Friday, May 30, 2008


There's some guy who posts to this site and others connected to it called the Grumpy Old Guy. I have my suspicions who it might be and he may reveal himself later (Tony?)
Anyway, some of his gripes do hit home. One of mine is the variability of servings you get in wine bars and restaurants when ordering by the glass. I fully understand the financials involved in running a business and how important it is to correctly work out cost of goods and overheads when working out selling costs but some operators forget about the most important ingredient- consumer satisfaction. Basically this is the equity in a business, the certainty of someone coming back again to buy your stuff. The poor operators use tiny glasses with minimal pours. As a consumer I feel cheated. Better operators use bigger glasses but often instruct their staff to pour out 100ml pours which come up to about a third of the glass. Most people feel cheated. The best operators use a sensible sized glass that they fill to about a half (don't measure it like in a chemistry experiment) and everyone from wine knowledeable person to casual drinker feels well done by. Unfortunately these guys are rare (although probably the most successful).
Just a footnote though: Ethnic restaurants (Chinese, Thai,Indian, some Italian,etc) usually use small glasses but tend to fill them right up to the brim. While not looking very good and a wine knowledgable person cannot swirl and sniff, you can get a hell-of-a-lot more wine by the glass this way and sometimes (not always) it's not bad wine.


Well, you need a post title to get attention don't you. This accurately describes La Boheme though which Lynn and I went to last night. It was pretty good with some great performances. Rodolfo (Jesus Garcia) has a wonderful voice but it seemed a bit light against the music (Auckland Philharmonia )- probably all those double basses droning away in the back.
For me the show was spoilt by the sets. I don't mind modern settings in opera as long as they fit the music and story. In this case in Act 1 the poet and painter are supposed to be freezing in their apartment in winter and Rodolfo burns one of his manuscripts to keep warm. The set though looked like a student flat that while scruffy, had warm looking light and Rodolfo had written his script on an Apple laptop - so the poignancy was lost. Maybe I'm being picky but sometimes designers can just be too clever for themselves.
Overall it was a great evening - we love opera in New Zealand because the quality can be right up there but everything is done in a nice realaxed provincial style. Some people dress up in evening gear and look ridiculous but most just dress tidily (with a little bit of glitz) Nice.
Where's the wine in this? Well they drank wine (and vodka) pretty freely on stage.
Aotea Centre have given their wine contract to Pernod Ricard (aka Montana)so a nice cross section of Montana, Corbans, Stoneleigh, Lindauer and Deutz are available. We had Montana Reserve Chardonnay 2006 and this time didn't spill it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Could it be Chardonnay?
Actually who gives a toss. I only used Lewis' name so I could put the Christine Keeler photo in my Post, you know, the one with her sitting naked in a reversed chair. I have always liked this.
It is Morley's most famous photo but strangely one he dislikes. He said that he thought Keeler was not very attractive.

Monday, May 26, 2008


"You go to the supermarket and stop by some shelves offering French and German wine. You buy a bottle of French wine. After going through the checkout you are asked what made you choose that bottle of wine. You say something like "It was the right price", or "I liked the label". Did you notice the French music playing as you took it off the shelf? You probably did. Did it affect your choice of wine? No, you say, it didn't.
That's funny because on the days we play French music nearly 80% of people buying wine from those shelves choose French wine, and on the days we play German music the opposite happens"

This study was done by Adrian North and colleagues from the University of Leicester. They played traditional French (accordion music) or traditional German (a Bierkeller brass band - oompah music) music at customers and watched the sales of wine from their experimental wine shelves, which contained French and German wine matched for price and flavour. On French music days 77% of the wine sold was French, on German music days 73% was German - in other words, if you took some wine off their shelves you were 3 or 4 times more likely to choose a wine that matched the music than wine that didn't match the music.

Pretty scary eh.
I wonder what that deep C Bass music from the other side of the universe is doing to wine selection. Probably explains why so many people buy that bloody awful Pinot Gris.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I feel guilty.
I went supermarket shopping today and they had a wine sale on. I bought a lot of wine at ridiculously low prices.
Why do I feel guilty? Because I know that these guys are brand-fuckers, destroying the brand equity by heavily discounting to between $6 and $12 a bottle (below their cost in some cases).
Whose equity were they smashing this time? - Selaks, Nobilo, Shingle Peak, Taylors, Mortons, Seifried, Ngatarawa, Wolf Blass, Villa Maria to name a few and because some of these were 'clearance' lines with discounts like "now $17, was $31" I took advantage like a good little robot shopper.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Years ago, when I first joined the wine and spirit industry I went out on the delivery round with a chap named Liam. He was showing me where the regular customers lived and we would both carry in the booze (in those days there was a 9 litre minimum limit when purchasing any alcohol from a wholesaler (todays Liquorland-type retail)so the cheapest way for someone to buy a bottle of gin or scotch was to buy a dozen quart bottles of beer to go with it.
When we reached Mrs McGillacuddy's (name changed because I can't remember her real name), Liam said he would stay in the truck and check the dockets.
I didn't think anything unnusual about this as I was young and naive so went up to the door and knocked. An old woman, very skinny and heavily made-up answered the door wearing some kind of lacy dressing gown. I mumbled that I had her order here and told her the price. She asked me to bring the carton in and put it in the back room which I did. I then reminded her of the money and she said of course dearie and opened her dressing gown wide. She wore nothing underneath except a garter around the top of a skinny thigh and proceeded to pull money from it. I was desperately trying not to look but couldn't help seeing a flash of grey pubic hair. I fumbled with the change, giving her too much, and ran out of there.
Liam was sitting in the truck convulsed with laughter. Bastard.

Friday, May 16, 2008


When we were kids we had all sorts of fantasies both healthy and unhealthy.
One of mine, and I'm sure of many others was to be invisible.
The advantages were numerous and included robbing banks, avoiding boring people and sneaking into the girls' changing rooms at the swimming baths.
Well, it seems that I have now achieved this feat - Invisibility that is.
All I had to do was to grow older. Now that I'm in my mid-50's I can go totally unnoticed in many public places especially clothing stores and trendy bars.
Last night Gary and I played our weekly game of snooker having restored the custom after an absence of several months. Usually, after an hour of snooker we go across the road to the Diablo wine bar for a couple of glasses of wine. Unfortunately the Diablo has closed down (they really must have needed our regular custom) and a new greek taverna is being built. At a loss for where to go we went to the Grange (formerly the Living Room) a place we didn't frequent because the service was always too slow (lots of staff but a ridiculous computerised till system that took ages to process a simple order - great for inventory management I assume but probably cost them business).
The usual long wait happenned in trying to order 2 glasses of wine at the bar (same till system in place)with four barmen processing 2 orders for tap beer. We waited and waited until I waved a $50 note high in the air and finally attracted some sevice. The wines we ordered were not available ("sorry but we are in the process of changing our wine list" - well why bloody have the unavailable ones still in the list then! Anyway that excuse in the industry usually means that they haven't paid their bill to their regular supplier and are looking for another one)so we had to don miners helmets again to try and read the complicated wine list in near darkness.
Having consumed our first glass and deciding on our customary second one we debated leaving to go somewhere else (the noise level was too high (Juice TV from 2 screens up loud - interestingly the third flatscreen tv was playing a video of Jancis Robinson MW talking about wine but the sound was off which made for unnusual viewing watching La Tache being poured to the sound of Panic at the Disco) but as I had sent a text to Lynn to meet us there we were forced to stay.
I went up to the bar to buy our pre-decided on wines and once again there were four barmen behind the bar. One was wiping glasses and three (yes 3) were serving a pretty blonde girl. I waited next to the blonde girl and even though I was taller (and wider at certain angles)I realised that I was invisible to them. As I was also invisible to the blonde girl in question I was able to sneak appreciative glances at her.
After a while I tried the waving dollars (2 x $20 bills) but to no effect such was the appeal of the blonde who was ordering two of the cheap house wine so I said Fuck this and started to walk off. One of the 4 turned out to be the duty manager who called me back and told his staff to serve me. It ended up that he and two others served me (ending up doubling the order) and he offered me free meatballs which I declined.
I watched the way the bar was run while we had our second glass and noticed in addition to the 4 barmen, at least as many other staff wandering around the place (serving food etc but often standing around) and wondered how they made any money and how long the new lot would last.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


2nd Fiddle suggested the food and wine combination of NZ Wine and Fish and Chips.
Well, we have this most Fridays (hangover from a Catholic upbringing).
The best wine I have had with Fish 'n' Chips was Krug Vintage Champagne.
When I ran a specialist wine company one of the Champagne agencies we had was Krug.
One Friday evening when the overseas principal was in town, as we had way surpassed our sales budgets he wanted to reward our sales team with dinner.
As it was a superb Spring day, and as I didn't want the wine(s) to be dominated by food I suggested Fish and Chips (it was Friday after all).
We (about 7 of us)went to Mission Bay in Auckland and ordered (very good) fish 'n' chips at a great fish and chip shop that had tables to sit at and drank Krug non vintage and Krug vintage (lots of bottles).
This was in about 1991 and at the time Krug was the most expensive Champagne (still is) at about 80 bucks NV and 120 bucks vintage.
Nowadays the prices are about 260 bucks NV and nearly 400 bucks vintage


I was accosted on the street the other day by someone raising money for Myanmar.
I said that we give to Women's Refuge, Mental Health Foundation, Red Cross, our local Hospice, Salavation Army, Selwyn Village, Food Bank and other worthy causes and didn't think that contributing the equivalent of a couple of bowls of rice that will inevitably sit in storage somewhere growing weevils awaiting the bastard rulers of Myanmar to get their act together would make any difference! Blank stare was the response.
The result though, as it always is, was guilt.
At home, when I looked in the fridge to finish off that bottle of Pinot Noir that was there, I poured half a glass and put it in the back of the cupboard for Myanmar - just in case.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Robert, at long last there is a drink for you - BALANCE Purified water with pictures of Jesus and his Mum and stuff.
Great marketing this and should sell like crazy to all those religious nuts out there. For every christian shocked by it there will be a blasphemer like Richard who will buy it and put Chardonnay in it - which made me think - where is the Jesus wine.
Maybe I should create one.
Unfortunately bad taste has preceeded me as I discovered there were many of them already (see pics)

Sunday, May 11, 2008


I shopped at NOSH Ponsonby yesterday and it was a very pleasant experience.
I called in to buy some pasta (Linguini) and some vegetables and was offered a glass of wine whilst browsing.
On offer for tasting was Trinity Hill (Hawkes Bay) Chardonnay 2007 (new vintage release).
In front of me were two old tarts (well, older than me anyway). When tasting the Chardonnay one of them made a sour face like Britt Eklund's 'trout pout' (as a result of bad cosmetic surgery - see pic). The woman conducting the tasting said that she had been told that this was a very good Chardonnay. The 'trout pout' lady said rather pompously " obviously that is wrong as this is a terrible wine and I should know as I am a regular wine drinker".
The host caught my eye to see if I agreed with her and I just winked. When the blue-rinse 'tarts' moved away I told the host that I thought the wine was superb and , in the hearing of the other two said I would buy 3 bottles. This pleased her.
The wine is made by John Hancock one of the country's best Chardonnay makers. It is 2007 vintage and as such has a touch of acid (malic and tartaric) which will integrate with time - say 6 months or more. This is what 'trout pout' noticed but unfortunately she was unable to recognise the other elements in the wine (fruit, nice wood etc).
At the check-out counter I was surprised to learn that the wine was on special (15.95), I was given a free cloth carry bag (the type supermarkets charge you for) and that for every one bottle of wine bought that day they were giving away a free 3-pack of Sola wine spritzer.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Richard (of Richard's Bass Bag) and other music professionals guide us in what we should listen to and that is appreciated as we non-professionals have a lot to learn - thank you.
Sometimes though, there is some music that we 'shouldn't listen to' that just hits the spot.
Tonight while cooking my version of spaghetti Bolognase (lots of spices, herbs and other ingredients not found in the regular recipe) I tuned the TV to a music station (63) and was surprised to get an eclectic assortment of music including Sade, Roy Orbison (Blue Bayou) and Sting (with a big Soul/R&B backing).
Anyway, Led Zeppelin (1971) performed Stairway to Heaven and it was great. Nostalgic - yes, forbidden pleasures -yes again, and although not pc on many many levels I enjoyed it (extended version with Jimmy orgasming with his double necked guitar).
I opened a bottle of Drylands 2006 Chardonnay just before LZ came on. Boy, what a perfect match. This wine label has been around a while (1996) and every year is a winner. The wine doesn't have to get better, it just is always good. The 2006 Chardonnay I am drinking (Gold Medal winner National Wine Competition) is beautifully balanced with fruit, alcohol and wood combining to give a sweet sensation.
It went perfectly with the sweet sounds and sweeter memories brough back by Led Zeppelin.
Adult version of kiddy-stuff both!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


I went to the K.D.Laing concert last night with Lynn (the only straight woman there I think).
It is the second time we have seen KD and whilst it was not as compelling as last time there were some absolutely amazing renditions (Cohen's Halleluja and Young's Helpless) and a feeling that this woman's voice just gets better.
I tried to concentrate on the double bass player for Richard's sake (Richard of Richard's Bass Bag blog fame) and felt that he was pretty good -seemingly the most accomplished of the musicians. KD introduced him later as a composer and arranger so I guess he must know what he is doing.
The drummer had a feather in his cap so I assumed that he must have done something good previously.
I took in a plastic cup of Deutz methode but one of the wimmin from Grey Lynn knocked it over and spilled it - never mind eh!

Spill the wine and take that pearl, Spill the wine and take that pearl
Spill the wine and take that pearl, Spill the wine and take that pearl

Friday, May 2, 2008


To continue the wine/car theme my dream car is Maserati Quattroporte. This elegant and understated car, to me, represents the best that the Italian designers can do. This is a powerful beast virtually disguised as a family sedan - no flashy Ferrari or ostentatious Lamborguini this.
The 4.2 litre, 6-speed would surprise any boy-racers that want to take you on.
Less than 6,000 of these are made each year.

To match this car my dream wine would be Le Montrachet. This rich, luxuriant Chardonnay has aromas of honeysuckle and wood spice followed by concentrated, and complex, silky flavours.
It is very rare with bottles produced measuring in the thousands rather than millions.
It has been said that when drinking Le Montrachet one should be on ones knees with head bowed. This is the Queen of Chardonnay and I am lucky to have drunk this (with Lynn who insisted on having half!).

Unfortunately Maseratis are very expensive (over $200,000) and Le Montrachet will set you back over $400 a bottle. I've drunk the Le Montrachet and sat in a Quattroporte but won't be buying either in the near future.

What I do have is my 1998 Rover 620ti which I consider a poor man's Quattroporte (and it also has 4 doors!).
The Rover 620ti (turbo) is a rare and understated car.
It has super performance due to the turbo but looks like a family sedan - again one that surprises the boy-racers in their Imprezza's and various Evo's when they take off at the lights. We have rarely been beaten (not that we are reckless of course).
The 4.2 litre, 295kw Quattroporte has a fantastic 5.6 second 0 to 100 kph performance yet the mere 2 litre, 149kw 620ti achieves 0 to 100 kph in a mere 7 seconds. As I said Maserati Quattroportes will cost over $200k, my Rover 620ti was $48k new in 1998.

I won't spend (anymore) $400 for a bottle of wine so I match my Rover with a very good New Zealand Chardonnay - Rose Tree Cottage.
This Gisborne-sourced wine comes from a single estate (Dixon Estate) that has a great track record having produced many Gold Medal and Trophy winning wines over the years. I love it and so does Lynn (unfortunately). It is available from good wine shops for about $25.
The name 'Rose Tree Cottage' comes from a pioneering 2 story cottage in Rapaura, Marlborough owned by William Robinson my great-great grandfather, the site now of Drylands winery. William owned over 2000 acres of (now) prime Marlborough vine-land in Rapaura (there is of course a great Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and a Marlborough Pinot Noir in the Rose Tree Cottage line up).