Week in review: New Zealand wines

Well it’s been quite a week for Wining with Mel. It was bad enough that a terrible stomach bug had me out of commission for five days, but even worse that during that time the thought of wine…no…I can’t even…it’s too awful to say. The thought of wine for the last four days…repulsed me. Me! The lover of wine! I couldn’t even stomach the thought of it. Friends and family always know it’s bad when I turn down wine. It’s never a good sign.

I am hoping that I’ve now turned a corner. It has been much too long since the last post, and I have sooooo many wines to tell you about! As I mentioned, it was quite a big wining week before this gnarly illness took hold. And I am taking the fact that I can now imagine drinking these wines without my stomach turning as a sign that it is time to get back on the wine horse. That said, rather than enjoying a glass while I type, I am sticking with a cup of herbal tea this time around. Baby steps…

The Great New Zealand Wine Tiki Tour – Ottawa 2016


Map of New Zealand. The majority of the wine is produced in Marlborough, in the north-east of the South Island.

Ahhh New Zealand, known not only for its sheep, gorgeous Lord-of-the-Rings landscapes and amazing song-stylin’ Flight of the Conchords, but most importantly for the purpose of this blog, sauvignon blanc. We have already touched on NZ sauvignon blancs here at Wining with Mel, but here is a reminder, since November was a while ago now. These light, high-acidity wines that pack lots of fresh flavours are the ones to go to on a hot, summer day, or when serving light seafood dishes.


Room shot by Mark Cochrane (www.markuncorked.com)

Last week’s New Zealand event was held in the beautiful Rotunda Room of the Canadian Museum of Nature. Besides enjoying the lovely refreshing wine being served from this cool-climate region on one of the first nice days of spring, I was just happy to listen to the Kiwis talk about their wines. For one thing, they are super down-to-earth, very approachable, and incredibly easy to talk to. And for another, I could listen to that amazing accent all day long.

So without further ado, here are my favourites from the 30+ NZ wines I tried. Surprisingly, they are not all sauvignon blancs! And unfortunately, many are not available at the LCBO…yet.

Everyone knows Oyster Bay’s sauvignon blanc, so I was looking forward to seeing what else this producer had to offer. The medium-bodied Chardonnay was my personal favourite. Half of this chardonnay was oaked for six months, lending it some  really nice and subtle oak characteristics like buttered toast and smoke, in addition to citrus, tropical fruit, and stone fruit  (peach/apricot).

Important Update: This wine is $3 off until June 19!

This was definitely one of my favourites from the event. The Orange Label is one of Sacred Hill’s premium wines. The sauvignon blanc grapes benefited from superb ripening conditions in the warm micro-climate of the Wairau Valley of Marlborough, and they really shine in this wine. A portion of the grapes were also sourced from the cooler Awatere Valley, which contributes the more minerally, grassy and citrus-y aspects. This is not your average sauvignon blanc. A varietal that is typically light in body, this one definitely has a bit more weight, with lots of guava, passion fruit, a hint of flowers and grassy notes. I so wish that this wine was available at the LCBO. For now, it is only available in Ontario through the producer’s wine agent.

While we wait: White Cliff Sauvignon Blanc, made by the same producers and available in the LCBO’s general listing for $14.90. This is an easy drinking sauvignon blanc with more focus on minerality, but still balanced with citrus and stone fruit flavours, as well as bright acidity.

A big thank you to Glenn Cunningham for taking the time to walk me through the selection of Sacred Hill wines. His descriptions of the geography of the vineyards made me want to up and fly off to New Zealand —pronto.  If only it weren’t a 24-hour  flight away!

  • Te Pã – Koha line of wines

Te Pã Koha Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Wairau Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand BottleContinuing on the theme of unattainable New Zealand wines, the Koha 2015 sauvignon blanc by Te Pã Wines is a really nice light-bodied wine that shows ripe peach and apricot as well as elderflower. I reeeeeaally enjoyed this one. Sadly, if you are in Ontario, it is only available by private order through Family Wine Merchants (though if you are in BC, you are in luck!). The Koha pinot noir is not in Ontario either. It has a beautiful subtle cherry aroma, then raspberry and spiciness on the palate. Thanks to Liam McElhinney (vintner) and Haysley MacDonald (owner) for taking the time to chat with me at the event.

  • Squealing Pig Pinot Noir Central Otago 2014 ($24.95)

This was probably my favourite pinot of the day. And obviously the label is amazing. A really nice balance of subtle fruit flavours and very bright acidity. Red cherry, blackberry and even a hint of cocoa, probably due to its 10 months on French oak. This one is coming to Vintages…eventually. Look for this beauty by Matua later this year.


Honourable mentions

  • Stoneleigh chardonnay, for pairing with creamy dishes or fish. Or just to drink on its own! Used to be available at the LCBO in the general listing but it seems to have mysteriously disappeared. I am looking into it.
  • Saint Clair Family Estate Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2015 – a nice, light-bodied sauvignon blanc with great acidity and grapefruit, passion fruit and grassy notes. $16.95. Serve as an apéritif with canapés featuring goat cheese.


There you have it! Up next: my picks from the Savour Australia wine tour that is currently making its way across Canada.

In the meantime, let me live vicariously through you – tell me what wines you’ve been drinking!

Happy wining!

P.S. Have you seen my new logo??


It was designed by the fabulous Pandora Dionne! Do let me know what you think!

4 thoughts on “Week in review: New Zealand wines

  1. Sorry to hear about the bug! Eeek. That’s nasty. Something you ate or a virus?

    Fun fact about booze and New Zealand. Back in 2003, when we visited, we found out that New Zealand has… drive-through liquor stores. I found it hilarious. Convenient, though… but not very politically correct!


  2. Pingback: Dreaming of warmer climes with great-value whites | Wining with Mel

  3. Pingback: Serendipitous Saturday Pairings: tilapia and chardonnay | Wining with Mel

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