Matawhero Church House Chenin Blanc 2016

I’m cooking a piece of pork in the oven with apples off my tree, fennel seeds that I harvested from my out-of-control fern before I cut it back and fresh sage leaves. I needed splash of wine and remembered the sample bottle of Matawhero Church House Gisborne Chenin Blanc 2016 that arrived by courier the other day.

Matawhero Church House Chenin Blanc 2016To me Chenin Blanc and apples are peas in a pod. The apple is one of those flash identifying descriptors that helps pinpoint the variety immediately (thanks wine appreciation 101 ~1990). And apple aromas and flavours are simply overflowing from this wine. I steal a piece of apple that I put in the pan to pick up the goodies from rendering down the pork skin. The Chenin Blanc taste is not cooked apples; it’s definitely fresh, crisp heritage apples like the ones off my tree. I bite into a fennel seed. That awesome aniseedy taste – what a great match. So the pork is in the oven now at 150 degrees C for a couple of hours and I can focus on this single vineyard wine.

The crisp apple flavours are honed by a textural complexity that I would usually put down to the use of old barrels, but the technical notes don’t indicate the use of oak in this wine. Perhaps it is just the nature of Chenin Blanc, anyway whatever it is it softens the upfront raciness and settles gently as it flows. One thing that really strikes me is the dryness to the finish. So while the fruit rounds out the palate, the flinty / limey/ sucking-a-river-pebble dryness that envelops it really begs for food, then the lingering fennel seed anise-y taste and suggestions of honeysuckle endear me, like it does with many steely, racy aromatic whites. And those lingering gunsmoke notes. Amazing.

Chenin Blanc is not well known in New Zealand. It used to be back in the eighties and then it became a key ingredient for cask wine swill. Now there are very few followers of this fashion. But those that do make it like Matawhero and Millton (Gisborne), Esk Valley (Hawkes Bay), Margrain (Martinborrough), Forrest Estate (Marlborough) and Amisfield (Otago) are respecting the grape that does so well in our country while paying respect to the benchmarks from Vouvray. Chenin Blanc is a high acid white that has the legs for aging. I’ve love to taste this again in another 10 years.

The pork takes a couple of hours to cook and it’s prep for tomorrow night, so I’m putting the cap back on the Chenin and will try the wine again then.

Matawhero Church House Chenin Blanc 2016 has 13.1% abv, 6.44 g/l TA, 3.53 pH, and 5.23 g/l residual sugar. It costs around $25 a bottle. Check out for more.

Update March 24th:  Not a match for the pork. Apple overkill. But biting into a baked fennel seed definitely divine.

Burgundian Wairapa

It was interesting hearing Jancis Robinson, in New Zealand for Pinot Noir 2017, talk to John Campbell on Radio NZ after the event. She described Waipara pinot noirs as ‘grunty’ and the most Burgundian of all the New Zealand wine regions. Amongst all the connotations that ‘Burgundy’ conjures up, one means ‘age worthy’ to me. And so I chose an age-worthy Waipara pinot noir to feature in my February 2017 Urban and Country column on cellaring wine. Continue reading

Johanneshof at Millwater

I dined at Millwater Bistro & Bar in early February after the incredible wine list lured me there and jumping out and seducing me was vintage 2008 Blanc de Blancs bubbles from Johanneshof Cellars in Marlborough. Johanneshof Blanc de Blancs 2008
How could I resist as Johanneshof has a special place in my vinous memory not only for the fabulous day with Warwick and Rachel one Easter when we passed through Marlborough on holiday but also for their stunning gewurztraminer. Continue reading

Quenching Tohu Pinot Rosé 2016

Tohu Pinot Rose 2016A late evening walk at Shakespear Regional Park – one of Auckland’s fantastic network of regional parks – had us strolling through the wetlands to the Waterfall Gully bush track that 15 minutes later emerged in a paddock, after which some considerable deep breathing (for me) had us arriving at the lookout – the highest point on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. Then a leisurely saunter down the hill to Okoromai Bay when our picnic awaited. My contribution ‘Pork Char Sue’ and a chilled bottle of Tohu Pinot Rose 2016 from the Nelson wine growing region. Continue reading

Te Mania Rosé and chilli prawns

The exploration of summer pinks continues with Te Mania Nelson Pinot Noir Rosé 2016 – certified organic, suitable for vegans, 12.5% alcohol, $21.99 RRP.

Te Mania Rose 2016The bouquet of this light cherry-red hued rosé tantalised me as I was taking the photo, like a bowl of summer berries wafting out of the glass as I played around with the position of the bottle and the glass on my sloping concrete patio – but later, with my nose right into the glass the aromas are more earthy and savoury – like you expect mainstream pinot to be – plus a bit of rhubarb possibly. Continue reading

Creative solution for grapevine prunings

A striking monolith-like structure stands tall and proud as the centrepiece of Waiheke Island’s ‘Headland Sculpture on the Gulf’ walk, #hSOTG 2017. Made from grapevine prunings from Waiheke Island’s vineyards, it’s a creation by environmental artist Chris Booth who name is rather more synonymous with stupendous sculptures in stone. Of Booth’s works winelovers may recognise ‘Wairau Strata’ that stands on a river terrace in Marlborough above the entrance to Seresin Estate however probably better known in New Zealand is his iconic stone ‘Gateway’ arch in Auckland at the Victoria Street entrance to Albert Park and his tribute to the Rainbow Warrior at Matauri Bay in Northland. Check out his website for these and many many more.

It was a surprise to see a Chris Booth sculpture created from grapevines, and very pleasing for a winelover like me. ‘What a wonderfully creative solution to the disposal of grapevine prunings,’ I thought. Continue reading

Richmond Plains ‘blanc’ and nectarines

Apart from a chilled glass of wine there’s nothing more deliciously refreshing in the middle of summer nectarines than juicy, fresh-off-the-tree stone fruit and to me it seems the stone fruit is more abundant this year. Perhaps it is because for the last few weeks the fruit has been prolific at the farmers markets I’ve been to, and the produce stores have created tempting displays right by the entrance to woo you not only with the sight of these glorious beauties but also the smell. Inhale deeply and swoon. Mmmm-mmm. Some days there are even yummy samples of the most pristine fruit to taste and yes, you know you just have to buy. Continue reading

Al Brown meets Main Divide

I used to love lamb backstrap with pinot noir, the backstrap such an easy and tender cut that now seems to only appear in a fancy packet with a fancy price to match. Now I wander the meat department looking for quick pinot inspiration – or any inspiration – but often all I see is a display of blank canvas raw meat cuts crying out for cheffy embellishments. I am not a chef; I wouldn’t even describe myself as a cook. I cook meat as a necessity to get my protein quota. It gets boring. Continue reading