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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Friday, January 29, 2010

Nine - Rob Marshall's new musical espresso

Nine is based on a musical adaptation of Federico Fellini’s autobiographical film 8½ (1963). Go figure.

What next? 12 Angry Men the musical?

Apparently as a musical, Nine did OK on Broadway. But as a movie, it fails to add up to the hype, despite a dream team cast of Hollywood hotties and top Brit thespians. It’s all texture and no depth. Despite a great interpretation of the neurotic narcissist Guido, Daniel Day Lewis now joins a long list of contemporary male stars who have proved beyond reasonable doubt that they can’t sing (Richard Gere, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth et. al.)

The movie focuses on famous Italian film director Guido Contini (Day Lewis), who faces writer’s block while attempting to create his much anticipated ninth film. (Actually, that single sentence is the plot summary).

Yennyhoo, Guido, The Maestro retreats into fantasy and a real life dalliance with his mistress (Penélope Cruz). It all kind of falls apart and Guido chain smokes and angsts his way through the train wreck of his life, with occasional visits from his deceased mother (Sophia Loren) and memories of his childhood as a chirpy little Italian pre-pubescent perv obsessed by the local whore.

The musical set pieces seem to come out of nowhere with crashy chords and inane lyrics. Sure, there’s lots of sequins, cleavage and thighs in the chorus lines. Yes there are. My word.

Yes - it does look gorgeous and the cast gives it all they’ve got, but a lack of clear narrative and completely forgettable musical score kills it in the end.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

By Jupiter! Sangiovese grown in NZ.

When you think of Chianti, often the image springs to mind - of a spherical bottle with a long-neck, wrapped in raffia. Perhaps with a candle jammed down its throat and perched on red checked tablecloths in an Italian-themed restaurant.

That was a gimmicky approach which worked as a branding exercise for the Italian wine industry to a degree, but because of some dodgy rough reds, it didn’t do a whole lot for Chianti’s reputation.

But now, things have changed somewhat, and Sangiovese (Italian for ‘blood of Jupiter’) is now a sought after wine variety. In Tuscany, Chianti is largely made from Sangiovese but other varieties such as Cabernet and the Italian grape Canaiolo are added to the mix.
The most famous Chianti - Brunello di Montalcino is 100% Sangiovese.

Believe it or not, there is some very good New Zealand Sangiovese available in addition to the odd import from Northern Italy.

Probably our most successful producer is Matakana’s Heron’s Flight, a winery established in 1988 by ex-Philadelphian David Hoskins and his NZ partner Mary Evans. Initially the vines planted were Chardonnay and Merlot, but in 1994 Sangiovese Grosso was trialled. Now, all vines other than Sangiovese have been pulled out. And David has just started experimenting with another red Italian variety, Dolcetto which comes from the Piedmonte region.

Heron’s Flight’s Sangiovese (about $NZ50) is full bodied, and soft with fruit flavours of plums and red berries, with mild tannins and an earthy spicy quality. Fantastic wine, only available from the winery, or you can buy it by the glass to accompany superb Heron’s Flight café lunch fare.

Herons Flight 49 Sharp Rd., Matakana ph: 09 422 7915

Other NZ producers – Hawkes Bay’s Matariki, and Borthwick estate from Wairarapa.

Good value import: Frescobaldi Castiglioni Chianti 2002 (about $16 at Foodtown). Medium bodied, ripe and spicy with firm tannins

Phil Parker operates Auckland Fine Wine Tours and is a wine writer.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Screw Cap Vs Cork

(We all need closure)

By Phil Parker, wine writer and operator of Auckland Fine Wine Tours Ltd.

Like most wine drinkers, you are no doubt aware of the increasing trend for our wines to be sealed with a metal screw cap.

New Zealand in particular is leading the way, with something like 90% of our wines under screw cap and that percentage likely to steadily increase. Some of our top producers, e.g. Kumeu River, have totally abandoned the traditional cork closure in favour of screw cap (commonly referred to as the Stelvin).
Ironically it was the French who perfected the Stelvin closure and gave it its name: Stel = steel, vin =wine.

Why screw cap? Is it cheaper? Surely the wine won’t last long? Yadda yadda …

The paramount reason for the move away from cork is the problem of cork taint (or ‘corked’ wine). This is caused by a chemical known as TCA (trichloroanisole), which in tiny amounts – a few parts per trillion – will give wine the mouldy odour and flavour of rotting damp cardboard, and destroy the fruit characters.

TCA occurs naturally in a mould which affects cork trees. For whatever reason, the cork growers in Spain and Portugal had been sending us increasing numbers of dud corks. In excess of one in ten bottles of wine was affected.

Unfortunately, especially in the USA, screw caps are associated with cheap ‘jug wines’ and face an image problem. But even there, some of their top producers have switched to Stelvin and there is a growing awareness that it’s not a bad thing. Initial resistance by consumers has given way and there is a groundswell of favourable opinion.

Are screw caps cheaper than corks? Yes, slightly, but the cost of converting from a cork bottling line to screw cap is a significant investment for the winery.

Will the wine last as long? Experience with screw caps doesn’t go much further than 15 years, but indications are that the perfect airtight seal ensures that fruit flavours are preserved for a much longer period. But the wines will still age and change characters over time. The theory that the cork allows the wine to ‘breathe’ is a myth – the chemical reductive ageing processes within a wine will still take place without the need for oxidation.

Can a wine still be ‘off’ even when under Stelvin? Yes, nothing’s perfect. It can happen but very, very rarely. There is a potential problem of sulphite formation in wines, leading to a bad egg/cabbage aroma. This can be eliminated with careful winemaking techniques.

Can I store them upright? Yes, definitely. The only reason wines with corks are stored on their sides is to keep the cork damp and swollen to ensure a tight fit.

What about plastic corks? They are only good for drink straight away wines. They leak, the give the wine a plastic flavour, they are nigh on impossible to remove with a cork screw when you’re squiffy.

What about the romance of pulling the cork? If that’s where you get your romance, maybe you should get out more often.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Immigrant Song - this song changed my life

My mate Grant knew about a new Youth Club, which was being run in the local church hall on Friday nights. It was a bit sad really. There was a hearty young Christian bloke who had absolutely no idea of how to entertain young people other than vigorous painful games like cock fighting. No. You actually have a bunch of people being piggybacked who try to knock over the other people being piggy-backed onto a hard wooden church hall floor.

We did that for a while and then got sick of it and left him to it, to roam the streets being silly and pointing at car tyres so that people would think they had a flattie. Well, it seemed like fun at the time. The main attraction really was the two or three girls who hung around the periphery. Grant and Simon shared my unrequited enthusiasm for girls.

Anyway, we were there one Friday and the vigorous Christian bloke didn’t turn up, but a bloke Grant knew had one of those record players in a box that was about the size of a portable typewriter. He produced a strange looking LP record sleeve - mainly white, but with weird colour photo cutouts plastered all over it.

Clicking the switch to 33rpm, he lifted the tone arm and dropped the needle onto the lead-in grooves of the first track. A hiss, then nothing. Then a crash and the insistent machine throb of Jimmy Page’s Gibson Les Paul in unison with drums and bass: da-da-DA-da; da-da; da-da-DA-da.

Then Robert Plant’s air raid siren wail of Aiyeeahhhhh-ah! Immigrant Song.

I was hooked. Hairs stood up on the back of my neck. And said, “What the %#@*!? was that!?,” had a look around, and lay down again, stunned and bewildered.

I’d never heard anything like it and I was hooked. I instantly adopted Led Zep as my rock group and loyally bought every LP they put out.

The riff was all. Sure, the Beatles wrote great melodies and catchy choruses, but now the riff was king - that pounding repetitive metal musical phrase. Some of the 60s bands like the Kinks could still belt out a great one, e.g. All Day and All Of The Night, and You Really Got Me, and the Stones steadily churned out great catchy riffs with Brown Sugar, plus Jumpin’Jack Flash, Bitch and even the classic Satisfaction. But suddenly ‘heavy rock’ bands like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Free and the Who were making amazing sounds which burned into your consciousness.

Jimi Hendrix had re-established the electric guitar as the rock instrument in 1967 with Hey Joe and Purple Haze, only a year after the Beatles were writing nursery rhymes like Yellow Submarine.

Unfortunately, the sudden hero status of guitarists went straight to their heads so that every local rock band would include a lead break in every song they did. This meant that the song would go verse/chorus/verse/chorus, then the guitarist would wind his amp up to eleven, step on the go buttons of all his effects pedals at once (Boost, Fuzz, Wah, Echo, Reverb, Death-To-Small-Mammals, Loosen-Amalgam-Fillings etc.), and do serious GBH to the high frequency auditory range of all within a ten mile radius. SCREEEEEE !! WEEEDLE-WEEEDLE, NYOW, NYOW- WOOKA-WOOKA !! And so on for about 15 minutes.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Wines for the Southern Hemisphere Summer

By Phil Parker, wine writer and operator of Auckland Fine Wine & Food Tours

Yes folks, it’s time to relax, listen to cricket on the radio, get sand between your toes, and slap on the sunscreen. For most of us, they New Year brings a chance to wind down, shrug off the last twelve months and to recharge the batteries for the year ahead.

Typically, we tend to drink more chilled white wine in summer than reds, plus rosé wines have made a huge comeback as a wine for warmer weather. Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc are fruity crisp wines, which can stand a bit of chilling – say 30 minutes in the fridge. But don’t over-chill your whites as the fruit flavours will disappear. Similarly a cool Chardonnay is great by itself, or a good match with seafood and chicken dishes.

And don’t forget those nights, when the temperatures drop and a rich flavoured red is just right to go down with that nice piece of scotch fillet and a few snarlers fresh from the smoking BBQ.

Also, if you’re celebrating – why not pop the cork on a festive sparkler.

Without further ado, here are some recommendations for the summer of 2010 …


Matawhero Gisborne Sauvignon Blanc 2009 $23
A great Sav for those who steer away from the ‘dissolve your fillings’ acidity of some Marlborough Savvies, and who prefer a softer tropical style. Lovely lush flavours of melon, lemon/lime, grapefruit and honey.
Match with Scallops or Crayfish.

Mt Beautiful Cheviot Hills Riesling 2008 $24
A crisp and fruity Riesling from North Canterbury’s newest wine growing region – the Cheviot Hills, between Christchurch and Kaikoura. Flavours and aromas of pear, citrus, and Granny Smith apples.
Would go well with oysters in the shell.

Elephant Hill Hawkes Bay Viognier 2009 $29
A lovely example of this new trendy grape variety (pron: Vee-on-yay). Originally from the Northern Rhone Valley in France, it was used and still is, to add fruit lift to Syrah in that region. (The only case I know where white and red wine is blended in a classic wine).
This one has floral and slightly spicy flavours, with some stone fruit and preserved ginger in the mix.
How about barbecued chicken with sweet and spicy apricot chutney.

Pegasus Bay Waipara Pinot Noir Tehau Selection 2007 $33
Another ripper from one of my favourite wineries – a richly flavoured, soft and spicy Pinot with black berry fruit flavours and a hint of smokiness.
Try with barbecued venison steak.

Mitre Rocks Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007 $45
Harvested at optimum fruit sugar levels, this wine reflects a bumper season with a rich and silky soft palate, lingering cherry and plum flavour. Has picked up numerous gold medals.
Great match for lamb rack.

Grasshopper Rock Central Otago 2008 Pinot Noir $30
Earnscleugh Vineyard is a relatively new winery on the scene, but has picked up a gold and a silver medal, plus numerous accolades for its 2007 Pinot Noir. Lovely soft and ripe Pinot with cherry and savoury flavours. A bargain. Managing Director Phil Handford heads a partnership of ‘hunter-gatherers’ from Waikato and Southland, including whitebaiters, duck shooters, rabbit hunters, fishers, creative arts folk and financiers.
How about smoked chicken with mushroom sauce.
Davishon Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007 $35
Another wine from our MAS members – this time David Garry BDS and his wife Shona from Alexandra, Central Otago. Another full- flavoured and seamless Central Pinot, with winemaking by Carol Bunn of Vinpro who also makes wines for Grasshopper Rock.
This big hearted wine would match well with a fillet steak.

Selaks Winemaker’s Favourite Methode Traditionelle 2006 $26
A new sparkler, from Selaks - made the traditional way with bottle fermentation to trap the CO2 bubbles. Crisp, refreshing and dry with a clean finish. Great with seafood and white fish.

Louis Roederer Champagne Brut Premier NV $NZ100
Okay – splash out. Non Vintage – i.e. a blend of different vintages and ready for drinking on release) 70% 2005 vintage plus oak-aged Reserve wine. Pinot Meuniere, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir. Aged 3 1/2 years prior to release. Clean flavoured, appley and crisp with light toast flavours.
Just drink it on its own. Fantastic.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Lovely Bones - Peter Jackson's new flick

Peter Jackson’s latest oeuvre – The Lovely Bones is a screen adaptation of the bestseller novel by Alice Sebold. For the few of you who don’t know – it concerns the aftermath of the rape and murder of Susie Salmon, a 14 year-old schoolgirl in Middle America. Her journey in the afterlife and the emotional repercussions on her family are explored. Thankfully, the rape and murder are not depicted.

It has been slammed by some critics for Jackson’s direction and an over reliance on CGI effects. But as someone who has read the novel, I felt that Jackson’s realisation of the characters and visuals nailed it. The weak link in the chain, in my opinion was Rachel Weisz as Susie’s mother Abigail. Her previous roles have been in big dumb fun flicks like The Mummy, and she fails to convey much emotional depth in this one.

Mark Wahlberg, by contrast conveys a real intensity of grief and rage as the bereft father of Susie. Other standouts are Susan Sarandon as the chain-smoking, hard-drinking grandmother; Stan Tucci as bland and creepy George Harvey, the murderer; and our own Rose McIver as Susie’s sister Lindsey. Saoirse Ronan brilliantly plays Susie as an impish teen on the brink of womanhood.

In accordance with the book’s fantasy element, Weta Workshops have come to the party with some stunning geography for Susie’s afterlife word – which is quite in keeping with the fantastical scenes conjured by Sebold in her novel. The soundtrack is by Brian Eno, providing a suitably ethereal soundscape.

Old time collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens have made some cuts and compromises along the way in the screenplay to accommodate the story in what is still quite a long movie. They focus on Susie’s character and spiritual journey as the main theme, where the book explored the emotional fallout among her family in much more depth.
Just the same – they could have played it as a mawkish 5-hanky sob fest, but instead it has a restrained tone, which gets it just right.