Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Austria is best known for producing Adolf Hitler and, whilst they vehemently denied it after WW2, a good deal of Nazi ideology. Austria also produces wine which can be superb. As they did in WW2 where they virtually ruined both their country and their reputation, in 1985 Austrian winemakers ruined their wine industry through greed and arrogance. Greedy grapegrowers (and complicit winemakers) bolstered the must weight of their grape juice by adding Di-ethylene glycol. DEG is better known as anti-freeze or, if you are in Russia, cheap vodka. This added to alcohol levels and sweetness and was a way of demanding higher prices for wine from a poor vintage. It can also send people blind and could, in large quantities, kill someone. I was marketing a leading Austrian brand in 1985 and had some very interesting midnight telephone calls with the producers who at first denied involvement in the scandal. When I faxed through the DSIR lab test results they changed their tune and blamed their suppliers. I got full credit for the stock (about 25,000 bottles) which we had destroyed and no longer imported that brand. Arrogance is an Austrian trait. One of our current guests works for a college where foreign students come for a term or two. She looks after their welfare and recently on the arrival of a young Austrian lad suggested to him that he might like to join some of the other students on a ski trip to the South Island. Adolph junior said "Why should I want to do something like that? We have the best ski country in the world in Austria". I bet his grandfather still wears brown shirts.

Anyway, why Austria? Amongst the eclectic selection of wines that we have enjoyed over the last week was an Austrian red wine. It was 2001 Umathum St Laurent. St Laurent is an Austrian red grape that has French provenance and is most likely related to Pinot Noir. Apparently it is notoriously difficult to grow and ripen as is Pinot Noir. 2001 was a 'difficult' vintage in Austria. When an Austrian says that a vintage is 'difficult' it is probably like them saying that Hitler was 'naughty'. The wine was light - a  bit more like a Cabernet Franc than Pinot Noir - but still had a nice fruitiness to it. The alcohol was 12.5% which in today's terms was light reflecting the poor vintage (and the fact that they no longer add DEG). I'd file this wine away in the "interesting' file.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


We do drink at Christmas. Who doesn't? The trick is to drink elegantly and well. It is easy to quaff down buckets of the stuff given that normal eating patterns are all over the place and, given the quantity of food consumed it probably doesn't matter much but I feel, come boxing day when you are feeling a bit jaded it is better to have fond memories of something nice. Last night when we were having a BBQ I didn't feel like a wine thinking instead of traditional Christmas Eve drinks. The trouble with 'traditional' in our NZ culture is too much connection with UK and European traditional drinks which are all winter seasonal. The classic eggnog might be nice but is more suited to a bitterly cold winter's evening than a mild summer's one.

 I opted for a White Russian. I watched The Big Lebowski recently, that classic Cohen Brothers film. The Dude (Lebowski) only ever drank White Russians. This is a mix of vodka, milk and kahlua or Tia Maria with lots of ice. I was keen to try this so mixed up a good one. It fitted the Christmas Eve setting perfectly.
Today I will lay out a selection of sparkling (Deutz Methode and Champagne (Roederer)), white (Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Gris) and red (Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Merlot). If all goes well and everyone is not too full I will open a 1977 port (Taylors, Warres or Grahams) to go with the plum pudding.
It will be a big day.

And one for TSB.....

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Captain Beefheart - Mirror Man

I read The Curmudgeon's latest post on the loss of Captain Beefheart. Here

 He talked about a party in Wellington when the neighbours complained about the loud music. The music playing (very loudly) was Mirror Man. I don't expect you to listen to the entire clip here but fast forward it to get a feel of the jammy repetitiveness of the song which has an almost hypnotic effect particularly after a few wines or other substances. I remember this particular party (I was there) as previously we had consumed the best bottle of wine that I have ever drunk. It was a magnum of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comptesse Lalande 1953.

This was in 1976 so the wine was 23 years old but, being in a magnum size had aged gracefully. There are few times in my life that I have tried a wine at its optimum stage. This was one. It was still rich and flavoursome but the texture was as smooth as milk. Having Beefheart playing (Safe as Milk being another of my favourites) was appropriate.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I said that wine prices would come down due to oversupply, slow sales and supermarket competition and discounting but didn't expect the depths that some brands would be prepared to go to. I picked up some Deutz at $19.99 a bottle (down from $30 plus last week. This wasn't really a surprise at it has happened before and may go lower but just in case it doesn't bottom out at $17.95 I bought a case.
Today I stripped the Countdown shelves of Sacred Hill Reserve range (the ugly orange label). 'Normal 'price at Countdown is $22 something. On deep-cut special it usually comes down to $13.95. This week it is $9.99 a bottle. I bought Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Syrah and Cabernet Merlot. Also in the range is Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. This is a seriously good buy (direct from the winery it is $18 a bottle and then you have to pay freight) and the wine is still showing character. As I've said before though, too much of this discounting will mean that the wine will be engineered downwards to be a paler, cheaper imitation. Never mind. Buy and drink up now and enjoy. Robert. Get out that fiddle!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


No doubt you have heard that stupid expression - 'ABC' meaning 'Anything But Chardonnay'. This was coined (probably by bloody Pinot Gris growers) around the time that Australia and USA was flooding the world with cheap, flabby and uninteresting wines labelled as Chardonnay. I have some friends who will not touch Chardonnay finding it too woody, too flabby, too sweet, too dry, too  acidic, too 'grapefruity' - too something or other. This is very telling. To me it says that Chardonnay producers have lost the plot. Once you could purchase Chardonnay and pretty much know what you were going to get (vintage variations dependant) based on price, pedigree, country of origin and region. Today it is a minefield. There has been too much production for brands that have to meet critical price points. Shortcuts have to be taken giving us lighter, paler imitations of the real thing which culminates in that marketing 'Edsel' the unwooded Chardonnay. What a bloody travesty that is. Good Chardonnay needs judicious use of wood depending on the structure of the chosen fruit for barrel fermentation and or barrel ageing. In my financially strained circumstances I have had to purchase cheaper offerings of late. I try to buy the top quality product that has been reduced in price but sometimes get gypped. I have written before about the inevitability of producers 'engineering' product downwards if there is too much discounting. Some of my favourite brands are showing just that with 2009 and 2010 offerings being lesser than their 2008 and 2007 ancestors.

What a pleasant surprise it was being able to buy some Clearview Beachhead 2009 Chardonnay at half price due to a 'clearance' sale. This is seriously good Hawkes Bay Chardonnay from one of the best Hawkes Bay producers. Sure, it is not as stunning as his top 'Reserve' range but it most likely has a hell of a lot of the 'Reserve' wine in it given the difficulty of selling $40 wines nowadays. This Chardonnay is not an unwooded style. It is barrel fermented but, not being the top Reserve wine, is fruit-driven in style with lovely tropical Chardonnay flavours. The wood fermenting and ageing gives it a buttered toast character that is very pleasant. Chardonnay without good use of oak tends to be coarse and flabby. This is not. It is mealy and interestingly chewy. I think I'll buy some more.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I made cookies today (I prefer to use the word biscuits though as I'm pissed off with the proliferation of Americanisms in our language). I started with a vanilla base and added raisins and rum. Real rum. Lots of it. I wasn't following a recipe and just kept adding raisins and pouring in the rum until it kind of looked right.

They cooked without any problem and were only a little more moist than the usual. The flavour is stunning. The alcohol is still evident as the sticky mixture maybe trapped it inside and they were only in the oven for 10 minutes so there may not have been time for it to totally evaporate. Anyway, they have a kick.

I used Appleton's 12 y.o. This is a very good rum that has a nice vanilla taste (from the wood ageing as this is real 12 y.o that I have had for a long time). Smooth and sexy it is great for summer evenings and just made for these biscuits. I'll just have to be careful who I feed them to - I don't want to get casual callers drunk.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I've had enough of old wines... or so I thought. I have had a long history in the wine business and as a private collector and drinker of wines. Over the years I have tried many old, properly cellared  wines of good pedigree. Some have been sublime. Others of academic interest. Some years ago I decided that I would rather drink the wines young and imagine what they would be like with some age on them. When it came to Pinot Noir, especially New Zealand Pinot Noir, I would drink them up really early and try not to keep them too long in the cellar. Around about the same time that I came to this decision (a few years ago) I decided that I really didn't like Marlborough Pinot Noir as much as (in order of preference) Waipara, Martinborough and Central Otago Pinot Noir. Tonight I made a mince pie. Actually, I had a nice mince mixture (lamb mince, chillies, carrots and peas with flavourings of soy sauce, Worcester sauce, rosemary, oregano, ginger and garlic - try it its nice) in the freezer and the Old Girl had frozen some left over pastry she makes when she made a leek and potato pie last week. Result - a nice looking single serve mince pie which I will have with mashed potatoes and broccoli from the garden. Anyway. I decided that a nice light red wine would go well with this, perhaps an Italian style red. In the cellar I fossicked about and found a couple of old Chiantis and a Negroamaro  - not enticing enough to bother bring up to the kitchen. Moving a couple of boxes I came across a cache of older NZ wines and selected a 2001 and a 2004 Drylands Pinot Noir. I'm pretty familiar with the wine style and know the provenance of the grapes but to be honest I didn't expect much from them. I grabbed a 2007 Rioja just in case I had to do some blending. Surprise, surprise - the wines are drinking well. I opened the 2001 first thinking it would be way past its use-by date. It does have an aged character on the nose and in colour is showing some browning - but, holding it to the light - albeit fading a bit at 7PM, it still retains some cherry-pink hues. The flavour is a complete surprise. There is an explosion of cherry-fruit with something heavier (plums?). Now a 2001 light Pinot Noir from Marlborough shouldn't be doing this. It finishes a bit 'burnt' - my descriptor for aged wines - but generally is holding up bloody well. I should have left it there and enjoyed the wine with my dinner but was intrigued as to what the 2004 vintage is doing so I opened that as well. Well! The colour seems to be a bit deeper but not that much. Is the 2001 a better variation methinks. The 2004 presents better on the nose -  fresher with a marzipan characteristic. Nice. The flavour is not as intense but soft and rounded like Brigitte Bardot (Where did that come from? Perhaps a concession to TSB? - ed) 

with a long finish. The wine has substance, structure and will hold up for a couple of years. Will I change my mind about the longevity of NZ wines? Yes. Re Marlborough vs other regions? Yes. A good experiment. Now I have two bottles of 13.5% alc. wines open. I'll do my best but will probably try out the cryogenic experiment again with the remainder.
Oh! By the way. Best musical choice while writing this has been Led Zeppelin Albums 1 and 2 (on random). Excellent.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I've mentioned before that a good way to keep leftover wine that you know you won't use over the next few days is to freeze it. When thawed out there might be a bit of haze but the wine will be almost as good as when you put it in the freezer (there will be some slow oxidation going on so generally it has an aged characteristic). A couple of months ago someone gave me a bottle of 2006 NZ Barrique Chardonnay. This is a good brand and the wine had won a trophy in a wine competition. I tried it and recognised its good qualities but, being 4 years old it was showing its age. We only drank half the bottle and I put the rest in the freezer thinking to bring it out later and blend with a younger wine. Well I did bring it out of the freezer tonight, nuked it a bit in the microwave oven to melt some of the ice and tried it. Once the haze had settled (leaving a decent teaspoon full of sludge in the bottom of the glass) the wine was clean and shiny and, wonder of wonders was rejuvenated. The aged characteristics it showed on first being opened ( a couple of months ago) had disappeared. The wine was fresh and I'm sure, in a wine tasting might have passed as a 2008 version. I'm keen to repeat the experiment with some older wines. Perhaps it has something to do with the 'drop-out' of the haze( dead yeasts, tannins etc.). Interesting.

Friday, October 29, 2010


I'm enjoying a good NZ Chardonnay in the early evening sunshine (yes sunshine, its 7PM and there is still sun on the deck. The bay is beautiful. Life is good. So is the Chardonnay. It is Selaks Winemakers Reserve 2009. 100% Hawkes Bay (Bayview and Haumoana) fruit. This is made seriously. Free flow juice, malolactic fermentation, barrique ageing - the works. It is a great peachy, spicy, long-flavoured wine that shows what NZ Chardonnay, particularly Hawkes Bay Chardonnay can deliver. It is not quite as good as the stunning 2008 version but it is delicious. How much is it worth? Between $20 and $30. How much did I pay for it? $13.99 at New World. Ridiculous I know but that is what is happening out there. I only hope that too much discounting doesn't compromise the quality and integrity of this wine given that the powers that be at Constellation NZ have seemingly discontinued its bigger brothers - Selaks Founders, Rose Tree Cottage and Nobilo Dixon.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Some neighbours came around for dinner on Saturday night and brought with them two bottles of Stonyridge Larose (not one, two!). They were the new release 2009 and the previous release 2008. For those who are unfamiliar with Stonyridge Larose, this is a sought after wine, made in minute quantities and one of the, if not most, expensive New Zealand wines. Most people hoard them and bring them out after years of cellaring. This is fine as the wines will last for a long time but it is great trying wines like this in their infancy and guessing what they might develop into.

We tried the 2008 first. This is a Cabernet sauvignon predominant blend with Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc (no percentages given). The wine was superb. It had great blackberry-like fruit from the Cabernet but also a rich and smooth texture from the Merlot. It had a big structure supported by good oak (mostly new oak by the taste of it) and was very spicy. The spiciness gave a savoury dimension to the taste which mixed with the very good fruit made for a very complex wine. This is one that will last for some time and it was a treat to taste. Definitely Gold Medal standard.

We followed with the 2009. Man, what a difference. This was also a stunningly good wine but for different reasons. It is a blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Malbec, 15% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. There were more fruity and less savoury notes with this wine, possibly because of the lower proportion of Merlot. It was amazingly soft and smooth. The structure didn't seem as big as that of the 2008 but this was not a detraction, just a reflection of different vintage and different blend proportions. It was like drinking a very young vintage port without the high alcohol - rich and sweet. Whilst I preferred the 2008 vintage this was still a great wine of Gold Medal standard.

As we had finished the Stonyridge and were about to play Pool we opened a 2002 E&E Black Pepper Shraz. This wasn't done as a comparison, more because great wine should be followed by wine of comparable greatness. E&E is one of Australia's top Shiraz wines from Barossa Valley. It was rich and smooth with the 8 years age showing development but the wine was no where near its peak and will continue to improve for a few more years yet.

Lynn and I got thrashed 3-0 in the Pool challenge but never mind. The wines more than made up for it.
Sunday morning started a bit slow after 3 bottles of big red wine between 4 of us (plus the Chardonnay starter) but fresh sea air out on the boat blew any cobwebs away.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Pernod Ricard NZ is selling its sparkling wine brands including Lindauer and some of its cheaper and non-core brands for 88 million dollars.
This sounds like a massive amount of money but to put things in perspective, Independent Liquor sold in 2006 for 1.26 billion dollars. Independent’s main brands were those godawful alcopops and RTD’s that young people drink.
Now I know that young people also drink the cheap sparkling wine brands and that Bernadino, Chardon and Aquila are responsible for young women’s (and some older male schoolteacher’s) excessive drinking, but in the final count cheap spirits in kiddy packaging are the main contributors to irresponsible alcohol consumption. The fact that this crap sold for over 14 times the value of the wine brands (the largest selling sparkling wine brands in New Zealand) shows where Independent Liquor’s new owners thought the growth was.
At least, on recent reports, Independent Liquor, majority owned by Australia’s Pacific Equity Partners and Hong Kong-based Unitas Capital only managed a revenue rise of 6 million dollars (just 1.4% increase) but posted an annual loss of 44 million dollars, up on the 34 million dollars they lost last year.
You can burn your fingers when playing with the devil.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Evil Grocer

There was once an evil Grocer in a kingdom that had only two grocers to supply the hungry peasants. This grocer was greedy and a bully and frequently stole from his suppliers while jacking up his prices to the peasants. He laughingly would tell them “ go to my competitor if you think you can get a better deal” knowing full well that the competitor was doing the same thing. The peasants felt squeezed but as the competitor was actually born in the kingdom they often favoured him more than the evil grocer who was from a distant kingdom. This made the evil grocer mad so he hired equally evil crows as servants to put more pressure on his suppliers. One day an honest supplier who had been selling the evil grocer amphorae of wine thought that it would be a good idea to reward the peasants with extra quantities of wine at the same price as the normal sized amphora. 
Honest Supplier

He said to the evil crow servant “As you buy a lot of my wines I wish to offer you this deal first. I will sell you amphorae that are half as big again as the normal size but at the same price as the normal sized ones. You can make your profit and the peasants will get a good deal as a reward for their loyalty to you and to my brand” The evil crow servant said “Nah. I don’t care about rewarding the peasants and I think that it is a stupid idea. Take it to my competitor if you like but don’t bother me again. And by the way, I’ve just put up the compulsory ‘marketing’ levy to you” Feeling dejected the honest supplier went to the competitor and offered him the same deal. The competitor was excited and said “Thank you honest supplier. This will reward my customers greatly and I can see an opportunity for selling even more than normal of your wonderful product. I will take all the larger amphorae that you have”.  The honest trader was happy but said that as the larger amphora was more difficult and costly to make he could not get any more made in time for the harvest celebrations but as what he had and that the competitor was taking was 10 times the normal sales volume anyway he didn’t see that there would be any problem. In due time the larger amphorae arrived and the sales were as predicted ten times the normal. The competitor was elated. The honest supplier pleased and the peasants excited. It did not take long for the evil grocer to notice and so he had his evil crow servant summon the honest supplier and said “ Why have you sold that good deal to my competitor? I want the same deal immediately” The honest supplier presented proof of the evil crow servant’s refusal of the offer and was reminded that he had been given the offer first but it fell on deaf ears. In exasperation he explained that no more of the larger amphorae could be produced in time for the harvest celebrations.
Evil Crow Servant

 The evil crow servant then threatened that unless the honest supplier paid him the amount of profit that he would have made if he had sold all of the amphorae to the evil grocer then the evil grocer would send back all of the other produce that the honest supplier had supplied into his store and would never trade with him again. This was devastating news for the honest supplier as this would mean that he would lose half of his business and would not be able to provide employment for his own trusty servants. The honest supplier sought an interview with the evil grocer and explained to him what his evil crow servant was doing. The evil grocer said “ My crow servant is following my wishes and I cannot counter that. Begone and think yourself lucky that we will still consider your product. Pay us the money and do not make complaints to the highest tribunals in the land. If you do so even if they find judgement in your favour we will no longer purchase your products. Away with you” The honest supplier had no alternative than to bow down to these outlandish demands and give away hard earned profits to keep the evil grocer happy.

The moral of the story? In a duopoly honest suppliers get screwed, consumers rarely benefit and fat bastards get fatter.

Monday, September 20, 2010


One of my favourite Malt Whiskies and one that brings back pleasant memories is The Macallan.
I marketed this brand in New Zealand in the mid 1980's through to the early 90's. Whilst never being a big seller (in New Zealand) it certainly was head and shoulders above most of its competitors in majesty. This is definitely the king of Malts. It has power and consistency but the richness of the whisky is perfectly balanced with the sweetness of the sherry oak casks. I have always had at least one bottle of The Macallan in my collection at any one time and sometimes  a couple of different styles. The 12 y.o. though is definitely a perennial. When sorting out my whiskies recently I 'rediscovered' the The Macallan 'Twenties'.

This is a recreation of the style of The Macallan in the 1920's. Macallan's Master Distiller sampled bottles of The Macallan from that decade and matched their aroma and flavour with more recent distillations taken from the casks maturing in the warehouses. There definitely is an evolving style with whiskies and over the years public tastes vary and blenders put their personal stamps on production. The twenties style of bottled whisky was drier as after most of the production was sold to whisky blenders as a 'top dressing' single malt for their blended whiskies, the few remaining casks continued to mature their contents for longer, resulting in a whisky that was slightly drier than modern day Macallan. On sampling it again today I have really enjoyed its richness of flavour with a lovely peachy and citrus nose. There definitely is a pronounced sherry character (used sherry casks are used to age some good Malts in). The finish is spicy and gingery leaving you wanting more (dangerous!).
I was lucky enough to visit The Macallan distillery in 1989. I remember after having a great tour of the facilities having a comparative tasting in Easter Elchies House the beautiful old residence that defines the brand.
Easter Elchies House

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Today has been a day of jobs around the house (Her Indoors is back). One of them was making concrete bricks with ceramics embedded for a garden. I had to fossick in the basement for a mould and for some quick drying cement which involved moving a few boxes and crates. A few of these contained some of my whiskies. Now I knew I had them but had kind of misplaced them in or move North. I recently wrote a post on tasting some of the Malt whiskies I have. These are additional to those.
When I was travelling in my job I used to buy a Malt whisky or Cognac at duty free on return. Some I gave away as gifts, others I just put in the wine cellar. Years ago I attended a whisky auction when United Distillers got rid of a lot of their old stock. There were some amazing bargains to be had and I still have some bottles left. Many years ago, I uncovered an old cache of spirits at a now long defunct liquor importers. I have a few old bottles from this.
In random order the bottles I dragged out of the basement today are:

Scapa 12 y.o. Malt from Orkney

Hugh O'Donnell Glen Mist whiskey liqueur from Ireland. (circa 1940's).
Highland Park 12 y.o. Malt from Orkney (old bottle shape).
Highland Park 12 y.o. Malt from Orkney (new bottle shape).
Cutty Sark blend (circa 1950's).
Tullamore Dew 12 y.o. Malt from Ireland.
Long John MacDonald Royal Choice 21 y.o. blend in wade decanters (3 bottles).
Antique 'extra special' blend (Mcleay Duff circa 1950's)
Macallan 12.y.o Malt.
The Royal Household blend (James Buchanan circa 1940's).
Haigs Dimple 12.y.o. blend (circa 1950's)
The Mill Burn 12.y.o. Malt (McLeay Duff circa 1950's)
Lord Calvert blended whiskey (Kentucky circa 1950's)
The Glendronach 15.y.o. Malt
Usher's 'extra' blended whisky ( circa 1950's)
The Macallan 'twenties' Malt (recreation of the 1920's style).
The Glenlivit 15.y.o Malt
Munro's King of Kings deluxe blend (in stone jug)
Chivas Regal 12.y.o. blend.

I should have dug these out earlier in winter but  we will enjoy a tipple with discerning friends. I'm sure that TSB would appreciate the taste of some of these.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I have just completed an exhaustive comparative evaluation of the blogs that emanate from Richard (of RBB)’s bus station. There are a couple of sleek new models, a few solid performers but the rest are clapped out and dangerous to passengers who would be better off avoiding them. This exercise was not unlike a major comparative wine tasting. With a wine tasting, particularly Sauvignon Blanc, the judge is left with sore teeth and gums from the acid in the wine. This blog ‘tasting’ has similarly left me with uncomfortable feelings – nausea, distaste, pains in the nether regions amongst them. 

I got The Curmudgeon to assist me in the exercise as the sheer scale of it was daunting and I knew that he was used to wading through piles of shit after the plumbing problems he had in a previous abode. He put on his ‘shit suit’ for the job. I didn’t tell him that he looked like a dick (Richard (of RBB) had earlier likened him to a sperm which I guess is related.

The results are as follows, points out of 20: A Bronze medal is between 15.5 and 17; a Silver medal between 17 and 18.5 and  Gold medal between 18.5 and 20.

Akish the Philistine
Made in the traditional style and showing age. Tired and not looking as if it will last.  Any good aspects have turned to vinegar which is only being held up by a heavily wooded structure. 10-
Anselm’s Extremely Slow Blog
Rather dull and boring. Flat and Germanic with no zest. Flabby like a Liebfraumilch. Reminded me of Blue Nun. 12. 
Aurel’s Blog
Another Kraut style but with slightly more edge to it. Started off fresh but soon deteriorated. Old apples? Made in the newer style but the traditional values cannot be shaken off. 13.
Bennett’s Incredibly Fast Blog
A much newer style, refreshing in its boisterousness verging on brashness but lacking in depth. Some maturing will help bring out the hidden richness and knock off some of the rough edges. 13.
Bin Hire
An extremely bad odour is the first impression. No distinctive faults that can be identified but something disturbing lurking beneath. Made in a ‘me too’ style that lacks distinctiveness. Rotten fruitiness and a dusty, dirty finish. Best avoided. 10-
Christian Living
Made in the traditional style, rather unenlightening but ambiguous. There is a hint of something else lurking beneath. Sour grapes? There is an old woody structure but it is balanced by some luscious juicy tones. 14
The Curmudgeon became apoplectic when he saw how Richard (of RBB) referred to his blog (The Curmudgeon) on the list I had prepared. As all blogs were evaluated without the headings and therefore essentially ‘blind’, he did not know which blogs he was evaluating but obviously recognised his own. For fairness his points have been excluded so as not to distort the judging.
The inherent depth and richness is marred by an ascerbic edge which whilst not quite vitriolic is definitely acidic. Suffers from inconsistency but there is an underlying and constant resistance to the Roman style.  18 (Silver Medal).
Different Time Zone Bill
Erratic and insubstantial. Has aspirations to having an extra dimension but this just highlights the one-dimensionality of this product. Not to be trusted, there is no guarantee of provenance. 12.
Kiwi Doug.
One to look out for in the future. A relative newcomer but one with proven experience in other climes. Source material is imported but, with proper long-term grounding in NZ ‘terroir’ may yet prove itself. Recent showings are a bit tired perhaps showing low turnover. Fresh material and an extra sales and marketing push may change this. 16 (Bronze Medal).
Man of Errors
Definitely a designer brand but a beautifully constructed one at that. Boutique in nature due to its limited production and its eagerly sought after offerings. Man of Errors is in the top echelon. Criticism is that it might be a little cold and intellectual but there are shades and nuances that suggest a passionate beating heart just below the surface threatening to ravish and overwhelm. This heat and alcohol if kept in balance with structure and finesse may prove to be a classic. 18.6 Gold Medal.
My Spurt.
A show pony. One of these designer offerings that are all show and no substance. Aptly named as it seems that this one has shot its bolt before getting established. Designer in exterior there is unfortunately not much inside. A few tissues are recommended to wipe this one up. 12-
Nicola’s Supermarket Bag.
With a cheeky name poking fun at the hub this one started off really well. Using risky material that was bound to be controversial (cat murdering) consumers were trapped (but not to such a bad end as aforementioned cats). Overseas influence withdrew this from the market however so the initial promise failed to be delivered. 14.
Nicola’s Travel Bag.
All imported material this. With an understanding of local tastes this is not so bad but the source material is from some pretty dubious places. Continuity of supply has been a problem with fits and starts. Not a reliable proposition but there have been some quality offerings. One to support from the heart rather than the head I feel. A return to grass roots and an injection of local quality material is recommended and wished for. Keep on the horizon. 15.
Riccardo Testore
To be avoided. This is one of those imports quickly brought in to fill a gap in the market at a particular time. No class, no substance and it seems no continuity. Let it go the bargain bin. 10.
Richard’s Bass Bag
Whilst lacking in finesse and becoming a bit tired this original is still the market leader. Volume overpowers quality for sure but consistency and reliability have to count for something. At times flabby and at other times insipid there is still an element of unpredictability in the content. Source material shows some rot in the root system but overall though this one is like the old favourite uncle or the big cuddly teddy bear (the one with one ear). 18.5 (Gold Medal).
Richard’s Bass Bag 2.
Severe, hard, straight up and down. This is a cut down version of the previous and unfortunately lacks the warmth and familiarity of the original kind of like Crawford Farm versus Kim Crawford SP. OK for those dinner parties with poseurs but not to share with friends. 14.
Richard’s Bass Bag 3
Obviously being aware of the resistance to the austerity of RBB2, the new RBB3 tried to inject some warmth to this otherwise pale and pathetic offering. I feel that it only serves to split the market. Second Fiddle (see later) does this better. 13.
Satan Son of the Dawn
The deregulation of the market has brought in some exciting and crazy offerings . This one is dangerous and edgy. The overpowering stench of sulphur detracts on the nose however and the taste is a little too hot. That said the spiciness promised well but there have been no new releases and the current vintages are becoming stale. What could have been? 15.
Second Fiddle
A budget brand that has been around for a while. Unpretentious and unassuming this is a case of you get what you pay for. Occasionally it goes off market, whether from shortage of material, production difficulties or a marketing strategy of undersupply I don’t know. If RBB is like a cuddly old uncle this one is like that familiar old auntie who smells of mothballs, is a bit self-opinionated but you know that her heart is in the right place. It would help if you knew that she was loaded and was going to leave you the farm, but there you go. 16 (Bronze Medal)
Shaw Thing!
Flash and brassy this one ripped into the market full of promise and consistently under delivered. Content is shallow, tone is pushy and arrogant with a whiff that gets up your nose. It hasn’t been available for a while which is probably just as well. 11.
The Basket Guy
A nice brand that was well constructed with fine delicate material, a nice nose and refreshing finish. Some behind-the-scenes production difficulties seemed to erode the stability and production halted. A fond memory. 14.5.
The Confusion Chronicles
A precocious newcomer which started out tentatively but, once becoming established showed itself to be daring and controversial. Entering the New World arena with the baggage of traditional Old World on its back this one has showed promise. Edgy and flighty it doesn’t linger so the small offerings have to be taken and savoured as they arise. Some paranoia evident vis a vis the security of the underwear drawer and an unwillingness to enlist professional help.17 (Bronze Medal)
The Painted Face.
With start-up capital provided from the hub this one started out very slow and just sat for a while. Just when retailers were about to dump it from the shelves it rejuvenated itself and now shows promise of joining the ‘A’ team. A young style it has some quirkiness and individuality that is welcomed. Fresh, fruity and sweet with  a nice underlying edge this is one that shows those flabby Krauts what a good Germanic style should be like. 16 (Bronze Medal)
The Pink Paddler
With atrocious labelling this one was about to be written off as yet another insipid Rose until the content was explored. It is adventurous, clever and muscular showing great sustainability and power whilst retaining a sweet femininity. Unpredictable in a positive sense this one shows promise. 16.6 (Bronze Medal).
The The Guy
Had to take Alka Selzer after this one. It repeats on you. Not recommended. 10-
The Wine Guy
I couldn’t rate myself but asked The Curmudgeon to do so and not to tell me the results until after they were published.
Has he gone? What a tosser! I only did this because he promised me a drink and then the mean bastard gave me a left-over bottle of Crawford Farm Pinot Noir. It was quite nice but I won’t tell him that. His blog is boring and he seems obsessed with talking about wine. I put up with it in case he shares some with me but the greedy bugger just drinks the lot (sorry he says 'evaluates'). I’d give him 0 out of 20 for his site but I know that he has a couple of magnums in the cellar so won’t be able to drink those in a sitting so I’ll give him a 17.5 (Silver Medal). The Curmudgeon.
Twisted Scottish Bastard
An irreverent brand, this however is not like the critter ones and actually has some substance behind the boorish fa├žade. Thick-skinned and definitely woody this is rough and rustic on the surface but surprisingly has some delicacy underneath. Like a Malt whisky aged in sherry casks this one combines power with sophistication. Maturing though will knock off the remaining rough edges 18.5 (Gold Medal)

As a warm-up we looked at some other fringe blogs:
Bland and boring text book stuff. Some offerings so sweet and cloying as to make one gag 8-
Jesus Christ
Strong and controversial but too volatile to safely consume. 12.
Sweet and savoury at the same time this one is instantly recognizable but has an exotic character. Suffers from over exposure though and is best kept as a secret. 14.
Simon E. Crafter
Blowsy over-worked American. All puff, no quality. 10 
John Locke
A pretend brand. Teases the consumer but has no real follow through. Only makes noises when it suits but will not support the Hub. 10.
Bas’s Bag.
Withered character with distinct goaty, gamey aroma. Strong whiff of ammonia on top of thin centre makes this particularly unpalatable. No recent offerings so may have died away. 10-

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Sometimes releases from wine companies, particularly big wine companies are bad. This can be attributed to pressure to move wine in tanks (small and medium companies also have this problem), pressure to fill the bottles to meet the demands of a strong brand (medium size companies also have this problem), or shovelling out anything as long as the packaging and website looks OK (generally the domain only of the big companies). It is when the responsibility of the brand is handed over to Marketing without enough input from the winemakers that there is a problem. This is fine if the marketers know something about wine but if they don't it is a case of consumer beware. I bought a bottle of Crawford Farm Pinot Noir 2008 today. It was heavily discounted ($11.99 down from over $20). Cheap yes but there have been so many very good wine specials on recently that I thought this was another. I was particularly looking for a Pinot Noir and avoiding the other cheap offerings as I know how much it costs to make good Pinot Noir. I chose the Crawford Farm on price yes (discounted price) but also becuse I trusted the brand. Generally, Crawford Farm  is made from selected fruit parcels like its cousin Kim Crawford 'spot label'. Foolishly I didn't check the back label. If I had done I would not have bought the wine.
Opening it this evening I was immediately struck by its pale colour and apparent lack of substance. This may be OK for a light Burgundy or a much older wine but this is a NZ 2008 Pinot Noir.  The taste showed a great deal of winemaker 'working' to extract some flavours and to try and put a bit of body in. Confused I checked the back label and discovered that the fruit source is from Marlborough, Hawkes Bay and Gisborne. Now I usually drink Marlborough Pinot Noir as my fourth choice after Waipara, Martinborough and Central Otago and find it OK but rarely exciting. But..Hawkes Bay and...Gisborne! Man, no wonder the wine is overworked.
I looked up the Crawford Farm website (subset of Kim Crawford/subset of Constellation NZ website) and was informed:

"The grapes for this wine were selected from cool climate vineyards in New
Zealand's premier Viticultural regions of Marlborough, Central Otago and


The wine notes blurb on the Crawford Farm Pinot Noir 2008 on  the website went on to tell me:

"The fruit was judiciously handled and cold soaked for four days to optimise
flavour and colour extraction and then fermented using selected yeast
strains to ensure maximum complexity (and a small portion of the ferment
was left to 'go wild' for added flavour and interest!).  100% Malolactic
fermentation together with partial French Oak maturation has resulted in a
full flavoured and well structured wine with instant appeal and a delightful,
lingering finish. "

I think that the marketers and the winemakers should get together over a glass of this concoction and get their story straight before releasing it to us the great unwashed.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


The Swiss have created an 8% alcohol 'wine' in powdered form that is aimed at the hiking/tramping/camping market. I'm sure that it tastes awful. After a long arduous hike a cool drink from a fresh mountain stream would be more enjoyable. If its more leisurely hiking/tramping that you do then why not carry a bottle or two of the real stuff. Second Fiddle is a strong believer in the Virgin Mary's mysteries and Jesus' miricles and recently spoke of the wedding at Cana where the big J supposedly turned water into wine at Mary's request. Maybe J had a packet or two of 'Trek 'n' Eat Rouge secreted on his person.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Mrs Tilly’s, is a family run business who pride themselves in the production of good quality confectionery, using traditional methods and only the finest of ingredients. Most importantly they are exploring ways of exploiting their unique selling point of having no artificial additives or preservatives in any of their products.
They believe that it is this, coupled with the wonderful taste of their products, that appeals to buyers and customers alike. Unlike many of the more established manufacturers in the business, they set out to favour flavour over longevity. They refused to compromise on the taste of their products by adding preservatives even though this meant reducing the shelf life.
Mrs Tilley says Our macaroon bars are traditionally produced with an enticing, sweet soft centre. This is then dipped in delicious real chocolate and then coated in a crunchy toasted mixture of dark and light coconut which gives the lovely special burnt taste. This works especially well when drunken scottish bastards get tipped out of the pubs at 11pm craving the taste of a battered and deep fried confectionery. It is much safer for them to eat one of our macaroon bars than to risk immolating themselves at home over the gas cooker.”

Friday, August 13, 2010


....but sometimes they are just covering their arses. Do you read the blurb on the back of wine bottles? The marketers can and do make up all sorts of rubbish (I know I've done so myself). Generally the cheaper the blend the more creative the writing. Often, with better quality wines, in addition to the expansive descriptions of flavours and colour there is a bit of detail about the grapes used and the area(s) they came from. There is usually an indication of when the wine is best drunk or how long to cellar it. The trick is to pick a number that suggests the wine is big and will improve with cellaring without putting the buyer off by him thinking that only his grandchildren will benefit from the wine. I opened a bottle of 2002 Stonehaven Hidden Sea Cabernet Sauvignon. This Wrattonbully/Coonawarra blend was made at the now closed Stonehaven winery in Padthaway and I suspect that the Hidden Sea label is another casualty of the disastrous Constellation Australia brand reorganisation. The back label tells us that "the wine is rich and complex, revealing aromatic ripe blueberry, redcurrant and cassis flavours that are enhanced by subtle oak characters. The wine has been made to enjoy now or cellar for up to 7 years" Well they are wrong! The wine is truly alive and will benefit from further cellaring (not now for me as I've nearly finished my only bottle). It is rich and complex I agree. It has a dense dark colour with vibrant hues. There is a nice balance of fruit and gentle oak that age has combined. It has a round, soft and still fresh flavour with a nice finish and will be good for a few more years. Constellation Australia (formerly BRL Hardy LTD) has been selling off vineyards and wineries (haven't found a buyer for the magnificent Stonehaven winery yet) and I assume dumping out all of the old stocks. If you see any of this wine or more recent vintages or indeed any Stonehaven red wines being specialled out then I recommend that you buy them. Seriously good and good keepers.
Stonehaven Cellar Door and Winery

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Tonight I couldn't be bothered cooking anything new so fossicked in the freezer for one of the pasta sauces that we freeze. I found a very small container of what looked like a Bolognaise sauce and emptied that into a larger container to thaw. As it didn't look like enough I found another small container of what I thought was a tomato based vegetable pasta sauce. I emptied this into the larger container also and as it started to thaw out realised that it was one of Her Indoor's soup mixtures ( beans, broccoli, tomato, carrot, zucchini etc). Thinking 'what the hell' I heated it to have with spaghetti and Parmesan. The result was fantastic. The Bolognaise meat sauce was spicy (I always make it with chilli, garlic and ginger) and the soup was thick and flavoursome. It was a great experience.

Earlier I had chosen a simple red from the cellar thinking that as I only wanted a glass to have with dinner I wouldn't open anything too good. Recently we had been drinking some pretty ordinary Pinot Noir (Montana 'Corbett's Legacy' Waipara Pinot Noir 2008, bought cheap from Blackmarket but supposedly being a fairly expensive wine). Thinking that the Kim Crawford 2007 Spot Label series Marlborough Pinot Noir would be a bit faded and similarly ordinary I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the wine is rich, luscious, fruity and very alive. The one glass I promised myself soon became two and a half. I'll save the rest for tomorrow. To be honest this shouldn't have been too much of a surprise as Kim Crawford wines, especially the ones up the ladder in the range, have fantastic fruit, are very well made and can benefit well from cellaring. I'll look out for more of this 2007 Pinot Noir in case anyone is specialing it out.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Give Me A Little Old Fashioned Love The kind that lingers through the years The kind 
that's made by God up above Give Me A Little Old Fashioned Love

(Ernest Tubb, also recorded by: Smokey Greene)

A friend of mine who shall remain nameless told me the other day of one of his experiences in the wine  
trade in Russia. A contact of his, a fellow wine marketer with a reputation as a 'bon vivant' has a habit of 
slipping in some unsavoury expressions when talking to trade contacts and customers. This is as a joke 
which some of them get and others go on blithely innocent. At an official and highly publicised event, this chap's friends challenged him to slip in something outrageous in the thank you speech he had to present
He chose to talk about the sweet dessert wine and in summing it up he said that he appreciated that it 
kind of lingers on the tongue.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


In the previous post's comments, TSB asked what 'town,' name should be given to NZ's equivalent to a Bordeaux-style wine. This made me think about the New Zealand geographical areas and their meaningfulness on the world stage. Outside of the 'appellation' area of Marlborough, the wine drinking world knows virtually nothing about New Zealand's regions and the non wine drinking populace wouldn't even know Marlborough. Asuming that a few people in the world know where New Zealand is, they might have seen it on a map and noticed that it is in two pieces - a North Island and a South Island. If we want to be taken seriously on the world's wine drinking stage (and by serious I mean actually sell some of the stuff and not witter on about how good everything is) we need to simplify our proposition so that stockists and consumers have some minimal understanding of what they are buying. New Zealand, as far as the rest of the world goes makes decent Sauvignon Blanc. The average drinker looking for a fresh, crisp light styled wine probably doesn't think in terms of varietals but may think in terms of country. The best NZ Sauvignon Blanc comes from Marlborough and Nelson with some Waipara stuff making the grade. These regions are in The South Island. The next largest varietal planting is Pinot Noir. The best on average comes from Waipara, Central Otago and Marlborough - again from the South Island. Next largest planted varietal is Chardonnay. The best comes from Hawkes Bay and Gisborne from the North Island. The next largest planted group of varietals that are often blended are the 'Bordeaux' varietals - Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc etc. The best examples come from Hawkes Bay and Waiheke Island - the North Island.

 So. How do we easily market these around the world? I suggest a New Zealand South Island white wine in a 'bordeaux' shaped bottle. This is Sauvignon Blanc.

A New Zealand South Island red wine in a 'Burgundy' shaped bottle. This is Pinot Noir.

A New Zealand red wine in a 'Bordeaux' shaped bottle. This is the Merlot. Cabernet Sauvignon etc. blend.

 Lastly a New Zealand North Island white wine in a 'Burgundy' shaped bottle. This is Chardonnay. Now I know that New Zealand makes good Riesling, Syrah, Pinot Gris and a few other varietals but - does the world know or care? Keep it simple. Don't confuse the punters and lets all make some serious money out of this potentially great export product.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


WINE OF THE WEEK.... definitely the best wine I've had all week and, for its style, the best 'Bordeaux' -like wine I've had for a while. The wine in question is (well actually now was as I'm finishing the last glass) Man O' War Ironclad 2007. This is a Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec blend from Waiheke Island. This particular vintage received almost the highest ranking ever for a NZ red wine from the Wine Advocate a USA wine publication. I know, I know ... you are saying who gives a FF (flying fuck) what the Americans think, but remember that they have a more established wine industry than we have and, they, with their bigger currency, a lot more wine connoisseurs and a hell of a lot more wealthy people, manage to consume  a great deal of the world's best wines. When it comes to the world's best 'Bordeaux' style wines, surprise, surprise these actually come from Bordeaux (south of France to the geographically challenged).

 The best are fabulous but well beyond the purchasing capability of yours truly. What I seek out now are very good replicas of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Growth wines that I remember. I used to experiment with Californian wines finding that their intensity and richness matched some of the characters of a Pauillac but over time was disappointed in their single dimensionality (not to mention their price which is almost 1st Growth). I moved to trying and buying the best Australian Cabernet Sauvignon blends, being initially bowled over by the powerful fruit, big oak and strong tannins but, after finding that the cost of toothpaste and Listerine to offset the damage was prohibitive and that the wines even after many years do not really age and develop properly I was left high and dry. I should have remembered the stunning Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignons that McWilliams produced in the 1970's which were definitely a taste of what was to come. Believe it or not we are now spoiled for choice for very great New Zealand 'Bordeaux' blends (any combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and a couple of other varietals). The best come from Hawkes Bay and Waiheke Island. Because of the fact that to get the best 'taste' necessitates blending of several varietals, naming of the blend is a problem. Whilst the origin of the varietals is Bordeaux (France) and the best benchmarking for comparative tasting is Bordeaux it is a shame that we (New Zealand) cannot come up with a descriptive term that describes the wine style as made in New Zealand irrespective of whether it comes from Hawkes Bay, Waiheke or wherever.

But I digress. Back to the wine. It has a stunning deep and clear red colour with crimson edges. It looks alive and suggrsts that it will last a long time. The aroma is deep and redolent of blackberries and currants with a bit of complex earthiness. This is not a wine for the faint-hearted. The taste is long, elegant and whilst rich has that astringency and cleansing palate character that is more akin to Bordeaux than Australia.
It finishes clean with rich tannins that don't dry out the mouth but still leave you wanting more. Overall a good wine that deserves the accolades it has won. Is there a negative element? Yes. For me. I wish I'd bought more of it when I had the chance.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Nuova Lazio now has the distinction of having a liquor store for every 1,000 inhabitants. Congratulations people, the new licensing decision now means that you can compete with the big suburbs like Manurewa and East Tamaki. The licensing tribunal correctly recognise that communities like Nuova Lazio need extra liquor stores because of the younger population. The kids need something to do, especially when they are playing outside of school.
Archaic school regulations won't allow schools to supply alcohol at the tuck shops but hopefully this will change when the humble meat pie is reinstated. I'm sure that the new owner of the new license will be an honest and responsible trader in tune with the needs of his/her clientele.

To this end liquor companies will assist with new lines of sweet and colourful alcoholic drinks and rogue suppliers will have a never-ending range of party pills, ready-rolled marijuana substitutes to whet the kids (oops - young adults appetites). Tobacco companies will assist with fit out and have a good supply of under-the-counter offerings (don't forget the single cigarette sales!). Whilst new and ever prettier drinks are good, one must not forget the good old staples like Woodstock bourbon and coke for the guys and Bacardi Breezers for the young ladies. These can be purchased in bulk at amazingly discounted trade prices enabling the new licensee to special them out cheaper than a bottle of water.
To balance things out, in Nuova Lazio there are some old geezers who keep up the national average of consumption. I am reliably informed that there is a demand for Chardon from one 'connoisseur'. This big spender thinks nothing of splurging out on treats to entertain his friends with and is often seen at the supermarket bakery counter selecting just the right product to match with his favourite tipple.
At the other end of the spectrum is the caledonian imbiber. These hardened and experienced drinkers scoff at the thoughts of elegant Chardon-like beverages and prefer the manly taste and kick of whisky. Of course being caledonian they also prefer to purchase said beverage at extremely low prices. Don't despair, there are good 'scotch' substitutes to be had from the sub-continent.