Tuesday, April 28, 2020


Once again I've been blending my wines.

A while ago I bought a case of Larry Mckenna's Escarpment chardonnay.

THIS GUY although it's an old photo

McKenna is one of the country's best chardonnay makers having carved out a reputation in the 1970s with Delegats and Martinborough Vineyards before making out on his own.

I bought his 2014 Escarpment chardonnay from an on-line seller along with a case of his riesling.
The wine is beautifully made with ripe but fine fruit and heavy use of good oak. The result is a tightly structured white Burgundy style with strong lees character and minerality. Serious wine. I like it but, although it still has a lot of life in it given the vintage (2014) and the colour still looks like a young wine - the reductive notes and a bit of fruit drop doesn't make it delicious.
The answer? Drop in some younger chardonnay in to refresh it.

I normally don't buy 'cleanskins' as I like to know a bit about the provenance of the wines I drink but I bought a case of this on-line because of the sellers 'blurb' and yes, it was cheap. I thought that it would be a good blender and I was right having used it a few times to freshen up tired and older wines. as I do see: HERE

The 2017 Gisborne chardonnay while a bit ordinary on its own has enough fruit and acidity to give the older wine a 'kick' and definitely rejuvenates it.

* You'll have to view the earlier post via the link

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


We don't dink a lot of spirits yet we've got lots of unused bottles of liqueurs, whiskies, cognac, gin etc in the cupboard - results of a quick grab at Duty Free on the way home from overseas trips.

Just lately I've taken to having a glass of vodka and tonic as a change from wine. I only ever feel like having one, admittedly a large one and it's a nice pre-dinner cocktail. As I don't like to 'mix the grape with the grain' it's also a good way of cutting down on wine consumption.

The lockdown, with bottle shops being closed though, means that I can't buy a bottle of nice vodka - I prefer NZ crafted ones like 42 Below, Broken Shed and others but I'm not a hipster.


I fossicked around at the back of the cupboard and found a couple of old bottles of vodka - one old and the other very old. Both had been opened.

The old one is EFFEN Cherry which is a Dutch vodka I've had for 25 years. It's really nice but was forgotten about.

It's one of the samples I was given by the producer back in the 1990s when we were evaluating it as a brand to import. We passed on the opportunity and I'm not sure if any was imported by anyone else. I've certainly never seen it on the shelves. Although it's been open a while it still has lots of flavour and the alcohol hasn't dropped much.

The very old bottle is a Russian brand named PARROT.

This bottle is over 60 old being from the 1950s or early 1960s. I found it while clearing out the underground cellars of the old Hughes and Cossar store in Khyber Pass Auckland back in the mid 1980s.
It's been opened since about 1990 - 30 years ago and, apart from the alcohol drop down to about 25 to 30% is still remarkably flavoursome and interesting.

A recent discovery of ours is the East Imperial tonic company which makes a range of different flavoured tonics and other mixers. We get it delivered by the boxful.
Her Indoors likes the grapefruit flavoured tonic with her gin but I prefer the 'Old World' style.

It's a local company and they claim to use the true ingredients which certainly show through in the flavours.
The real beauty is that they are single-serve 150ml bottles. This means that if you only want one drink you only open the little bottle without having a half bottle or more of tonic sitting around to either go off or induce you to have another drink.

Sunday, March 15, 2020


* Well, to be honest everyday is a day of rest for me nowadays.

Sunday, in my life experience has had religious connotations even though I abandoned Catholicism  when i was about 15.

Wikipedia tells us:
Sunday is a day of rest in most Western countries, as a part of the weekend and weeknight. For most observant Christians, Sunday is observed as a day of worship and rest, holding it as the Lord's Day and the day of Christ's resurrection. In some Muslim countries and Israel, Sunday is the first work day of the week.
OK, Christians as per usual try to take over what is a rest day from the working week and convert it to their own ends. We're used to that.

I like Sundays though. There is something palpable in the atmosphere. Maybe it's because many people are not working and commuting to their jobs. The sounds in the neighbourhood are different - sounds of leisure activity and, I guess, the absence of sound from people who are resting.
Sundays are always relaxing and for relaxing.

It's a beautiful Sunday here today. Blue skies, warm, no wind - marvellous.
The lawns need mowing and it would be ideal conditions to do so, with a dip in the sea at high tide afterward but I don't want to break the peace. I get annoyed by those gung-ho home maintenance types who fire up their mowers, weed-eaters, blowers and other noisy shit on a Sunday. There are 6 other days to do this.

I'll keep listening to the radio, read, do crosswords and enjoy the sunshine on the deck until later in the afternoon when I'll go out and play some golf.

Sunday. Don't you love it?

Wednesday, March 11, 2020


"Richard does really know a good wine. Try giving him a cheapie on his birthday!" said Robert in a comment on my previous post.

Robert is the guy who believes in the miracles of Jesus including that turning water into wine nonsense.

This cartoon seems to be applicable to both of the above.

Saturday, March 7, 2020


I guess that most wine drinkers have preferences in styles, varietals, countries of origins etc that condense down to one or two favourites as we grow older.

I've been a wine appreciator for nearly 50 years and have tasted nearly all of the varietals, styles and countries of origin wines that the world has to offer. From those I have had many preferences that I have marketed, bought, sold, collected and drunk and have been lucky enough to have tasted some very special wines and vintages.

As I've grown older Her Indoors and I have narrowed our preferences down to favourites.

My favourites are:

  • Champagne
  • Pinot Noir
  • Chardonnay
I still have some preferences like riesling, and rose-styles but generally my purchasing and drinking is from the three favourites.

Within each of the favourites I guess I have some sub loves and hates as follows:

  • Vintage vs non-vintage
  • Champagne vs Methode styles
but, hey when needs must I'll drink non vintage or a good methode.

  • Wooded vs unwooded preferably barrique fermented
  • New Zealand vs most other countries unless someone offered me a Burgundy
  • Hawkes Bay vs any other region and certainly not Marlborough
Exceptions can be a good Californian or top Australian chardonnay and good vintages from Gisborne, Martinborough, Nelson or Waipara but never Marlborough.

Pinot Noir
  • New Zealand first and foremost but occasionally will drink a good French or American pinot noir.
  • Waipara as first choice followed by Martinborough, Central Otago and Nelson at a pinch. Sometimes a good Marlborough wine catches my fancy.

Following these favourites and some of my preferences leads me to buying my wines on-line from a few reliable sellers or waiting for supermarket wine sales where I do pick up bargains.
The problem with my choice of favourites though is that I've gravitated to the most expensive categories of wines especially when seeking out good examples.

If my favourites were those godawful sauvignon blanc and pinot gris I'd be able to save a lot of money as these white varietals are among the cheapest and most promoted. In reds pinot noir is on average the most expensive, certainly much more than well made merlot, cabernet sauvignon or shiraz wines. If I'd developed a taste for non-methode type sparkling then there would be plenty of bargains for me out there as well.

Hoisted by my own petard I guess.

Sunday, January 19, 2020


Here's a new one I discovered when opening a bottle of Kim Crawford FIZZ the other day:

Muselet on Kim Crawford FIZZ bottle

It reads: "WARNING CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE! See back label for more information."

What the fuck?

This world of namby-pamby millennials is just getting worse compounded by the overuse of litigation when anything small happens especially in the USA. No surprises then to see that this product is produced for the North American market (Fizz is the nickname of Constellation NZ's Felicity who has overseen shipping logistics to USA and Canada for many years) and the back label is in dual language- English and French.

Where and when will this coddling stop? One assumes that the purchaser of this product had a fair idea that it was a sparkling wine.

It is in a sparkling wine bottle. It has a foil cap and a muselet to hold in the sparkling wine cork. The label clearly states that the wine is Methode Traditionelle.
The back label also states:

  • Sparkling wine /Vin mousseux
  • When opening point away from body/Bien tenir le bouchon au moment de l'ouverture
OK. That's enough overkill.

Another overkill in wine label regulations for USA is:

GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.

Friday, September 20, 2019



Chateau Palmer is a Third Growth 'claret'.

This ranking originated in the 1855 Bordeaux classification which is and was a concise ranking of all serious Bordeaux wine producers back in the middle of the nineteenth century. It is complicated and has engendered many fiery debates over the last 184 years but still is a kind of 'rule of thumb' for serious wine buyers and drinkers. If you want you can buy the book and have a read of it and the history of the classification. This is best done while having a bottle of claret open.

The history is worth reading and I recommend it as I would reading The Disappearing Spoon - Sam Kean's history of the Periodic Table which is described thus:

"The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements"

This is a cracking good read and should be in everyone's library.


Back to the 1855 Classification.

The Official 1855 Classification

First-Growths / Premières Crus
Château Lafite Rothschild Pauillac
Château Latour Pauillac
Château Margaux Margaux
Château Haut-Brion Pessac, Graves (since 1986, Pessac-Léognan)
Second-Growths / Deuxièmes Crus
Château Mouton-Rothschild (elevated to first-growth in 1973) Pauillac
Château Rausan-Ségla Margaux
Château Rauzan-Gassies Margaux
Château Léoville Las Cases St.-Julien
Château Léoville Poyferré St.-Julien
Château Léoville Barton St.-Julien
Château Durfort-Vivens Margaux
Château Gruaud-Larose St.-Julien
Château Lascombes Margaux
Château Brane-Cantenac Cantenac-Margaux (now Margaux)
Château Pichon-Longueville Baron Pauillac
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande  Pauillac
Château Ducru-Beaucaillou St.-Julien
Château Cos-d'Estournel St.-Estèphe
Château Montrose St.-Estèphe
Third-Growths / Troisièmes Crus
Château Kirwan Cantenac-Margaux (now Margaux)
Château d'Issan Cantenac-Margaux (now Margaux)
Château Lagrange St.-Julien
Château Langoa Barton St.-Julien
Château Giscours Labarde-Margaux (now Margaux)
Château Malescot-St.-Exupéry Margaux
Château Cantenac-Brown Cantenac-Margaux (now Margaux)
Château Boyd-Cantenac Margaux
Château Palmer Cantenac-Margaux (now Margaux)
Château La Lagune Ludon (now Haut-Médoc)
Château Desmirail Margaux
Château Calon-Ségur St.-Estèphe
Château Ferrière Margaux
Château Marquis-d'Alesme-Becker Margaux
Fourth-Growths / Quatrièmes Crus
Château St.-Pierre St.-Julien
Château Talbot St.-Julien
Château Branaire-Ducru St.-Julien
Château Duhart-Milon Rothschild Pauillac
Château Pouget Cantenac-Margaux (now Margaux)
Château La Tour Carnet St.-Laurent (now Haut-Médoc)
Château Lafon-Rochet St.-Estèphe
Château Beychevelle St.-Julien
Château Prieuré-Lichine Cantenac-Margaux ( now Margaux)
Château Marquis de Terme Margaux
Fifth-Growths / Cinquièmes Crus
Château Pontet-Canet Pauillac
Château Batailley Pauillac
Château Haut-Batailley Pauillac
Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste Pauillac
Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse Pauillac
Château Lynch Bages Pauillac
Château Lynch-Moussas Pauillac
Château Dauzac Labarde (now Margaux)
Château Mouton-Baronne-Philippe (Château d'Armailhac after 1989) Pauillac
Château du Tertre Arsac (now Margaux)
Château Haut-Bages Libéral Pauillac
Château Pédesclaux Pauillac
Château Belgrave St.-Laurent (now Haut-Médoc)
Château Camensac St.-Laurent (now Haut-Médoc)
Château Cos Labory St.-Estèphe
Château Clerc Milon Pauillac
Château Croizet-Bages Pauillac
Château Cantemerle Macau (now Haut-Médoc)
1855 Classification of Sauternes and Barsac

Great First-Growth / Grand Premier Cru
Château d'Yquem Sauternes
First-Growths / Premières Crus
Château La Tour Blanche Bommes (now Sauternes)
Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey Bommes (now Sauternes)
Clos Haut-Peyraguey  Bommes (Sauternes)
Château de Rayne Vigneau Bommes (now Sauternes)
Château Suduiraut Preignac (now Sauternes)
Château Coutet Barsac
Château Climens Barsac
Château Guiraud Sauternes
Château Rieussec Fargues (now Sauternes)
Château Rabaud-Promis Bommes (now Sauternes)
Château Sigalas Rabaud Bommes (now Sauternes)
Second-Growths / Deuxièmes Crus
Château Myrat  Barsac
Château Doisy Daëne Barsac
Château Doisy-Dubroca Barsac
Château Doisy-Védrines Barsac
Château d'Arche Sauternes
Château Filhot Sauternes
Château Broustet Barsac
Château Nairac Barsac
Château Caillou Barsac
Château Suau Barsac
Château de Malle Preignac (now Sauternes)
Château Romer  Fargues (now Sauternes)
Château Lamothe Sauternes

It's interesting how many Sauternes and Barsacs were included and shows how sweet wines were so popular back in the 19th century.

Looking at this list again after many years reminds me of the great wines I've been lucky enough to drink and some of the chateaux that I've visited. I reminisced on this so bear with me here or scroll down a few paragraphs to the main part of the post.

In the First Growth list of reds I've drunk all of those from numerous vintages and have visited Lafite, Margaux, Haut Brion and Mouton-Rothschild,
In the Second Growth list I've drunk all from various vintages and have visited  Rausan-Ségla, Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande and Cos d'Estournel.
In the Third Growth list I've drunk all of various vintages except Desmirail and Marquis d'Alesme-Becker which I've never seen. I've visited Kirwan, Lagrange, Giscours, La Lagune and Palmer.
The Fourth Growths are less familiar to me but I've drunk all of them. I've only visited Prieuré-Lichine and Beychevelle.
Of the Fifth Growths I've drunk most but am unfamiliar with Lynch-Moussas, Dauzac, and Pédesclaux. I've only visited Lynch Bages and Clerc Milon.

The sweet wines are a bit of a mystery to me. I've enjoyed a few vintages of Château d'Yquem, Haut-Peyraguey, Suduiraut, Filhot, Coutet, Climens and Rieussec and the odd bottle of Lamothe, Nairac and Caillou but some of the others I've never seen. I've never visited any of the chateaux in Sauternes or Barsac.

Anyway - back to Chateau Palmer.
The1855 Classification ranked Palmer as a third growth.
In recent times Palmer is seen by all wine aficionados as a greater wine than this ranking and is known as a 'super second'. Even this unofficial ranking isn't high enough with many believing that if the 1855 classification were to be redone then Palmer would be a first growth.

The Classification was the making of many chateaux and the unmaking of others. After release of it the pricing (bulk at that stage) was determined by the ranking and those ranked highly secured the highest prices. This is still seen today with first growth bottles being valued at two, three or four times higher than second and third growth bottles and fourth and fifth growth valued lower. Still expensive but cheaper. The high prices commanded by bulk (barrels) and bottle has enabled those chateaux higher on the ranking scale to invest more in land, vines, production facilities and winemaking and have been able to continually improve. Many of the lower classed wines have suffered comparatively and now will never reach the giddy heights of the first growths and the 'super seconds'

Palmer consistently commands prices higher than all of the other third growth wines and most of the second growths. It has a reputation of greater quality consistency than many if not all of its peers and, in great years has outdone first growths in ranking. One of those great years was 1961 which is legendary having been a perfect growing season combined with lower yields and resultant more intense and concentrated wines that have lasted to this day. 

Wine Legend: Château Palmer 1961

Stephen Brook of Decanter in 2017 had this to say about 1961 Palmer:


Brook says:
"A legend because…
Although it was not immediately apparent, this vintage would propel Palmer into the top ranks of the Médoc. Within two decades the price of this third growth rivalled, and in some cases exceeded, that of the first growths. To this day it is not entirely clear why Palmer should have performed so magnificently in this vintage. But it was no fluke: the 1962 was also a great wine. The fame of the Palmer may have been amplified by the fact that the other major player in the village, Château Margaux, was underperforming in the 1960s."
I can attest to that . I've tried 1961 Palmer in formal wine tasting situations and at the chateau with the owners. Both times it was magnificent.


In the early 1990s my partner (Her Indoors) and I were guests of Peter and Diana Sichel, co-owners of Chateau Palmer at the time. We were being entertained at their home Chateau Angludet and were 
preparing to go and dine at the nearby Chateau Palmer. 

Chateau Palmer is (or certainly was  at that time) unoccupied but the dining room had been prepared and staff on hand to cater to dinner. There were six of us - the Sichels, Her Indoors and me and the CEO of a UK brewery and his wife. We had an elegant dinner with a Bordeaux white wine and two vintages of Palmer.

Peter brought out two bottles of 1961, carefully decanted them and unceremoniously served them with the main (lamb). This is the way I like to drink Bordeaux or indeed and good red wine - with a good meal. The wine was sumptuous, the food great and the company stimulating and interesting.
We relished the wine and, with my third glassful I held some back to savour it. Discussion of course was on the wine and the vintage and Peter enthused about recent vintages and went to get a couple of bottles of 1989 Palmer. He quickly uncorked and decanted and poured us all a glass. That wine was excellent. Young (at that time the current release), very highly rated as most of the 1989s were and continuing the recent tradition of Palmer quality. Peter went around the table topping up glasses and I had left my half glass of 1961  on the table and had the 1989 in my hand out of sight. The 1961 was topped up with the 1989. I didn't comment but saw that Diana Sichel had noticed. She caught my eye and raised an eyebrow, I smiled and shrugged and swirled and sipped the new blend. I didn't make a fuss to spoil a great moment. The resultant combination was an explosion of flavour in my mouth. The silky 1961 which was outstanding in its own right was boosted by the powerful and rich 1989. I'm a proponent of blending wines at table and particularly in refreshing older wines with younger vintages. 

This was a great dining experience and one fondly remembered.

Peter died in 1998 and his sons run the family business now including Chateau Palmer.