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.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Richard (of RBB) has a low threshold for boredom. This is very surprising from someone whose chosen musical instrument is the double bass. One would think that someone who is looking continually for excitement would have chosen a gazoo or at least a triangle - something that has the potential to wake the audience up. But we must remember that Richard (of RBB) is a bit of an unusual creature, one who is frightened of birds, cows, large women, fast cars, fast car-drivers, fish, fishermen, old women, lawyers, band leaders, guitar players, second-fiddle players, Malaysians, golf balls, men in greatcoats, salami, espresso coffee, cats, loud noises and children who wear hats.
If we were to choose a wine to suit Richard (of RBB) who 'doesn't like boring things'  we should avoid the usual suspects and present him with Chardonnay. Not just any Chardonnay but one with a bit of class. Richard (of RBB) to give him credit, is proficient in both Italian and German languages. He has learnt this via his arcane interest in the afore mentioned double bass. I have inside knowledge however that his knowledge of the French language is non-existant. At secondary school Richard was relegated to the lower classes where the classical languages were not offered (bookkeeping and finger painting were the alternatives) so Latin, Greek and French are not in his repertoire. This gap in his education of course provides a hunger so to 'jazz' up his liking of Chardonnay, even though it is a French grape, we will remind him of his previous fondness for Chardon. Not only does this wine-style allude to Chardonnay (even though a Chardonnay grape never came within a thousand kilometers of this 'wine'), it has a posh, french-style 'on' at the end. This should keep the old ponce happy for a while.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Borat- Wine tasting

OK, I know you have seen this before but it reminds me of the times when I have tried to show Richard (of RBB) the proper way to taste wine. He has at different times drunk from the bottle, laid down and drunk from his gumboot and, one notorious time, joined a vertical tasting of Chateau Margaux a First Growth Bordeaux and mixed it with lemonade. Despairing of this I introduced him to cheap Australian Chardonnay which, with its sweetness and alcohol tastes like a lemonade drink. I think that this has worked as he doesn't bother me with questions much anymore except for the odd time when he has a flashback from his earlier Chardon drinking.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Drunk and Stupid! Viral Video Film School

The Wine Critic world is overpopulated by many wankers and wannabees. I really like this guys send up of them

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wine Date

My partner says I don't listen to her. This video made us both laugh

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Am I a wine snob?
A dictionary interpretation is:

- noun
1. A person who imitates, cultivates or slavishly admires social superiors and is condescending or overbearing to others.
2. A person who believes himself or herself to be an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field: a musical snob

(I reproduced this faithfully - the musical snob reference was in the dictionary explanation).

The above seems reasonable apart from the fact that it says "admires social superiors", which I don't understand, having never met one.
I have a lot of knowledge of wine and like to think that I can pass on some of my vast knowledge to others without being "condescending" or "disdainful".
I do however feel sorry for people who waste their money on crap wines because they don't know any better. A friend who came to stay recently left behind a bottle of Saints South East Australian 2008 Shiraz.
I opened it tonight as I was cooking a Bolognaise sauce dish and needed a drop of red wine. On tasting it I immediately noticed that it was crap. I think my palate was OK and discerning as I hadn't had any wine ( or any alcohol) for a week. (I believe in only drinking when you feel like it and for the last week didn't feel the need). You should only cook with a wine that is worth drinking so I opened another Shiraz that was readily to hand. This was a 1993 Eileen Hardy Shiraz. This wine was superb. It is nicely developed, still rich but with the age having softened it out to make an even, smooth and almost silky wine. Great. A decent dollop of this to the sauce made for a great pasta dish.
Is this snobbish? I don't think so. I had the better wine to hand. The first one was crap and not worth putting in the sauce let alone drinking so why not? This got me to thinking though that there are many wine drinkers out there that drink crap because they don't know better. They haven't  yet experienced the great or even better wines of the world. This doesn't make them dullards. It doesn't necessarily make them cheapskates as I know that for the money my friend paid for the Saints wine I could have found a different wine at the same price that is much better. It is all about experience and inside knowledge. I know that I pay money for music, computers, household goods, cars etc. that an expert would scoff at. Are they snobs? No. They just have a better knowledge of their field.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Its been years since I drank it and I probably won't in the future but Carlsberg Elephant beer is a part of my personal history. I haven't been a wine guy exclusively. I have marketed beers, spirits and liqueurs as well as wine. I was lucky to have been the  brand manager for Carlsberg in the mid 80's and very much enjoyed that fine product especially when it was selling well (mid 80's) when we had freshly imported product direct from the brewery(s) in Denmark. When the significant importers collapsed (Allied Liquor and NZW&S) due to a combination of factors (deregulation of import licensing, change to the Sale of Liquor Act and and rise of small importers and distributors) the offerings began to be dodgy. Small operators couldn't afford to import full containers (at least 2400 cases of beer) and consolidated shipments with other products. These consolidations were often made in 'hub' ports that were far away from the source of the products. They also sourced product from second-tier distributors (not the original producers) so that the beer brought in was often close to its use-by date on landing. Today, Carlsberg is brewed in New Zealand (since 2007) and whilst selling in much greater quantities than before is not really the same as the original.
 Carlsberg is a famous Danish beer company founded in the mid 1800's and is today the 4th largest brewery group in the world. It is one of those companies with lucky brands that whilst being huge have a 'boutique' image. Carlsberg's Elephant beer at 7.2% alc. is a pretty strong brew, not the strongest beer made by any means but still significantly over the normal Pilsners. Its actually quite a well made beer and should have had a good following by aficionados but, like anything that has macho connotations has been adopted by yobbos and lager louts.

These morons would drink drain cleaner if someone told them it was tough to do so. Anyway, Elephant beer wasn't named because elephants are big and strong
but because the original Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen has elephant statues at the entrance.


I've mentioned before that if you have some left over wine and don't plan to drink it over the next few days, then the best storage option is to freeze it. This works best for long storage as sealing and refrigerating can make the wine last a long time if there is not much airspace in the bottle. I find that refrigerating is good for those bottles left after a party where they have been opened but bugger all is drunk from them, or if you have a half bottle to pour the wine into leaving minimal airspace. The wine of course will have already been exposed to extra oxygen on opening which will accelerate its ageing but it should be OK for a week or so. For longer keeping though, freezing is best. I wouldn't bother freezing wine unless there was at least 3/4 of a bottle (note, when freezing allow for expansion so don't freeze a bottle that is full or it will break or force the cork out).

When you want to use the wine you will obviously have to allow time for it to thaw, unless you are an Eskimo and want the wine at room temperature.

 Gentle microwaving is acceptable, just be careful not to cook the wine. When the wine is frozen, potassium bitartrate deposits will precipitate. These are harmless but unsightly. Given time they will dissolve and 'disappear'. If you decant the wine away from these the taste will only be slightly different from the original. The wine should have most if not all of the characteristics of when it was first opened except for the fact that it will have been exposed to more oxygen. It won't be oxidised or taste like vinegar but the extra exposure will accelerate the ageing.
Some people I know will scoff at this saying things like "no wine ever gets left over at my place" Ho Ho! What about when you have had a dinner party or worse, a party where some moron opens up too many bottles and they are left unused. Do you scoff the lot and go into an alcoholic coma or tip it out?
Give the freezing option a chance sometime.