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Featured Reviews

No. 1 Family Estate ‘No. 1’ Assemblé, Cuvée, Rosé and Reserve

02 November,2018

With three decades of winemaking, Daniel and Adele Le Brun are the founders of Marlborough sparkling wine, and they arguably remain the best makers of method traditionnelle in the region, if not the country. It is the diversity of style of their wines, and the consistent degree of autolytic complexity in their most sophisticated wines that in my opinion gives them this title. The Le Bruns have a motto: ‘Hearts in Marlborough since 1980, roots in Champagne since 1684” the latter par referring to Daniel’s family’s heritage of winemaking in the Champagne region of France.

Of course, when Daniel came to New Zealand with New Zealand wife Adele, looking for new winemaking pastures (or should that be vineyards?), his family were doubtful of how successful he would be, but with their help and Daniel’s experience, he became an instant star. The original wines were somewhat inconsistent, but critics and knowledgeable consumers recognised the potential character and quality. ‘Daniel Le Brun’ quickly became synonymous with excellent sparkling wines, such that Daniel and Adele eventually sold their company and his name with it.

Daniel and Adele re-invented themselves establishing ‘No. 1 Family Estate’ in 1999 with vineyards and winery on Rapaura Road. They have just over 4 ha of vines, approx. two-thirds Chardonnay, one-third Pinot Noir and, of course, a little Pinot Meunier. This is supplemented by contracted fruit, but the Le Bruns are in the process of expanding their holdings. Since the start-up, the quality and strength of the wines have grown in stature, reflecting strong family values, with children Virginie and Remy part of the business, and the personal involvement with the winemaking. Daniel’s right-hand man in the winery, Lee Dobson has been with the Le Bruns for over 15 years. The consistent style of the ranges plus the depth of complexity they achieve are the highlights of No. 1 Family Estate. Here, I review the ‘Cuvée No. 1’ range.


No. 1 Family Estate ‘Cuvee No. 1 Assemblé’ Marlborough Methode Traditionnelle NV

Sparkling Wine from New Zealand – Marlborough


Bright, light yellow colour with slight golden hues and a hint of blush, showing some depth, lighter edged. The bubbles are very fine with moderate persistence. The nose is light and shy in expression with delicate aromas of white stonefruits and subtle hints of citrus fruit, forming an elegant core. The bready autolysis is restrained, and unfolds a little aldehyde nuttiness. The aromatics are fresh and clean. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate has a core of subtle flavours of yellow stonefruits that build to provide palate presence and weight. The autolysis is very much in the background, allowing the fruit to feature. This has good drive and line, and the wine flows with very fine textures and a soft mousse and balanced acidity, leading to a light finish. This is a subtle method traditionnelle with delicate stonefruit flavours and hints of autolysis, and good palate presence. Serve as an aperitif over the next 2 years. A blend of 60% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier, fermented to 12.6% alc., and 9 g/L dosage, the wine spending 18 months on lees. Lot L15274. 16.5+/20 Nov 2018 RRP $32.00

No. 1 Family Estate ‘Cuvee No. 1’ Methode Tradittionnelle NV

Sparkling Wine from New Zealand – Marlborough


Full, even, light golden-yellow colour, a little lighter on the rim, the bubbles moderately fine and persistent. The nose is very elegant in proportion, with very good depth and intensity, with tightly bound aromas and a harmonious amalgam of white and yellow stonefruits with citrus fruit and floral elements, entwined with refined bready-yeasty autolysis. This has finesse and class. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate possesses a refined and taut core of white stonefruits and florals, complexed by a fine layer of bread and yeast. The wine has good mouthfeel and flows along a lightly-textured phenolic line balanced by the effervescence and fresh, crisp acidity. This has a positive linearity and the wine carries to a long finish. This is a refined and tightly bound Blanc de Blancs method traditionnelle with fine autolysis and textures with good presence. Serve as an aperitif and with seafood over the next 3 years. 100% Chardonnay, fermented to 12.5% alc. and 7.0 g/L dosage, the wine spending at least 2 years on lees. Lot L15275. 18.5/20 Nov 2018 RRP $36.00

This label was the first release under No. 1 Family Estate. This is 100% Chardonnay, fermented to 13.0% alc and carries 7.0 g/L dosage. This bottling, Lot 09020, spent nearly 3 years on lees. Light straw-yellow with a pale edge, this has a fine bubble. The aromatics are classical Blanc de Blancs, with fresh, vibrant citrus and floral characters. The autolysis is subtle, but definite, with bready-toasty elements, and in excellent harmony with the fruit. Dry on palate, there is a richness to the fruit and the faintest phenolic texture providing some backbone. The floral-nutty fruit is predominant over the yeastiness and makes this a wine of sweet delicacy. The mousse opens and adds flourish to the finish. A lovely aperitif or seafood wine. 18.0-/20 Jan 2011 RRP $37.50
Made by Daniel Le Brun, a 100% Marlborough sourced Chardonnay methode at 13.0% alc. and 7.0 g/L dosage. This release is approx. 80% 2007 vintage and the remainder from 2006. It was an ideal aperitif, with very fine floral and citrus aromas and flavours, clearly expressing Chardonnay. Technically dry, this had lovely sweetness of fruit and excellent acidity and freshness, making it wonderfully elegant. A little more of the yeasty-brioche-like autolysis complexity would make it outstanding.  Dec 2010

No. 1 Family Estate ‘Cuvee No. 1 Rosé' Methode Traditionnelle NV

Sparkling Wine from New Zealand – Marlborough


Bright, eye-of-the-partridge colour with peach-pink hues and some depth, lighter on the rim, the bubbles fine and moderately persistent. The nose is softly full and gently voluminous with gentle aromas of red berry fruits and red florals, melded with bready-yeasty autolytic interst and complexity. The aromatics unfold in richness, showing a little toastiness. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate is elegantly expressed with a soft and fine core of light red berry fruit and red floral flavours harmoniously melded with bready-yeasty autolysis and a little toasty aldehyde detail. The palate is vibrant, lively and mouthfilling with creamy, frothy effervescence and mousse. The flavours carry to a long, subtle-fruited finish. This is a beautifully rich and elegantly flavoured rosé method traditionnelle with suble red berry and floral flavours and complex autolytic and toasty notes on a rich, creamy palate. Serve with antipasto, tapas and poultry over the next 3 years. Clone 10/5 Pinot Noir fruit from Rapaura soils, fermented to 13.0% alc. and 5.2 g/L dosage, the wine spending at least 2 years on lees. Lot L16321. 18.5+/20 Nov 2018 RRP $47.00

Bright, light salmon pink colour with a pale edge, this has a fine bead with persistent bubbles. On bouquet, this is soft and full, with fresh, ripe strawberry fruit aromas interwoven with delicate bready autolysis notes, all very evely presented. Dryish to taste, the flavours of strawberries and red florals are harmoniously balanced with subtle yeasty notes, the wine with balance and integration. Moderate acidity, gentle effervescence and the dosage contribute to a soft mouthfeel. A little textural dryness marks the finish. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, 10/5 clone fruit from the Rapaura sub-region in Marlborough, this is 13.8% alc with a dosage of 11 g/L. The wine underwent MLF and spent 10 months on lees in tank before tirage and 20 months on lees in bottle, and was disgorged in September 2011. This is Lot 10011. Serve as an aperitif, match with antipasto or serve with summer fruits over the next 2 years. 17.5+/20 Dec 2011 RRP $44.00
A relatively new ‘pretty' sibling for the ‘Cuvee No. 1', this rosé wine has a soft, light salmon pink colour with a fine beaded bubble. The bouquet is soft, full and even in expression, with beautiful strawberry and soft red fruit aromas allied to subtle yeasty autolysis elements. Dry on palate, this is a pretty and elegant wine with delicate strawberry, cranberry and red floral flavours. The textures are very soft and gentle, allowing the sweet fruit nuances to open out, providing a soft, but rich finish. Ideal for warm weather drinking as an aperitif, and with antipasto. 100% Pinot Noir, clone 10/5, from Rapaura, given limited skin contact and fermented to 12.5% alc., with 5.2 g/L dosage. 9 months on gross lees with 20 months on lees in bottle. This is from Lot 0916. 18.0/20 Jan 2011 RRP $47.00

No. 1 Family Estate ‘Reserve’ ‘Cuvee No. 1’ Marlborough Methode Traditionnelle NV

Sparkling Wine from New Zealand – Marlborough


Full, golden-yellow with some depth, lighter on the rim. The bubbles are moderately fine with gentle persistence. The nose is elegant in proportion with gently packed and concentrated, layered aromas of white and yellow stonefruits along with hints of nuts and toast, and refined bready-yeast autolytic expression. This is remarkably fresh and possesses clarity and purity, with complexing detail. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate has beautifully and elegantly concentrated layered, complex flavours of yellow stonefruits and citrus fruit melded with bready-yeasty and biscuit autolysis with subtle toasty elements. The flavours are mouthfilling and form a deep core that builds in intensity and interest. The mouthfeel is taut with a little phenolic grip, and the wine has soft acidity and moderate effervescence, carrying to a long, nuanced finish. This is an elegant, complex-layered method traditionnelle with intense stonefruit, autolysis and toasty flavoura on a fine-textured palate. Match with white meat dishes over the next 4 years. 100% Chardonnay, fermented to 12.5% alc. and 7 g/L dosage, the wine spending 7 years on lees. Released in 1,000 bottle parcels. (Lot number not discernible.) 19.0-/20 Nov 2018 RRP $96.00

Bright straw-yellow colour with light golden hues and some depth, lighter edged, the bubbles moderately fine with good persistence. The bouquet has intensely concentrated and deeply packed aromas of white stonefruits layered with a complex amalgam of nutty notes along with brioche and yeasty autolysis and subtle aldehyde detail. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate has very intense and deeply concentrated flavours of white stonefruits entwined with a complex amalgam of brioche and yeast, along with nutty notes and a delicate aldehyde nuance adding to the interest. The palate is lively with fresh acidity enhancing the mousse, and the wine possesses a fine-textured line, leading to a mouth-watering, savoury finish. This is an intensely concentrated Blanc de Blanc method traditionnelle with complex flavours of stonefruits, bread and yeast with nutty notes on a lively palate. Serve with white meat dishes over the next 3-4 years. 100% Mendoza clone Chardonnay, fermented to 12.5% alc. with 7 g/L dosage, aged 66 months on lees. 700 bottles produced for this release.Disgorged in May 2017. 19.0/20 Jan 2018 RRP $96.00

Bright, light golden-yellow colour with some depth, a little lighter on the rim, with very persistent, moderately fine bubble. The bouquet is powerfully packed and concentrated with deep aromas of white and yellow stonefruits and citrus fruits, harmoniously melded with layers of nuts and bready, yeasty autolysis. The core unfolds toast and smoky detail, with subtle aldehyde interest, and the nose blossoms in volume with the complex autolytic characters. Dry to taste, medium-bodied but with wonderful concentration, rich and lusciously concentrated flavours of citrus, white and yellow stonefruits are melded with seamlessly integrated bready and yeast autolysis flavours. The most refine aldehyde and nutty elements add a layer of detail and complexity. The fruit sweetness and Chardonnay lift are enriched by the dosage and the wine flows with underlying poer and concentration. The effervescence is refined and integrated, with a very fine phenolic thread and lacy acidity leading the palate to a bright, citrus, stonefruit and yeasty flavoured finish of very good and sustained length. This is a superbly concentrated, harmoniously melded, rich and seamlessly layered Blanc de Blancs methode with refined autolytic, bready complexity, fresh mouthfeel and linearity. Serve as an aperitif, with seafood and antipasto over the next 3+ years. 100% Mendoza clone Chardonnay, fermented to 12.5% alc. with 7 g/L dosage, aged 66 months on lees. 500 bottles produced for this second release. 19.0+/20 Jan 2016 RRP $89.95

Bright, light golden-yellow colour with some depth, lighter on rim, the fine bead with moderate persistence. This has a softly packed and dense bouquet with complex aromas of bread, yeast extract and an array of nutty notes that reveal secondary development. This has a subtle floral finesse that shows the Chardonnay influence. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the mouthfeel is soft and very finely presented in textures. This is beautifully integrated and harmonious. The flavours are softly concentrated with excellent depth and packed with rich and refined bread, yeast extract and toast flavours. The integrated detail is a feature. The wine flows smoothly with some acid liveliness and energy leading to a poised, mouthwatering, lingering finish with toast and bready elements. This is a rich, and refined, softly integrated and complex, detailed Blanc de Blancs methode. 100% Mendoza clone Chardonnay, fermented to 12.5% alc. with 7 g/L dosage, aged 66 months on lees. 1,000 bottles produced for this release. Serve as an aperitif and with white meat dishes over the next 3+ years. 19.0-/20 Dec 2014 RRP $89.95

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