Tuesday, December 29, 2009

GOOD-BYE CHARDONNAY HELLO RIESLING


I go through phases of the type of wine I drink. Over the last year my drink of choice has been Chardonnay. We in New Zealand are pretty lucky with our Chardonnay choices with many companies making pretty reasonable ones and there not being too many bad ones about. Sure, some are indifferent but the price points are often a warning to keep away from them (you won't get a decent Chardonnay below $10 unless it is hugely discounted). Of the rest some decent drinking can be found in the $12 plus area covering unwooded, lightly wooded through to properly barrel aged variants. As regards Chardonnays from other countries some careful selection is needed. We don't see a lot of good Chardonnay from France here. What is coming in is very expensive (avoid the cheaper ones). Australian Chardonnays are simple and blowsy at the cheap end and big and over-wooded at the top end. Careful selection in the middle can turn up some nicely balanced wines but these all have a 'tropical' character that is not as satisfying as a good 'stone-fruit' New Zealand style. Californian Chardonnays are at the extreme end of the Australian style and good South American and South African Chardonnays are seldom seen.
My drink of choice over the Summer will be Riesling again as it has been over the last couple of years. Good Riesling is refreshing and satisfying in a way that few other wines can be outside of Champagne or good Methode Champenoise. Riesling is versatile with dry, medium-dry and medium styles all being of high quality. There is a range of alcohol options also so a lunch-time or afternoon choice can be a wine with less than 10% alcohol by volume. There are some very good German wines available that cover a range of styles and most are at the lower alcohol end. Australian Rieslings, particularly those from the Clare Valley are good albeit very dry and austere, but once again New Zealand Rieslings offer the best value for money and price:quality ratio. The best New Zealand Rieslings are from the South Island (although Martinborough can produce some stunners). There are plenty of good Marlborough ones but I prefer the Waipara style. The best ones like Fiddlers Green are rich and luscious but with a refreshing and elegant edge to them. Try them if you haven't already. You will be amazed.

Monday, December 21, 2009

COOKING


I watched Nigella Lawson making cocktails, soups and desserts earlier this evening.
Actually, I can't remember much about the dishes as I was just watching Nigella Lawson.
She is an incredibly beautiful woman. Her beauty though is not just 'skin-deep' and of course critics would say that she is now larger than life because of her appreciation of good food and wine. No, Nigella has a wonderful hedonistic appreciation of the good things in life and doesn't give a hoot about any critic's view of this. When drizzling a Stilton and cream topping onto a rich roasted vegetable soup she said " I know that this is very 80's but who cares" (or something like that). I like that.
As I prepared dinner (spaghetti Bolognaise for me and roasted potatoes, mini-sausages and peas for my visiting sister who thinks that spaghetti is way too exotic), I opened a bottle of Stonehaven Reserve Shiraz 2001 (Padthaway). Now this is a classic Australian wine but it was showing a bit of age. Still classy but getting a bit blowsy (aren't we all). In the best Nigella tradition I opened a bottle of 2007 Tempranillo (Altovela from La Mancha) and mixed it up with the Stonehaven. The result - sensuous and sinewy older Shiraz with robust and vibrant Tempranillo. Lawson would have approved.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT


I would like the New Zealand wine industry to 'stick to the knitting' and do what it does best - make the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world, some of the most exciting Chardonnays and keep improving on the Pinot Noir offerings. We are still underdone in producing and marketing these varietals as well as the 'waiting in the wings' Riesling, Gewurztraminer and the Bordeaux blends.
Often too much resource is wasted on that godawful Pinot Gris and every now and then wine writers get all excited about emerging varietals like Viognier. Arneis is like this but perhaps has the advantage of being essentially an interesting enough varietal to justify experimentation and to be on offer from boutique producers.

The grape is Italian in origin from Piedmont in the north of Italy where it makes elegant white wines that have an almond and peach character. While it is made for white wine consumption it is mostly used as blending material with the more famous Nebbiolo red grape. Arneis generally tastes of pears, peaches and apples with a floral aroma and a slightly herbal edge. It often has the aforementioned almond character.

There are a few producers in the upper North Island growing Arneis and some interesting results have been seen.
Last night I opened a 2007 Kim Crawford 'Doug's Arneis' from Gisborne.
The wine was dry but had a fullness about it which came from the small amounts of Riesling and Gewurztraminer that have been added.
It had a beautiful pale green colour. There definitely was an almond character amidst the lovely floral aroma. The flavour was astounding - rich pears and peaches but with some nice citrus edges. With no oak ageing the wine was nevertheless full and powerful and almost chewy. It is well worth seeking out.

Now I hope that we don't get too excited about the prospects for Arneis and plant too much of it as has happened with Pinot Gris. I hope that it doesn't become a 'shelf-warmer' like Viognier, but I do hope that a few boutique producers continue to make some. I know that Kim Crawford is not a boutique producer. The brand is owned by Constellation NZ and produces hundreds of thousands of cases (mainly Sauvignon Blanc which is spot on), but the Kim Crawford viticulturists have traditionally kept in touch with very good growers like Doug and Delwyn Bell and manage to secure very small parcels of incredibly good fruit to add mystery and quality to their brand's offerings.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

...WHERE EVERYONE GETS A BARGAIN




New Zealand must be the worst country in the world for retail sophistication.
Most differentiation between similar retail traders is on price. It is all price off, cheaper, on special etc. Just look at the stupid platform that stores like Bunnings operate on - "if you can find it cheaper elsewhere we will match the price". What crap. This ultimately means poor service because of reducing staff numbers or minimal wages paid (look at The Warehouse's current labour problem). It also means poor quality product as the cheapest produced items make up the bulk of the stock. Too frequent sales cycles is another problem. Kathmandu and Briscoes have given away franchise integrity by having 40% off sales. How can consumers believe that what they are buying is quality when this is the case and with the frequency no-one in their right mind would buy anything outside of a 'sale' period.
The wine industry has followed the same dreary path - lead by supermarkets. Now supermarkets set up the 'Wine Sale' concept a few years ago and found that there was a massive spike in sales. The frequency of the sales has increased to a point now when one of the chains is generally having a sale every couple of weeks. Once again anyone wanting to buy volumes of wine would be crazy to buy outside of the special cycles. The long-term result of this special ling though will be inferior product as wine companies will be forced to engineer the quality of the wine downwards to cut costs.

Now, for what I really want to say.
A week or so ago the National Wine competition results were published with details of the medal and trophy winning wines made available. A few years back these results were eagerly awaited by retailer and consumers. The retailer so as to secure the top wines and make good profit and to help leverage sales of other wines. Consumers to scramble to buy scarce and sought after product. Many years ago prices of trophy wines would inflate as some profiteering took place.
This year, as soon as the Gold Medal and Trophy wines were named several retailers (not supermarkets to blame this time) immediately advertised that the wines were on special at vastly reduced prices! How dumb is that? If we want to have a quality industry and to encourage winemakers to strive for the best this practice is self defeating.
Basically it is due to laziness and very pedestrian thinking. Retailers (of any sort) need to differentiate on all sorts of other things before price. Giving away margin is the simplest thing to do but ultimately the most costly as not only is the product being sold for less than it could or should be but brand franchise, store franchise and consumer loyalty are all put at risk.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

MYSTERY WINE


Well its not a real mystery as to who drunk it - The Curmudgeon did and didn't save me a drop. The wine is/was Selaks Founders Reserve 2007 Hawkes Bay Chardonnay. This is from fruit grown on the Corner 50 vineyard that Constellation NZ own close to the Gimblett Road area known as the Triangle. Chardonnay from here is always ripe and full with a delicious stonefruit character (as opposed to the more grapefruit characters found in plantings further south. Constellation are sourcing all of their North Island Chardonnay from here and some other Hawkes Bay sites due to the consistency from year to year and the now mature vines.
The fruit for this wine should have been (if I had got to try it) rich with peach and butterscotch flavours offset by strong oak characters. The Founders Chardonnay is always heavily wooded. In its early stage the wood is quite dominant which I assume was the case here and not quite in balance (I hope Curmudgeon choked on the splinters). With time - possibly another 12 months the wood will integrate nicely with the fruit.

Monday, October 26, 2009

ELEVATOR WINE


CUB's (Foster's) new cheap wine brand 'Half Mile Creek' was created to compete with Hardys cheap ranges and to clear the lake of ordinary wine that they have on their hands.
Obviously a designer brand, it is pitched at the bottom end of the market. Winemaking input basically ceased as soon as the grapes were crushed and the stuff was in the tanks. From then on it is an accountants headache and the marketers responsibility. I don't know how much brainstorming went into the name choice but the cynic in me thinks that it went along the lines of this....
Accountant: We've got 10 million litres of this stuff. What are we going to do with it".
Production Guy: "Well, there's a creek a half a mile down the hill, why not just leave the valves open"
Marketing Guy: "Bingo!. Half Mile Creek. The punters will love it".

The marketing team then develop the label and write all sorts of crap describing the wines. They are careful not to ask the winemakers for input and so come up with descriptions like .."It has zesty, citrus flavours and a crisp, dry finish" - Yeah right.

They give the game away when even their own website, on the page dedicated to Half Mile Creek can only come up with : " Half Mile Creek is not complicated - it is an easy drinking wine that is good quality and affordable. The wines are made from the best, most popular varieties and have a focus on full fruit flavours and drinkability. The whites are fresh and vibrant while the reds are rich and warming.
Welcome to Half Mile Creek - where we pour everything into our wines.

Yes, I bet they do pour everything into these wines - sugar, sulphides, acid etc.

On a discussion website the marketers say about the brand "Half Mile was about taking out the confusion from the wine category and making it easier for people who have a small base knowledge of wine. With 5500 stockists selling Half Mile, the wine's drinkers don't necessarily have a great deal of expertise and tended to make their decisions on pricing and brand recognition".

CUB marketing director Steve Arthurson relaunched the wine in May with a substantial tasting program and a $1.1 million advertising campaign that gently poked fun at the snobbery surrounding wine - a direct pitch to those consumers who feel intimidated by wines in the upper price brackets but don't want to feel embarrassed at pulling it out at the barbecue.

This can be interpreted as "The schmucks we are targeting wouldn't know a good wine if they bit them on the arse so why not sell this stuff to them. We were only going to have to tip it out anyway".

Saturday, October 17, 2009

2003 HAWKES BAY VINTAGE


One of my many readers has asked about the 2003 vintage from Hawkes Bay. This reader is obviously a little slow off the mark. Either that or he has been duped by supermarkets into buying old wine on special that hasn't sold previously due to inferior winemaking or vintage conditions. Sadly the latter applied in this case. 2003 was a difficult year for grape growers and winemakers in Hawkes Bay. Spring brought late frosts that destroyed a lot of grape potential and diminished the quality and quantity of the remainder. The warm summer looked promising but a wet Autumn (when the grapes are picked) negated the advantages of ripeness. Wet picking conditions give grape growers a double whammy. Humidity accompanies rainy conditions and encourages rot and fungal diseases of the grapes - imparting musty and unwanted 'honeyish' characters. Rain also gathers in the bunches and when harvested has a dilution effect on the juice from the crush reducing the intensity of fruit flavours.
Not all wine from this vintage was poor. The best wines stemmed from careful vineyard maintenance and there were some superb examples. Careful vineyard maintenance however means high input costs so these wines are expensive, Remember that I said late Spring frosts also reduced quantity so the best wines were also scarce. It is highly unlikely that our reader discovered an exceptional 2003 Hawkes Bay wine on special at his supermarket. Well done that reader though in feeling confident to ask the question. Keep those queries coming in folks.

ROBBIE


One of the most unusual and entertaining regulars (non-student types) working at the wholesalers was Robbie. He seemed to live in his own world and would mutter to himself. He was very intelligent but chose not to do a lot with his gifts - not in a career way at least.He had a wry sense of humour and was the inventor of the 'bottled in the Wairarapa' phrase. We had an agency brandy named Gilsons which had a network of fine golden wire covering the bottle. When customers purchased it Robbie would proudly proclaim - "Gilsons, the only brandy bottled in the wire wrapper". Some customers smiled. Others looked at the bottle dubiously and chose another 'French' brandy instead like D'Orville or Chatelle.
Robbie was the only person there who wore the shopcoat - a kind of coat/overall that later I saw Arkwright wearing in 'Open All Hours'.

Friday, October 16, 2009

BIG IS GOOD


Richard in a recent blog post complained about the difficulty of reaching for a bottle of wine whilst holding on to his double bass.
I reckon that he's got his priorities wrong. He should be holding on to a double bass sized bottle and reaching for a ukulele. If he can't reach it nobody cares.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

DISCOVERIES


We're packing up our things for the move at present and discovering things we thought had long gone.
In the wine cellar I came across a bottle of Taylor's St Andrews Merlot 2001 of which I thought we had none left. This is a blockbuster of a wine and will suit Tom who is coming around to dinner tonight. That and a good Chardonnay and a good Pinot Noir will make for a nice evening (there will be 5 of us).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

WILLIE


Willie was 2 I.C. at the wholesalers. He was very efficient in the sense that he fussed about organising things all the time. Bruce of course was his boss but he thought that Bruce was too indulgent with the students particularly Richard. He tolerated Richard but didn't really like his humour. He suspected that Richard was behind the graffiti and the smashed ink marker pens (these left an interesting pattern when thrown at the concrete walls and ceiling in the warehouse. They smashed to smithereens because they were made of glass).Willie was very much interested in wine. While Bruce encouraged everyone to take a free bottle home each Saturday and try it to gain experience, he didn't seem to mind what was taken. Willie knew that the students would go straight for the Chateau bottled stuff. Willie 'encouraged' us to take 'interesting' new New Zealand wines. These were invariably made from Baco 22A (white) and Baco 1A (red). Think Bakano, Cresta Dore, 'Hocks', 'Moselles', 'Clarets', and 'Burgundies'.We of course would do so but when Willie wasn't watching switch for a Chateau bottled wine.
Willie went on to run his own wine distribution business and ultimately to realise his dream and own a vineyard and wine brand. I liked Willie and got on well with him (he obviously didn't suspect me of smashing the marker pens). I saw him at his vineyard shortly before he died.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

STEVE


Steve wasn't one of the student workers at the wholesalers. He wanted to be one though as he thought that they were a better class of people. He was right of course.
He simultaneously had a chip on his shoulder through jealousy and would emulate his 'heroes' through mannerisms, speech and interest in wine. His role models were Roger and Geoff. Initially they made fun of Steve but eventually became his friend. Steve ate a lot (he ate his sanswhiches in the toilet)and actually smelled of roast mutton. I wondered at this but once, on visiting his home where he lived with his parents, I noticed that the house and inhabitants all smelled of roast mutton. I think that they lived on it. Steve started up a large collection of fine wines. He did this in the way a stamp collector does - not to use them but just to have them. He sold it all off later when he joined the B'Hai church.

Friday, September 25, 2009

GORDON


NODROG KRATS was the reverse of Gordon's name. I remember this because he used to have a name plaque on his desk. This was in the small office that he shared during the week with flash Ray and nice Ivan. The office area was only about 20 ft by 14 ft and had 3 desks in it. Perhaps Gordon thought that the others would forget his name.
On Saturdays and after Gordon went home at 5PM his desk was used by hairy truck drivers while they pretended to be totalling up their accounts. In reality they were rifling through Gordon's drawers and would reverse his name. I can't remember how they did that, perhaps the name plaque was made up of removable letters. I do remember though that in the morning when Gordon came in he would have to reverse the letters while complaining about the morons who worked on Saturday. The Curmudgeon could have modelled himself on Gordon. He was the archetypal grumpy old man.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

MIXED BAG TASTING


Last night at the wine tasting group I am part of we had a selected members choice evening where 6 members brought along wines from their cellars.
It was a mixed bag but interesting nevertheless.
The three white wines were:
Mt Rosa 2003 Central Otago Pinot Gris.
Now I'm not a Pinot Gris fan but this was OK, almost Alsace style in style. At least it was inoffensive.
An Alsace Gewurztraminer was next - Rollie Gassmann (Alsace) Stegrebende Rorschwihr Gewurtztraminer 1996. It was disappointing. It was herbaceous, sweet, turpine and generally unusual. Forgettable.
Craggy Range Glas Nevin Gravels Waipara Riesling 2008 was next. This was good. Fresh and sweet but with a nice acid edge.

The reds were better.
Keith Tulloch Hunter Valley Kester Shiraz 1999 was first. This looked like a much older wine but was sweetish and very very drinkable. It was old-style Aussi winemaking, unfiltered and with loads of character.
Next was Andre Brumel Les Cailloux (Chateauneuf du Pape) Cuvee Centenaire 1998. This was the wine that Parker gave a perfect (100 out of 100) score to. It was perfumed, tarry with a sweet viscous finish. A real treat and if more affordable one to buy (it costs close to $300).
Last was Henscke Keyneton Eden Valley Shiraz Cabernet 1998. A great wine - sweet, plummy with a very long palate. Being from Eden Valley (higher than Barossa) it has a nice herbaceous edge and is a bit like a NZ wine.

Its good to try different wines like this even if I didn't like all of them. It shows the diversity of wine.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TONY


Tony was unusual. He still is in fact which belies the fact that he is highly placed in the education 'industry' and has just completed his PhD. He could be said to be eccentric. Wikipedia says:

"Eccentricity is not, as some would believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd."

Certainly Tony wasn't too concerned at what the crowd thought, a trait which usually got us thrown out of parties and at least once got Richard and I beaten up.
Tony started at the wholesalers before me and recommended me to the management. They didn't fire him so they must have thought I was OK. Tony and I shared a full-time job by splitting up the days of the week and attending University on our days off. He was studying 'Classics' - Latin, Old English, Norse Mythology etc - so you can imagine the sort of classmates he had. I think though that there were only about 3 of them as it wasn't the most popular degree course. I think that his studies added to his strangeness. I remember once that he made a suit of cardboard 'armour' and marched up and down in it. A customer's little boy peeped out to the warehouse and saw Tony doing this. Tony could belch on demand (another social skill that helped to get us thrown out of parties)and when he saw the little boy he let rip with a roar-like burp. The boy burst out crying and ran back to his mother who gave us some pretty strange looks. I imagine that the kid is still traumatised.

Monday, September 21, 2009

PETER


Peter was one of the longest tenure student workers at the wholesalers (apart from Geoff). This was because he attended University longer than the others. He didn't end up with a PHD or MA like Tony, or Honours like Richard and Geoff- in fact he didn't end up with a degree of any kind even after 7 years (full and part-time) study. He enjoyed University and funded himself through it by working at the wholesalers. Law studies were followed by Education studies, then Architecture, Art History and finally History. Collectively he had enough units for a degree and a half but not in any one discipline. Peter was lazy. And a daydreamer. At University he had 30 girlfriends. Not real ones. They were different young women that he took a liking to and gave them that status. A good plan this was but lacking in the crucial tactic - telling them that they were his girlfriends. He was shy you see.
At the wholesalers Peter graduated from front of shop selling person, to warehouseman and finally to truck-driver. In most other trading organisations this is the reverse order of a tiered employment structure but not at the wholesalers. Truck drivers were the elite (see post on Richard). When he graduated to truck driver Peter was able to do his shopping, laundry and day-dreaming on his delivery rounds but also took it one step further by attending his lectures as well. The delivery truck was often parked up by the University during lecture time. (Parking was always at a premium around the University but a delivery truck could stop just about anywhere).
Steve ( not the one with the big shoes) was jealous and was always out to 'pot' Peter and tried his best to expose him (more about Steve in a later Post). Peter was too clever for Steve and also as he was basically a nice bloke and got all his work done and more the management weren't too worried.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

RICHARD


Richard was part of the elite at the wholesalers known as the truck drivers. They were sort of like The Praetorian Guard, being part of but separate from the organisation with a 'hot-line' to senior management. The elite status enabled them to do their shopping on the delivery route, go to the laundromat to do their washing, have two hour lunches around the bays watching the planes take off and land. They used to return about 4PM which was the busiest period in those days before the changes to the Sale of Liquor Act. Wholesalers had to close at 6PM so the 4 to 6 period was hectic. Truck drivers used to sit at a desk and 'balance their takings' while sucking on a beer or, in Richard's case a rum and coke or a Sherry taken from Bruce's private stock. If Bruce had worked Saturdays though I'm sure that Richard would have been out there polishing the customers shoes.

Richard adopted the persona of a truck driver very well. Black singlet, shorts, big (unlaced) boots and body odour all matched him perfectly. The overall look was so good in fact that his sister-in-law who was being hassled at University by some jerks enlisted Richard's help to sort them out. Imagine the scene on a quiet midweek morning in the august surroundings of the law library in the Hunter building when a burly, unshaven and mean looking truck-driver strode in and demanded that the chief jerk Sandy step outside for a minute. Richard won the day (just like Robert said he used to do at school - protecting the family) He should have been a soldier or a mezze-Capo in the Sopranos.

PINOT AND PIANO


Last night we had a bottle of Mt Difficulty Long Gully 2007 Central Otago Pinot Noir. It renewed my appreciation of Central Otago wines which had slipped of late. The overblown fruit bomb concoctions from the (too) many producers has disappointed and I have been looking to Waipara and Martinborough to find the best of New Zealand Pinot Noirs. The Mt Difficulty single vineyard wine is right on track. Big and rich it however opens up with breathing to show a fine delicacy. Some nice tobacco, black cherry and minerality all combine to a balanced flavour. This was great drinking and would have cellared well for a few years. It is expensive though (about $80) so I won't be buying a lot to cellar but it was well worth the experience.

I put on Bill Evans Trio 'Time Remembered' CD while we were drinking the Pinot. This CD compilation is a take-out from Evans' 'The Complete Riverside Recordings' and is a selection of some of his most moving and lyrical renditions of classics. The recordings are from 1962 and 1963 when he returned to perform after the death of his friend and bass player a year or so earlier. 'Danny Boy' was my mother's favourite and Evans gives this a long 10 minute beautiful rendition. All through the selections is a feeling of skill and accomplishment with a nice seamless mix of piano, bass and drums.

The opening up of the Pinot Noir with the balance of fruit, wood and tannins seemed to blend sinuously with the cohesive play of the three musicians. Both understated to some degree but with a lurking power that was seductive.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

LES


Les had an acerbic wit that could have easily won him a punch on the nose from some customers if it hadn't been supported by keen intelligence and good wine knowledge. Les was also crazy which made him fit in well at the wholesalers along with the other strange individuals. Les is now very highly placed in the health system and very well respected being a hard worker and very dedicated. Despite the mad antics the student workers at the wholesalers redeemed themselves with an encyclopedic knowledge of the beers, wines and spirits sold and had a great work ethic - getting the job done without fuss. This Bruce knew and obviously balanced the vast consumption of top notch wines after hours with this.

Friday, September 18, 2009

ROBERT


I know that I said to Richard that I'd leave the truck drivers to him but Robert is a special case. I don't think he told the management that he was Richard's younger brother, fearing that after two older brothers working at the wholesalers they wouldn't want another of them. Robert was employed as a part-time truck driver, working Saturdays and holidays. When Richard left Robert became the number one driver (previously he was known as 2nd driver). This was a big promotion for Robert and went to his head a bit. When I volunteered to be the second driver having previously worked in the shop, Robert saw fit to educate me in the ways of trucks and to pass on his vast experience (Tonka toys I think). Robert took over the 'big' truck which was a long flat-deck that made an impressive hissing noise when the air brakes were engaged. I drove the smaller Bedford which didn't require a HT licence to drive it. When things were slow, which was usually Saturday afternoons Robert and I would go out in the big truck together. After I nagged for a while Robert relented and let me drive it. He was such a fuss-pot and so pedantic in his instructions that I deliberately did the wrong things. I thought it was better to not tell him of my history of running people over (see previous post)as it might freak him out. When we were driving down from Victoria tunnel to the Basin Reserve I remember Robert telling me to swing out wide at the corner in order for the long truck tray to get around. I of course ignored this and cut the corner, bumping over the footpath. Robert's look of dismay was well worth seeing. I don't think anyone was standing at the corner but then I hadn't quite mastered using the mirrors so I wouldn't know.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

JOEL


Joel was unusual and, unfortunately a tragic figure.
Essentially a loner, Joel kept to himself and plodded on with his duties which (unfortunately) most people left him alone to do so.
Joel was a Storeman which meant that his responsibility was moving boxes of alcoholic beverages from one place to another. Joel's methods of 'storage' were rather unique and often involved transferring the contents of one carton to another carton without marking the contents on the second carton. This was kind of like a lucky dip or Santa's Christmas box. There were advantages like when I purchased a case of Yalumba Shiraz to discover later that it contained a dozen of Chateau Cos d'Estournel 1973, a really decent 2nd Growth Bordeaux. I feel sorry though for the person who did the opposite.
Some things that Joel did were:

Ran the hot tap over his hands, at scalding temperatures, for ages while washing them.

Had the electric pallet jack (a walking type of fork-lift) pressing him up against the wall while he had his fingers on the reverse drive - all the time the machine was crushing him. I heard a plaintive "can you help me mate" and rushed over to free him.

Walked to an from work from one side of the city to the other.

Stored pallets of beer or spirits randomly so that often the most wanted and popular items were buried at the back.

Sadly Joel is no longer with us which is a shame as he definitely added to life's rich tapestry.

ROGER

Roger is a friend of mine who was one of my workmates at the wholesale wine & spirit business.

Roger was crazy and probably still is even though he has a responsible job in Government.

Here are some of the things Roger did:


At Te Horo beach one night when we were having a bonfire/BBQ casually said that we should take cover as he had thrown a box of sparklets (the CO2 cylinders used in soda dispensers) into the fire. We ducked as they successively exploded sending burst metal cylinders flying like shrapnel, each one capable of taking a head off.


Pillioned us down Taranaki Street to Courtenay Place on his motorscooter. There were 3 of us.


Made a bomb and blew up a neighbours front door.


Dropped full cartons of Nederburg sparkling wine off the mezzanine floor down to the warehouse below. The trick was to see how many corks blew off. The top of the carton was opened and, if the carton fell perfectly even and hit the floor square then at least half of the corks would fly straight up.


Set fire to a kitchen at a party we had gatecrashed by lighting Bacardi 151 (75% alcohol spirit).


Would set his stereo blasting from his house in Wadestown, drive across the valley to a reserve and listen to the music which he said sounded marvellous, particularly Arthur Brown. Did this several times until the police followed him to the reserve and said that the neighbours were complaining.


Made a blowgun out of PVC piping and fired lollies at a traffic cop sitting on his bike across from the wholesalers causing the traffic cop to fall off his bike.


Much, much more.
Posted by THE CURMUDGEON at 4:05

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

BRUCE

The best boss I ever had and one whom I have modelled my management skills on was Bruce Campbell at Murray Roberts & Co in Wellington. Bruce was a great people person and very tolerant of his staff (he employed Richard after all). Actually Richard (Ritchie-boy)was a favourite of Bruce's. They had some things in common and both had a liking for either Findlaters Dry Fly or William's & Humbert Dry Sack sherry. Bruce used to lead by example so if you saw him out in the yard sweeping up rubbish you knew that you'd neglected your duties. He never said anything but the fact that the boss was picking up rubbish was an inducement for you to take over the broom.
Anyway, as I said Bruce's favourite tipple was Findlaters Dry Fly sherry and he used to have a couple at the end of the day, sitting at his desk which had a view down the length of the shop. In those days wholesale wines and spirits stores were not completely self-serve apart from the wines selection. Counters ran the length of the shop with spirits and liqueurs on shelving behind the counters. Beers in cartons came down rollers behind the counters, below the shelves.
One day when Bruce was out we dressed up a life-size, blow-up 'Harvey Wallbanger' doll in Bruce's old cardigan and sat it in his chair. (Harvey Wallbanger was a cocktail creation featuring Galliano Liqueur). We made a hat out of newspaper and put on 'Bruce's' head and stuck a half-full bottle of Dry Fly in his cardigan with a glass in front of him (see the photograph which is from a 35mm slide so is a bit fuzzy). There actually was an uncanny resemblance to the real Bruce who had a large girth and a bald head. It was side-splittingly funny to see the old regulars come in to pick up their usual tipples and call out 'Gidday Bruce' to the figure in the office. They probably assumed that the lack of a reply was due to the sherry.

Friday, September 11, 2009


It has been suggested that I write some posts on basses to spice up this blog.
That is of course kind of like casting Peewee Herman in a Rambo movie to 'toughen it up" but hey, what the hell - here goes.


To musicians a 'jam' generally means that people turn up with lots of fruit and sugar and boil it up in the kitchen out back. The best results are to be had when they all cram through the doorway at the same time thereby blocking it.Bass players don't generally get to help out at 'jams', but the fun part is trying to get through the doorway while everyone else is crammed there.You need to be listening carefully to the muffled sounds of squashed musicians (usually fiddle players) at the bottom of the 'jam'. I also cheat and watch the hands of the guitarist who is stirring the mixture. I know all their recipes so it's pretty easy to follow along.
The word 'jam' means slightly different things in different types of music. Jazz jams generally involve using raw sugar and non-uniform shaped fruit. Folk/Cajun/acoustic/Texan jams generally involve individuals bringing in wild swamp berries and cacti which only they know where to find them. The result tastes like crap but is sure interesting.
Traditionally Rock jams often involved a Damson plum - Grapefruit type of progression or a 12 jar blues (using blueberries). Modern Rock jams seem to involve cooking up instant jam mixtures available from the supermarket. Bass jams are not popular and are usually made from pumpkins,watermelons and unusually shaped turnips - not to everyone's taste. Usually they are stored well at the back of the cupboard until the use by date is exceeded.
Well that's it for now, I hope that this was helpful.

THE ANGEL OF THE LORD


"Good try, The Wine Guy, but that post was by you!!!
May the angel of The Lord strike you down (if The Lord is actually in control and not a ficticious character like spiderman)!" Richard (of RBB)

Richard the well known atheist and God declaimer has seen fit to call up vengeful angels to attack me. How bizarre is that!
What really worries me though is that it might well be working.
This morning my toaster threw my toast out and on to the floor not once but twice. The second time the fridge colluded and arranged for the toast slice to go under it.
The cat wouldn't get out of bed and ignored me.
The microwave caught fire.
The computer shows up a warning that I am being attacked by a virus.
Holy hell!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

FIRST ROUND TO US?


I have been very impressed with the quality of Hawkes Bay red wines from recent vintages. Gone are the days when the offerings were thin, green and weedy, being poor imitations of lesser Bordeaux styles.
The better wines from recent good vintages knock the socks off their Australian counterparts and, now and then give the French heavyweights a run for their money.

A recent comparative wine tasting of French and Hawkes Bay 'clarets' proved that (on occasion) NZ red wines can foot it with the best. The tasters included Australian wine writer James Halliday and USA's Elin McCoy along with seven local winewriters.

Up against six Bordeaux wines including Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 2005 and Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 2005 were six Bordeaux-style wines including the Blake Family Vineyards Redd Gravels 2005, the Sacred Hill Helmsman 2005, Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 and Trinity Hill The Gimblett 2005.
Four Hawkes Bay Gimblett Gravels wines were placed in the top six of the tasting, with Blake Family Vineyards Redd Gravels 2005 outright winner.
The top 6 wines based on scores from the 9 winewriters were:

1. Blake Family Vineyards Redd Gravels 2005
2. Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 2005
3. Sacred Hill Helmsman 2005
4. Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
5. Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 2005
6. Trinity Hill The Gimblett 2005

The wines tasted and prices were:

Chateau Cos d'Estournel (French) RRP $400

Chateau Haut Brion (French) RRP $1,650

Chateau Lafite Rothschild (French) RRP $2,000

Chateau L'Eglise Clinet (French) RRP $1,350

Chateau Mouton Rothschild (French) RRP $1,650

Chateau Troplong Mondot (French) RRP $600

Blake Family Vineyards Redd Gravels (NZ) RRP $75

Craggy Range “Sophia” (NZ) RRP $50

Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Sauvignon (NZ) RRP $40

Newton Forrest Cornerstone (NZ) RRP $40

Sacred Hill Helmsman (NZ) RRP $70

Trinity Hill The Gimblett (NZ) RRP$30

An outstanding result and hopefully one that will be noticed.
Californian wines were put on the map when a group of French winewriters compared some of the best French wines with some of the best USA wines with the USA wines winning out (see the movie Bottle Shock). We have to be careful though in not getting too excited as one tasting albeit with respected and experienced tasters does not mean that we have yet made the grade but the world should start to take notice. Hopefully the prices won't be pushed up too much after this.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

GIRLS


We all love them, even the old ones (although it is more appropriate to call them women).
Last night we were invited to go to the 'Give it a Girl' concert (thank you Lindsay) featuring some of NZ's greats.

Debbie Harwood was first up. She seemed pretty nervous for such an experienced performer and was a bit disappointing in her presentation although she never has impressed as a great singing talent. She is however a great organiser and got this line-up together ( and was probably the energy behind 'When the Cats Away'.

She was followed by Shona Laing who gave a solid performance although you couldn't help feeling that she was wondering what she was doing in a line-up of essentially 'pop' performers.

Margaret Urlich was next and was definitely a step up. Apart from looking bloody good for 50 (sorry, sexist I know but honest), her voice is still great and she really carried the songs well.

Next up was a knock-out surprise. Julia Deans from Fur Patrol who apart from being striking with flaming red hair showed herself to be a very accomplished and confident performer - funny, gutsy and in control.

Julia introduced Sharon O'Neill who seems to have shrunk over the years. Either that or she used to always have big hair and stilettos. (Apropos of nothing I have rolled around on Sharon O'Neill's shag-pile carpet in her house she once owned in Northland Wellington). Apart from looking a bit diminished she was still able to belt out her classics.

After a break, Julia introduced nervous newcomer Lisa Crawley whose very young age belies her talents. One to watch I think.

OK. So far so good. Some bits were a bit pedestrian but generally the feeling was good and that newzild still has it.

Next up was Annie Crummer. Wow! She took the whole show up several notches. Bursting out on the stage with an outstanding number that was seamlessly integrated with the backing band that she virtually claimed as her own. What a star. Her voice which she had some problems with a couple of years ago was amazing. Powerful but with fantastic clarity. I've always admired her and last night confirmed that.

After Annie's single stint (each performer did 3 songs each) the whole group lined up and took turns with their own standards but this time supported with backing vocals by the rest. Fantastic. How come the Kiwi blokes can't do this (they need a male version of Debbie Harwood I guess to organise it)? Even in the line-up of eight vocalists (the seven plus backing support singer who was with the band) it was Annie Crummer's and Margaret Urlich's voices that stood out. They really seem to complement each other. Its a shame that we haven't had Good run of those together over the last 20 years- apart from 'When the Cats away' that is.

The band was very, very good.

It was a great night out and looking around the audience even an old bugger like me was comfortably in the middle of the demographic. I saw a few old faces I recognised including an old girlfriend of mine (don't tell her-indoors) and all looked like they were having a good time.

The wine? Crap, except for the Deutz which is always a very reliable stand-by when there's nothing else decent at a Pernod-Ricard dominated bar. Sky City for some reason have decided to do away with the bottle pours from their excellent portfolio (Montana Reserve, Stoneleigh, Church Rd etc) and gone to just offering the 175ml offerings of Montana (very ordinary) range. Wankers!.

Fortunately we had a pre-concert drink at a tapas bar in Federal st (forgotten the name). This place has an excellent wine list which is all Spanish or Spanish-influenced wines (Chilean etc). The tapas menu is great. We had a glass of Torres Gran Coronas Cabernet Tempranillo each. Great!. Hawkes Bay can learn from this wine style.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

THE SPLURGE


Last night we opened a Martinborough Vineyards Marie Zelie 2003 Pinot Noir. At $180 a bottle we were sort of expecting something pretty good and I’m pleased to say that we weren’t disappointed.
This is a serious wine. It has a deep ruby colour and is comparatively dark for a Pinot Noir. The bouquet was lovely – typically Pinot with nice floral tones. The palate was silky smooth but with rich Pinot fruit flavours (cherry and plum).
At first taste we thought that it is ready to drink now as it was so approachable but as the wine aired and warmed it showed its power and suggests that it will last for many years yet.

THERE"S HOPE YET


A drink or two a day could help ward off dementia, according to new research.
Light to moderate alcohol consumption has been found to cut the chances of older people developing the condition by more than a quarter.

Drink up your Chardonnay Richard (although it might already be too late).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

CLASSICS?


I went to a wine tasting last night the theme of which was 'Coopers Classics' being a selection of New Zealand wines that have been labelled as 'Classics' by wine writer Michael Cooper in his wine atlas.
As a group we taste these wines 'blind' with only the cellar master knowing the identity of each. The challenge for this tasting was to identify varietal, region and if possible the producer of each wine.

We always have a pair of pre-tasters (not tasted blind) before each tasting and this time it was a pair of Rieslings (also rated as classics by Cooper).
These showed the diversity in NZ winemaking and styles. Both were superb examples of Riesling at different ends of the spectrum. The first was Dry River Craighall 2007 from Martinborough. This was a mineral and rich Riesling, almost austere in its structure and finish. At 12.5% alc. it was rich and strong somewhat like an Alsatian wine.
The second wine was Felton Road 2008 from Central Otago. Also rich and full this wine had a lemon meringue character and finished sweet but with a delicious acid edge. The low alcohol (9.5%) gave it a Germanic character.
These two wines were faultless and a superb illustration of what NZ can deliver.

The next flight of 6 wines were all served blind.

First was a Chardonnay which I immediately thought was a good Hawkes Bay style. It was rich and round with good butterscotch characters. It turned out to be from Nelson and was Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2007, their top label. I rated this my second equal best wine of the night at 18.5 points (92.5 on the Parker scale). Oh well, at least I recognized it as a good Chardonnay.

The second wine I crashed and burned on. I (and others) thought that it was a Viognier. It was slick and almost unctuous. I guessed it as Gisborne fruit. It turned out to be Odyssey Iliad Chardonnay 2007 from Gisborne. I rated this my lowest wine of the night at 17.5 (88). Odyssey Iliad is the wine that was rated a classic and has dropped off the list. This may be a reflection of the difficulty in maintaining consistency year to year with Gisborne Chardonnay due to rainy harvest times.

The next wine I am pleased to say I nailed as being Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2007 from Martinborough. This is a dense berry and herbal tinged wine. Firm with a slight medicinal character (microbiological?) this is a stunner. I rated it my top wine of the night at 19 points (95).

Next was a wine I guessed at Hawkes Bay Syrah. I thought it could have been Te Mata Bullnose or Craggy Range. It turned out to be the Te Mata Bullnose Syrah 2007. It had a sweet, caramel fudge aroma. It was a bit green and young but may develop into something quite good. I gave it 18 points (90).

Next was what I picked as a Merlot predominant Hawkes Bay red. I didn't have a stab at the brand but guessed it to be from the Villa Maria stable. This turned out to be correct as it was Esk Valley (owned by V/M) Reserve Merlot Cabernet 2005. It had a dense nose and a rich, plum pudding character. It was a bit light in the mid=palate but finished sweet and nice. I gave it 18.2 (91).

The last wine was very good. It was my second equal wine at 18.5 points (92.5). I correctly guessed it as a Hawkes Bay Bordeaux blend but was unsure of the label. It was Esk Valley 'The Terraces' 2004 Malbec/Merlot/Cabernet Franc. It had a lifted almost peppermint nose mixed with chocolate and a solid structure. Lovely.

This was a good tasting. Those who are familiar with serious blind tasting know that we can be very, almost overly, critical of wines when we are dissecting them and applying scores. Some of the best and most expensive wines in the world can be given low scores. When the same wines are tasted with the labels shown or with food, they can seem superb. These New Zealand wines, under harsh evaluation all showed up brilliantly to high silver or gold standard. They are 'Classics' and fortunately we have a lot more of them on offer.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

GREAT WINE, GREAT DINNER - NO HANGOVER



We opted for Lanson Black Label NV starter and Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz 1992 last night.
The Lanson was good as usual. It has some age on it (I bought it 2 years ago) and it is rounding out a bit - not oxidative but has a richer character than when it is first released. Lanson is one of the few non-malolactic fermentation Champagnes and when new is very crisp and fresh.

The 1992 Hill of Grace was stunning. This wine is 17 years old and still very rich and alive. It had a deep crimson colour suggesting a much younger wine. The aroma was very fragrant and almost heavy with cherries and blackcurrants. The taste was very fruity suggesting a wealth of dark fruits (plums blackberries and cherries. There were no rough edges to it and the soft tannins made for a lovely full finish. No wonder people pay so much for this wine. The current sell price for the 1992 is between 400 and 500 dollars.

Her Indoors excelled with the meal. I like simple foods and opt for Schnitzel for special occasions. Often buying good schnitzel is difficult and we don't like to opt for the milk-fed veal variant. H.I. chose a piece of beef fillet which she sliced thinly and coated in egg, breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. It was delicious and very, very tender. I won't waste time trying to buy schnitzel from now on. I will buy the best piece of fillet and slice it very thinly like she did.
For dessert H.I. mad a Napoleon cake (layers of pastry and sponge cake with jam (cherry) and cream in between. Scrumptious.

No hangover this morning - a mark of both moderation and good wine.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

ITS MY BIRTHDAY TODAY




I won't have a cake with candles because of the fire risk but Her Indoors is cooking a special birthday dinner for me.
I will raid the wine cellar for some delectables. Possibilities are - Roederer Champagne for starter and either Sassicaia or Hill of Grace for main. We have some nice sweet wines but probably won't open one with dessert as its a bit over the top. If we do it might be an Inniskillen.

Berrocca for breakfast.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

THE WIZARDRY OF OZ


The Australian wine industry has taken a hammering recently after a decade of greedy corporates over planting programmes. These were to chase high volumes and market share particularly in the UK but unfortunately the targets were supermarket specials and promotions and ultimately cheaper sales. The over supply has led to falling grape prices and an unsustainable vineyard industry which is now resulting in growers selling up and moving on. That's the bad news. The good news is that Australia still produces some of the world' s nicest wines. Sure, we have had a flood of over-engineered jammy Shiraz and blowsy Chardonnay but at the top end there are some very affordable gems. Over the last couple of years I have moved away from drinking Australian wines, preferring NZ and European styles. Last night we opened a 2001 Saltrams No. 1 Shiraz. As I was decanting it (into my magic silver funnel), the wonderful aroma of mint, berries and sweet oak floated up. Beautiful. We took the wine to a BYO seafood restaurant in Herne Bay (disappointing - I had a beans and rice dish!). It was everything that the aroma promised. Structured but with an elegant finish. Rich but not porty. This was a truly delicious wine. When we got home we decided to open another Oz red (there were 4 of us), and chose a 2000 Rosemount Balmoral Syrah. The McLaren Vale shiraz was quite different from the Saltrams Barossa Shiraz. It was firmer, more solid and definitely more 'Rhone-like' The Saltrams had sweetness and drinkability , the Rosemount was more for savouring. Both wines punched above their weight and I am now looking forward to further plundering the cellar.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

FIRST CATCH YOUR FISH



Here is a great recipe for freshly caught trout that I used when fishing years ago. When I say recipe, it wasn't from a book or anything it was just kind of instinctive.

1 trout (any size)
salt
pepper
lemon juice
butter
wine
foil wrap
fire

First catch your trout, clean it, lay it on foil,rub with butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, squeeze a lemon or two over it, add a splash of wine, wrap it up and put on a BBQ or fire. Cook it. When cooked eat it.

Complicated I know but it works. I cooked this somewhere near the Tongariro River back in the mid 70's. I had gone on a fishing trip with Chris and Sue Prowse and I think Robert Prowse (Rob, do you remember?). We went to a spot Chris knew of beside a tributary stream off the Tongariro. It was about 10 minutes from Turangi. One evening I caught a medium sized trout which we cooked. I also caught a large trout, the stuff of legend but had it stolen. When I put it on the bank and went back into the water to try my luck again, I had my back turned to it. Something (a noise or a sense) made me turn around and I saw that my trout had gone and I saw a ferret (stoat or weasel) disappearing into the bushes with it in its mouth. It must have been a strong little animal as the trout was huge (and got bigger with the re-telling).
When I went back to the camp the others didn't believe my story (philistines). They were lucky that I shared my other trout with them. The wine was probably a Penfold's Autumn Riesling which I remember as being delicious.
It was also on this trip that I discovered the benefit of very cold running water. In the morning while boiling water for tea/coffee I managed to spill a boiling pot over on my arm. I immediately plunged it into the nearby stream and kept it in there for ages. The water was so cold that I could that I lost feeling in my arm but when I finally withdrew it I had no pain or blistering.

Monday, July 13, 2009

CHARDONNAY CONSUMPTION INCREASES BY ALMOST 100%!

....at our house. Her indoors has gotten over the Pinot Gris craze and rediscovered Chardonnay. This is good news in that I no longer mistakenly pour myself a bloody Pinot gris from that bottle in the fridge but but bad news in that there is rarely any Chardonnay left over to put in the fridge. Fortunately though there are plenty of good wine deals going with Chardonnay at the fore to enable us to 'trade-up' for the everyday drinking version. Over the last couple of years I have waited for the supermarket wine sales to stock up on good wine offerings. I know that this is kind of against my principles in that the same supermarkets are destroying our wine industry (see previous post 'Mea Culpa' , but the bargains (if approached selectively) are there to be had. Now, due to looming wine surpluses, the self-same greedy supermarkets and the number of wine companies desperate to move stock, the bargains can now be found on the wine Internet sites and in wine retailers. Recently I have bought some very good Chardonnays at vastly reduced prices from non-supermarket sources.

First example is 2007 Te Mata Elston Chardonnay bought from Caro's in Parnell. This is one of New Zealand's top Chardonnays and invariably 'delivers'. I bought this for about $24 a bottle. Normal price is $35 to $40.
(A sideline to this brand is that about 10 years or so ago we went to Iguasu in Parnell for Saturday afternoon tapas and ordered a bottle of Elston. It was corked. We ordered another and this was corked. We ordered a third and this was also corked. I concluded that a poor batch of corks (not Te Mata's fault as they pay top dollar for the best) led to a discrete batch of wine being contaminated. TCA (the chlorine compound that leads to 'corkiness 'in wine) is very pervasive and will contaminate anything surrounding it. If a piece of cork is suspect it will contaminate the other corks in the bag. When wine is bottled the run is done using corks from the one bag or container. This means that it is usual to see 'corked' wines being run off the bottling line close together and often to be in the same carton. Iguasu staff, to give them credit, uncomplainingly replaced each bottle until I called a halt and switched to another brand. This meant that 1. they understood TCA taint, and, 2. they had confidence in Te Mata as a brand. A reliabe wine company guarantees to replace corked or faulty product.)


Second example is Matua Valley Mathesons Chardonnay 2007. I bought this from the internet supplier 'The wine Importer' for about 13 dollars a bottle (normally about 23 dollars). This is a meaty, woody and big Chardonnay that is worth the $20+ tag and a veritable bargain at $13.






Third example is Pencarrow Chardonnay 2007 Chardonnay purchased fom Glengarry at $9.90 a bottle (normally about $19). This is a great bargain. Good Martinborough Chardonnay from a top producer (Palliser) that is fresh, vibrant and very, very drinkable.



The bargains won't last forever as when wineries run out of their expensively produced wine that they are forced to sell at ridiculously cheap prices they will engineer the newer vintages at lesser costs and subsequently at lesser quality. They will do this to meet the demand retail prices.

Buy judiciously (feel free to ask me for advice).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

THE WINE BORE 2


Maurice had a wine collection. Maurice was into hoarding. Maurice pontificated about it. In truth Maurice was boring.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a (one-sided) discussion of a wine cellar and the treasures lying therein? Wine bores are good at telling everyone about the great wines that they have had or that they have in their cellar. Often though the wines in the cellar are 'not ready to drink yet' and the wines drunk no-one else seems to have been present to remember the occasion. A wine bore treats wines like a stamp collection- carefully looking at the label before putting the precious bottle back. If being hosted by a wine bore you are likely to be regaled with stories of the world's great wines whilst being offered a 'precocious little' Spanish or Chilean number that the host 'discovered. Keep me away from them please.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


The reason that some people like some types of wine and dislike others may be physiological. I know that people with allergies and intolerance to histamines do not drink red wines. The do not is probably akin to cannot. For the last couple of years I have been prescribed a statin by my doctor. This is a low dose medication to prevent increases in cholesterol levels. Also over the last couple of years I have increasingly preferred Gisborne and Hawkes Bay Chardonnays over their cousins from Marlborough. The grapefruit skin character of Marlborough Chardonnays is not to my liking and has seemingly become more pronounced. It was only recently when my GP reminded me to not consume grapefruit while taking Lipex (the statin) as there are side effects that the penny dropped. Is the grapefruit character evident in some Chardonnays, especially those grown in cooler regions of a chemical similarity to actual grapefruit juice? This would explain my dislike of the wines and that others like them. Maybe the ABC brigade are taking statins.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

BOTTLE SCHLOCK


We went to see Bottle Shock on Sunday, the movie purportedly about the great Paris blind tasting of 1976 where Californian wines came to the wine world's attention and (some) outplaced (some) French wines. I was looking forward to seeing this, having known of this story and was keen to see how the wines and the tasting would be portrayed. The result was great disappointment. Hollywood decided to only make passing references to the actual wines involved, both French and American and to dish up instead a crappy love story interspersed with a travel advertisement of Napa Valley. Why is it that they are always so gutless that they need to pander to the lowest common denominator. Instead of sticking to the main story they seem to have wimped out and given us; a pathetic love triangle; a family dispute; oversimplified French caricatures; and over-romanticised wine country scenes. There are enough wine enthusiasts world-wide to have ensured the success of a movie done well. Shame.

Monday, June 8, 2009

You (I'VE) got the silver...



In our lifetime we accumulate small things that are very meaningful to ourselves and go unnoticed by others. one of these small things I have is a silver funnel that is the best decanting device I have ever come across, In wine books and wine lore in general, wine ponces talk about using candles and back-lights against the neck of a bottle to show when sediment is about to pour out into the wine decanter. This is laborious, inaccurate and dangerous ( lighted flames and inebriated persons should not be combined). The silver funnel is a simple and safe labour saving device that is also perfectly accurate in determining when sediment from the bottle is about to reach the volume of wine being decanted. I swear by it and and am forever grateful in having it. I was given this by one of the nicest people in the wine industry that I have ever known. Barbara Coombs has been a long term wine representative for leading wine companies over the last 20 years. Before her stint as a wine representative she was P.A. to the highest profile ever CEO of a NZ Liquor company. This man gave Barbara the silver funnel which she kept for many a year before giving it to me. I very much appreciated the gesture as a mark of respect that she has for me and also appreciated the value of the item which is a big part I guess of why Barbara chose me to give it to.
I used it last night to decant a half bottle of Penfolds Bin 28 (Kalimna) Shiraz 2003. Using normal decanting methods with a young wine like this would most likely show no sediment. My silver funnel clearly shows, at the end of the pour, minute grainy traces. Eliminating these definitely adds to the enjoyment of one of the world's great (and unbelievably affordable)wines.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ray says "Yeah right!"


The two big supermarket chains say they have stopped selling alcohol below cost as a "loss leader", after claims the cheap deals lead to alcohol abuse.

Supermarkets have voluntarily given up offering liquor deals to encourage customers into stores where they buy other goods.

The decision follows criticism from the Liquor Licensing Authority that loss-leading "promotes the abuse of liquor" and may breach the law aimed at reducing abuse.



Ray (Auckland)says:

"I buy a bottle of wine that the supermarket has discounted from say $25 to $15. I enjoy that bottle with my dinner over the next 3 or 4 days. Someone else buys a non-discounted 3 litre cask of cheap plonk for the same amount and drinks it all in one day. Which one of us is the responsible drinker?

So ending discounting will fix alcohol abuse. Yeah right"

Ray is sort of correct. It will not reduce alcohol abuse.

This story last week made me sit up and take notice. The supermarket duopoly (New Zealand has only two supermarket operators no matter how many brands they have out there)have seen an opportunity to increase profits along with reputation by making that statement. Sure they aggressively market against each other and will always have deep-cut wine sales but they always have an eye to the bottom line. The Liquor Licensing Authority criticism must have been music to their ears.
Here is a scenario - Either or both of the supermarket chains discuss the Licensing Authority criticism at a board meeting. The CEO asks what they should do about it. The Merchandise GM says that they have over 600 wine companies daily pleading with them to take their wine and are prepared to pay the usurious 'merchandising' fees to get the product on shelf or on promotion - there is no shortage - they can pick and choose. They can also screw down the suppliers to give an attractive into-store price enabling them to 'pass on savings to consumers' while still enjoying a very healthy margin (whether as GP or the aforementioned 'merchandising' fee.
The Marketing GM says that their consumer research of drinking behaviour suggests that drinking patterns are static or increasing (not decreasing). If a wine drinker enjoys drinking 4 bottles of wine a week he will continue to drink 4 bottles regardless of whether the price goes up or down -- they might as well get an extra couple of bucks for each bottle they sell.
The PR GM (spin doctor) then says that if they release a statement saying that they too are concerned at alcohol abuse and will cease loss-leading alcohol then they can get good (free) publicity, satisfy the Licencing authority, sell as much wine as before and bank more dollars. Everyone is happy. Right?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

BOIL UP MY COGNAC BARKEEP! (Part 3)


Parts 1 and 2 went into cyber-space. Either that or Google have a built in editing system that deletes all crap before it is even finished (but how come Richard's blogs exist?).
Anyway here goes...(the shortened edition)

There are many misconceptions in the liquor industry. Centuries of traditions with procedures and protocols can be confusing for new entrants. Things done wrongly are not always out of ignorance however, sometimes it is a case of "a little knowledge being a dangerous thing".
On Sunday evening I was in Rotorua and dined out at a reasonably fancy bar/brasserie.
I had two glasses of wine with my meal (an ordinary Rocca Della Macie Chianti and a reasonable Barossa Shiraz). I noticed that they served Remy Martin XO at $17 a glass. This is a pretty good price for one of the world's great cognacs so I ordered one. I was seated with my back to the bar so didn't see what they had done to my drink. When it arrived it had obviously been warmed. Whether they had pre-warmed the glass with hot water or put a flame under the cognac-filled glass, I don't know. Both of these practices have been accepted by some 'professionals'. The result was that my beautiful Remy Martin XO was virtually undrinkable. To fix it I poured a measure of iced water from my water glass which brought it closer to the ideal temperature. I often put a measure of cold water into my cognac or malt whisky. This takes the edge off the spirit and allows the bouquet to flourish. I noticed a couple at a nearby table (Americans) giving me an odd and supercilious look. I bet that they thought I was a pleb. The bar staff probably did the same but I didn't see them.

This from one of the professional prats on his/her blogsite Epinions.

"I never, ever, mix V.S.O.P. Cognac (or higher grades like X.O. [Extra Old] or V.O.C. [Very Old Cognac]) with soft drinks or mixers. Cognac of this quality is meant to be consumed at room temperature or may be served in a heated snifter, if you are adept in the art -- but I really don't recommend this practice. The simple warmth from your hand, as it holds the body of the brandy glass, is enough. Always serve "neat" with no ice or other liquids. I never dip my cigars in Cognac. "

Now whilst he/she is not as bad as the other 'snob-writers' the information given is not helpful. Real experts say that a little bit of clear cool water enhances the drink. (I am saying a little bit of water Richard, not lemonade OK?)

I marketed Remy Martin some years ago and have been fortunate to have visited their production facilities (or Cellars as we marketers call them). I have tried many good blends with the real experts and the consensus is that warming the spirit negates all the best aspects. Unfortunately the warming practices have slipped into the traditions and the wannabe sophisticates adopt them (particularly Americans).
OK, call me a snob I don't care but good wine, beer or spirit deserves to be consumed at its best.

BOIL UP MY COGNAC BARKEEP!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

PARTY, PARTY, PARTY


Had some drinks at my place tonight. Lynn was out so I invited a few cronies around. Things were going OK until Atiila the Hun Guy started to break things. Fucking vandal. Luckily Beowulf was here. She went a bit berserk and threw Attilla out. That was OK for a while but then she got pissed and started causing trouble. If she had been pregnant I could have abused her. As it was I was stuck in the corner with The Boring Guy. I couldn't get away. He was rabbitting on about Evah pirazzi strings and finger positions - weird and boring. The Curmudgeon stumbled about complaining about everything. The only thing he was useful for was telling those gatecrashers Bunny and Bill to Fuck off when they arrived. They pretended to know someone at the party. It was when they said they knew Richard that was their undoing. Curmudgeon threw them out. They were last seen being harangued by Attilla the Hun Guy out on the street. To be honest I wish that Curmudgeon had thrown out the Boring Guy and he could have gone off with Bunny and Bill. The wines were good (at least the ones I drank were. I put out the crap stuff for the others).

Saturday, April 25, 2009

COFFEE AND RUM


An early memory I have is of attending Anzac Day Dawn Parade at the Cenotaph in Wellington. In those days (1960's) there weren't as many attendees as nowadays and I was always able to get a good view of the proceedings. I felt very special and proud of my Dad who had service medals (stars) for Crete, Africa, Italy and other Dominion medals for the 1939-1945 war. Dad was not one of those ex-servicemen who frequented the RSA and who talked a lot about the war. He attended the Dawn Parade each year to remember the friends he lost during some of the bloodiest campaigns of WW2. As a child it was a big adventure being woken in the dark and sleepily dressing (warmly) to be driven down deserted streets to the assembly point. Familiar landmarks assumed an ethereal atmosphere in the dark, cold and mist. I remember shuffling feet, muffled coughs, the spark of a match and the smell of cigarette smoke. Always, the firing of the gun (howitzer which made an almighty sound so close to the crowd) would make me jump even though I was expecting and looking forward to it going off. They don't do that now, another casualty of the modern age whereby firing it at 6AM would affect the sensibilities of the inner city dwellers. Shame. After the parade the attendees would gather in the foyer of Wellington Railway Station, a short walk away to get warm, chat and to drink the coffee provided free. This came out of huge urns and was poured into those chunky, rounded NZR cups. It was warming and had a delicious illicitness about it due to it being liberally laced with rum. One of these with an Anzac biscuit then home to bed for a couple of hours sleep.
I attended the Auckland Dawn Parade at the Auckland Museum as usual this morning. I think of my Dad a lot but especially so on these mornings. The feeling that he is beside me is palpable. I carry his medals in my pocket. There is no howitzer salute nor coffee laced with rum being served afterwards but I still feel a connection with those Wellington days and am so pleased that the Dawn Parade is being strongly supported with the younger generations assembling, taking their children who will hopefully have good memories of the experience.
When I got home I brewed up a cafetiere of coffee and had a cup liberally laced with rum (Appleton's 12 Y.O.). To you Dad.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

PROFITEERING



"A British honeymoon couple from Hong Kong have paid what is believed to be a record price for a bottle of New Zealand wine.
They shelled out $1000 for a bottle of Gibbston Valley Wines' world champion 2000 Pinot Noir at Gantley's Restaurant near Queenstown.
Now a rare find, the standard 750ml bottle came highly recommended at the restaurant, where there are only four or five bottles of the treasured drop remaining.
Restaurant co-owner Brent Rands told the Southland Times the last bottle he sold was last year for $750 and with very few bottles remaining he increased the price to $1000 in January.
"I thought it's getting so scarce now, if it's gonna go, it's gonna go..."
Gibbston Valley Wines managing director Mike Stone said yesterday the wine's latest feat "felt pretty good".
"To the best of my knowledge it's the first (750ml) bottle by a New Zealand producer that's ever sold for $1000."
The wine sold at the cellar door for just $65 eight years ago, Mr Stone said."

This was on the Yahoo news web this morning.
It is a good example of the blatant profiteering that some restaurants indulge in. The co-owner seems to be proud of the fact that he just added $250 to the price of a bottle up from the usurous price of $750. He is very naive. There's no way that I or like minded people will go to his establishment in the future.