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 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!
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.
Long before I acquired a certain someone as my regular dining and travel buddy, I had some other partners in crime. Throughout my high school and university days, I was mostly a single lady and I did what other footloose and fancy free ladies did… hit the town with my girls! Back then, the travel destinations were not as extensive or exotic but there were still plenty of road trips, beach holidays, shopping days, and always lots of eating and drinking along the way. We laughed, we cried, we did things we would never ever do now… but it was always fun.
I still see many of these ladies regularly (by London standards anyway)… a few I have known since the tender age of 11, some since university, and others I’ve met more recently; but all I’m happy to call my friends. As everyone’s work lives and social schedules get busier and busier, it gets harder and harder to fit in quality girl time so I was super excited when a group of us booked in a weekend away to Bordeaux; no boys allowed, this was a girls only weekend!
I’ve noticed that many Londoners, both native and new, can be quite picky with their postcodes. North, south, east or west, no one seems shy about sharing why they think their part of this city is the best place to live and why it’s much, much better than yours. Personally, I’m fairly neutral on the whole matter; my flat criteria consists of spare room, decent sized kitchen, short distance to tube station and supermarket, not outrageously expensive, outdoor space optional. We happened to find a flat that ticks all those boxes and it happens to be in Tooting, that’s SW17, in case you didn’t know.
It’s not one of those swanky central postcodes or even one of the sought after SW ones (I’m looking at you Claphams) but it’s certainly got character and more recently has often been reported as quite ‘up and coming’. Or so people kept telling us when we moved here, I think they said it in Time Out which we all know is quite the authority on these matters. Yet I was still unphased by this ‘my suburb is better than yours’ malarky, frankly, our flat fits the bill and I’m not that worried about precisely where it is. But then we started thinking about moving and I thought, it’s more than not bad here, it’s actually pretty good, and getting better all the time.
If you’ve had the pleasure (modest much?) of talking to me in the last month, you would have also had the misfortune of hearing me whinge about being stuck. Stuck in London while everyone else seems to be jet setting off on exciting city breaks or relaxing beach holidays. Stuck without any exciting plans of our own and not even being to make any as we don’t know when we’ll be able to leave the country again. Being stuck kind of sucks. For those of you who don’t know, we’ve handed our passports over to the Home Office, hoping, begging, praying that they’ll give me a new visa, letting me stay past my current ‘get out of Britain’ date of early December.
When we first parted ways with them we were optimistic for a faster turnaround time than the six months they quoted, but now almost four months later, I think it’s safe to say we’re just hoping it’s not more than six months. It hasn’t been all bad though, we’ve embraced being stuck and had some wonderful (food) adventures in Britain, spending a couple of weekends in Cambridge and Brighton, and a longer weekend in Yorkshire. But I just want to go somewhere else… a place where the language is not one I speak, the wine is cheap, and people there live for their food.
My drinking habits have certainly changed over the years. Back when I was a bright, young thing recently let (legally) loose on the town, my drink of choice was vodka. That blissfully tasteless spirit was well masked by lemonade with a squeeze of lime, or red bull for the nights we were dancing well into the wee hours of the morning. Wine was strictly cheap, white and to be guzzled at BYOs and beer was always a last resort. By the start of my working woman days, I had graduated to ciders in the afternoon, cocktails in the evening, however the wine guzzling at BYOs was still very much a thing.
Now that I’m a fully fledged adult, quit your sniggering, my main alcoholic squeeze is wine. Though I’m not adult enough to ditch the cheap and white completely, I have expanded the range considerably and a glass of wine with my meal is now the norm. And just when I thought my drinking evolution was complete, I recently discovered a fondness for dark beers such as stouts and porters. My 19 year old self did not see this coming. But rest assured, younger me, they haven’t knocked wine off the top spot in my affections, though that love was tested a few times at The Selkirk’s Beer v Wine Supper Club.