I managed to slice off the tip of my left index finger an hour or so before beginning this column. To make matters worse it was while I was chopping fresh chillies. Ouch. The double ouch is when one tries to type effectively with a left index finger trussed in cheap sticking plasters that (a) can't stem the claret and (b) make it near impossible to type my 't's, 'g's, 'f's, 'v's, 'b's and 'r's properly and without eyewatering pain. So it's slow going, especially when a festering feeling of jealousy also distracts me.
It started back in July when "out of office" replies began bouncing in from winemakers I'd be trying to get hold of for whatever reason. "I'm on annual leave," they said, "I'm away from my desk for two weeks" or "I'm overseas until the first week of September and my access to phone and emails will be limited". Why don't you just come out and say it, you're in Samoa or Vanuatu, Fiji or the south of France you lucky sods! Yes, you've been working like the clappers since Christmas and deserve a break, but so do I!
Okay, Yvonne, calm down and try to think happy thoughts. I do not have the funds or spare time required for holidaying right now,but I do have a bunch of bottles of sparkling wine that I've been meaning to review. Hooray! Happy thought achieved! In addition to sparkling wine made from organic feijoas, sauvignon blanc and 100 per cent chardonnay, I also have two classic "methode traditionelle" blends of chardonnay and pinot noir to taste, one from Martinborough and one from fruit grown in the King Valley in Victoria, Australia.
Methode traditionnelle is where the delicate bubbles are produced when the base wine goes through its secondary fermentation inside the same bottle from which it will eventually be served, just like they've been doing for centuries in Champagne. But how do you make a pale, golden coloured wine out of dark-skinned pinot noir grapes? It's easy if you're careful.
All grapes actually have white juice - the colour comes from the skins. So if you want your wine to stay white, you simply press the pinot noir grapes very gently to extract the juice and then you get rid of the skins asap. If you want colour, you let the juice soak with the skins and the colour will seep through - the longer the soak, the darker the resulting wine will be.
So to the tasting. I'm a feijoa fan, I love them any which way, whether it's on their own, in icecream, sorbets, salsas or in crumbles. I love them in pies, flans, jams and daiquiris. I love them in smoothies and I have for many years enjoyed them in sparkling wine.
The team at Lothlorien have been producing premium, organic fruit wines in the Ahuroa Valley near Warkworth since 1971.
Lothlorien Organic Medium Sparkling Feijoa Wine $17
The pure sweet feijoa aromas make me nostalgic for autumn and the flavours are clean, crisp and ever-so-slightly sweet and best of all they're super long-lasting on the finish. The best example on the market today in my opinion. www.lothlorienwinery.co.nz
Mount Riley Savee Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc NV $18
I remember being quite shocked when this wine first appeared on the shelves of the wine shop I was working in back in 2000. Thirteen years on, sparkling sauvignon blancs are everywhere and it's a really popular style. But it all started with this wine, New Zealand's very first sparkling sauvignon blanc. I like it because it's not sweet like many of the commercial examples out there, instead it carries intense, crushed basil, dill and passionfruit flavours which merge with pepper and punchy, sweaty, grassy notes - just gorgeous. www.mountriley.co.nz
Daniel Le Brun Blanc de Blancs 2009 $39
2009 was, according to the notes that accompanied the bottle, "an exceptional year for producing sparkling wine grapes of truly great intensity and roundness". And after tasting this wine I'd definitely agree.
The brand has been in the Lion stable for a few years now and sparkling wine specialist Andrew Petrie makes these wines at Wither Hills. Blanc de blanc means it has been made only with white grapes, ie, chardonnay.
Sourced from fruit grown in their Selmes Rd, Francis and St Leonard's vineyard, this wine is bright, fresh and toasty, with juicy, crisp acidity and mouthfilling, leesy richness on the finish.
Sensational stuff indeed. www.daniellebrun.co.nz
Palliser Estate Martinborough Methode Traditionnelle 2008 $37
Sometimes you taste a wine that is darn lovely, but you wish that maybe you could taste it again in another year or two. This wine has very pretty white gold colour in the glass and showing delicate clouds of fig, breakfast-bun, shortbread and hazelnut on the nose. It is elegant and nicely balanced in the mouth and has a full, nutty, biscuity finish. But this wine is now considered a kiwi sparkler and stock doesn't hang around for long because it's so popular.
So if I'm going to have any chance of tasting it again in a few years I'd best nab an extra couple now. www.palliser.co.nz
Brown Brothers Patricia Pinot Noir and Chardonnay Brut 2006 $40
But the highlight of my sparkling wine showdown really showed what superb fruit combined with care, attention and seven years in the bottle can achieve. Named after the much loved matriarch of Milawa's Brown family, the late Patricia Brown, this wine is a girl ageing gracefully indeed.
With delicate bead, persistent mousse and beautiful aromas of strawberry shortcake and stonefruit, it has lovely balanced acidity, an incredibly fresh and vibrant mouthfeel with stunning, biscuity length of flavour. www.brownbrothers.com.au