a sparkling oc­ca­sion

My Wedding - - REAL WEDDING - By Ti­mothy Giles

Cham­pagne! Just the word brings a smile and sets the scene for wed­ding cel­e­bra­tions. But don’t feel com­pelled, even at the top ta­ble to serve this, the prici­est of all wines. The qual­ity of New Zealand’s own bub­bly is more than good enough for the most spe­cial of cel­e­bra­tions.

Like a rose, Cham­pagne by any other name, will still taste just as sweet. Sparkling wines made any­where out­side the re­gion of Cham­pagne can­not legally bear the name Cham­pagne. But they can be made by the same ex­act­ing meth­ods and be ev­ery bit as su­perb. This taste and qual­ity can, here at home, be achieved at a frac­tion of the price of the French orig­i­nal. This is why my first choice for wines of cel­e­bra­tion are spark­ing ex­am­ples of lo­cal wine-mak­ing bril­liance.

New Zealand boasts at least two world-class pro­duc­ers of sparkling wine, each in my opin­ion mak­ing wines that are a match for Cham­pagne, but with a fresh and en­er­vat­ing Kiwi edge to their bub­bly bril­liance.

Daniel Le Brun is the most fa­mous name in NZ bub­bles, with a rep­u­ta­tion widely and rightly known, for mak­ing con­sis­tently ex­cel­lent and I think ex­cit­ing, sparkling wines. The son of a Cham­pagne fam­ily, Daniel has be­gun a gen­er­a­tional legacy here in his adopted home­land. A keen hunter and out­doors­man Daniel fell in love with NZ and with a beau­ti­ful part of NZ called, Adele, whom he made his wife. To­gether Daniel and Adele have cre­ated our fore­most sparkling wine pro­ducer, No.1 Fam­ily Es­tate in Marl­bor­ough.

No.1 Fam­ily Es­tate make only sparkling wine, unique amongst lo­cal pro­duc­ers, and this fo­cus shows in their truly world-class wines. Their most pop­u­lar wine No8 ($32), should be al­ways on hand - a great value, top-class sparkling made from the tra­di­tional Cham­pagne grapes of Chardon­nay, Pinot Me­u­nier and Pinot Noir. It is as re­li­able as a lit­tle girl’s de­light at be­ing named flow­er­girl.

So of­ten the oc­ca­sions that call for bub­bles also ask for el­e­gance, for a mem­o­rable re­straint. No.1 Fam­ily Es­tate has one wine of which I am a par­tic­u­lar fan, the Num­ber 1 ($43). Made en­tirely of Chardon­nay this is at once soft and struc­tured, like Au­drey Hep­burn’s cheek­bones. An el­e­gant and lux­u­ri­ous wine, Num­ber1 pos­sesses a re­fined and gen­tle charm to match its bub­bly ef­fer­ves­cence.

A sim­i­lar fo­cus is key to the suc­cess of Quartz Reef, an­other ex­cel­lent sparkling pro­ducer found fur­ther south in Cen­tral Otago. Be­tween Queen­stown and Wanaka, Aus­trian-born-now-Kiwi wine­maker Rudi Bauer, planted some vine­yards specif­i­cally to make sparkling wines, friends from Cham­pagne work­ing along­side him at each vin­tage. This ded­i­ca­tion and con­nec­tion to au­then­tic­ity and a her­itage of ex­cel­lence is ap­par­ent in each of the three sparklings Bauer makes.

The cur­rent Quartz Reef Brut non-vin­tage ($35) is as crisp as a Cen­tral Otago spring. Light and fresh in the glass, it is an aper­i­tif style ideal for awak­en­ing a jaded mid-meal palate and ideal to toast or wel­come guests to a warm and lively re­cep­tion.

It may be 2013, but the cur­rent re­lease of Quartz Reef Vin­tage is the 2007 ($40). Vin­tage sparklings should be heav­ier, more in­tense than their non-vin­tage coun­ter­parts and this is fine ex­am­ple. A wine to pon­der and en­joy. I see it as a liq­uid equiv­a­lent of the po­etry of the great Kiwi poet, Brian Turner. The work of both Turner and Quartz Reef are dis­tinc­tively and un­de­ni­ably born of and in homage to Otago. Like Turner’s po­etry the Quartz Reef Vin­tage 2007 is char­ac­ter­ful, com­plex and re­wards con­tem­pla­tion.

There’s an un­de­ni­ably fes­tive char­ac­ter in the pink-toned hue and aro­matic ap­peal of Quartz Reef Rose ($35). At a frac­tion the cost of its French equiv­a­lent, this is a wine wor­thy of con­sid­er­a­tion. Wher­ever you in­clude it (in the wed­ding car, at the re­cep­tion, or even to com­mence a per­fect hon­ey­moon) this wine is made for ro­mance.

Choos­ing a Kiwi sparkling wine as the fo­cal cel­e­bra­tory drink may take a lit­tle courage. Yes th­ese wines and pro­duc­ers lack the brand heft and recog­ni­tion of Cham­pagne. But courage is well-rewarded. Th­ese wines are not Cham­pagne; they are, for this wine-loving Kiwi any­way, some­thing bet­ter. The prod­uct of labour, love and skill, they are a cel­e­bra­tion of NZ; a unique and dif­fer­ent con­tri­bu­tion to the world of wine and to fes­tive oc­ca­sions.

When you con­sider your cel­e­bra­tory wines, ‘Go Kiwi’! Ev­ery love is unique, a cre­ation, per­fect in it’s in­di­vid­u­al­ity. Per­haps the words of Brian Turner will help sway your palate home­ward. He could al­most be re­fer­ring to th­ese great kiwi wines when he wrote in his poem Train­ing on the Penin­sula: “how easy it is to do some­thing dif­fer­ent, how hard to do it bet­ter”.

Quartz Reef and No.1 Fam­ily Es­tate have done both. Some­thing dif­fer­ent in mak­ing a Kiwi sparkling with the same meth­ods as Chama­pagne, and there is no doubt in my opin­ion, on my palate and for any wallet that they have also done it bet­ter.

Quartz Reef Win­ery

Ti­mothy Giles is our Wine En­thu­si­ast, not Wine Critic. He searches out wines to en­thuse about. Ev­ery is­sue he’ll tell about the finest wines and best buys. When he’s not tast­ing wine, he’s gulp­ing down air while train­ing for triathlons....

Daniel Le Brun

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