Whenever someone says they don’t like New Zealand wines, it feels as though they are dishing out a short but sharp stab to my heart. I’m not patriotic about many things, but I am precious about our wines. Of all the inherently ‘kiwi’ things that New Zealand produces, (All Blacks, proper Marmite, golden kiwifruit, pineapple lumps, to name a few…) the wine is the one I know and love the best! In a recent friendly debate with my new wine snob colleague, I did admit through gritted teeth that he was right, New Zealand wines aren’t the best in the world, but they do have a unique quality to them. And if he did insist on getting all personal, we are further up the wine ranks than the English!
A certain someone and I have our favourite wines from all over the world, but it always makes us smile when we spot a New Zealand bottle on a wine list somewhere. If we’re ever undecided or slightly flummoxed by a gargantuan wine list, then we will opt for a drop from the motherland as that’s always a safe bet. I thought I was fairly well-versed in my Sauvignons to Pinot Noirs of New Zealand wines until someone asked me about Waiheke Island and I realised that in all my wine-drinking days at home, I had never ever ventured across to the island. On our last trip home to New Zealand, I finally righted that wrong!
I have recently mused that in a past life, I was born a Spaniard because whenever I set foot in Spain, I immediately feel at ease. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been a guest, but the country and people have always seemed welcoming and friendly. I think I could quickly acclimatise to a life of late starts and late nights, indulging in all the hearty and flavoursome Spanish cuisine, and sipping on their well-rounded wines with every meal. The more we see and eat of the country, the more we want to stay longer.
We’ll always have our snappy weekend jaunts, but we’re also embracing a slower, more leisurely way of travel. Our last Spanish adventure was a ten day affair through Andalusia; it gave us enough time to see all the sights but also just to sit back, relax and do nothing but just be present in whatever Spanish scene we were in. I loved that trip so much, I’m already eyeing up a slow amble through another part of the country… This time, it’s Catalonia after being inspired by Inntravel’s Homage to Catalonia tour.
I never appreciated quite how much the people in my life like cheese until I mentioned that I was going to a cheese tasting event. My colleagues’ eyes lit up, my friends sent me text messages of jealousy, and this was before I had even mentioned the wine part. I like cheese, but my tastes are simple – melted between two thick slices of white bread, on top of pizza, or some of the softer variety smushed onto a cracker – send any of those my way and I’m a happy girl.
When I explained this to anyone who cared enough to listen, it was met with mutterings about how the cheese would be wasted on me… When I went on to say the cheese was Comté and the wines were from the Jura region, I swear some people shot me daggers. As a cheese novice, I had never even heard of Comté until earlier this year and as for Jura? Let’s not embarrass each other by asking me to locate it on the map. But given the popularity of both amongst those in the know, I knew I was in for a treat even before I stepped into the beautiful Chandos House!
Normally, I would answer, ‘yes’. I think it suits my complexion quite nicely, so much so I’ve just bought a coat in that colour. But normally, I wouldn’t be standing in the beautiful dining room of 28°-50° Wine Workshop and Kitchen on Fetter Lane with a lot of people who are very familiar with Burgundy, as in the region of France and the wine… not the colour. So I played it safe, and stuck with a sheepish ‘not really’ and reached out for another salt cod canapé.
I like to consider myself a wine enthusiast. I’m very enthusiastic about drinking it and learning about it (especially after my trip to Bordeaux) but the people in this room were the true enthusiasts and connoisseurs, they actually knew a thing or two about the tipple. We had only been served the first wine of the evening, a glass of Chablis, Le Basde Chapelot, Vocoret 2013 and the room was already abuzz with excitement. There were still three more Burgundy wines to come, each paired with a dish, and all punctuated with expert food and wine commentary… Bottoms up!
What happens when you combine a Kiwi bloke, a van, and a thirst for wine? A potentially dangerous situation not to be tried at home, or also perhaps the beginning of a very bad joke? In this case, it’s neither. Phew. Instead, pop those three things in France and you get the creation of Rustic Vines, a company running wine tours in Bordeaux. A Kiwi running a tour about French wines in France? Now that sounds a little risky, but clearly the candid Kiwi charm (yes, I’m a little biased) has won people over as it’s the most popular tour in town!
It may have started with a man and a van, but these days Rustic Vines now has a team of five guides who run tours around the surrounding wine regions and bike tours around Bordeaux city itself. On our recent girls getaway, we decided to forgo the bikes and head straight for the wine which pleased me immensely… not only would I not get very far on two wheels, but when given a choice, wine always wins.
At the risk of sounding like I have a drinking problem, I’ll admit that I love wine. I love a cold glass of goodness at the end of a painful work day, that bottle you savour during a lazy Sunday afternoon, or those mixed and matched bottles that you go through when you have a bunch of friends round. Heck, I even love pouring a good glug of it into my risotto or stew. However, I’ll also admit that I don’t really know that much about wine; the quantity of my intake unfortunately does not correspond with the quantity or quality of my knowledge.
I know what I like; the usual suspects being sauvignon blancs and malbecs, and I guess the flipside is that I know what I don’t like. The ever popular chardonnay is top of that list, closely followed by those wishy washy pinot grigios, but aside from those extremes there’s a lot of grey area in between where I am flummoxed.