[As published in September/October BayBuzz magazine.]
Well I’ll tell you one thing for a dollar. If anyone deserves a collective ‘raise your glasses’ this season it’s us Hawkesbayliens right?
It’s been three years of trying to catch a break, trying not to catch Covid, trying to travel, trying to do business, trying to pay our bills, trying to understand the price of cheese and the shortage of eggs. Trying to understand how our nation became so divided in terms of rabbit holes, racism and regression. Trying to avoid potholes. Trying to see life through the stressed eyes of our healthcare workers, our teachers and our kids. Throw in a deadly cyclone and it’s fair to say 2023 has been very, very trying.
Yet the sun is lifting longer in the sky, spring lambs are gambolling in the paddocks, asparagus tips are bursting through the dirt, the daffodils and freesias have already been out for ages because of, well, climate disruption. But we can see summer around the corner.
And you’re reading this, that means you’re still here and you made it. Well done.
Speaking of things being made, we don’t often talk about the fact that Hawke’s Bay makes superbly stylish sparkling wine. And don’t we deserve some?!
So with that in mind, here’s a list of my favourite locally-grown sparkles, with which we can raise a toast this new season and our new selves.
Alpha Domus Cumulus Blanc De Blanc Méthode $35
Excellent Hawke’s Bay Methode here from a brilliant Bridge Pa producer. Winemaker Barry Riwai is a master of creating subtlety and finesse in his fizz, and the Cumulus is no exception. Drinking it is literally like consuming a cloud. It’s so pillowy-light, delicate, and elegant on the nose, yet in the mouth it reveals a citrus-stacked palate that’s also crammed with cashew and vanilla biscuit brilliance. On the finish, it rocks rising dough notes and nutty nuances that round out into an awesome match for lemony seafood spaghetti and it’s also a perfect pairsome with tempura oysters – woof! alphadomus.co.nz
Osawa Prestige Collection Hawke’s Bay Méthode Traditionelle $45
With more trophies and medals than the whole Kerrigan Family pool room (shout out to fellow fans of The Castle), this is one of the finest sparkling wines to come out of Hawke’s Bay. Crafted from 48% pinot noir and 52% chardonnay by winemaker Rod McDonald for Osawa’s owner Taizo Osawa, it’s incredibly stylish and perfumed with lemon zest, almond meal, rising dough, and shortbread notes. All those good things wash across the palate, aided by an acidic backbone that’s rather extraordinary. Sophisticated, pillowy, and perfect with stuffed zucchini flowers.
Swift Marceline Hawke’s Bay Blanc De Blanc Methode Traditionelle 2021 $40
If you’ve never tasted a wine named after a sausage dog, then here’s your chance. Named after her beloved dachshund, winemaker Lauren Swift has created an energetic, chardonnay-based, deliciously dry bubbly, with a funky, preserved lemon and baked apple ribbon running through it. Sealed with a crown seal and seriously fun. swiftwines.co.nz
Squawking Magpie Daisy Hawke’s Bay Méthode Traditionelle Rosé NV $32.95
You can’t look at this bot tle and not feel immediately happy. Immediately like it’s time to throw on a sundress or a pair of short shorts and go frolicking in the fields amongst the flowers, gambolling across the green grass. Crammed with soft raspberry, fresh citrus and apple notes and showing energetic, finely-tuned effervescence. squawkingmagpie.co.nz
Mission Estate Fête Hand Harvested Hawke’s Bay Cuvée $22
Paul Mooney has been the winemaker at Mission Estate for 44 years! So he knows a thing or three about creating crowd-pleasing, grin-inducing wines like this. The Fête is a a blend of pinot gris and chardonnay grapes which might be less than conventional in the fizz-o-sphere, yet it regularly racks up best-buy ratings from publications across the country. Crafted using the charmat process (where it’s carbonated in tank before bottling) it’s full-flavoured and generously proportioned with hints of nashi, soft lemony layers and a peaches-and-cream finish. missionestate.co.nz
Leveret Estate IQ Hawke’s Bay Brut NV $19-$23
How crazy is it that we can buy the winner of the Champion Sparkling Wine trophy at the 2022 Hawke’s Bay Wine Awards for under twenty five bucks? Completely loco, because it’s so darn lovely. A blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier, the ‘IQ’ means ‘improving quietly’ and this bold, biscuity, creamy, cashew-laden bubbly has been doing just that, aging on its yeast lees for a minimum of 18 months before disgorging. These guys have been making high-end sparkling wine since aeons ago, and they know how to craft bright, citrusy, slightly dry, nutty fizz with creamy harmony, vibrancy and depth. wineportfolio.co.nz
de la Terre Hawke’s Bay Blanc de Noirs Méthode Traditionnelle 2018 $49
Crafted from barbera (the third most widely planted red grape in Italy yet a rare sight here in New Zealand), this blanc de noirs has huge depth and creamy complexity, with a slight pepper and cherry edge. With aromas of macadamia, peach, lemon, and almond biscotti leading to crisp, elevated awesomeness on the palate, it’s dry and dripping with don’t-mess-with-me deliciousness. Its structure is sexy and voluptuous and bursts with buttered scone and brioche goodness. Savour with crunchy tempura oysters.
Linden Estate 2021 Sparkling Hawke’s Bay Rosé $24
The gorgeous rose-gold colour of this wine makes me want to find a jeweller-slash-mad-scientist to alchemise it into a bangle or possibly some sort of flash fob chain. Crafted by winemaker Alex Hendry (who managed to get it into the bottle before Cyclone Gabrielle ripped through their Esk Valley vineyards), it boasts notes of lifted berry brioche, Shrewsbury biscuit, and soft sea breeze on the nose and rich, clean peach and almond flavours on the palate. It’s quite seductive, so get yourself some smoked salmon pâté and a chunk of fresh sourdough, and you’ll be set. lindenestatewinery.co.nz
Oak Estate Bridge Pa Blanc de Blancs Méthode Traditionelle NV $45
Located on Ngatarawa Road just before the SH50 intersection and below Roy’s Hill is Oak Estate. Owned by Nadine and Stefan Loetscher, it’s a small vineyard with 3.5 ha planted in Chardonnay, a decent chunk of which goes into this very wine. Aged for 24 months on its lees, if you’re a fan of fizz scented with shortbread, rising dough, bright lemony layers and smooth, creamy, cashew characters, then this will be your jam. Creamy, nutty notes wrap around a snappy, vibrant core, making it a very satisfying thing to sip. Elegant, beautifully structured and showing sexy complexity
and depth. oakestatewines.co.nz
Lost and Found Ad Astra Hawke’s Bay Méthode Traditionnelle NV $29
Ad Astra is Latin for ‘to the stars’, and once you’ve torn your gaze away from how stellar this bottle looks, I’ll ask you to contemplate how gloriously golden in the glass it is, too. Unlike the subtle southern styles, this Hawke’s Bay hero of 44% pinot and 56% chardonnay has huge punch and palate weight, as well as boatloads of citrus and a crunchy-crisp acid spine that adds power to the mouthfeel and finish. Stylish, generous, and a huge new personality in the local sparkling scene. Serve with Parmesan wafers. lostandfoundwine.co.nz
Mills Reef Elspeth Hawke’s Bay Methode Traditionnelle NV $40
Wow. Golden in the glass and heaving with divine scorched brioche, toasted almond, and grilled citrus, this heavenly Hawke’s Bay bubbles boasts all the hallmarks of thoroughbred Champagne at a fraction (and I mean fraction) of the price. Generously proportioned and stacked with baked apple and rising dough notes, it also boasts soothing caramelised characters and tantalising nutty textures. It feels impressive. Just like the one time in my life that I actually finished a chapstick. Enjoy with grilled crayfish.