Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Iceland is one of the harshest lanscapes on earth and the newest habitable landmass - kind of like Rangitoto Island. It is also one of the coldest countries (the highest recorded temperature was 30.5 C and the lowest - 38C)
Iceland is the most developed society in the world, ranked first on the United Nations' Human Development Index. Icelanders are the second longest-living nation with a life expectancy at birth of 81.8 years.
Iceland is the fourth most productive country in the world by nominal gross domestic product per capita and the fifth most productive by GDP.
Everything is expensive in Iceland but the country has one of the most egalitarian taxing systems in the world and a superb social welfare sysyem.
Did I mention it is cold?
It is cold and Icelanders drink lots of alcohol to help keep the cold out (and their blood from freezing?)
Journalist A.A. Gill said that Iceland has the most beautiful women in the world (and, fortunately for all us blokes, the ugliest men).
So, do they drink wine - yes, mostly red wines.
Do they drink too much - probably but all that red wine is good for their health. Interestingly Icelanders have voted against supermarkets selling hard liquor. They are lucky to have the vote. In New Zealand at the moment the megamaniacal Australian-owned Woolworths chain is lobbying to get the right to sell spirits (read RTD's and alcoholic sodas) in their Foodtown, Woolworths and Countdown supermarkets. We won't get a say in this even if we object because our politicians (the same prats who brought down the drinking age) will make the decision.
OK - Ice Wine. Made from grapes like Kerner, Rulander, Muller Thurgau, Riesling, Vidal, Gewurtztraminer etc, principally in Germany (Eiswein), Austria, Canada, California and New Zealand it is so named because (in Canada and Germany) grapes are left to ripen way into cold conditions and can freeze on the vine. The frozen grapes are harvested and crushed while frozen and the frozen water component separated from the remaining concentrated juice. The result is a sweeter, more luscious wine than would otherwise have been produced.
In California and New Zealand, ripe grapes are harvested, crushed and then the juice frozen and ice particles racked off producing the same result. The Germans and Canadians don't like this process and have taken steps to prohibit such wines being marketed in Europe, Canada and USA labelled as Ice Wine.
If the Icelanders were to drink German Eiswein or Canadian Icewine they would probably have to pay the eqivalent of NZD 400 a bottle for it (their taxes are high and these wines start out expensive also).
In New Zealand we can drink Selaks Ice Wine (still allowed to be labelled as such in New Zealand) 375ml for about $14 a bottle (would probably be about $60 in Rekjavik).
I'd rather be in New Zealand with the second most beautiful women in the world!

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Oz and James' Big Wine Adventures (Prime Sundays, 7PM) is a wine programme with a difference. That difference is fun.
I'm not saying the programme is great as it is full of flaws, but what wine oriented programmes and films are not (Sideways with its central theme of disparaging Merlot in favour of Pinot Noir ended with a tribute to Chateau Cheval Blanc which is almost 50% Merlot - or was that an in-joke?).
Tonights episode had a fun challenge (anathema to wine snobs) of matching a car to a wine. This was great and takes the piss whilst still making some sense (e.g. matching a Champagne to a classic Jaguar).
Well done OJBWA

Thursday, April 24, 2008


The liquor Industry, including winemaking, over the years has been male dominated. In some sectors it still is particularly in corporates with male executives taking up most of the key positions. Hopefully this will change.
In winemaking though there have been pleasant changes over the years with some of the best wines being made by women e.g Fiona Donald from Australia, Lalou Bize-Leroy from Burgundy, the Faller women from Alsace, Coralie Pignalelli della Leonessa from Tuscany, Helen Turley from California and our own Jules Taylor and Michelle Richardson from New Zealand.
More power to them and keep making wine sexy!


I went to a tasting of French country wines the other day and was pleasantly surprised at the offerings.
Years ago French country wines (known as Vin de Pays) were generally those that hadn't made the grade or were from non-officially approved regions (AOC) and were simple and cheap.
The ones I tried were not simple and certainly not cheap (ranged from $30 to $90 per bottle).
There is at long last a movement in France by progressive winemakers to circumvent the oppressive wine regulations and to try and make great wines unrestrained by the official requirements of grape varietal and blending practices - kind of like in Italy when the 'Super Tuscans' were created.
Vive La Resistance!
(this will probably set Robert off on another tangent and blog name)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Lynn and I get some funny looks sometimes in wine bars and restaurants when we play around with our wine(s).

Sometimes, when we each order a different glass of wine, if one or both are not up to scratch we mix them both together and generally find that the sum is better than one or even both of them.

The wines don't have to be of the same varietal or even colour within limitations.

Riesling and Gewurtztraminer is an easy and very acceptable mix but a thin Chardonnay is helped by addition of Pinot Gris, Riesling or Viognier (and any Pinot Gris is improved with the addition of something else).

If we have a screwcap bottle of wine that is 'stinky' (too much SO2 added can cause this) we tip the whole lot out into a water jug and pour it back into the bottle. This 'decanting' usually gets rid of the offensive odour and aerates the wine as well making it a more enjoyable drink.

If we have a glass of wine that has a bit of sulphur stink in it we drop a copper coin in it which 'cleans' the wine (modern coins are not made of copper, I have a 1908 farthing that does the job).

As I said in the beginning we get funny looks from staff and other diners who seem to think that wine is delicate and precious and has to be treated reverently.

[Have you ever seen one of thos prats with a wine cradle (a sort of basket thing with a handle that a wine is laid in and carefully poured out at an almost horizontal angle? These things should be in museums. The initial function of these (and decanting which I will get to) was to carefully pour the wine while leaving behind the sediment that old (usually) red wines threw. This was done often if a wine hadn't been stood (taken from the cellar where it was horizontal and carefully stood upright one to two days before opening to enable the sediment to slide down the bottle and accumulate at the bottom) long enough or not decanted (carefully poured out from the bottle into a decanter, leaving the sediment behind).

Modern wines generally don't need decanting as they have been thoroughly filtered and are often drunk young. Decanting was once a ritual where a candle was held up to the neck of a bottle whilst being poured into a decanter, to see when sediment began to slide out. Fortunately, this is no longer necessary with proper lighting and a simple funnel will do the trick. For the rare wines that need decanting (very old wines, unfiltered wines and vintage ports) I have a silver funnel that does the job brilliantly. I simply pour the wine through the funnel into a decanter and the highly polished silver catches the light and I can see when sediment begins to show in the wine.]

Those prats who handle wine like it is fragile and who disapprove of others 'cavalier' approach should visit a winery where winemakers merrily pump wine from barrels into tanks, from tanks into barrels or generally all over the place through big black rubber hoses. They also blend all sorts of other wines into the main wine (current regulations in NZ is for wine to be 85% what it says on the label) and generally bugger around with it. Don't get me wrong, they are very proud of the wines they make and know that it is going to sell at premium prices, but reverential... no.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I have been doing Jury duty the last week and a half (still not finished). It is very demanding due to the high degree of concentration required so I feel quite tired in the evenings.
Anyway...what I want to say is that when it came to sharing personal details with the other 11 and me telling them that I work in the wine industry, it was almost unanimous (doubt if we will get that lucky when it comes to the deliberations) in requests for free wine. Generally the conversation went along the lines of.." maybe we can have a party and you can bring all the wine being the Wine Guy".
This is not the first time that I've heard this over the years, in fact it has become quite normal. It's kind of like when someone introduces themselves as a doctor and some twat invariably asks about their back complaint or rash.
The thing is though, no-one ever seems to expect free music lessons from a musician, free plumbing work from a plumber or free chicken shit from a fertiliser salesman!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Wine and Religion have been linked for ages.
Most know about the Wedding of Caana, where Jesus reputedly turned water into wine (a thing that many New Zealand winemakers did in the 1960's and 70's before more stringent legislation limited the use of the black hose) and of the many references to wine in the Bible and other religious writings.
Which brings me to Robert's (Roberts thoughts blog) latest blog where he says:

Maybe you and I are here because God had a vision of something beautiful. Maybe He wanted to share His happiness. Maybe He wanted to impart Himself into us so we could share his bliss.

Maybe what Robert meant, and he does misspell things, was ".... so we could share his piss" (piss being a colloquialism for alcohol) and that God was drinking wine (Chardonnay?), lots of it, and in his largess, having seen a beautiful vision, wanted to share his wine with us.
Seems reasonable to me given that if God is the Creator then he has plenty of the stuff to share around. What beats me though is that if he is all knowing, why did he create that godawful Pinot Gris that everyone is drinking nowadays

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Richard (Richard's Bass Bagg) sounded a little bit down in his last blog.
He did mention wine though amidst his philosophising so here is an appropriate drinking song for him to help cheer him up.

The Philosopher's Song (Monty Python)

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant who was very rarely stable.
Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar who could think you under the table.
David Hume could out-consume Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel,
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine who was just as schloshed as Schlegel.
There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach ya''Bout the raising of the wrist.
John Stuart Mill, of his own free will, on half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.
Plato, they say, could stick it away; half a crate of whiskey every day.
Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle,Hobbes was fond of his dram,
And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart: "I drink, therefore I am"
Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed;
a lovely little thinker but a bugger when he's pissed