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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."


Monday, April 23, 2012

I See Red - Red Wines for the NZ Winter

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

A glass of red wine is pretty appropriate at this time of year - with the drop in the temperatures and hearty winter food on the table.  Also as a pre-dinner drink, a lighter red is just fine to sip away on too.

From experience, I find that most red drinkers started off with light and medium or sweet white wines.  Then they graduated to dry whites such as Chardonnay, and then they moved on to approachable reds such as Pinot Noir and soft Australian Shiraz. 

Even though Cabernet Sauvignon has a reputation as the king of red varieties, I seldom find a dedicated Cab fan.  New Zealanders were rightly put off our own Cabernet back in the old days when our Cabs were stemmy, green and under ripe.  That’s the problem with Cabernet – it is a thick skinned grape that requires a very long, hot and dry summer to fully ripen.  Even now, we get a decent vintage of NZ Cabernet about one year in five.  And when we do, we tend to blend Cabernet with other Bordeaux reds such as Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc.  Hotter climate wine regions such as California, South Africa, Argentina and Australia manage to be more consistent with their Cabs – often producing 100% Cabernet.

Now, our Syrah (same grape as Shiraz) is getting better with every vintage, not only in Hawkes Bay but also Waiheke, Northland and Martinborough, giving more weight to the concept that we should leave NZ Cabernet to a few niche producers.

Anyway, here’s a red selection I recommend.


Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2009 $47.00
A good warm summer and dry extended autumn produced the ideal fruit for Pegasus Bay’s flagship Pinot.  Floral aromas, soft tannins and a complex palate of cherries, blackberries and savoury truffle.

Murdoch James Blue Rock Pinot Noir 2010  $39.00
Martinborough’s Murdoch James produces about 20,000 cases of wine and is run by the Fraser family.  The winery features a restaurant and guided winery tours. The Blue Rock Pinot is aged in French oak and has ripe savoury truffle and cherry flavours, with hints of plum liquorice and mocha.

Selaks Heritage Merlot Cabernet 2010  $20.00
A premium range under the Constellation NZ portfolio (formerly Nobilo), the Selaks Heritage wines are affordable and great value.  Lovely soft tannins and plum/cherry fruit make this a very approachable red wine even at two years old.

Awhitu Greenock Syrah 2007 $25.75
From the picturesque Awhiti peninsular vineyard on Auckland’s Manukau Harbour, this is a lovely Syrah that hits all the right buttons and is a total bargain.  It’s a deep garnet red with aromas of wood smoke and cherry.  On the palate – black pepper, sweet spiced tamarillo, liquorice and a gamey earthiness.

Jonny Q Shiraz 2008  $19.00
A great example of why so many of us love Aussie Shiraz.  Johnny Q is actually John Quarisa, a winemaker who has worked for 24 years in the industry for other people.  This wine picked up a swag of medals and accolades.  It has the classic black pepper and spiced aromas, with a velvety sweet ripe palate of dark cherry and black currant, giving way plum and liquorice.

Gladstone Vineyards Auld Alliance 2010 $45.00
Boutique Wairarapa producer Gladstone Vineyard is sited east of Carterton in the Wairarapa.   This wine is a Bordeaux style blend of 50% Merlot with 25% each of Malbec and Cabernet Franc.  It’s a knockout and well worth the price.  Still young, it is deep crimson with purple hints in the glass. Aromas and flavours of spice, ripe blackberry/boysenberry, plum and a long soft tannic finish with tobacco and spice. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Foodie Tours in Auckland

About eight years ago, I was contacted by  a New York chef and food writer, asking me if I could organise a foodie tour itinerary for her.
She had no interest in wine, but somehow found my website and took a chance.  Sure - I said.

On the day we managed Kapiti Cheeses, Elliott Stables, Sabato Deli, Auckland Fish Market and then out to Kumeu for lunch at a cafe and a visit to BeesOnline honey centre.

Her response was so positive that I thought - what they hey, I'll put the tour on the website and see if anyone else is keen.  Today, the Food & Wine tour of Auckland is one of my most popular full day tour options. I get a lot of uptake from couples where one partner is a wine fan and the other not so keen, but still interested in exploring Auckland's great food.

The itinerary has changed a bit over the years.  Sadly the fine tea shop, liqueur shop and chocolate cake shop have all gone from Elliott Stables; and Kapiti have moved to Shortland Street which is nigh on bloody impossible to park near.

Nowadays, I pick up the guests from their accommodation and we head to Auckland Fish Market for a walk through the whole fish shop (pay by weight - then filleted for you).  There is a huge variety of fresh caught local fish on display and no hint of fishy smell in the pristine shops.  Also it's a good opportunity to point out the fish that they will see on the menu at City restaurants - e.g. Snapper, Terakihi, Hapuka (NZ groper), John Dory, Monkfish as well as Green-lipped mussels, oysters, live crayfish and whitebait.  The deli and fruit and veg section is a good place to spot kiwifruit, kumera, Maori potatoes and our burgeoning seasonal produce.

From the Fish Market, it's off to Sabato Deli for a complimentary coffee, sampling and browsing among their huge array of imported goodies from Spain, Italy and France.  On offer are balsamic vinegars, olive oils, cheeses, olives, chocolates, herbs spices and pasta as well as a kitchen wear section and selected wines.

Then, to Philippe's Chocolates and French pastry shop for samples and exquisite chockie and tiny cakes.
After that,  a 20 minute drive to historic west Auckland's Kumeu wine region from lunch at Soljans Vineyard restaurant and three guided local winery tastings accompanied by a cheese board of fine NZ cheeses.
After a stop at BeesOnline for honey tasting and a photo op at spectacular Muriwai 'black sand' beach, it's back to the city around 3.30 pm, and drop off at the guests' hotel (usually with a pile of purchases) and a goodies bag from Fine Wine Tours - which may include a 200 ml bottle of Lindauer bubbly, kiwifruit, Whittaker's chocolate, an ANZAC biscuit and some Manuka honey soap.

Further info - see here  Fine Wine & Food Tours Auckland

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ARNEIS - The groovy Italian white

Arneis – Italy’s Groovy White Grape

By Phil Parker

New Zealand wine makers are pretty adventurous lot, especially the younger ones who are still in their 30s and 40s.  Many of them have trained in winemaking at either Charles Sturt University in Adelaide or Roseworthy College in South Australia, and from there many went on to do vintages overseas in Australia, South Africa and France.  So it’s not surprising that they have been open to trying out new grape varieties in New Zealand.

Arneis is one of these varieties. (And I am reliably informed by my Bella Italiana pal Barbara Raffellini, that the correct Italian pronunciation is Are-Nace).
The Arneis grape is indigenous to Piemonte in Northwest Italy. Its name means ‘Little Rascal’ in the local dialect – a reflection of just how difficult this grape is to grow and vinify.  A lot of NZ producers use the Rascal analogy on their Arneis labels. Flavour profile is a bit hard to nail – but definitely citrus, grapefruit, stone fruit and marmalade.  Winemaker Simon Nunns and the Coopers Creek team pioneered Arneis in NZ a few years back but now some of the other young guns are giving it a go.
Two recent examples came my way recently – both from Villa Maria’s Hawkes Bay vineyards, and both made by Nick Picone, their senior Auckland winemaker.
Nick is responsible for overseeing the production of Villa Maria's North Island wines including coordinating harvest, formulating wine styles, and assembling blends to tie in with the company's busy bottling programme. He has been with the Villa Maria Group for thirteen years, beginning as a teenager at Esk Valley in Hawkes Bay. In 2006 he spent six months in the UK with Villa Maria's international distributor, followed by a vintage at G.D. Vajra in Barolo, Italy.
Both these wines are quite dry, mineral and subtle – but they opened up after 15 minutes or so.

Villa Maria Private Bin Hawkes Bay Arneis 2011  $21.99
Not much in the way of aroma – but a whiff of citrus and orange blossom.
Some stone fruit herbaceousness and quince on the palate with a short finish.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Arneis 2011  $23.99
A bit more going on here – and as I said, it opened up on the nose and palate after a while. Honeysuckle and citrus aromas, some dried apricot and quince flavours with a dry and mineral, yet lengthy finish

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Back and Neck Therapy Auckland - Phil Parker



I'm Phil Parker, an Auckland resident for 37 years.  For  22 of those years I have been treating acute and long term back and neck joint  problems.  My approach is the Golden Rule - don't do anything to others that you wouldn't have done to yourself.

 And being a sufferer of back and neck pain for many years, believe me, I know what it's like to have a stuck, acutely painful neck or back!
I believe that a gentle approach is best -and that's how I approach treating back and neck pain in my Auckland clinic.

In 1999 I developed a very gentle manual therapy method for the treatment of acute one sided low back pain (with, or without sciatica)
this technique was so effective that I saw patients progress from acute low back pain so severe that they could not sit or stand - to   compelete relief within two or three brief sessions.  In fact, I published an article on this technique in New Zealand and presented it to a conference of my  peers in 2000.

My treatment approach has four elements:

  • Hands on diagnosis

  • Deep tissue friction mobilisation & massage

  • Gentle manual joint traction and mobilisation

    And ... ongoing exercise and lifestyle advice to maintain the benefits of treatment

 If you feel that you would benefit from seeing me about your back or neck problem - contact me

Website page Phil Parker Back & Neck treatment

Phone: +64 9 8456 971

36A Formby Avenue
Point Chevalier

Low back pain can be very debilitating

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Live and Let Suck - Waiheke Mozzies

One of the positive sides of self employment is that your work schedule is pretty flexible. That can also be a another way of saying that self employment frequently = unemployment.  But anyway - this weekend we had a few free days to visit Waiheke Island at my in-laws' bed & breakfast.

There is something about being away from the mainland that makes all the stress just melt away as soon as you get off the ferry. Even though there is a permanent population of about 8,000 people in the 90 square kilometres of land, there are acres of native bush, and stunning sea views at every turn of the twisting sealed roads.

We caught the car ferry at 5.00 pm on Saturday night and arrived at dusk after a gentle crossing.  After dinner we retired at about 9.30 - ready to crash out and sleep. But - we forgot about the rampant mosquito population.  We should have closed the windows and switched on the plug-in mozzie repellant. So for the next three hours I was serially tormented by the high pitched whine and madly itching bites as the mozzies dive bombed me every time I slipped off to sleep.

I believe that there is a basic design fault in mosquitos.  Firstly, they make so much noise that you hear them coming, secondly they make you itch like mad and want to  kill them.  If they just snuck in, vampire-like and sucked a bit of blood and then quietly departed, leaving no more than a tiny puncture wound, we'd all get along just fine.  I'd get my sleep, they'd have dinner - no probs.  Live and let suck.  But no, I'm reduced to trying to sleep with a sheet pulled over my head, blindly swatting at my ears in the dark, and being woken every time I drift off into dreamland.

Anyway, Sunday dawned warm and sunny - we took the dogs for long walk at Oneroa, I napped outrageously,  we had a great bbq dinner of freshly caught crayfish, rmarinated steak and home grown veges, and I slept like a log through till 8.00 am - with the sound of Tuis chiming in the Pohutukawa trees.  (Windows tightly shut and plug-ins plugged in).

Today, it's a trip to the shops, more dog walking and another home-cooked dinner.

Self employment.  Not bad.

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland and Waiheke

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Kill to eat. (In defence of meat). A carnivore writes ...

I guess I have wavered slightly in the last few years about the vegetarian option.  I do have a huge respect for animal welfare and had assumed that one can get all necessary vitamins and mineral from a purely vegetarian diet.

But -  I discovered that even being on a part-time vege diet (with a vegetarian step-daughter living with us half the time) that I became clinically anaemic within about 12 months.  My GP and then a specialist gastroenterologist went to the extent of testing me for internal bleeding, such was their mutual concern and bafflement.  At any rate, I passed the undignified ‘oscopies’ (known in the trade as a top ‘n’ tail) with flying colours and clear and healthy tubes.  My pathetic haemoglobin soon normalised with a more meat in the diet and regular  iron tablets.
Which got me thinking.  When I was a kid, as a fourth gen NZer I still had a link with the land.  My father was from sheep farming Gisborne family, and my mother came from rural Marlborough.  My parents’ generation were used to fishing, hunting and farming – all of these activities pretty well connected with killing animals to eat.  I grew up in a second hand hunter-gatherer culture.  As a kid I fished, shot (in the general direction of) rabbits and succeeded in shooting a mallard duck.  I ate wild venison, pork, fresh fish, Pipi, mussels, Paua, crayfish, whitebait, Toheroa and Tuatua.

Nowadays, it’s all sanitised and hidden away.  Cattle trucks are boarded up so you can’t see the animals en route to the Works.   Yes, I feel compassion for these animals I’m going to eat.   But if I’m fairly sure that they have had freedom, sunshine, good food and water, and will subsequently be humanely instantly killed at the peak of their development, then I don’t have a problem.  In the natural wild state, these animals would be mere low end fodder in Nature’s brutal food chain and would be hunted, savaged, and slowly devoured by large ruthless predators.

I do care about animal welfare – I am totally opposed to sow crates, battery chicken farming, and mulesing.  I am, not so ironically, a member of SAFE.  Animal experimentation and vivisection is detestable and is one of the hidden horrors of 21stC life.

But uumans have been eating meat and fish and other stuff, for millennia.  Our teeth are designed for cutting, chewing and grinding an omnivorous diet.
And I do like a nice medium rare steak.