Blend behind Hunter's quality sparkling wine

Pinot meunier is a varietal we seldom hear much about yet it is a key ingredient in the famous Champagnes of France.

Pinot meunier is one of France's most planted black grape varieties and is considered a precious grape of Champagne for a number of reasons, including its ability to bud late yet ripen earlier than pinot noir.

An ingredient in traditional three variety champagne blends, meunier is used to contribute young wine fruitiness that complements the weight of pinot noir and the finesse of chardonnay.

Hunter's Miru Miru has long been ranked as one of Marlborough's best sparkling wines and we, like the team at Hunter's, think the three variety blend has something to do with its undoubted quality - typically 59 per cent pinot noir, 39 per cent chardonnay and 2 per cent meunier.

Hunter's Marlborough Miru Miru Reserve 2008 ($34) Pale straw with a busy bead and lifted aroma that's yeasty with plenty of ripe apple and pear notes, some nougat and light citrus.

The palate is rich and full-flavoured with a finely textured mousse. Completely integrated flavours with some delightful cashew and nougat notes and a caramel, citrus finish.

Rich yet delicate, with superb length of palate - you can't go wrong when you serve this wine.

Quite widely available or go to

Nautilus Methode Traditionelle NV Brut ($39) After three years resting on lees, this wine has a delightful biscuity, toasty note on both the aroma and palate.

The aroma is generous and enticing with its lively, yeasty, buttery toast and marmite characters.

The lifted and fragrant aroma is just the beginning; this wine has toast and marmalade flavours supported by crisp acidity and some chalky minerality. The pleasing dryness runs across the palate and finishes on a dry, fruity and yeasty note. Smooth in texture with desirable complexity and that lively yet elegant finish - here's a very impressive wine.

Brown Brothers Prosecco NV ($19.99) This wine from Victoria's King Valley is an ideal sparkling accompaniment to Christmas day brunch.

Very light pale straw in the glass with a fine bead, this sparkler has a lifted, confected aroma that's immediately appealing.

The palate is quite dry and very juicy with lemonade citrus and passionfruit flavours out to the finish.

Brown Brothers Prosecco is light, a little different and as usual, excellent quality and value from Brown Brothers.

Villa Maria S-Series Brut ($19.99) S-Series Brut is brand new and has sleek, edgy labelling along with a crown cap to keep the bubbles in.

This sparkling has a fresh, fruity, crisp aroma and the palate is in keeping with the interesting varietal blend that sets this wine apart.

Chardonnay, viognier, pinot gris and Riesling all add their specific characters to this wine which is dry, yet carries a lick of fruit sweetness mid-palate. The delicate mousse is complemented by sweet orange notes and a creamy, crisp citrus finish. There's some textural weight to the wine - it's a pleasant sunny summer day drink for beach, barbecues or the bach.

Blind River Tekau Barrel-fermented Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($40) Only 65 cases of this wine have been made - so no time to waste. The fruit has been fermented in seasoned French barriques and the result is a powerful, rich and rewarded example of Awatere sauvignon blanc.

Attractive straw gold with creamy, savoury with aged fruit notes complementing brighter melon and herbaceous characters in the aroma.

The creamy, nutty flavours on the palate are partnered with firm acids and subtle aromatics. Cantaloupe, tight, flinty minerality and dry grass notes deliver depth of flavour while the finish is crisp and grassy with a warming, fleshy aftertaste.

Still a young wine that delivers on all levels - Tekau will reward with time in the cellar and will make a lovely gift - it is smartly presented for just such a gesture.

Available from

Lawsons Dry Hills Marlborough Pinot Rose 2012 ($19) Rose wines look irresistible in a cool glass on a warm evening. This one from Lawson's tastes every bit as good as it looks with its deep pink/crimson colour. The aroma has wine gum fruitiness; concentrated with heady floral, strawberry and black currant notes.

The palate combines tingly acids with concentrated fruit driven flavours but there's nothing sickly or blousy about it. The fleshy texture, herbal and mineral characters deliver depth and complexity - one of the few roses that we've tried that has the potential to age well over a year or so. If you enjoy the wine - don't be shy of putting away a few for a little later.

Excellent buying at the price

Church Road Hawke's Bay Rose 2011 Limited Release ($28.99) Attractive pale rose gold in the glass with a gentle berry-fruit and green herb aromas.

The palate is creamy, weighty and full bodied with restrained yet appealing vanilla and berry flavours. Silky texture, crisp acidity - another wine perfect for most summer food matches.

The Marlborough Express