Laithwaites box for Autumn 2024

Laithwaites box for Autumn 2024

We’re towards the end of what has actually been a Summer in Auckland this year – unlike last year’s non-event – and this week I received the latest ‘mystery box’ from Laithwaites that was packed with just the sort of wines I’d want to have on hand for entertaining at this time of year. Every time I open one of these boxes, I smile, and often think to myself “well I wouldn’t have thought to buy that myself…but I’m looking forward to trying it!” I mean – Alicante Bouschet from Portugal? Or Argentinian Chardonnay? There’s a world of wine beyond just the tiny amounts that we produce in NZ – and it is definitely good to keep exploring it.

Lots of the world’s wine-making regions produce Sauvignon Blanc, and the grape has many other expressions beyond what we know as Marlborough Sav. Zonte’s Footstep Excalibur Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2021 is perfumed with pithy grapefruit, mandarin, dried pineapple, and lemon blossom. Built on acidity giving a clean freshness, with linearity and length to the palate. There is a chalky minerality as well, which suggests that it will pair very well with seafood – oysters in particular. 91pts

A white wine from Argentina is a nice surprise – Alambrado Gran Seleccion Chardonnay 2021 comes from Mendoza – which if you’ve heard of one Argentinian wine region… this is probably the one! It has the familiar look, smell and taste of Chardonnay, and is made in a ‘New World’ style. By that I mean it has bright acidity, bolstering fruit flavours in the citrus spectrum, and a smooth textural, buttered-toast finish. It is fruit-forward, with some tropical notes of pineapple and melon alongside the juicy grapefruit, mandarin and lemon peel. Good for these late summer evenings – pair with chicken and pork dishes. 91pts

Moonlake Reserve Clare Valley Riesling 2022 is from a region producing world-class Riesling. The higher altitude and shift from sunny daytime temperatures to cooler nights results in wines with superb acidity structure. A pale straw-green colour in the glass. Bone dry, with crisp aromas of lemon, lime, green apple, grapefruit and apricot. Tight and concentrated in the palate, with that signature acid line featuring prominently, and giving great length. Quite serious, this is also one that could be cellared for a long time, developing some richness and complexity. 92pts

100% Grenache is an inspired choice of grapes to make a rosé, as with this McPherson La Vue Grenache Rosé 2022. A beautifully pale coral pink hue, and the aromas of classic Grenache – raspberry and spice – rise from the glass. The palate is light and crisp, with the perfume flowing into the palate. Plush with strawberry, orange peel, redcurrant and rose petals, but there is some character on show, with a little phenolic rasp from fruit tannins. Destined to brighten the lunch (or dinner) table, I also like a glass of rosé as an aperitif. 89pts

Aluado Alicante Bouschet 2022 is a rare varietal from Quinta de Porto Franco – north of Lisbon in Portugal. Jet black in the glass, just a shimmer of burgundy at the edges. An elegant nose of damson plum, black cherry, blackcurrant and bramble, it does head towards a sweetness, with some cola, mocha and date notes in the perfume. Bold, big and glossy immediately on the palate, this is not shy. A few Portuguese reds I’ve tried do seem sweet to our NZ tastebuds – there’s a ripeness here that you see in Barossa Shiraz, but seldom from our homegrown reds. Think of a spiced coulis of succulent dark berries… but actually the alcohol is at 12.5% and it doesn’t stray into cloying – rather it is velvetty and smooth. The structure sits nicely through the spine – there is supple tannin, fresh acidity and a touch of toasty oak too. I think it would be a delicious summer BBQ wine with a thick steak, and I applaud the winemaker for creating this in its own character and style. This will certainly have its fans. 92pts

Il Papavero Rosso is one of those non-vintage red blends that are often a delight from Italy. In this one, 5th-generation winemaker Scipione Giuliani takes varietals from amongst the country’s best regions and produces a blend that combines them effortlessly. Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Negroamaro and Nero d’Avola all feature. Structured with tannin, oak and juicy acidity, the fruit takes centre stage. There’s a lightness of touch, but also enough richness and density to give some length. Would pair well with pasta and pizza. 87pts

Another wine from Argentina – The Waxed Bat Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec 2022 – has a very Australian presentation, with a tall bottle and quirky label, but where you might expect to see ‘Coonawarra’ or ‘Langhorne Creek’ as an origin – there is Mendoza! It’s another Opi wine – from winemaker Rodolfo Sadler, whose Malbec is also available from Laithwaites (the ’21 got 90/100 pts). The Shiraz contributes pepper and plum, with the blackcurrant and liquorice notes from the bedfellows. Smoky, toasty oak and a velvet-smooth texture makes this very easy to like. Ripe, spicy and bold. 89pts

The next wine is certainly Australian – Trimboli ‘Salvatore’ Malbec, Shiraz, Durif 2022. It says so on the label, but it has a perfume and flavourful palate that confirms it. Here, the Malbec takes the lead with a dusty terracotta perfume underpinned with succulent bursting dark blue fruits.Black pepper and crushed green herbs – even some balsamic gumminess. Tannin forms the spine, robust and grippy. Quite savoury and intense, it’s not just another big jammy red. Give it some air and it blooms into a quite complex finish with minerality and medicinal notes. Possibly one for the cellar? 91pts

Laithwaites have plenty of South Australian Shiraz on the site – and for good reason – it’s a popular type of red wine that generally pleases a crowd. Deep River McLaren Vale Shiraz 2019 shows that distinctive dark chocolate flavour that McLaren Vale Shiraz has – it is there on the nose, with blackberry, plum and liquorice. The vanilla-flecked toasty oak adds richness and depth, and the black pepper spiciness of the region is present and correct too. I get a flash of mint in the finish, which is another stylistic pointer. Sometimes you just want something bold, rounded and quaffable – this four-year old vintage is it. 90pts

Pigassou 2021 comes from the foothills of the Massif Central in France not too far from Carcassonne. The village growers take their local grape varietals – Marselan and Caladoc – to collective that makes the wine. It is quite robust and dark, with plum, boysenberry and cassis flavours. As you’d expect, it is also quite ripe – it reminds me of a rustic Côtes du Rhône red. There is plenty of supple tannin, hints of green herbs and quite a lot of red spiciness on the dry finish. 88pts

Le Prince de Courthezon 2022 is a Cotes du Rhone Appellation Controlée wine, so we are getting 80% Grenache and 10% each of Mourvedre and Syrah. A meaty 14.5% alcohol and a dense ruby colour in the glass – equal parts brooding and ripe on the nose. Plum flavours take the lead, alongside raspberry, cherry and cranberry. A tight, well-structured spine of oak, tannin and breezy acidity gets those ripe fruit flavours moving. The palate has a plush, spicy and peppery edge to it. A youthful, glossy but delicious finish. 91pts

When I lived in the UK, Coonawarra was one of the places that I could get wine from that sounded exotic and far away. Now that my home is a bit closer, I get to try the wines more often, and have become even more of a fan. Leconfield Coonawarra Merlot 2021 shows the classic, robust flavours of plum, mulberry, bramble and dried herbs that I’d expect. Quite full-bodied – you notice the oak certainly, but the tannins are silken and well-integrated. There is menthol, pepper and spice too in the mix. The finish is long, gentle and lush. 92pts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *