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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, June 30, 2016

SWITZERLAND for beginners







SWITZERLAND SNAPSHOT

·         Food – fantastic quality across the board, from supermarket to cafes, to high-end restaurants, the quality and presentation of food is superb.  Local laws prevent the use of many pesticides and chemicals commonly used in NZ. Being summer, there is an abundance of crisp fresh local vegetables and luscious summer fruits and berries.

·         Smoking – many people smoke openly on the street and inside restaurants and cafes. Cigarettes are relatively cheap in Europe compared with NZ. And street vending machines are available to sell cigarettes to anyone regardless of age.
·         Waitpersons – the rule here is polite, very efficient and professional but with little warmth. Meals and drinks arrive in short order. You pay at the table. They have a little holster with a mobile  eftpos and a purse to give change. Tipping is not obligatory.

·         Fashion – I am amazed at how global the fashion world has become. Being summer, it’s short shorts and crop tops for the girls, jeans and check shirts for the boys. Tattoos (see below) are abundant. Also many ‘Vikings’ haircuts – shaved sides with ponytail and variations thereof.

·         Tattoos – not so prevalent or extensive. Mainly monochromatic and minimal.
·         Children. Maybe because it’s a day away from the big summer break, but the Swiss grade school kids are the loudest white children I have ever encountered, albeit fairly well behaved. Fecking deafening.

·         Wine. Very good. No really. Very good. I had a local Swiss Pinot Noir/Beaujolais last night and a Syrah tonight – both extremely clean flavoured and memorable.
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  Health and Safety – the Swiss are a very complex mix of liberal and prescriptive. You can smoke pretty well anywhere except inside an office. Openly drinking alcohol on the street is OK. We went on a lake cruise – and there was no mention of life jackets or emergency protocol. Dogs are allowed inside shops and on public transport. There are no hazard warnings on anything. Touristi Emptor. Yet in 5 days I have seen no dog poo on the pavement, public transport runs precisely on time, and I have spotted only one homeless person.

·         Military. The Swiss are proudly independent, yet aware of their vulnerability. Military training is still compulsory for Swiss males. The Cold War period made them pretty well paranoid. By law, every home must have a nuclear bunker for the family with provisions to last months. There are at least 40 kilometres of tunnels under the Alps containing military infrastructure in case of war. Even in the Alps there is an Air Force base at Ballenburg, just by a popular tourist attraction dotted with historic Swiss rural buildings and docile animals. The FA-18 jets do routine training flights through the Alps with a deafening and alarming roar during the day. Luckily the animals appear to have got used to it or have suffered sufficient hearing damage over a  lifetime.

·         Economy – pretty damn fine. The Swiss Franc is stable and hearty and they regard the EU with disdain.  Banking and pharmaceuticals are the two main drivers of the economy. Agriculture is subsidised, yet the Swiss chocolate and cheese are world famous. Lindt is a huge international chockie brand.

·          Cuckoo clocks. Touristy bollocks. Yes you can find them if you want. Just like Swiss Army knives.

·         Watches – yes there are still some famous Swiss brands, despite the democratisation of the quartz watches. I spotted a watch at a local store on sale for 22,000 Swiss Francs.

·         Exchange rate. Pretty awful. A basic Domino’s Pizza costs $NZD 29.00  ($USD 19.50)

·         Minimum wage – about 20 Swiss francs an  hour  ($NZD29.00)

·         People – friendly, practical, honest, hard-working 





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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

CRAFTY KIWIS

The rise of craft beer in New Zealand

Anyone who’s a beer fan can’t have failed to notice the huge number of craft breweries popping up all over NZ in the last 5 years or so.

Along with the renaissance of cider and rosé wines, craft beers are very popular over summer and now extending into the cooler months. Craft beer enthusiasts are just as passionate as wine buffs with many attending informal clubs and organised tastings. Styles range from light easy drinking lagers and Pilsners, through to hoppy/bitter IPAs (India Pale Ales), red ales and dark heavy stouts. Not constrained by using traditional ingredients, many craft brewers are experimenting with adding spices, citrus, chocolate and vanilla – to name a few, to add complexity and character to their brews.
Here we go with a selection from north to south:

Sawmill Pale Ale 4.5% alcohol 500ml $8.00
IPA style from north Auckland’s Leigh Sawmill Brewery in Matakana. A rich mouthful. Nicely hoppy and toasty with medium bitterness. Amber coloured, with a creamy foam it has a hint of florals on the palate with a rounded dry hoppy finish.









Three Boys Pils 5.5% alcohol 500ml $8.00
This one hails from Three Boys Brewery in Woolston, Christchurch.
Golden brown with white foam. Funky and yeasty, hoppy aromas. This is the classic Czech style Pilsner, using traditional saaz hops. Lighter on the palate, it’s clean and refreshing with a hint of citrus zest.








Liberty Elixir Bright Ale 4.75% alcohol 330ml $3.75
From Helensville in northwest Auckland. Golden hued with pure white foam, opens up in the mouth with citrus, floral and a nudge of coriander. Amarillo and Sauvin hops were used. Fine beaded bubbles and a softer palate make this a nice easy drinking style.









Harrington Breweries Belgian Tempest Spiced Strong Ale 7% alcohol 500ml $6.67
Amber coloured with not much carbonation or head after pouring.
Softly spicy aromas in a medium bodied ale with a palate influenced by addition of coriander seed and orange zest. Quite deceptively alcoholic, clocking in at 7% ABV, and with a soft finish hinting at pear juice. Made by Harrington Breweries in Christchurch.







Tuatara Pale Ale 5% alcohol 500ml $6.79
Tuatara Brewing hails from Paraparaumu, northwest of Wellington. Highly carbonated, this one foams up with a creamy head in the glass. Another IPA style but not as bitter as some. Made with English yeast, it has a smooth palate of apricot, toast and yeast.









Garage Project Hapi Daze Pacific Pale Ale 4.8% alcohol $3.99
330 ml can
From Wellington’s Garage Project brewery, located in an old garage in central Wellington. Having a bit of fun with the name ‘Hapi’ is the Māori word for hops. Orange amber with white foam, it has aromas of malt and grassiness. The sweet malt carries through on the palate with a dash of tropical fruits and a softer finish.





Behemoth Hopped Up On Pils 5% alcohol  330ml can $4.99
Old gold colour with white foam. Interesting nose of passionfruit and hoppy aromas. Tangy and yeasty in the mouth it has a nice balanced hoppy flavour. Similar in style to the Hapi Daze. Behemoth are from Warkworth in north Auckland, not far from the Matakana wine region. 


Eagle Red IPA 5.8% alcohol 500 ml $8.80
Another brew from Christchurch – Eagle Brewing Co in Riccarton.
Red amber colour with a tan coloured light head. Very hoppy on the nose, with hints of coffee, toffee, molasses, and a suitably IPA style bitter lengthy aftertaste.









Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black South Pacific Porter 6% alcohol 330 ml $5.90
Great name for a brewery, Yeastie Boys is brewed in Invercargill.
Suitably black in the glass with a light brown foamy head. Dark porter aromas of coffee, liquorice and toasted grains. In the mouth, it’s foamy and full with more coffee, chocolate, malt and funky yeast flavours. Nice medium to full bodied palate.







Renaissance Craftsman Chocolate Oatmeal Stout 4.9% alcohol 500 ml $10.80
Very dark in the glass with a mid-brown foam. Aromas of coffee, toffee and vanilla. Nice and full bodied, with more vanilla and chocolate flavours from cocoa nibs in the mash. Easy on the palate and slightly sweet. Another South Island brew, this one hails from Blenheim.









Emerson’s The Rapture Seasonal Black IPA 7.4% alcohol 500ml $8.00
Reddish black with a generous tan foamy head. Plenty of hops and yeast on the nose. Kicks in with good bitterness and upfront hops, this is quite a big mouthful at 7.5% ABV. One to linger over, with lots of dark toasted grain stout-like flavours that linger on the palate. Emerson’s are based in Dunedin.






Friday, June 17, 2016

French Fab Four




Here we go with a selection of French wines, reasonably priced and unpretentious, yet capturing the essence of their Gallic heritage. Interestingly, only one of these is sealed with a traditional cork (the Fleurie). The Bourillon Vouvray has one of those demonic plastic corks that are nigh well impossible to extract without incurring a hernia, whereas the other two are sensibly sealed with screw caps. French wines are making a comeback after many years of overinflated prices and losing ground to producers from not only Spain and Italy but also South America, New Zealand and Australia. These four are highly recommended as good value examples of French regional wines.

Bourillon Dorléans Vouvray (Chenin Blanc) Loire France 2012 Demi-sec $NZ 30.00
From east of the Loire region, of my favourite obscure white varieties, Vouvray always delivers a complex, mouth-filling experience. This is a demi-sec i.e. off-dry to medium sweet style that smells like clover honey and pineapple juice with a whiff of funky yeast. On the palate it’s a cocktail of flavours – from fresh cut pineapple, to toffee, ginger, mango and a hint of fennel. The finish isn’t sweet, but lingering and slightly mineral. A good match with a veal casserole.
Available: Glengarry

Gisselbrecht Pinot Gris Alsace 2015 $NZ 20.00
From the home of ‘aromatic wines’ in Alsace on the French/German border.
Smells like warm red apple skin on a sunny day, with a hint of honey and citrus blossom. It is a rich and fruity style leaning more towards sweet than off-dry. Lovely flavours of clear apple juice, and pear & apple cake, and a little muskiness on the lengthy finish. Would match well with creamy pasta or chicken dishes.
Available: Glengarry


Muré Gewürztraminer Alsace 2013  $NZ 35.50
Another classic wine variety from northern France, this is a voluptuous seductive blonde, with aromas of honey, spice and beeswax. A lovely complex palate of preserved ginger, lychee and a dash of florals – but not the usual rosewater flavours. It has a hint of sweetness but finishes dry and tangy. It reminds me very much of the Dry River Gewürztraminer. Typically matches well with pork.
Available: Herne Bay Cellars.



Albert Ponnelle Fleurie Gamay Beaujolais 2013  $NZ 47.50
From the Beaujolais region, this is very typically French – more about savoury and spice than fruit yet quite generous and complex. Aromas of earth, smoke, sour cherry and gamey meats open up in the mouth with an initial hit of acidity and a bit of astringency. Then it’s all savoury spice, soy sauce and black cherry and a fruity ripe mid palate. The finish is savoury and dry. Nicely matched with a winter beef dish.
Available: contact Dhall & Nash wines info@dnfinewine.com