Wine: Soft touch gets best of fruit for a feisty drop

By Yvonne Lorkin

We're not looking to make straight-up fruit-bomb styles," says Brian Bicknell of Mahi Wines, describing his 2012 Mahi Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($19).

"Fruit from five different vineyards is used to make this wine. Two vineyards are handpicked and the stuff that's machine-picked we do a bit differently, and we reckon it makes a huge difference to the wine," says Brian.

In a machine-picking situation, the grapes are moved around a lot from the machine to the gondola, the gondola to the truck, the truck to the receiving bin. Then it's in the auger, then the de-stemmer, followed by the crusher and the must-pumps.

"So you're moving the fruit around seven times," he says. "The way we do it is that we machine straight into small, half-tonne bins which, later at night, we use for hot tubs (just kidding), and then we just tip them straight into the press - so the fruit only gets moved twice."

Brian sources the fruit for his wines from seven vineyards situated right across the Wairau and Awatere Valleys and being as gentle on the fruit as possible is the key to creating a good drop.

"Our Marlborough sauvignon only has about 10 per cent barrel fermentation in older oak because we don't want people to smell the wood, we just want to give another layer of flavour. We don't add any pressings, just free-run juice and then about 8 per cent of it is fermented with wild yeasts from the vineyard."

The Mahi 2011 Boundary Farm Sauvignon Blanc ($29) is made in a totally different style: "It's all handpicked before going over the sorting table.

"We don't add anything to the juice, no sulphur, no ascorbic and no enzymes. Instead we just press it and then the juice runs straight to barrel. With most white wines you let it settle for three days then you rack it, but this just goes straight to barrel and we leave it. It's all fermented with the wild yeasts from the vineyard and it sits in cool storage for six months. This wine is a bit ballsier."

Brian and his team also make two distinctly different pinot gris, a fragrant gewurztraminer, a juicy, savoury pinot noir and three chardonnays. Mahi chardonnays are all handpicked, whole cluster-pressed, and the juice runs straight to barrel. They're fermented with wild yeasts and they sit from 10 to 14 months before bottling.

"We can't make enough of that stuff," he says. "Although people still come into the cellar door and say, 'I don't drink chardonnay', and we've just wanted to leap over the counter and headbutt them because nobody says, 'I don't drink white burgundy', and they still drink chablis, and they're shocked to find out its all chardonnay!" he laughs. "I can understand someone saying, 'I don't drink s**t chardonnay', though."

Forget about your wallet ...

Fans of Johnnie Walker Scotch will combust with joy in hearing that the company has just released three new additions to its range. Standing next to the new creamy, honeyed Gold Label Reserve ($99) and the smoky Double Black ($65) is the Johnnie Walker Platinum Label ($149). Created by master blender Jim Beverage from a combination of malt and grain whiskies matured for at least 18 years, it is bright amber with aromas of citrus peel, fruitwood smoke and toasted chestnuts, and has deeply rich, creamy, smoky flavours followed by a silky finish.

It's sophisticated, complex and refined - and there's not much of it available, so best you contact Lion Luxury Spirits ambassador Frankie Walker at for stockists near you.

Cocktail treats ...

This Christmas it's time to break away from the old strawberry-in-the-champagne glass to tizzy up your drinkees, because I've found two gorgeous liqueurs from France that'll help you look super-flash in front of your friends and family.

Domaine de Canton ($69) is a drool-inducingly delicious ginger liqueur which has incredible purity, concentration and exotic spicy-sweetness. It's lovely on its own, but pour a splash into your glass alongside a tiny cube of granddad's crystallised ginger, then top up with good, dry bubbles and you've got a magic combination.

If ginger isn't your thing but you think berries are the business, then gift yourself a bottle of Gabriel Boudier Creme de Cassis de Dijon ($49). Not only will this beautiful bottle add an element of Moulin Rouge to your tiki bar, what's inside will make you rethink what it means to be blackcurrant.

Since 1874, Boudier has been creating some of the world's most sought-after liqueurs and spirits, and the Creme de Cassis has won gold medals across the globe. Pure and fruity on the nose with rich, powerful blackcurrant flavours and a long, lingering finish, a splash of this in a flute full of bubbles will add a scarlet fruitiness to your fizz.

Both are exclusively available through Tickety-Boo Liquor, call (09) 377 7597.

- Hamilton News

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