Tuesday, March 31, 2009


On Saturday I attended a wedding with a High Anglican service.
The Arch Deacon invited everyone to join in the Communion. I did mainly to check out the wine on offer. It was a Muscat wine, probably Australian. I gave it a quick swirl and sniff (and received an odd look from the Arch Deacon). I couldn't check out the clarity of colour as the chalice was silver. It was OK, simple and sweet but fruity and went down well. I think it was a good wine match for the host which was a bit on the dry side so needed something richer and sweeter to balance it. I used to receive communion when I attended Catholic Mass years ago. The hosts then were a bit fuller and more flavoursome. They were made daily by the Home of Compassion Sisters so were fresh. The Anglican ones (and maybe the modern Catholic ones too) are probably bought in bulk.
Overall I thought that the wine had more body than the bread which probably contravenes the Fair Trading and Trade Descriptions Acts because the Arch Deacon inferred that it was the the bread that had body in it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


The monthly wine tasting group I belong to (sort of like jamming Richard),last night had supermarket wines as the theme with a selection of 6 wines of different price and quality levels. Tasters (blind)were asked to identify the grape varietal of each and to guess which was the most expensive wine.
The wines were:

1. Back Blocks 2008 Gisborne Chardonnay (from the Wither Hills stable). This was a simple typically Gisborne style. Clean and inoffensive and fairly priced at $13.49, although this was the special price. It is normally about $3 dearer.
No one thought it to be the most expensive wine and no one rated it as the best wine.

2. Matua Valley Mathesons 2007 Hawkes Bay Chardonnay.This was big and woody. Rich and oily with a sulphur whiff which disappeared after a while. Special price was $14.99 (down from $22) so this is a bargain. A couple of people thought that this was the most expensive wine and also rated it the best wine.

3. Toi-Toi 2008 Central Otago Pinot Noir. This was very simple, cherry nose and cherry strawberry taste. An early drinking style. This has got to be Central Otago's worst nightmare. All the cost of establishment and production resulting in a Beaujolais-style wine sold at possibly no margin to the primary producer. Special price was $16.99 down from $19.99. One person thought it to be the most expensive wine (assuming it to be a French Beaujolais). No-one thought it the best wine in fact probably the worst.

4. Sileni Triangle 2006 Hawkes Bay Merlot. This was a stunner. A complicated vinous and mulberry fruit nose and a long and fresh finish. NZ Merlot at its best and much lighter and fresher than most. Price was $29.99 - the most expensive wine although only a couple people guessed it to be. It rated overall as the second best wine.

5. Robard and Butler Cabernet Franc 2006 Vin De Pays French.
This was a nice, simple and pleasant wine. Only one person thought it to be the best and no-one thought it to be the most expensive. No-one thought it to be the worst wine. Everyone was surprised at the price which was $7.99 only $2 less than normal price. This is an example of what can be done from a big producing country that has a pedigree in making good red wine. It was not great but it was a lovely wine with a nice fruit-mix nose, full rich and round taste with a nice tannic finish. The wood is evident but nicely understated.

6. Villa Maria Cellar Selection 2006 Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot. This was rated the best wine of the night and the one that most thought to be the most expensive. It was in fact $14.98 on special (at least $10 off) making it a great bargain. This is a very serious and lovely wine with a nice balance of fruit and wood. It was smooth and long and very elegant.

I muddled along in my tasting. I guessed the first to be an East Coast Chardonnay so was reasonably on the money.
The second I nailed guessing it to be a 2007 Hawkes Bay Chardonnay
The third I guessed as a simple Central Otago Pinot Noir so I was OK there.
The fourth threw me. I really liked it and thought it was a 2006 Waipara Pinot Noir being light and fresh but with a bit more body than the previous one. Never mind.
The fifth I guessed as Cabernet Franc but thought it was New Zealand.
The last I guessed correctly as a 2006 Hawkes Bay Merlot blend so wasn't far off.

OK, Richard. Has this beaten your last two posts as being the most boring ever?

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Last night we were entertained at the Stephen Fleming Charity Dinner as guests of friend and business associate John (thanks John). It was a really good night with some entertaining talks from some of the cricketing greats (Shane Warne and Ravi Shastri were very funny). Martin Crowe was there as well with 'mad' hair. He has reinvented himself as Marty Crowe and has had some kind of hair implants put into his previously gracefully ageing skull. That and marrying a former beauty queen suggest that he is suffering from mid-life crisis (sports cars are cheap now Martin).
His hair looked like some roadkill had been glued to his scalp. It was the only entertaining thing about him as he is a pretty dour and up-himself type.
I'm more than middle aged and am rapidly getting a shiny scalp. I wonder if I should get a rug and call myself Petey?

Anyway, the wine and food was OK. Sky City convention centre always delivers well when catering to very large groups. The wine was all Yealands 2008 from Marlborough. The best was the Viognier which was zingy and fresh. The Sauvignon Blanc was as per normal racy Marlborough SB. The Pinot Noir was typical Marlborough cherry and strawberry with savoury notes (but best to leave Pinot to Waipara or Martinborough though). As said the 3 wines were all 2008 - very young and fresh. It was nice to see Yealands as Gold sponsor and getting his wines out there. Peter Yealands I guess is proof of that old adage "to make a small fortune in the wine industry - start with a large fortune". Certainly they are spending up large and getting good media coverage (with clever marketing ploys e.g. using guinea pigs to crop the grass in the vineyards. Hawks and falcons of course eat the guinea pigs even faster than they can reproduce (which probably keeps them away from the Marlborough bird population thus disadvantaging the competition. Yealands told the media that he would need several million guinea pigs to adequately crop the grass. Instead he is now looking to import midget sheep from France! These apparently (if real - see Richard's Bass Bag for meaning of Reality ) are too short to eat the vine leaves and grapes. OK what a good story. It sounds a bit like the 'Turkeys in gumboots' spoof story that Town and Around did many years ago, but, if true it beggars belief. Firstly the idea of propagating Guinea pigs in a rural environment and allowing them to run free is like the dickheads who imported rabbits in the nineteenth century. Secondly I cannot believe that our sheep industry would allow French midget sheep to be established. I guess it must be a good spoof story.

Friday, March 13, 2009


An update.
Last year I wrote about the difficulties experienced in trying to order wine at a local Greek restaurant/winebar. They had a lot of teething problems initially and a high turnover of staff. They seem to have gotten over a lot of the problems and there seems to be a stable staff complement (they look like family). The place is very pleasant but, there are some annoying things still. Over the last few months they have experimented with special offers, obviously due to some consultant's advice. One of these experiments was offering free bread and dips platters with your wine. This was fine as it went as the toasted flatbreads and 4 different dips were fabulous (the eggplant dip was truly the best dip I have ever had) but they would have had to be about $15 worth on the list. We only ever buy 2 glasses of wine each.
The practice was discontinued after a few weeks as it must have been costing them too much. At the moment they are running 'Happy Hour' pricing until 7PM (we go Thursdays so I don't know if this is daily). 'Happy Hour' pricing is the domain of the desperate. Why would this be offered if people are coming in anyway. If it attracts people (who have somehow heard about it) it will only attract cheap bastards. I can never understand it. Gary and I go there every week, we are prepared to pay normal prices so why discount it? The discounting is a bit erratic I must admit. Last night two glasses of wine that had a list price of $24 was sold for $18 but in the next round two glasses of wine with a list price of $26 was sold for $13.
The staff and owner now recognize us and he has twice offered us 'the next drink on the house'. Twice we have declined the offer as we have only ever wanted two glasses each and besides, I'd rather pay for my wine and not feel beholden. re the wine, the list started out as very comprehensive with some very nice offerings (cosmetic only though as the staff in the early days could never find the right one to serve or it took ages, or would pour a tap beer when you asked for a zinfandel). The list has now been shrunk to a one sided A4 sheet with mediocre offerings. This is always an indication of the success or otherwise of an establishment. I like Chardonnay (Gary likes anything cheap). The Chardonnay offerings are 3 Marlborough Chardonnays and one crappy NZ East Coast blend. Who is the wine advisor here? Marlborough is a great place and produces excellent aromatic whites and Pinot noir but is not my first choice for Chardonnay. Hawkes Bay, Gisborne or even Waiheke is better. So, I order a Mud House Chardonnay followed by a Stoneleigh Pinot Noir (both OK but not very exciting, enjoy the ambiance and Gary's company (although he thrashed me at snooker)and declined the offer of a free third drink and free bread and dips.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Alcohol (and even wine) makes people act differently to how they normally would and inhibits inhibitions. Generally this is not a bad thing as alcohol, especially if it is a well crafted drink whether beer, wine or spirit, can aid digestion and relaxation. Too often though, too much alcohol leads to crime, violence and embarrassment. I need to state here that this is not a confession, merely an observation. Last night at the wine bar I noticed a guy doing things that he would certainly regret the next day if not forever. I only hope it was his wife he was chatting up.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Sometimes a glass of wine just doesn't hit the spot.
After a day out which included seeing the very overrated movie Valkerie (I have always been fascinated by the story which is why I went to see it. it's a shame that the over-inflated egos of wankers like Tom Cruise ruin potentially powerful stories. The great journeymen cast of British support actors could not salvage a bad job), on returning home lynn opted for a glass of Chardonnay that was left in the bottle in the fridge (Kumeu River Village 2006) and I, not wanting to open a new bottle of anything decided on a gin.
We do not often drink spirits but we do have a formidable collection of very good Malt Whiskey, Cognac, Vodka and Gin.
Re Gin we have over our many years of drinking and having visited the major English distilleries, decided that Beefeaters Crown Jewel (50% alc/vol) is the best that we have ever discovered. Like wine, gin types, flavours and brands come down to personal taste. We have experienced Boodles, Tanqueray, Bombay etc - all great gins with good provenance but Crown jewel hits the spot with us. This excellent gin used to be only available from duty free outlets and those outside of the country. When I used to travel a lot I was up to speed on this but now am not so sure about where it can be bought (travelers and Beefeater owners please let me know otherwise) -anyway, back to my late afternoon drinking pleasure. Beefeater Crown Jewel is the best drink I have had for weeks!
The deliciously sharp and tangy taste, suitably chilled over a few ice cubes and enhanced by some Franks passionfruit and lemon soda has certainly done it for me this afternoon.