You had me at Merlot...

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Merlot, it's one of those underrated varietals which has perhaps had a bit of a bad reputation for being boring because of it's mellow palate. In Bordeaux, where this grape originates they tend to make Merlot in a style that is a lot more structured and less full bodied as we do in the new world. Here we like our Merlots full bodied & fruit forward. 

That being said, we don't make a lot of it here in NZ with Merlot making up a mere 3% of our total grapes grown and unsurprisingly as this is grape that loves heat, we grow most of ours in Hawkes Bay. 

Merlot is a dark grape which is almost blue in colour, we most commonly blend it with Cabernet Sauvignon as it's such a big belter of a wine the mellowing effect of the Merlot helps to smooth out the edges and make a much more approachable wine.

I'm a recently convert to Merlot as I hadn't rated it much in the past, but I have found some great ones recently that I absolutely rate, as a good low-risk entry level introduction to Merlot, you just can't beat this one from Giesen, it's the Vineyard Selection Merlot 2015 and you can pick it up for $15 - $17 in supermarkets. Giesen are synonmous with consistancy at an affordable price, which I love. This Hawkes Bay Merlot has flavours of stewed plum & dark berries with just a hint of clove spice. 

You can't talk about Hawkes Bay without mentioning stalwards Trinity Hill, John Hancock, who actually no longer works for Trinity Hill but is off doing his own exciting project (but more on that later) is a legend of wine in The Bay. This 2016 has flavours of chocolate, plums, blackberry, it's fruit forward with just a hint of spice and available widely for a very affordable $19

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So are you already a Merlot adorable and want to kick your experience up a notch? Well have I got the wine for you! This Villa Maria Single Vineyard Braided Gravels Merlot is a 2013 vintage no less, and let me tell you as far as NZ wine goes 2013 was a stonking vintage due to a long dry season. This goodness has been sitting in the bottle just getting better & will continue to do so for quite a while yet if you are the cellaring type. This wine has layers of complexity and deliciousness that blew my mind & clearly I wasn't the only one as this wine has won an embarrassing amount of awards, it is deep in colour and decadent flavours oozing black plum, coffee and the spice on the nose reminds me of when I was a kid making Christmas cake with my Mam. Amazing. If all that wasn't enough, it's also organic. Seriously. It's not cheap at $60, but if you want to make the investment, you won't be sorry. 

So if you've been avoiding Merlot (as I have) give one of these a go - I am keen to hear what you think!

Click the link below to hear my chat with Trudi Nelson (in for Wendyl) on the RadioLIVE Long Lunch 

Sparkling wines to celebrate the arrival of (our version of) the royal baby

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There is no doubt about it Jacinda Ardern is a woman at the top of her field in a male dominated profession and not just that, she is having a baby while in office - so remarkable and so inspiring and with the due date of the nation's baby being this very weekend, I thought what better way to celebrate the arrival of Jacinda & Clarke's baby than to do so with New Zealand Sparkling wines, of course, but I have picked three bubbles made by remarkable female winemakers who are also at the top of their field in wine, which is itself, a male dominated industry. 

So pick up a bottle of one of these beauties and have it in the fridge ready to POP when....our (yes, our) baby arrives.

A mama herself Jane De Witt is undoubtedly the foremost authority on Sparkling wine as she is NZ's most awarded sparkling winemaker. Jane's passion is making consistently good quality, good value wines that are accessible to everyone, and boy does she as the creator of Te Hana, Lindauer Classic, Lindauer Special Reserve, Morton Estate and my pick for today Verde. This wine is from Gisborne and is 80% Chardonnay and is the most citrusy of my picks with just the right amount of biscuitiness. It's accessible, affordable at $17 and refreshingly delish and I'm not the only one who thinks so this wine has won either Gold or a Trophy every year since 2015 at NZ Intl Wine Show,  New World Wine Awards, Royal Easter Show. Woah! When she's not dominating bubbles Jane also makes still wine for Corbans, Huntaway & Morton Estate.... overachieving much??

As I've mentioned before Jane Hunter of Hunters is the official "First Lady" of New Zealand wine. Though born across the ditch in Australia, Jane came to NZ to be a viticulturist for Montana and met her husband Hunter. When Ernie died tragically in a car crash 1987 Jane took the reigns & turned Hunter Wines into the stalwart of NZ wine that it is today. Jane's Miru Miru NV Sparkling never disappoints, for me I get flavours of bread and berries and the bubbles feel denser or more intense than other sparkling wines, in a good way, your mouth feels sparkly afterwards and what more could you ask for the bargain price of $29. Also Miru Miru is the Maori for Bubbles - how more perfect could this wine be for a truly New Zealand celebration

My final wine is a little more boutique, but no less special - just like the lady who makes it. Multi award winning winemaker Jo Gear (and Mama to two little girls) is a remarkable wine maker, particularly when it comes to whites. Her Hawkesbridge Marlborough Methode Trad 2014 teams with flavours of peaches and hazelnuts, flavours I typically associate with a really great bottle of fizz with just the right amount of creaminess. Available via the New Zealand Wine Society website for $36, this is a special bottle for a special occasion or maybe the special occasion is owning a bottle! When not making wine for NZ wine cellars, Jo has her own little wine brand called One Block Wines

So there you have it, amazing women doing amazing wine things, we cannot wait to see the new baby of the nation and pop a bottle to celebrate....I reckon Jacinda & Clarke are having a girl....what do you think?

Have a listen to my chat with Trudi Nelson on RadioLIVE this afternoon to hear more

Wine made in.....Eggs?

Wine made in eggs? What? Yup it's a thing, big concrete eggs....Wine in ceramics isn't really anything new as the greeks and the romans made and stored their wine in ceramic amphora.

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However legendary French winemaker Michel Chatpoutier, who was a massively into organics and biodynamics long before anyone else in France was believes the egg holds special mystical characteristics so commissioned the first modern concrete egg in 2001 in the Rhone.

The beauty of wines made in eggs is that it retains the fruitless that a ferment in stainless steel does so well, but in addition gives the characteristics of oak (Complexity, Minerality) without oak flavours. New Zealand egg wine enthusiast Tony Bish claims that "minerality is the holy grail of wine at the moment.”

The deal is the shape of the egg results in a different temperature between the outside of the egg & the inside of the egg which creates natural convection currents. Basically the yeast never stops moving and needs no manual involvement.

So why not have a lots of eggs & make more wine...well it's not quite that simple as this baby weighs 2 tonnes, so expensive to import. But that's what Tony Bish did, owning the very first concrete egg in Australasia and then being the innovator that he is, he commissioned his concrete tank maker in Hawkes Bay make some more and now he sells them to other winemakers in NZ & Australia

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So which wines are there to try? Well it didn't surprise me at all to learn that the first NZ winemaker to purchase an egg of Tony Bish was Dave Clouston of Two Rivers, Marlborough, Dave is a remarkable innovator and this Altitude Sauvignon Blanc 2016, is NZ's first egg made Sauvignon Blanc, it cost $29 and has amazing flavours of pineapple, white peach with juicy citrus and crisp salinity. Complex, elegant, next level Sauvignon Blanc.

This one is literally hot of the presses (it was bottled last Friday) & Villa Maria is the first of the big wineries to release an egg wine. They have chosen the Spanish grape Albarino  from the Hawkes Bay to be given the egg treatment & wow this 2017 is a stunna! Bone dry but with fruit sweetness of peach & lime, subtle minerality and a satisfying long finish. This may be the easiest of the bunch to seek out, and at $32, seek it you must.

You just cannot talk NZ Wine in eggs without mentioning Tony Bish, the man who brought the egg to NZ. Tony has been making "Golden Egg" since 2015 and it sells out every year. This is Chardonnay but taken to the next level. White peaches, preserved lemons and what a struck match characteristic that you could mistake for an oak characteristic but it can't be because it hasn't seen oak. The 2017 “Golden Egg” Hawkes Bay Chardonnay has to be tasted to be believed and at $40 for this rich opulent, acidic, salty nectar? We're not in Kansas anymore Toto.

I was lucky enough to catch up with the remarkable Mr Bish at his awesome micro-winery cum entertainment venue The Urban Winery (highly recommend a trip there in you're ever in The Bay) on my last trip to Hawkes Bay, and he told me all about why he decided to not just import an egg but actually start producing them!

Click the link below to hear my chat with Wendyl Nissen on the RadioLIVE Long Lunch

International Chardonnay Day

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Or as I like to call it, International "happiness in a glass coz it's the nectar of the Gods" day - but whatevs. 

Yes, Chardy day is upon us once again & I'm pretty excited at having the chance to dedicate a whole segment once again to one of my all time favourite varietals. Whether you like them big, buttery & oaked or lean, linear & oak free (AKA Chablis) I think you find a Chardonnay out there for you.

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My picks this week are a diverse bunch each with a different story to tell, and each from a very different parts of the world. The first from just around the corner is the Kumeu. The Kumeu Road, Kumeu Village Chardonnay is a wine that I frequently have the conversation with other wine peeps as to how can they make a wine this good, this affordable? We're stumped as honestly, I've seen it as low as $16 and it's a wine that could easily go for a whole heck more. The quality never falters and the flavours of pineapple, citrus & stonefruit always delight.

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Remember a while ago I went crazy for the Jacobs Creek "Double Barrel" reds? Well they only went & made a Double Barrel Chardonnay. This is a really elegant expression of Australian Chardonnay & not one for you if you like an oaky butter bomb, which I actually feel people are moving away from anyway. To make this Chardonnay they take the grape juice & split it in half, barrel ferment half in old scotch whisky barrels & the other half in traditional oak wine barrels then blend the two together to get the end result, which is is pretty amazing wine with flavours of lemon & stonefruit & hazelnuts. The other thing that is pretty amazing is it's price point of $22. Love your work Jacob's Creek.

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Irwin is Matawhero's flagship wine and it a tribute to the late Bill & Denis Irwin, a father and son team who founded Matawhero. Bill was an innovator in the early days of New Zealand wine, making many remarkable contributions to wine including the importing of the new vines and clones into and making the seemingly audacious move of entering New Zealand wines into international competitions. Although this is the first release for Irwin Chardonnay, they plan to make this wine in the finest years and when I say made, well, crafted is probably a better term. the wine is befitting the namesake oozing peaches &  citrus, with hints of oak. Definitely a special occasion wine which is probably just as well as it comes in at $60, but considering the quality of the wine, the potential for aging & the tribute to a wine legacy, I think it's worth every penny

For more on international Chardonnay Day, click the link below to hear my chat with Wendyl Nissen on the RadioLIVE Long Lunch

Grab your tiara, it's royal wedding time & I've got some wines for that...

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You do have to ask, is there an alternative topic of conversation this week other than the Royal Wedding? Well even if there is I don't want to know as I'm so excited to see Prince Harry finally tie the knot. Will it last? Well, who know but all I know is there's one heck of a wedding coming our way.

So what to drink to get into the royal wedding vibe? Well of course I've got a few thoughts on that front.

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Megan Markle is a self confessed lover of red wine, she specifically loves big Italian reds and even more specifically her favourite type of Italian red wine is Tignanello (pronounced Teen-ya-nello). In fact she loves this wine so much she named her (now defunct) blog after this wine's nickname "Tig". Megan describes when she first tasted Tig as an "Ah-ha" moment for her with regards to wine, she apparently said this is when she understood what great wine was all about when it came to complexity & quality. So for her, from that point on, all "Ah-ha" moments on any subject became "Tig" moments. 

Tignanello is an Italian blend of wine that is predominantly Sangiovese - it is most certainly a premium wine and one of the illustrious "Super Tuscan" wines and will set you back at least $100, however, I have found a beautiful example of a Sangiovese predominant blend from Tuscany that will cost you $20. The Rocca Delle Macie Rubizzo IGT is an amazing ruby red colour. with intense but smooth savory flavour bursting with ripe red fruit. Also, a perfect one to sip on a cold winters night while watching the royal wedding. 

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When Megan's not sipping Tig, she loves a Rosé (a girl after my own heart) she is quoted as saying when it's summer and she's out with her girlfriends it's "Rosé all day". Well, imagine my delight when I came across a beautiful, dry, easy drinking Rosé from Soho Wine Co called none other than "Harry". Harry is a Marlborough Rosé which is a delish light pink with flavours of strawberry and raspberries. Perfect. Only one hitch though, Harry is an on-premise only wine so if you want a glass of him, you are going to have to hunt him down in select bars throughout the country...(Probably wouldn't be the first to try to hunt down a prince in a bar...) 

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Rumour has it that the Queen enjoys a glass of Champagne every evening (hasn't HRH heard of AFDs?), and if there is anything that screams royal wedding it's vintage champagne. Well lucky for us Moët & Chandon Grand has just released their latest 2009 vintage champagne. I've mentioned here before the significance of a vintage champagne, but to recap, a vintage is only released in the best years as it is taken from the grapes of just one year, whereas non-vintage (NV) wines are taken from a blend of several years for consistency. A vintage champagne must be aged for a minimum of three years but this one has been aged for 9 (7 of which on lees). Considering how highly regarded the 2008 Champagne vintage was it really was expected to be a hard act to follow but Chef de Cave (Champagne Wine Maker Big Boss) Benoit Gouez believes this to be even better. The 2009 has a lot more pinot noir (50% to 2008's 40%) which gives it hints of plum & red fruit alongside the citrus & apples and mutes some of the acidity. All that and of course Moët has a royal warrant - need I say no more. Ok, alright, it's definitely not cheap at $100 but this may be the last royal wedding we see until George ties the knot - let's push the boat out & enjoy! 

To hear my chat with Wendyl Nissen on the Long Lunch about all things Royal Wedding click the link below while I get on with polishing my tiara....

Wonderful World Of Wine

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The World of Wine Festival is coming to Auckland's AUT Campus on Wellesley Street East this weekend - the 12th & 13th May - and I couldn't be more excited, it is the first time a wine festival has showcased ONLY International wines, that's right, not a single drop of NZ Wine will be available on the tasting floor (gasp). I think it's great and judging by how ticket sales are going, I am not the only one! Tickets are $60 ($45 students) and include a Riedel Ouverture Glass alone worth $25 (and it's full size!) a tasting booklet & pen, & unlimited tastes in the Tasting Hall. Worth noting that the pour size will be tastes only, so don't give your pourer any slack! If you fancy a larger pour there will be a bar on site for purchases, but frankly I think that 140 tastes is more than enough for anyone!

The team from the fest have given me a few wines to chat about and these are just three of the 140 wines from 14 countries that will be available to taste over this weekend.

Boy do the team at World of Wine know the way to my heart! This Septima Malbec 2016 from Mendoza in the foothills of the Andes is the definition of big Argy Malbec, chewy, spicy, fruity with flavours of dark plums and figs, amazing stuff and a long finish - insane value at $18

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Did you know that they make wine in Upstate New York? Well they do and they make a pretty decent drop too! The Finger Lakes are long, thin finger-like (funny that) lakes that run out of Lake Ontario and it is the main wine region in New York. It has very defined seasons & gets COLD in winter. This Dr. Konstantin Frank Gewurztraminer comes from the Finger Lakes region & is dry with lovely citrus & stonefruit flavours with lovely florals & that signature Gewurtz spice!  Dry, medium bodies & a real treat for me as it was my very first New York wine! Worth seeking out for $35

Last but not least is the Nino Franco, Rustico, Prosecco Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore NV - yea try saying that after a glass or two of Italian Bubbles! Let's just call it the Rustico Prosecco shall we? From the area of Veneto in Northern Italy this is from one of the oldest wineries in the area of Valdobbiadene’s. It's bright & fresh & refreshing & off dry and really a great wine to enjoy by itself or with seafood. A bubbles I feel it would be very easy to drink too much of! Good job it comes in at only 11% ABV.

This is a mere taste of the delights that await you at the World Of Wine Festival this weekend - if you fancy coming along then head on over to my Instagram page where you can win two tickets to Sunday's session, I'll be there so if you see me, come over & say hi!

Click the link below to hear my chat with Wendyl on the Long Lunch.

International Sauvignon Blanc Day 2018

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If I've said it once (and I have) I've said it a million times, what would we do without wonderful NZ Sauvignon Blanc, it constitutes 77% of the wine we make in New Zealand & those around the world go nuts for it. Although we make only 1% of the world's wine - 17% of the world's Sauvignon Blanc is from little New Zealand down here at the bottom of the earth. Pretty amazing. of our Sauv production (86% of which is in Marlborough) 86% (more than 166 million bottles) goes overseas, there are brands that we don't even see here in NZ as it is made specifically to be exported. It's a behemoth and we own our wine industry to this lovely grape which originates from Bordeaux in France.

So it makes sense that we should celebrate it right? With that in mind I have six (yes SIX) lovely Sauvs to talk to you about today. Three of which I talked about on the AM Show this morning & the other three on my usual slot on RadioLIVE with the gorgeous Wendyl Nissen.

The wines I picked for The AM Show are combo of two more "typical" Sauvs & one that's a wee bit special. The Huntaway (yup as in the dog) 2017 is definitely the typical Sauv lovers Sauv but that's not a bad thing at all, its acidic, grassy with bright citrus & hints of pineapple, it's lovely, it's affordable & available widely for anywhere between $15-$18 dollars depending on where you purchase it.

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The Wither Hills "Rarangi" Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc is a wine I've talked about before, but it is actually well deserving of another mention as it is the Wither Hills flagship reserve wine, from a beachside single vineyard site this wine was given the top marks out of a selction of more than 80 NZ Sauvignon Blancs by Wine Guru (and some might say God) Robert Parker last year. This is the wine for those that don't like the super high acid of Sauv as it's slighly more pared back and sophisticated. It's also priced really reasonably at $25, available at liquor stores and some of your more fancy supermarkets.

But now for something a little different SOHO bring us the aptly named "Caviar" 2017, single vineyard, hand harvested, organic, wild barrel fermented and made by my all time wine crush Dave Clouston - before I had even opened the bottle I was in love. This wine is spectacular and it is the wine for people who say they don't like Sauvignon Blanc.  The 8 months of aging in French Oak both mellows out this wine & adds wonderful complexity & exoticness. Worth every penny of the $38, which I admit is a premium for a Sauvignon Blanc. Have a look at my stint on the AM Show this morning...

As we have featured NZ Sauvignon Blancs before on The Long Lunch I wanted to pick some others that were a little bit special & a whole lot different. These are wines that I would describe as very non-typical but that just adds to their wonderfulness.

The Ara "Resolute" Single Estate is a 2015 Marlborough Sauv which has been hand picked, wild fermented & aged in oak, none of which are characteristics you associate with Sauvignon Blanc you also don't associate this amount of texture & complexity with a Sauv either. This wine is aromatic wine and complexity flavours of white peach notes and a long finish. A most unsauvy sauv for $25....I'm impressed.

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Blank Canvas wines are a young husband and wife team in Marlborough who I firmly believe we all need to keep a very close eye on as they are making some really different, but fantastic wines. Their "Abstract" Sauvignon Blanc 2016 is one such oak barrel-fermented with delicious passionfruit flavours yet a mouth watering minerality and just a hint of nuttiness that I think will only get better with age, not something you say about a Sauv! Pick this up at select stores and via the Blank Canvas website for $35

Finally the big daddy, this 2013 (yup that's the most recent release) Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from Giesen is called "The August 1888", pronouned Aw-Goost is named after the Giesen Brothers Grandfather who was a Sommelier & it was their first small batch wine. It's impressive; big, complex with flaours of pineapple & brioche from it's time on Lees. It also has that gun flint/struck match character that some people don't like I actually don't care for if its too strong, but in this wine, it all just works. Not one for the financial faint at heart it costs $43 but it really is a wine to for a special occasion or popped in the cellar.

Click the link to hear my chat with the wonderful Wendyl Nissen about NZ Sauvignon Blanc on RadioLIVE

 

So there you have it, my homage to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on the day. It's been amazing, let's do it all again next year! 

 

Grüner Veltliner

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Pronounced "Grooner Felt- Leener" this wine varietal sounds more like a European villain from an action movie than a wine. But a wine it is and a bloody nice one too! Grüner is Austria's most grown grape with a third of all wines grown being Grüner Veltliner. 

The wines are light, refreshing and tangy, dry with high acidity & perfect as an alternative to either Sauvignon Blanc or even Riesling. This is such an accessible wine which you are definitely going to see more and more of it coming into the NZ market (at least I hope so!). If all that wasn't enough to convince you, it's also an amazing food wine which pretty much goes with all white meats, seafood, shellfish and cheeses & even spicy dishes. I know this is an overused term but it really is a great all rounder.

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You can't talk Grüner and not mention Seifried's in Nelson as Austria is vineyard owner Hermann Seifried's homeland. This is definitely a great example of Grüner in that it is very true to varietal. The 2016 has aromas & flavours of citrus, apple, pear and white pepper. It's refreshing & delicious, vegan & frankly a steal at $17. It's bone dry with less than 2 grams of residual sugar

Marlborough stalwarts Saint Clair Family Estate's 2015 Grüner Veltliner has lovely fresh flavours of pear and apple and feels typical of a zesty floral Marlborough white wine. Dry with only 2.5 grams of residual sugar this Grüner is widely available for $22

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Bannockbrae in Central Otago's 2016 Grüner Veltliner is called “Marlene’s Grüner” is again a very typical Grüner but with the classic Central Otago aroma characteristics of stone fruit. Dry (2.45grams) with high acidity this wine was named after an Austrian high school exchange student whom the the winemakers family hosted 16 years ago.  Through Marlene's parents, they learnt all about this amazing wine & were one of the first NZ wineries to get the Grüner clone when it first came to NZ in 2008.

So if you like a Sauv & want to try something new, give a Grüner a go!

Click the link below to hear my chat with Trudi Nelson on RadioLIVE about this little known wine & why you should try it out

Biodynamic Wines for World Earth Day

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If ever there as a style of wine that is at one with the earth - it's biodynamic wine. 

The (complex) concept is that everything in the universe is interconnected & biodynamic farming requires a strict adherence to the rhythms of nature, the earth, the cycles of the moon and our movement in relation to the sun & stars.

The concept of Biodynamics started in the 1920's with Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner (yup, the same guy as the schools) and it is a holistic way of farming and viticulture which is the oldest, anti-chemical agricultural around, it's even older than the creation of organic farming in the 1940s. 

Biodynamics is organic viticulture on steroids but without the steroids as the addition of anything non-natural (including commercial yeasts) is prohibited & the way that the vines are tended to are dependent on the biodynamic calendar which in turn based on the lunar calendar & the four essential elements of Earth, Wind, Fire & Water. For example, on Water days you water the vines, but on Air days you leave the vineyard alone & don't do anything. I know it might sound a bit hippy and celestial and I don't mean for it to come across like that because man oh man do they make some incredible wines

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There are only a handful of certified Biodynamic wineries in New Zealand because if you thought organic certification was hard (and expensive) to achieve you haven't seen anything yet...but a lot of wonderful wineries practice biodynamic principles while working toward their certification. One such winery is my favourites - Te Whare Ra in Marlborough. Their 2015 Sauvignon Blanc has beautiful flavours of peach, stonefruit, and capsicum, an elegantly balanced wine available at good liquor stores for $25

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Domaine-Thomson are on the brink of submitting their application for Biodynamic certification as we speak - exciting times! This central Otago winery only makes Pinot Noir & this is clearly a case of find what you're good and do it well. This Pinot Noir has flavours of blackcurrant & black cherries and a sort of spiciness on the tongue which makes me wonder what this wine will taste like in 5 years time. I always find the mark of a quality wine is when you can enjoy it now, but also wonder where it has yet to go over time. To find a Central Otago Pinot Noir for $29 is becoming a more difficult task day by day, to find one of this quality at that price is near impossible. Buy it by the case & see what it does in 1, 3 & 5 years time. 

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Millton in Gisborne was New Zealand's first biodynamic winery which is something that they are (rightfully) very proud of. Their "Opou Vineyard" Chardonnay made me so very happy. This is everything a great Chardonnay should be, teaming with fresh apple & stonefruit flavours & just the right balance of creamy and nutty that begs for you to pour another glass. Some wines make me happy just because they exist - this is one such wine. $32 and worth every penny. If you can stand having it and not drinking, and I'm pretty sure I can't, this is another one to age for the next few years as I'm pretty sure it will get better and better. 

I really have just brushed over the VERY basics here of biodynamics, to know the full story & to understand it properly I recommend checking out the Demeter website for more information. 

To hear my chat with Wendyl today on the Long Lunch on RadioLIVE check out the link below