodied wines with peach notes. Along the border with Hungary some sweeter auslese and botrytised trockenbeerenauslese styles of grüner can be found. The oldest grüner vines in the are more than 150 years old.

Grüner veltliner is also widely grown in Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Hungary, and in various locations across the US. It is a newcomer to Australasia, with just a handful of producers, the notable Australian producer being Hahndorf Hill Winery in the Adelaide Hills. There are a few in New Zealand, the first commercial producer being Coopers Creek in 2008.

Konrad’s greener grüner

Konrad grüner veltliner 2011

Konrad grüner veltliner 2011

The current release of the grüner veltliner was a 2011. The wine is a pretty light golden colour with green hues (pictured). The nose gives generous fleshy fruits, like white flesh nectarines and honeydew melon. The wine is mouth-filling and soft with a low acid content,yet zingy with a little spice, and very long. This elegant wine is complex and pleasing and very flavoursome, dry and crisp on the finish.

Konrad's 2011 grüner glowing in the glass

Konrad’s 2011 grüner glowing in the glass

The grapes were hand harvested from vineyards in the Waihopai Valley. They were whole bunch pressed and wild yeast fermented in old French barrels and kept on lees for three months. All of this care explains the complexity of this elegant and surprising wine. An excellent example of this variety for New Zealand to be proud of.

Alcohol 13.5%; residual sugar 9 g/l.

Cellaring potential 3-5 years.



Posted in Adelaide Hills, Grüner veltliner, New World wine, NZ wine, Sauvignon blanc, South Australian wine, Wine varietals and blends | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Waipara wine region punches far above its weight

This gallery contains 25 photos.

Waipara Valley is a small wine-producing area in the South Island of New Zealand, which punches far above its weight in terms of quality and renown. The wines I tried were in the range of good to excellent, with some … Continue reading

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Clearview at Vivo – a delightful tongue twister!

At a Clearview Estate tasting at Vivo wine bar in Wellington, I was so spoiled for choice that I couldn’t narrow down my favourite wines to fewer than six! Several more were contenders, and not all of the winery’s range was even there – this is not a common occurrence for me.

Tim Turvey, Clearview Estate founder, winemaker and owner

Tim Turvey, Clearview Estate founder, winemaker and owner

This kind of dilemma is a rare and wonderful thing! It is a relief to come across wineries you feel you can trust across their range. I am often asked – what are your favourite wines – I answer with who my favourite wineries are. If made well, I will love any wine variety or style. Never say never and always be prepared to be surprised.

My shortlist of six comprises the rosé, three whites and two reds, all stunning and very different…

The rosé – Black Reef Blush

Black Reef Blush 2014

Black Reef Blush 2014

As a not-so-avid fan of rosé I am always ready to be surprised – and a friend recently introduced me to Clearview’s rosé – called Black Reef Blush. This wine is truly delicious, with full rounded red fruit flavours, bursting out of the glass to fill your nose and palate. It is delicious and fresh and satisfying and I would go out of my way to find it. Its secret is not only the cool ferment and expert handling of the winemaker, but the combination of merlot, chambourcin and malbec grape varieties. Chambourcin makes delicious easy drinking red wine, it bursts with flavour. The flavours reminded me of the d’Arenberg Peppermint Paddock sparkling red from McLaren Vale, South Australia, also a standout because of the use of chambourcin (sometimes blended with shiraz). In both cases the winemaking is careful and allows the grapes to speak, and the wines are made with just enough sweetness to allow the fruit to flourish and refresh, but dry enough to finish cleanly and leaving you wanting more.

The three whites
Clearview is renowned for its chardonnay – I discovered this after my friends and I decided that the Reserve Chardonnay was our personal choice of the line-up. We first tried the Te Awanga Chardonnay which was dry and zingy with ripe citrus flavours and a light nuttiness. An elegant but satisfying mouthfeel, easy drinking, with good length and crisp fresh cleansing acid.

Reserve Chardonnay 2013

Reserve Chardonnay 2013

Next up the ‘iconic powerhouse chardonnay’ as it says on the Clearview website – the 2013 Reserve Chardonnay. Not easily swayed by awards (I trust my own palate more) but the 4.5 stars in the 2014 Winestate Magazine was well earned for this wine. A bold and powerful chardonnay, classy and complex, with rich fruit, French oak influence and a combination of selected yeast strains and wild yeasts allowed to work their magic. The wine is unapologetically luscious on the tongue, creamy, and long. It was beautiful drinking on the night, but can also be cellared out to 2020.

As my good friend Raymond Chan (and well respected NZ wine judge and writer) says of this wine: ‘The Clearview Reserve Chardonnay remains one of this country’s best’ – in a country making a large number of impressive chardonnays, that is an achievement. Michael Cooper (NZ wine critic) calls it ‘a hedonist’s delight’ – spot on!

Gewürztraminer 2014

Gewürztraminer 2014

The third white? Of course I am biased because I am a self-professed lover of gewürztraminer – if in doubt read about the stunning oily, fragrant, dry and spicy Alsace Hugel gewürztraminer, the complex dry stunner from Johanneshof in Marlborough (Alsace-trained winemakers) and the delightfully different West Brook gewürztraminer from Auckland… This varietal from Clearview was a lighter drier style, more New World than Alsace, with typical notes of Turkish delight and ginger, and just enough sweetness to give a softness on the tongue and making it a very easy drinking wine. Rich yet delicate, light yet very satisfying. My friends were also impressed – my gewürz following is growing one by one! A stunning variety, under-appreciated, offering mind-blowing, surprising, delicious wines. Never discount gewürz, it will surprise and please.

The reds
The two reds that I tried that really made me excited were the Bordeaux wines – the merlot malbec blend of the 2012 Enigma and the straight malbec of the Two Pinnacles. Both full of fruit and tannin and acid in perfect balance – leave them for a good five years and you will have stunning integrated and balanced wines, bursting with flavour and body. The merlot lifted the Enigma with plums and berries, and soft grained tannins gave a luxurious massage in the mouth – while the malbec was more of a brooder, with that varietal power from the malbec, and damson flavours that I love to find in a malbec. It was dense and dark and with integrated spice, generous and with all the elements to age well. I absolutely loved the Enigma but the Two Pinnacles had just that extra special edge for me. Malbec is a red not often seen in NZ but those that we do see are stunners.

A last note from Tigs…
Make a mental note when you come across a winery to be trusted. Some of mine are – Hugel in Alsace (France), Langmeil in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, and Yering Station in the Yarra Valley, Victoria (both in Australia), and Gibbston Valley in Otago. I am confident that any wine I buy from these wineries will be in the range of good to amazing. And now – Clearview of Hawke’s Bay with the six stunners described here (and the semillon, viognier and syrah also could have made it onto the list).

Many thanks to Vivo who have the largest wine list in Wellington by the glass, with 60 or so to try, plus 600 or more by the bottle! Thanks to Blair of Vivo for your hospitality and to Tim of Clearview for the chance to sample these superb wines.

And last but not least – the slideshow – enjoy…


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From Hope springs a character pinot

When we come across wines that surprise us, the natural urge is to share – when people do that with me it gets written about (only if I like it too!).

When a friend says to you that they loved a wine you sit up and listen more than you would to any advert. My good friend Nick went on a last hurrah with his lovely wife recently before the birth of their first child and they treated themselves to some upmarket (five star no less!) accommodation – at a winery! (I am assured that Nick did all the drinking!)

Milcrest Estate cellar door

Milcrest Estate cellar door

They stayed at Milcrest Estate in Nelson, a small family-owned winery and vineyard owned by Terry Milton and Christine Cook.

Terry and Christine at Milcrest Estate cellar door

Terry and Christine at Milcrest Estate cellar door

From their room, which of course looked out over the vineyard, they trotted down to the tasting room and sampled the whole range of wines accompanied by the cheese board. They bought several bottles, with a particular penchant for the pinot. Very kindly, Nick gave me a bottle to see what I thought – I only write abut wines I like so it passed!

Milcrest Estate Pinot Noir 2010

Pinot noir never ceases to amaze. You may fancy a glass of something a bit special, so from your eclectic wine collection, you grab that bottle of estate grown pinot from the winery you visited, safe in the knowledge that you loved the wine so much that you brought some home – and now here it is, complete with memories of your holiday.

Expectations are always that bit higher for pinot, yet it still manages that element of surprise every time, eliciting a contented groan and at the same time the raised eyebrow and little spark of excitement in your tummy when you come across a good’un.
I like to share wines that are not mainstream – dare to be different! This is a wine bursting with character and uniqueness from a place called Hope!

Located at the base of the Richmond Ranges, Hope is a little town in Nelson. The maritime climate and loads of sunshine are great for pinot noir. Soils are mainly clays. At Milcrest Estate they grow several varieties, including syrah, montepulciano, chardonnay and my own weakness – gewürztraminer.

Nelson produces some stunning wines and at very reasonable prices. The first time I ever bought a whole case of wine from one winery was from Seifried winery back in 2002. I remember I couldn’t pick one or two bottles because the whole range was good, so selected a dozen and had it shipped back to Wellington. Life is too short to procrastinate over good wine – if it’s good get it!

Milcrest Estate pinot noir 2010

Milcrest Estate pinot noir 2010

This pinot was clearly the result of a long growing season and good sunshine hours – the fruit was full and intense and the colour a dark brooding cherry red. The nose was a generous combination of savoury earthiness with a touch of sweetness and spice, and brambles – reading that the winery was on the site of an old boysenberry farm seemed appropriate!

I expected a savoury palate but was also pleasantly surprised by the burst of dark berry fruits, and damson plums, full mouth feel and mouth-watering juiciness that reminded me of old fashioned wine gums. The tannins from 11 months in French oak are soft and come through to slowly dry the palate with a mixture of undertones of damson and leather and cleansing acidity settling into a long finish. The following night it had softened further and the leather was luxurious on the palate, the fruit soft and generous.

It was a very easy drinking wine, with the lovely fruit balancing with the earthiness and long dry finish, a perfect accompaniment to my lamb chops with rosemary. Easy yet classy and different. Divine drinking now and in perfect balance.

Thanks to my friend Nick for his generous donation! Not just the wine but the sharing. I shall return the favour – and I know just the pinot – watch this space!

Milcrest Estate pinot noir 2010
Alcohol 14%
Gold Medal, NZ International Wine Show, October 2011.

Available from Centre City and Wineseeker in Wellington.



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Uncorked in Cuba! A hedonistic blend of NZ and Europe

Uncorked Wine Bar and Tasting Room

Uncorked Wine Bar and Tasting Room

My Wellingtonian compatriots will be well acquainted with the bustling, lively and eclectic Cuba Street in Wellington, where you can find all manner of goodies – bars, groovy cafés, funky clothes, the bucket fountain, nick-nack shops, hedonistic treats…

On a stroll through the city I happened upon an intriguing-looking ‘Wine Bar and Tasting Room’ named Uncorked with a sign saying – ‘Yummy Wine’! My wine nose led me inside…

Uncorked sign that caught my eye!

Uncorked sign that caught my eye!

I was met by the friendly and welcoming bar manager, Te Awa. Upon sharing my wine passion, and mentioning this very blog, Te Awa invited me to sit down and taste some of the wines. I was blown away by his enthusiasm and his hospitality, and his openness in sharing the aims for the bar and reasons why it is different from any other. Recently opened, I was attracted to its niche appeal and points of difference:

Firstly, the only New Zealand wines that this bar stocks are from Akaroa Winery in Canterbury and are all organic and handpicked. These wines, made in an elegant and distinctive style, are described below… In addition there is a range of European wines available – today’s wine list had French, Italian and Spanish reds and whites; and I also spotted a white wine from California on the list.

Secondly – only wines sealed with cork are served here – definitely going against the grain for New Zealand, the instigator of this very closure. The turning of the tide against cork had good reason at the time, with spoilage significantly affecting wines around the world, but with the cork industry having made wide-ranging and significant changes and improvements to the cork production process, it is now a much safer bet. Many still believe that the benefits of using cork outweigh the potential downside. Given a good quality cork supplier, I am happy to see this break in trend – why not. We don’t all have to act like sheep just because we have so many!

Thirdly, this bar has a choice of tasting flights, not something that many self-professed wine bars do, and I think they should. I am a wine lover and am usually disappointed by wine bars that seem to be cold and sparse places with hard seats, snooty staff and ridiculous prices. The wine lists are usually quite extensive, which is what tends to draw me in, but staff tend not to want to engage in conversation about the wines, treat you with disdain when you dare to try, and when pouring your wine will make sure they do not go even a millimetre over the meagre line, for which they are charging like a wounded bull. (I always check too that the bottle has not been open more than a day – just a tip!) Wine is a product to be enjoyed and appreciated and yes discussed – every wine has a story and every wine tastes different and this is what makes wine so alluring and an enduring passion for so many.

The Akaroa wines

Akaroa Winery is located in Takamatua Valley, Akaroa, Canterbury, about an hour’s drive south-east from Christchurch, overlooking Takamatua Bay. It is an organic vineyard and winery owned by Timberly and Allan. Timberly is the winemaker and Allan is the vineyard manager. The style of the wines definitely comes across as having a European influence with restrained elegance, complexity and length, compared to many from the New World (1) (not the shop) which tend to be more generous and ripe.

Akaroa Winery Pinot Gris 2011

Akaroa Winery Pinot Gris 2011

Pinot gris 2011 – a very pale straw colour in the glass, with elegant white blossom on the nose, this wine gave a luscious, lightly oily and long palate with soft white peach notes, and is barely off-dry, with the minimal residual sugar finely balanced. I enjoy dry styles of pinot gris and this would appeal to any lovers of the drier style but is accessible to those who need that touch of sweetness to massage the tongue. A touch of ageing in French oak has added to the roundness and complexity. Definitely a gris not a grigio! You can taste an Italian pinot grigio here to compare the two…

Akaroa Winery Cuvée Blanc 2010

Akaroa Winery Cuvée Blanc 2010

Cuvée blanc 2010 – this wine is 55% chardonnay and 45% riesling, not something I would have sought out, but again this winery shows it is not afraid to be different. Pale and clear golden in the glass, there is a delicate citrus and fresh green apple nose. A soft fruity palate is neatly rounded off with refreshing acid, leaving a light toastiness on the tongue from the partial French oak influence. While the tasting notes say the wine is off-dry, I found it pleasantly drying on the palate, clean and crisp.

Akaroa Winery Cuvée Blanc 2009

Akaroa Winery Cuvée Blanc 2009

Cuvée blanc 2009 – after the 2010, I noticed a slightly darker golden colour, more generous nose and a fuller flavour. Still with a luscious softness on the tongue, and a fruity sweetness, the sugar again in perfect balance, acid kicking in and modest toastiness lingering. This wine really makes you go ‘mmmmmm’… This wine is a blend of pinot gris, chardonnay, riesling and gewürztraminer – but don’t worry about that, it is the sum of the parts that matters!

Akaroa Winery Pinot Noir 2010

Akaroa Winery Pinot Noir 2010

Pinot noir 2010 – lovers of New Zealand pinot noir – here is a new one for you! It amazes me how this fickle yet rewarding grape can reflect each and every terroir in unique ways, almost like a fingerprint. The most well known areas for pinot noir in New Zealand are Central Otago, Martinborough, Marlborough and Waipara, but then I recently tried one that surprised me from Auckland (West Brook winery) and now this from Akaroa. This wine – a cherry red to behold, was generous on the nose and palate, giving layers and layers of savoury richness and red berries, and spice with a hint of liquorice, a delicious wine that is dry and long. Taste this against a European red and let the mind work as well as the tongue…

And finally at Uncorked…

A casual yet elegant setting in the groovy happening part of town, and far enough away from the main hustle and bustle of the CBD to relax and let your senses be titillated. Only wines under cork, only organic Akaroa wines from NZ, European wines to enjoy, tasting flights regularly rotated, and hospitable staff. It is not a restaurant, the focus is very much on the wine, but you can partake of cheese platters or flat breads to accompany the wine.

Have a glass, a flight, purchase a bottle for consumption there, or to take home (15% lower prices for take-away purchases). Most of all, try out this cool new venture in Cuba.

Many thanks to Te Awa



Posted in Chardonnay, European wine, Gewurztraminer, New World wine, NZ wine, Pinot noir | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Tig’s blog for the year 2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Do not forget this name! West Brook the western winery with wicked wines

West Brook winery aerial view

West Brook winery aerial view

West Brook winery may not have a particularly memorable name but once you have visited the stunning and serene setting and tasted the wines you will not want to forget it! Check out the beautiful setting of vineyards, rolling hills and duck pond, and the giant chess set out the front of the winery.

Giant chess set by duck pond

Giant chess set by duck pond

You can buy a bottle and enjoy it in the picnic area next to the pond, play giant chess or even pétanque. It is peaceful and soothing and almost makes you forget why you came – but not quite! The wines!

West Brook Waimauku Estate Chardonnay 2008

West Brook Waimauku Estate Chardonnay 2008

My first taste of West Brook wine was the chardonnay, for which the winery is well renowned, and has won many awards. With my buddy Roger I tried the Waimauku Estate Chardonnay 2008 (pictured) at Centre City wine shop in Wellington in 2012. The colour of the wine speaks volumes! Dark golden, oozing with the toastiness of a medium oaked chardonnay, with flavours reminding you of brioche and nougat (as the tasting notes say!) just starting to settle into its age – it could have been cellared much longer, we didn’t want to wait. Chardonnay this good helps you to understand why it is the most widely planted white winegrape variety in the world. Classy, complex, this is a superb addition to any chardonnay collection.

I recently visited West Brook in Waimauku, Auckland, a 30km drive to the north-west of the CBD with my friend Randy Weaver, one of the founders of the famed Coopers Creek winery in Kumeu and now Director of Wine Science at Auckland University. Randy knows the West Brook owner and winemaker Anthony Ivicevich well – they chatted, I tasted!

Standouts for me were the chardonnays of course but also the pinot noir from Waimauku – I had never had a pinot from here, and Auckland is not known for pinot – but it was really really good! If you fancy something totally different this is the go! We all love our pinots from Otago, Waipara, Martinborough and Marlborough, but as all pinot lovers will know, this is the grape that most reflects the terroir (climate and soils). So of course the Waimauku pinot would carve out a profile of its own – I bought some and will wax lyrical when I share it with my wine buddy and expert Raymond Chan so watch this space!

Back to gewürz – of course!

Tigs and gewürztraminer are inseparable as my readers know well. France and NZ produce the best examples I have had to date, with a huge mind-boggling variety of flavour profiles, intensity, age, and style. Why am I so gewürz obsessed? Because it is the most surprising variety for me, varying according to producer and region. It can be light and fruity, dry and spicy, sweet and floral, make an intense dessert wine, or a dry table wine, it can be drunk very young or aged for many years. It is great on its own and an equally superb and versatile food wine. Most of all it is the wine that can really make you groan with pleasure… If in doubt try some of those I have written about here – the famous Hugel and Domaine Zind-Humbrecht versions from Alsace, France, and from NZ, try Johanneshof, Coopers Creek, Brookfields – and West Brook!

West Brook 2012 Marlborough Gewürztraminer

West Brook 2012 Marlborough Gewürz

West Brook 2012 Marlborough Gewürz

The reason this wine was a standout for me is its elegance but with backbone. It is very pale in colour (see my wonky photo – arty, not the result of overconsumption!) and has a delicate floral nose with gentle notes of lychee and honeysuckle – then wham! The palate bursts with spice and floods with luscious honeysuckle and baked apple, coating your tongue with deliciousness, lingering on and on to a dry lip-smacking finish. Wow! It is a tighter package than some gewürz I have tried – this one is lithe and toned with no rough edges, generous with flavour then tailing off gently leaving you wanting more. Warning – very easy to drink! I absolutely loved this wine.

Alcohol 13.5%; Price $22.90 from cellar door

Many thanks to Anthony Ivicevich for an instructive yet relaxed tasting at the cellar. I came away with a few beauties. More on the pinot at a later date – it deserves its own 15 seconds of fame!



Posted in Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, New World wine, NZ wine, Pinot noir | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tigs and wine in the land of the long white cloud…

Dear Tig readers

Here I am back in NZ! This country sparked my love for wine so I think it is appropriate to give my readers some bite-sized facts about NZ wine. (Sources and more detailed statistics at the end of the article; data are for 2012 unless otherwise stated.) For some easy to view charts click on links provided (and rather than the predictable wine pics I hope you enjoy my pics of the iconic Piha beach in Auckland and the airstrip in Wellington – scroll down.)

  • How many wineries are there in NZ?
    There were 703 wineries in 2012, three times more than in 1996.
  • What is the area of vineyards in NZ?
    In 2012 there were over 34,000 hectares of vines.

***See this chart showing the growth of vineyard area and wineries since the mid-1990s.***

  • What types of grapes are grown?
    Sauvignon blanc accounts for 58% of grapevines planted in NZ. The next three largest vine areas are for pinot noir (15%), chardonnay (9%) and pinot gris (7%). (See Table 1) The New Zealand Wines and Wineries website gives a great overview of characteristics of wine grape varieties specific to NZ – simple and clear and very informative.
  • Where are the grapes grown?
    Marlborough (66%), Hawke’s Bay (14%), Otago and Gisborne 5% each. (See Table 2)

***See this table for juicy details of wine grapes by region and variety.***

  • How much wine does NZ produce?
    In 2012 NZ produced 194 million litres of wine (down from the peak of 235 million litres in 2011).
  • Where are the wines sold?
    Sales of NZ wine by value in 2012 (NZ$mn; share of total): Australia (380; 32%), UK (284; 24%), USA (251; 21%), Canada (71; 6%).

***See this chart showing the growth of NZ wine export volume and value since the mid-1990s.***

Table 1: Areas of vines by grape variety, 2012

Grape variety

Hectares   of vines

Share of total (%)

Sauvignon blanc



Pinot noir






Pinot gris















Cabernet   sauvignon



Table 2: Areas of vines in the main winegrowing regions of NZ, 2012


Hectares of vines

Share of total (%)




Hawke’s Bay






















Wines of NZ

NZ Winegrowers

Tigs with friend at Weta studios, Miramar, Wellington

Tigs with friend at Weta studios, Miramar, Wellington

Lion Rock and black sand at Piha Beach, Auckland

Lion Rock and black sand at Piha Beach, Auckland

Wellington air strip

Wellington air strip

Posted in Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, New World wine, NZ wine, Pinot noir, Sauvignon blanc | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chocolate and wine? Two rights make a right!

A farewell treat before leaving Adelaide was to take the ChocoVino experience at Hahndorf Hill Winery in the Adelaide Hills with my good friend Anne. We all love chocolate and we all love wine – but why pair them? And does it work? This experience opened my eyes to new enjoyment of both.

Hahndorf Hill Winery is in a beautiful setting in the Adelaide Hills, with the tasting room overlooking vines and rolling fields. Blaufränkisch vines are planted right up to the cellar door. This winery is known for the Austrian varieties of grüner veltliner, blaufränkisch and zweigelt, and I have also been very impressed by their pinot grigio. They are one of those wineries who say those magic words that are music to my ears – there is a hands-off winemaking approach to let the grapes speak.

The cool climate is ideal for elegant, flavourful wines perfect for the Austrian grape varieties and the more typical shiraz, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. Both the wines and chocolates are selected according to terroir, regionality and vintage! ChocoVino co-ordinator Christine Worsfield says “the chocolate is made from beans grown in one particular area, which then reflect the flavours of that area… so when you match a single-origin chocolate to a regional wine, you get to explore the concept of terroir in a unique way while taking your tastebuds on a whole new adventure.”

Chocolates include Amedei Chuao from Venezuela – one of the best in the world we are told, and from Madagascar, Italy and more.

I tried the Madagascan trio which included a generous taste of the grüner veltliner, chardonnay and shiraz, each matched with a Madagascan chocolate. The tasting sheet is shown in the slideshow below.

Our enthusiastic and informative host Dee told us how to get the ultimate experience:

Look at the chocolate – it should have a rich and even sheen.

Touch it – the chocolate should feel silky, cool and dry.

Listen as you break it. Good chocolate has a distinctive snap as it breaks.

Smell it – the freshly broken edges deliver a promise of the pleasures to come.

Taste the chocolate. Let a piece melt on your tongue to release its first impressions and then savour it slowly to reveal the layers of natural flavours within.

With your palate primed with the sensual flavours of the chocolate, sip the wine and explore the synergy between the complex aromas and flavours of the wine and the chocolate.

Cleanse your palate with the purest bottled water in the world – Cape Grim from Tasmania – and start all over again.

And most importantly – enjoy!

The true wine fanatic will also be delighted by this winery as they try the best grüner veltliner that Australia has to offer. They make it in the more steely, crisp style and also in a late harvest luscious style. I had a glass of the latter in my tasting selection – citrus and white blossom on the nose, and on the palate a full fruit burst of sweet luscious mango, light citrus and gentle spice. It was long and delicious and rounded off eventually with a pleasingly dry finish. It was matched with a milk chocolate with 44% cacao. After a taste of this, and another sip, I got more mango and less of the sweetness.

The shiraz (2009 vintage) was also incredible. A spicy savoury nose, it gave a pleasantly surprising mouthful of blackberry with that spice and savoury all following through, very long and harmonious. After a taste of 77% cacao chocolate I then got definite licorice flavours in the wine.

Unfortunately there was no blaufränkisch to try as it sold out in three days! I did however track down a bottle at Goodwood Cellars in Adelaide and shall be trying it soon. I have high hopes!

This was a unique and beautiful experience in a stunning setting. No wonder this winery has been listed as one of the ‘Top 10’ cellar doors in Australia by Wine Business Magazine.

Check out the lovely photos of the winery and the tasting.

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Posted in Adelaide Hills, Grüner veltliner, New World wine, South Australian wine | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment