Saturday, May 25, 2019


A few years ago Her Indoors and I lived in Canada for a year or two and while there developed a taste for American - Californian to be exact - chardonnay.
I've always been an advocate for New Zealand Chardonnay from the East Coast - Gisborne and Hawkes Bay and some rare exceptions of other NZ wine regions but, having worked for an international wine company and marketed lots of brands from other countries have had great experiences with outstanding chardonnay from Australia, France and of course USA.

I would taste these wines as part of my job and, using the wine allowance I had purchase the best of them. Some great chardonnays that I've enjoyed include: Taylors St Andrews, Leeuwin Estate Art Series, Hardy's Eileen Hardy, Penfolds Bin 14A, Mondavi Reserve and various Meursaults and Montrachets from Burgundy.

I didn't buy other American chardonnays in New Zealand however as, due to the cost and unfamiliarity there weren't a lot to be found on shelves. It was a treat living in Canada and seeing a fairly wide range of 'affordable' Californian chardonnays that we were able to experiment with that the taste profile has been ingrained in us.

Back in NZ the choice hasn't been as great but we buy a lot of our wines from on-line sellers like Advintage, Fine Wine Delivery Company and Blackmarket and there have, over recent years been some good offerings with deals on case loads. We've purchased various Robert Mondavi brands, Chalk Hill, Matchbook, Gnarly Head, Pacificana and others and have enjoyed them all.

Her Indoors is more of a fan than me, liking the rich and luscious characters. I guess as she likes Pinot Gris (I don't touch the muck) the flavour profile is more familiar with the unctuous tones.
Oaked Californian chardonnays are rich and full-bodied with very prominent buttery, vanillin and even caramel characters. The best will have nice stone-fruit, tropical fruit or citrus flavours beneath this.  I still cling to my love of Hawkes Bay chardonnay with lots of citrus and stone-fruit flavours and, if nicely (and expensively) oaked tend to have a French-like character. Sometimes, if the wine I've bought is a bit too lean I'll improve it by adding a dollop of an American chardonnay that Her Indoors might have opened.


Our most recent Californian chardonnay purchase is Sebastiani North Coast 2017.
Her Indoors buys this by the glass whenever we dine at the excellent The Quay at the Basin in Whangarei and asked me to track down and buy some for her. I did and found it at Fine Wine Delivery Company and had a case delivered. We had a bottle last night and it didn't disappoint. The wine has lovely tropical and peachy fruit flavours under rich and creamy oak characters showing barrel fermentation.
This is great drinking at about $19 a bottle.
As we had a visitor staying I just had a small glass of it, leaving the rest to Her Indoors and the visitor but I did top up and improve the Giesen Hawkes Bay chardonnay I was drinking with a generous splash of it.

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.