Sunday, May 19, 2019


Villa Maria has released a new range of wines that are well worth checking out. It's the PLATINUM SELECTION range which sits in price and quality between the current gold label CELLAR SELECTION and black label RESERVE  ranges.

At first I wondered why they were doing this as they already have a quality mid-priced range in the CELLAR SELECTION range which has some lovely and affordable wines.

The likelihood is that the gold label range will be discontinued or permanently reduced in price as supermarket loss-leaders. I gave it some thought and it occurred to me that Villa Maria, like many other New Zealand and overseas producers have a surfeit of top quality wine that, because of the expensive inputs is out of the price range of many and successive vintages sit in the warehouse unsold. Winemakers are faced with the decision of discounting their top labels or using the wine in cleanskin or lesser priced labels. I wrote about this before. See HERE and HERE

Instead of discounting the excellent Black Label range, Villa Maria has also chosen not to push too much of the top quality wine down to the Cellar Selection range which is increasingly discounted in supermarkets to the 'low teens' price and have created the 'buffer' range Platinum Selection. This was originally set at $24 a bottle (higher for the pinot noir) but I've bought the chardonnay, rose and pinot gris at less than $20 and the pinot noir at about $22. I bought the pinot gris for Her Indoors and haven't bought the sauvignon blanc because neither of us drink the stuff.

I was very impressed with the chardonnay which clearly shows some of the Keltern Vineyard character of the Black Label single-vineyard chardonnay.

It has great Hawkes Bay chardonnay character and has been handled expensively and well with good wood vanilla and spice showing followed by  nice creaminess. I like this wine.

Her Indoors reported that the pinot gris was fruity reminiscent of pears and peach and spicy with good weight. It was much richer than a lot of other pinot gris she's drunk recently.

I tried the Marlborough Rose and was gob-smacked. This is one of the country's best roses. It is fresh and delicious with some decent weight underneath. The aroma of plum and strawberry follows through to a palate of nice light red fruits. The wine is 2018 and will carry over to 2020 drinking with no problem or loss of flavour.

We haven't tried the pinot noir yet but are looking forward to it especially as it's likely to have same and similar fruit as the Black Label Marlborough pinot noir in it.

* Platinum is known as a transition metal which is quite apt for this range of Villa Maria wines being  evolution from one form, stage, or style to another.

Monday, February 18, 2019


A daft old guy I know has been banging on about cleanskin wines and how he has evidence that I've been drinking them. 


I think that it stems from feelings of guilt because that's how he buys his wines nowadays - bottles with no labels on them. I guess though that this drinking habit is marginally better than what it could deteriorate to.

I've written about Cleanskins before so you can read up here instead of wasting time on the internet (or Richard's Bass Bag):

The first 'cleanskin' I remember drinking was an accidental one. It was at Murray Roberts in the early 1970s when with the entire shipment of an outstanding wine - Brown Brothers Lexia - all the labels started to fall off due to insufficient glue. We of course gave this a bit of a helping hand so that we had lots of bottles with no labels on and of course had to drink them as they couldn't be sold.


But let's get back to the current problem with cleanskins providers duping consumers with cheap and nasty product.

"For too long you've ignored what's been happening around you."
"I want to find whoever is responsible and to stop them will do whatever is necessary."
"I'm going to find everyone of them".
           "I suggest that you pay attention to what I say."

          "Our job is to do what's right".

........... to be continued.

Saturday, December 8, 2018


I've written before how in our household we always have one or more bottles of wine open in the fridge. Modern wine, especially New Zealand, Australian and American wines are generally made in non-oxygenated styles and benefit from being opened to the point where we keep wine open for up to a week and it is still pleasant drinking.

This of course means that, red or white, they are kept in the refrigerator, not on a warm kitchen bench.

We're finding that we don't have as many visitors dropping in now, especially since we've relocated to a remote area so the opened wines are more likely to be just one or two variants, not the three or four of the past. In addition we aren't drinking as much as we used to which is I guess just another one of those things that happen as you grow older.

What I would really like is to have a comprehensive selection of half bottles of wine so that wine tasting drinking can be more enjoyable without the commitment to imbibing full bottles of the stuff.

When I first stated in the industry New Zealand and even Australian wine was not as popular and available as it is today and (I'm talking 1970s here) good stuff was very hard to find. The predominance of wine was European and most brands  and styles had offerings in 375ml bottles along with the 750ml ones.

This all changed in the 1990s with supply chain and production  efficiencies driving down costs while increasing volumes and one of the casualties was the disappearance of the 375ml quality wine. Today it's almost impossible to find a chardonnay, pinot noir or indeed any decent varietals in 375ml packaging, the only consistent offerings being sweet white wines, champagne and sparkling wines.

Producers have decided that consumers (or not enough of them) are willing to pay the premium that production of smaller size bottles demands. It's not just the cost of the volume of wine or the tax that makes up the cost (half) as the cost of the bottles, labels, packaging and bottling labour costs are nowhere near half of that of the 750ml variant and in the case of small production runs can be more expensive. Bottling lines are configured for 750ml runs and anything outside of this is a costly hassle.
Furthermore, wine retailing is stacked in favour of big chains whether supermarket or not to a factor of 80:20 and these customers just want to move as much product as quickly as possible so can't be arsed about fiddly other sized packaging. Bugger what the consumer wants.

There have been many wine column's  and wine blog posts written about how half bottles of wine are the 'next big thing' but I challenge anyone to try and find any decent half bottles that are available with continuity of supply. Doing internet searches and trawling in-line retailers offerings is a fruitless endeavour as is going to individual winery websites. I know that Thorndon New world in Wellington has a small selection of half bottles but their website won't show these. I've purchased Te Mata Elston Chardonnay there in a half bottle but Te Mata's own website makes no mention of this.

As soon as I find a supplier, at a reasonable price (and I'm prepared to pay a premium) of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot gris I'll happily buy cases of the stuff. The frustrating things is where.

i'll keep trawling and will update this post should I find any.

Please comment if you know of any.

Thursday, December 6, 2018


Christmas and New Year are no longer the events for the bacchanalian bashes that we used to indulge in.

Nowadays we are certainly more circumspect and this year, as I'm being a bit more careful of what I imbibe, I will drink a little less.

This won't mean an adoption of prim sherry drinking though.

No, Her Indoors is in charge of buying the Champagne and, as we are drinking less but of better quality this will a decent vintage or two from Glengarry in Auckland.

I'm leaving this purchase to her as in Whangarei the supermarkets and wine shops hardly ever have decent vintage Champagne for sale and certainly not of the marques we prefer like Roederer, Taittinger, Charles Heidsieck or Pol Roger especially the Rose variants.

If they did it's likely that they will only have shelf stock and none securely stored out the back. This is important when buying Champagne or indeed any sparkling wine and beer as when the product is put on the shelf and exposed to light - especially fluorescent light - the life of the product is severely diminished after a couple of weeks and its freshness and flavour declines. I always ask for a bottle to be taken out of a sealed carton or, if they only have shelf stock, select one that is in an individual bottle box.

When you are spending over $100 for a bottle it's important to ensure you are getting one that's in good condition.

I have some good Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the cellar so we'll be OK there and Her Indoors can select what Pinot Gris she wants to buy (I'm forever buying the wrong ones for her as I don't drink the muck stuff).

I will look out for a decent (and fresh) advocaat and if none is available will buy a bottle of a cream liqueur like Baileys or Carolans.

Saturday, August 18, 2018


  ..... not me, I plan to age disgracefully.

Today, since Her Indoors is in Canada and I'm planning a Saturday night meal on my own, I went to the cellar (the basement under the house) to select a bottle of pinot noir and chose a Main Divide 2015.

While down there and as I'm planning to light the fire later this afternoon I thought that a half bottle of port would go down well. I've still got some half bottles of Warre's Vintage 1983 which need looking at. I uncovered the wooden boxes and the first bottle I laid hands on was a half bottle of Quinta Do Noval 20 Year Old. I was surprised as I'd forgotten that I had this not intending to keep a tawny port for so long - I bought this at least 20 years ago making the wine about 40 years old now - in a half bottle!

Fortunately as a tawny port it has 20% alcohol which is a good guarantee of longevity making me wonder that if I top up my alcohol intake will I last longer as well?

To be honest though I didn't hold out much hope for this wine so opened it early this afternoon to check.

The cork was intact but showing its age and the wine is decidedly mahogany in colour. The nose is stunning. It has a beautiful toffee and creamy caramel character and, surprisingly still smells fresh.
The taste is full and sweet like a date pudding with a bit of smoke. Long and lingering. Impressive!

I won't need to go back to the basement for a bottle of Warre's as this wine will do nicely. A glass of this after dinner will hit the spot. I'll keep it in the fridge during the week for sipping but it will probably fall apart quite quickly. If so, I'll use it in some sort of dessert -  a sponge pudding or something.

Saturday, July 7, 2018


I don't drink much beer but when I do I prefer dark beers or stouts particularly in the winter.

Today, being a cold winter day I opened a bottle of porter -ACE SMOKEY PORTER to be precise while playing Play Station (Tiger Wood's Golf 2005 - the best version of this series).
No doubt Robert will be shocked to know that an OAP like me and a burden on society - particularly as a drain on his taxable earnings - has the effrontery to sit indoors supping luxury beverages and playing silly (and expensive) games.

The porter I bought last week at a local supermarket.

It was in the dump bin where they put drastically reduced deleted items. The normal price for this beer was $9.99! For a beer! The discounted price was $5.99. I bought 4 bottles.

This beer is bloody delightful. It's made by Wigram Brewing Co. in Christchurch. It's smooth, warm (I'm drinking it at the room temperature where I store my wines at the end of the house - at this time of year it's cool) and has lovely chocolate flavours. Yummy and perfect for a cold Saturday afternoon.

I should have bought more and next week I'll visit the supermarket on the off-chance that they still have stock at this value for money price.