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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."

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sacred Hill's new twins - Sacred Hill Pinot Noir 2010 and Sacred Hill Pinot Gris 2010

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland see: http://www.finewinetours.co.nz/

Sacred Hill is one of Hawkes Bay’s leading wineries, gaining accolades and awards for many of their wines. The Mason Family, who have farmed in Hawke’s Bay for over 50 years, planted the first vines in 1986 and to this day are still fully involved in the day to day running of the winery.

Tony Bish is the very successful winemaker here, and oversees production from four vineyards owned by the company. Aside from three in Hawkes bay, (Rifleman, Dartmoor and Gimblett Gravels), they also have Hell’s Gate vineyard in Marlborough.

These two releases from the abundant 2010 harvest are from their Marlborough vineyards – a Pinot Gris and a Pinot Noir.

Now, wayyy … back in the old days, the Pinot Noir grape mutated into a few variants, some of which have become popular in their own right. I.e. Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier – and the more obscure Pinot Moure and Pinot Teinturier. Pinot Blanc makes a light unoaked white wine, Pinot Meunier is a red grape often used in making Champagne along with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

So much for wine trivia. The wines:
Sacred Hill Pinot Gris 2010 $NZ19.71
Crisp and light, this is a wine that would make a refreshing aperitif.  Flavours of pear juice, apple, stone fruit and guava in a medium-bodied style.
Sacred Hill Pinot Noir 2010 $NZ19.71
Young but very approachable, ripe with a touch of sweetness. Smoky aromas with hints of stewed plum and tar. On the palate light – silky tannins and red berry fruits, savoury aftertaste with a dry, s;picy finish.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Xerxes - Dude sings like a lady


As part of the Auckland Arts Festival Handel's 1738 opera - Xerxes is playing the grand old Civic theatre.


I am a bit of an opera fan but prefer a live performance to CDs and have managed to see most of the well-known operas over a number of years since I saw The Barber of Seville at age 6 in Palmerston North (insert own disparaging Palmy joke here).

However Xerxes meant nothing to me other than a damn fine triple word score at Scrabble. And I knew a bit of Handel – Water Music, Royal Fireworks, Messiah etc.

I had also heard that it features counter tenors. I had always had an abiding loathing of counter tenors from the first time I heard The King’s Singers – a UK a capella male group which features the castrati stylings of the counter tenor. (In the old days the castrati were gifted male singers who had been castrated before puberty in order to preserve their high register soprano voices.)

Once the show got started – I realised that the two male leads were counter tenors. But truly, these guys are pretty amazing and can hit the falsetto high notes. But you do wonder - what was the fascination in the 1700s with guys who sing like chicks? It wasn’t as though women weren’t allowed on stage so that men had to sing female roles. Yet It was a mark of great esteem to be a bloke with no nuts who could hit a high C.

Then I got to thinking – why did we tolerate the Bee Gees? Or Prince singing ‘Kiss’ in a falsetto. Or - Frankie Valli and Four Seasons ‘Walk Like A Man’ (sing like a chick). Whaaaa? Weird shit really. Then Led Zep’s Robert Plant and Freddie Mercury were similar pop culture gods with high voices.

Yennyhoo - the opera. Poncy King Xerxes fancies the pants off his brother’s girlfriend. She refuses to accept his advances. Another chick fancies the brother, so schemes to ensure a marriage between the eccentric king and the girlfriend. A bitter estranged girlfriend of the king wanders in and out in a B plot all about what a heartbreaker King Nutless Wonder is. For some reason she dresses as a soldier to conceal her identity.

Weird moment in the show: King’s bitter ex girlfriend dressed as a guy, sings to the King who is a guy who sings back like a girl.

1738, guess you had to be there.

Finale – after a magnificent aria all about love being crap and that by the King, all of a sudden things turn out for the best within two verses:  King’s brother ‘accidentally’ weds the hottie, repentant King suddenly realises he still loves his ex. Hottie’s rival hooks up with an army general. Peace is restored. Love is the winner on the day.

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland New Zealand.