Wine to impress

“I’ve been invited to a party hosted by a well-known winemaker. Everyone is expected to bring a bottle. Most of the guests are very wine knowledgeable. Can you recommend a wine that won’t make me look like an idiot?” asked a friend with just a hint of desperation in her voice. Here are the options I gave her.

Anything that’s obviously expensive

Champagne is a good choice if you wish to impress but choose a well-recognised brand like Bollinger (tastings), Moet & Chandon (tastings) or Veuve Cliquot (tastings). French labels once automatically cut a bit of a dash but that’s no longer the case thanks to a deluge of inexpensive wines.

Designer brands

The New Zealand wine equivalent to handbags by Givenchy, Chloé or Saint Laurent are Cloudy Bay (the most searched for New Zealand wine brand on the Internet – tastings), Stonyridge Larose (tastings), Felton Road Pinot Noir (tastings), Ata Rangi Pinot Noir (tastings), Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay (tastings), Kumeu River Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay (tastings) and Te Mata Coleraine (tastings). Any of these illustrious wines will be well received by wine savvy drinkers.

Quirky and collectible

Perhaps less well known but highly coveted by serious wine collectors are the wines of small producers such as Bell Hill from North Canterbury (tastings), Dry River from Martinborough (tastings), Puriri Hills from Clevedon (tastings) and Destiny Bay from Waiheke (tastings) (Destiny Bay makes New Zealand’s most expensive wine with a “regular retail price” of $330 – tastings). These small production wines are in high demand and often allocated. Want a case of Bell Hill Chardonnay (tastings)? Sorry, you’re lucky if you can get two bottles. Produce a bottle at a party and it will disappear faster than you can say “would any one like to taste New Zealand’s best Chardonnay?”

Wine show winners

If you want to buy high quality, desirable wines that won’t break the bank check out the brilliant website It features the latest results from just about every wine show in the country. The most recently judged wine show on the site is the Air New Zealand Wine Awards. If you want to buy a Pinot Noir you’ll find 27 gold medal winners including Gladstone 12,000 Miles 2013 Pinot Noir (tastings) with a modest price or $25 or Akarua Rua 2013 Pinot Noir (tastings) which sells for around $26.

Alternatively you can log on to my website and sort by score, price and grape variety to sniff out a bargain.

Most impressive

Bell Hill 2011 Pinot Noir, $105

You can’t buy this wine because it’s all sold out. You can put your name on the Bell Hill mailing list and try for the next vintage, although expect a maximum allowance of one or two bottles. Bell Hill Chardonnay is just as exciting. Take it to a party and you’ll certainly get invited again (especially if it’s my party). – view on

Impressive fizz

Bollinger NV Special Cuvee $89.90

Bollinger is instantly recognisable as a premium champagne brand. It’s a readily available ticket to the most exclusive parties. It also tastes very, very good. – view on

Impress on a budget

Matua Valley 2014 Single Vineyard Albarino $29.99

Albarino is a fantastic Spanish grape variety producing some of that country’s top white wine. It’s now beginning to make an appearance in this country. This outstanding example is sure to impress anyone who knows the variety as well as many who don’t.

First published in Your Home and Garden Magazine – Feb 2015.

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