Parental Advisory: Sam Brannigan & Nelson’s Kahurangi Estate

About a million years ago, when my now early teens were in nappies and we were just getting Curious Wines off the ground, I met Sam Brannigan at a wine tasting in Enniskillen. Sam was the larger-than-life manager at Blake’s Fine Wines in Derrylin and was as witty and acerbic as he was passionate about wine. A few years later he did a pre- #metoo blog post for us on the world’s most popular varietals, declaring Grenache a “schizo bitch” and Tempranillo the grape of “castanets and hairy arm pitted women”.

Sam followed me out of NI a couple of years later, settling in New Zealand and predictably gaining employment in the wine trade, so when he wrote to me last year telling me about his latest employ I was all ears.


I’m now working for a rather special wee family owned winery in Nelson called Kahurangi Estate. You know the way Marlborough has the racy winds from the east coast making for tangy, high acid Sauvignon? Well Nelson is sheltered on three sides so we have all the aromatics but a lovely soft texture, almost Pinot Gris like. Our Pinot Noir is friggin’ brilliant and our Chardonnay is far and away the best you will try this year for the price. We also make astonishing Gewurz, and we have the oldest commercial vines in the South Island with which we make rather splendid Rieslings; and we make 150 cases a year of Fume Blanc that blows Te Koko and Section 94 away at half the price.”

Well how could I not check them out with those recommendations!

Introducing Kahurangi Estate and the wonderful wines of Nelson, New Zealand, from our inside man, Sam…


Sam on the Kahurangi wines

Kahurangi Nelson Sauvignon Blanc

You know the way Marlborough has the racy winds from the east coast making for tangy, high acid Sauvignon? Well Nelson is sheltered on three sides so we have all the aromatics but a lovely soft texture, almost Pinot Gris like. We only make about a thousand cases of our Sauv and it is a bloody beauty.

Kahurangi Mount Arthur Chardonnay

Our assistant winemaker is from Burgundy and she knows all the tricks, our head winemaker is a good old Kiwi Boy who wants so much butter in his Chardonnay the fecker would saute it if he could get away with it. The balance between their two philosophies can be seen here. New World balls with French…er anti-balls. Year after year, this cleans up awards, 90+ scores on Parker etc and just never ceases to amaze with its power and grace, its precise definition yet infinite creativity. We had this next to a Batard Montrachet a few weeks ago and it sneered at Burgundy with its greatness.

Kahurangi Mount Arthur Pinot Noir

Only the second ever vintage of this wine in 20 years, it is beyond brilliant — Burgundian in character, such depth and structure. Not even a Kiwi classic because we’ve only made 600 cases in two decades so nobody really knows it exists.

Sam on the classic varietals

Sauvignon Blanc

If you want your tongue to feel like it’s been speared by an atomic sized army of French archers then drink European Sauvignon, especially French numbers like Sancerre, Pouilly Fume or some crazy assed classic like Menetou-Salon. Bordeaux has some pretty good gear as well! If you like tropical fruit, grapefruit, mangoes, Hawaiian pizza and steel drums then drink Kiwi Sauvignon – seriously, it’s like a liquid 10p mix-up. Sauvignon is just lovely, but make sure you’ve plenty of Gaviscon for the 4am agonies.


At its best Riesling touches the heavens – from the driest, primal streams of mineral lime to the precious drops of platinum clenched fantasia to be found in the great German and Austrian eisweins, Riesling has it all. Let’s be honest, if you say you don’t like Riesling because it’s too sweet, too German, too whatever, you are a tube. It’s nothing to do with personal taste – you haven’t got any. Saying you don’t like it is like saying you don’t like the Beatles. It’s just wrong.


Imagine licking a Sherman tank that’s been machine gunned with blackcurrants then seasoned with cracked black pepper – et viola – Shiraz! It’s the glory of Hermitage and Cote Rotie, the majesty of the Barossa and McLaren Vale – hot bricks, mulberry, fire, brimstone and crushed violets (with pumped up with a nip of Viognier) are the order of the day when this baby is singing.

Sam’s take on all the classic grape varietals from 2012 is here.

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