NWWA Top 50 – Verde

Verde was first released in 1996, and in that year won the Air New Zealand Wine Awards Sparkling Trophy. At that time Verde was a Corbans brand. The interesting thing here is that I had just started working for Corbans. Initially Verde was made with grapes from Hawkes Bay at the Corbans winery.

SupermarketNews spoke to head winemaker Jane De Witt about the brand and its award-winning top drops.

What characteristics of your wine are influenced by the physical landscape of your winery?

“Verde grapes are from Gisborne, the wine is a blend of Chardonnay (80%) and Pinot Noir (20%)grapes.

Gisborne’s long cool, maritime conditions and soils are ideal for ripening sparkling wine grapes. The early season harvest of sparkling grapes ensures that they experience a season which closely mimics that of more classically defined cool climate regions. The advantage of this early harvest is surety of ripeness and balance with natural acidities the envy of many wine growing regions of the world.”

What is one of the most rewarding things about winemaking?

“I find the evolution and intricacies of creating a sparkling wine exciting and deeply rewarding. The blending process is both time consuming and satisfying. I get to use both science and my creative side, which I love, ticks both boxes. It takes time and patience to reap the rewards of a sparkling wine in bottle. How Sparkling wine evolves and the impact that the time in bottle on yeast lees has on the taste of the wine, never fails to amaze me, and being able to capture this under cork at the right time is key.”


“Delicate citrus and biscuit aromas with a mineral, flinty back bone. The palate is creamy with a hint of citrus and toast, with a lovely lingering finish.”

What was important in making this award-winning wine?

“Sparkling wine takes time to evolve. The wine undergoes secondary fermentation in bottle and is then left to age and develop on yeast lees. Over time the wine changes.

The decision of how this wine will turn out gets made at vintage and at blending post the initial fermentation. A lot of effort goes into consistency of style as they do in Champagne. So at blending I am comparing back to past vintages in the parcels I select which will determine the continuation of the house style that is Verde. I am looking for a great acid back bone (important for Sparkling wines) and a minerality which is the Verde Style. With Verde I am looking at 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir.

The time spent on yeast lees is important for the evolution of Sparkling wine and hence is an important factor for me when putting this wine together. I have used a number of different vintaged wines to blend this non-vintage wine.”

Food Pairing?

“Sparkling wine is a great palate cleanser and will cut through the richness in foods.

Fish ‘n’ chips is a classic match, or even try with pop-corn, Sparkling wine loves salty foods.

Match with Smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers on a bagel. A soft creamy brie.

Sparkling wine is a great match for an assortment of foods.”

How long can you shelf your winning bottle of wine for?

“It is made to drink now, however will develop more toasty characters over time, if stored correctly.”

Who would your wine appeal to?

“Anyone who enjoys a glass of off dry sparkling wine.”

How would you describe this wine to someone who's never had this grape varietal/blend before?

“An elegant sparkling wine with a smoky minerality and a subtle flinty backbone. The Chardonnay shines through displaying citrus fruit, with a creamy palate. The Pinot Noir adds complexity, structure and length. Biscuity and toasty notes linger on the palate.

For Sparkling wine, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes are picked earlier than they would be for a Chardonnay or Pinot Noir Wine. The Chardonnay grapes are harvested so the fruit flavours and aromas are in the yellow citrus to green apple fruit spectrum. The Pinot Noir harvest is timed to capture the fresh red strawberry spectrum of the grapes.”

If you could do a wine bottle swap with any winery in NZ or the world, which winery and wine would it be with?

“Champagne Mailly Grand Cru – many years ago when I was in Champagne, I visited this (at the time) lesser known Champagne house. I was in between visits of some of the better-known Champagne Houses and just popped in, not really the thing to do in Champagne, however they were very welcoming. I walked away with some really lovely bottles of Champagne, and good memories.”