Statues and Spanish Grapes film in London

Spanish Grapes Film in LondonThe day was appropriately hot and sunny to attend a special screening of Zev Robinson’s Spanish Grapes film as well as see some sights in the heart of London on my walk to the venue.

Spanish Grapes Film in LondonSt Paul’s was thronged with tourists with city workers and tourists enjoying the sunshine and the public statues which appear all over London.

Spanish Grapes Film in London

The Lovers by Georg Ehrlich

In the shadow of St Paul’s I found the young lovers

Spanish Grapes Film in London

Birth of the Universe by Andrew Logan

One of a number DNA statues to be seen on Cancer Research UK’s London Art Trail.

I walked through the City of London along Carter Lane to reach Copa de Cava on Blackfriars Lane, the venue for the viewing of Zev’s film.

Tucked underneath its bustling parent, Camino, Copa de Cava is one of this small collection of Spanish bars and restaurants run by the ebullient hispanophile, Richard Biggs, and is a tapas bar specialising, as its name suggests, in this popular sparkler from Spain.

Spanish Grapes Film in London

The screening room over the illuminated Cava cellar.

Spanish Grapes Film in LondonZev Robinson introduced the fourth in his collection of films about wine and people in Spain, his adopted country since he moved there in 1991. His passion for the place, its people and its wines shows in his careful, considered work. He lets the protaganists tell their own story which includes history, the challenges of growing good quality grapes and how their different styles of wine are made.

I doubt whether the disinterested wine drinker would enjoy this film but those who know about wine or are discovering and learning about wine should watch this film to appreciate the passion involved in all aspects of wine, as well as the special attractions of that fascinating country, Spain.

Spanish Grapes Film in LondonThe screening was followed by an interesting, lively tasting of a selection of Spanish wines that were featured in the film; a tasting that was appreciated by the audience whose appetite had been suitably whetted.

Two gems from a good array of Spanish delights as well as Copa de Cava’s delicious tapas platters.

Spanish Grapes Film in LondonNow I know what to do with all my sparkling wine capsules!

Spanish Grapes Film in LondonIn the twilight on our way home we encountered this Freeman of the City of London sheepishly on his way to cross London Bridge – fitting to see this elegiac statue by Dame Elizabeth Frink after watching the countryside of Spain in Zev’s Spanish grapes film.


A visit to Millton

Millton Vineyards

For 30 years Millton Vineyards & Winery’s grapes have been grown in the traditional manner using biodynamic techniques.

It was our first time in Gisborne, NZ’s third largest producer, and our first visit was to the Millton Vineyards and Winery to meet James Millton and his wife Annie.

I have met James on several occasions in the UK and have always learnt a lot from him, his philosophy and his enthusiasm for biodynamic farming. The Millton wines always delight so it was very special to see where they come from.

Here is a record of our short visit to Millton. Although the weather was overcast and rainy, the wines shone!

A visit to MilltonThe vines netted to protect the birds from munching the ripening grapes, which will be harvested in 3 to 4 weeks time.

A visit to Millton

 A deer bladder suspended in silver birch trees for preparation 502 – Yarrow flowers are buried sheathed in a deer bladder. This is hung in the summer sun, buried over winter, then dug up the following spring. The bladder’s contents are removed and inserted in the compost.

Biodynamic bee keeping is an approach which respects this integrity of the colony. Its aim is to minimise stress factors and allow bees to develop in accordance with their true nature. Bees are allowed to build natural comb, swarming is acknowledged as the only way to rejuvenate and reproduce a colony, the queen is allowed to move freely throughout the hive and sufficient honey is retained in the hive to provide for the winter. A system of bee keeping that respects a colony’s natural integrity will not only reduce stress and encourage healthy bees.

The six compost preparations are made from specific herbs: yarrow flowers, chamomile blossoms, the whole areal portion of the stinging nettle while in flower, oak bark, dandelion blossoms and valerian flowers.

The barrel has a manuka stirring stick suspended from the rafters of the shed, with vine prunings bound to one end to assist the creation of the vortex during the clockwise and anti – clockwise rhythmic dynamising. The momentum of water moving through the ‘bristles’ increases the ‘weaving’ of the streams of energy flow.

A visit to Millton

Then it was back inside out of the rain for a small tasting.

Click on the photos for details.

We completed the tasting with a very special wine: Libiamo, an ‘orange’ wine whose Gewurztraminer grapes had spent 78 days on the skins in demi-muids (large oak barrels) thus concentrating not only the colour but the flavour.

A visit to Millton

Millton Libiamo Gewurztraminer, Gisborne 2013
Deep amber orange, honeycomb, waxy dried apricots, dry, bright acidity, weighty mineral rich dried fruity notes and glacé fruits. Long lingering finish.
Libiamo – let’s drink – is a joyful aria from La Traviata by Verdi and seems so appropriate for such a thoughtful and inspirational man.
A visit to Millton

James Millton, Crazy by Nature!

An Eye on Nelson

An Eye on Nelson

There is a beautiful little corner in the north of the south island of New Zealand, one of so many gorgeous regions of this wonderful country which I visited with a small group of New Zealand wine writers for a couple of days to keep an eye on Nelson.

NZ Wine Region Map 111214

Nelson is one of the smallest wine regions of New Zealand. With a smidgen over 1000 hectares planted with vines its production is 2% of all the country, whereas its mighty neighbour, Marlborough, over the hills to the east is the largest producer with 22,000 hectares of vineyards producing 73% of the wines of New Zealand.

Nelson enjoys a sunny climate where orchards flourish as well as vines. South of the Tasman Bay, the region is protected to the east by the Richmond Hills, to the west Kahurangi and the Southern Alps to the, er, south. When we arrived, in spring, there was a dusting of snow on the adjacent hills.

Nelson has been hidden in the enormous shadow cast by Marlborough and I certainly got the feeling that Nelson was hiding its light under a bushel! There are no big players here, no national, and no international wine groups though the only disadvantage is that there is not the financial clout to promote the region. However this lack of local corporate clout does work in the favour of the thirty or so wine producers whose individuality shines through as we were to discover with the wines.

There are two distinct geological areas within Nelson:

Moutere Hills
The softly rolling Moutere Hills are formed from the weathered gravels of an ancient river system. The gravel threaded clay soils are renowned for producing wines of richness and texture, and there is no irrigation except for very young vines.

Waimea Plains
Waimea means ’river gardens’ in Maori – with stony soils of alluvial origin, high sunshine hours and a moderating maritime influence, the wines are lighter and more poised in style with aromatic varieties succeeding well. Irrigation is required as the soils are free draining.

141113.197 Nelson Tasting, Harbour Lights Bistro, WWNZ, Nelson, NZ_blog

Our first port of call, the Harbour Light Bistro, for an introductory tasting of 22 wines of Nelson: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. This was a great introduction with a variety of styles – I was taken with the Pinot Gris, which endorsed the success in Nelson of making good aromatic wines.

In spite of nautical distractions we were able to concentrate on tasting the wines. Click on the photos for more detail.

An Eye on Nelson

We spent our first day in the Moutere Hills and our first visit was to Neudorf, one of the oldest established wineries where owners Tim and Judy Finn made their first wines in 1981. The wines of Neudorf have a great reputation showing a finesse, style and grace that would delight, say, any Burgundy lover.

An Eye on Nelson

Richard Flatman, viticulturist at Neudorf Vineyards as well as the new chairman of Wine Nelson.

We tasted four Chardonnays from 2012 back to 2001. Well balanced and fine with the more recent vintages showing an elegance and style with a little less oak; then three Pinot Noirs – 2010,  2007 and 2002 – earthy but with, again, elegant fruit.

An Eye on Nelson

Continuing in the Moutere Hills we enjoyed a working lunch at the brand new winery, restaurant and art gallery of Woollaston, where the cerebral winemaker Shane Munn guided us through a selection of wines to accompany a great meal. Woollaston farms organically and the underground winery is gravity fed.

Working lunch

An Eye on Nelson

Our lunch menu with two types of greywacke rock

I liked the Woollaston Tussock Pinot Gris 2014, which went well with the John Dory, being dry showing a weighty spiciness braced by good acidity. The Woollaston Mahana Pinot Noir 2012 was big juicy and full of cherry, some spice and a touch of dark chocolate, just right with the confit duck leg.

An Eye on Nelson

Greg and Amanda Day, Andrew Sutherland (Harakeke Farm) and Neil Todd

Our next visit, still in the Upper Moutere, was to include some local history as the vineyard at Kahurangi Estate were originally planted by Hermann Seifried in 1973  and has the oldest commercial Riesling vines in the South Island. In 1998 Greg and Amanda Day bought the vineyard and the original building in 1998 and have developed the business as well as an agency for imported wines.

One of the pleasant discoveries of this trip was the camaraderie shared between the producers as Greg, accompanied by his winemaker Neil Todd, also shared the tasting with his previous winemaker, Andrew Sutherland, who now owns his small 3 hectare vineyard, Harakeke Farm, and makes his wine at Kahurangi.

Amidst a good selection of white, rosés and reds I liked the Kahurangi Nelson Riesling 2011; made with fruit from the oldest vines it is pleasantly off dry, bright with a good structure of fruit and herby notes. A lovely summery aperitif.

Andrew’s Harakeke Chardonnay 2013, whose vineyard is on land that originally grew flax then gorse – a pernicious invasive plant given half a chance – and cleared to plant Chardonnay vines; biscuity peachy notes on the nose, it’s dry with good acidity replete with stone fruit and a long finish.

An Eye on Nelson

Our last visit of our first day was to Kina Cliffs, where we were welcomed by owners Julie and Alistair Ashcroft, who bought their 4.5 hectare vineyard in 2000, originally supplying fruit to local wineries before producing their own wine from 2009. They were accompanied by their neighbour, Alex Wall, who manages Kina Beach Vineyard for its Swiss owners who, in 2011, bought the vineyard which was established in 1998.

An Eye on Nelson

Although both vineyards are by the sea their soils are still the Moutere clay under gravel.

The Kina Beach Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay 2011 was a big fellow with toasty oak and creamy yellow fruit on the nose, dry, good acidity with a graceful texture of peachy fruit. Kina Cliffs Reserve Pinot Noir 2010, from their library stock, was a fine example of maturing Pinot Noir. Mid ruby with lots of ripe blackberries on the nose, dry with attractive spicy tannins with robust dark red fruit notes. Drinking well now but will repay keeping.

It was a shame to leave such a lovely place but we had to go back to town to put on our glad rags (well, shower and change) ready for the winemakers’ dinner at the smartest restaurant in Nelson – Hopgood’s.

Once again it was great to see the friendliness of the all the Nelson wine makers, producers and growers (the wine writers were delightfully outnumbered!) who had invited us to join them with a great meal accompanied well with Nelson wines.

An Eye on Nelson

Agnes and Hermann Seifried

I was first introduced to Nelson in the UK over 15 years ago when I used to sell wine in my Billericay, Essex wine bar from one of the original producers, Seifried, who are still going strong from their early start in the 1970s. So it was a pleasure to share the company of Austrian born Hermann Seifried and his New Zealand wife Agnes.

And so to bed with another action packed day tomorrow to keep an eye on Nelson, part two coming soon…

I was a guest, with other members of WWNZ, of Wine Nelson.


Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Trapped II by Donna and Colwyn Hanson (left) and Quarter-acre Weatherboard Paradise by Richard Wedekind

During our few months in New Zealand we have discovered a national fondness for sculptures and sculpture parks. Perhaps because it is easier to share your choice of art if it’s on show in your garden or park. And New Zealand is a country that embraces the outdoors!

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

So the other day I took the ferry to Devonport, a speedy 20 minute ride across the sea, to visit the 10th NZ Sculpture Onshore exhibition at the Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve site.

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

NZ Sculpture OnShore is a biennial exhibition of contemporary New Zealand sculptural work. The event raises funds to support NZ Women’s Refuges. Since 1995 ten outdoor sculpture exhibitions have been held and over $1.34 million has been raised for NZ Women’s Refuges.

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve’s commanding position at the head of the Rangitoto Channel in the Hauraki Gulf has made it an important lookout and defence site for hundreds of years, first for early Maori inhabitants and later for European settlers.

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Humpback Whale by Jack Marsden Mayer

Worthy winner of the Fisher Fund’s People’s Choice awards was the striking piece made from driftwood by Jack Marsden Mayer.

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Tree of Golden Pods by Karen Walker

I arrived just in time to have an hour’s guided tour which gave the few of us in the group a good overview of what there was to see.

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

The scene was set so I set off to explore and take lots of photos, like this gentleman.

There were many moods, so let’s start with cheerful – indeed joyful
(click on photos for details).

 Thoughtful and provocative

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Feed the Kids Too by Bernie Harfleet. 6000 empty lunch boxes representative of the school children who go to school hungry.

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Feed the Kids Too. Buy a lunch box for $20.

 Birds, beasts and animals

Humanity, which includes some great art by school children who have their own show. There is a good documentary about the Children’s Sculpture Exhibition.

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Inside the Officers’ Mess there was a great display of smaller works

Takapuna Sculpture Onshore

Layered desk by Carrick Hill

Time to relax before leaving for home…

Takapuna Sculpture OnshoreThere was a lot of very good art on show. Most of the works were on sale and I congratulate the organisers, NZ Sculpture Onshore, for such an enjoyable event, for such good causes.

A Day in Wellington

141026.143 Mt Victoria, Wellington, NZ_blog

“I love this city, the hills, the harbour the wind that blasts through it. I love the life and pulse and activity, and the warm decrepitude…there’s always an edge here that one must walk which is sharp and precarious, requiring vigilance.”

So wrote Patricia Grace, award-winning New Zealand Maori author, about her home town of Wellington and so did we, falling in love with this, the smallest and friendliest capital city, when we spent just over a day in Wellington. Far too brief a time there but we did seem to have packed a lot in.

It was windy when we’d arrived the previous evening, as we’d been warned, so it was good to wake up to sunshine, blue skies and just a gentle breeze.

A day in Wellington

The grand Civic Square, City Gallery to the right

A short walk to the City Gallery (everywhere is a short walk in this small city) to find breakfast at the adjacent Nikau Cafe. Highly recommended, it was just the place to start the day.

Whilst Wink indulged herself with pancakes with honey butter, apple syrup I was wise and had a self assembled dish of sage fried eggs, black pudding and, er, sautéd kimchi (a Korean fermented cabbage dish, more pungent than, but similar to, sauerkraut). It made for an interesting change…

A day in Wellington

There is art everywhere in the city. In the Civic Square, with a backdrop of statues of nikau palms, Neil Dawsons’s Ferns appears to be held aloft by a chap with a spring in his step.

After breakfast we walked over the City to Sea Bridge, a dramatic thoroughfare with non-traditional wooden sculptures carved by prominent Māori artist Paratene Matchitt, some of which form the sides of the bridge.

Our gentle stroll along the quay was nothing compared to the effort of the paddlers on the water.

A day in Wellington

Then it was time for a trip on the cable car, which is still in use by commuters as well as tourists; it was built at the turn of the 20th century opening up development on the hills above the city.

A day in Wellington

It was a jolly rattle up to the top where we were greeted by great views over Wellington, and the blue, blue sea.

A helpful official guide showed us the route to walk down through the Botanic Garden. Just follow the symbols embedded in the path, so off we went.

The garden was established in 1868 and the trees growing today grew from seedlings planted at this time, and are some of the oldest exotic trees in New Zealand.

 A fine garden seat in memory Basil, the horticultural cat.

The Lady Norwood Rose Garden with spring flowers, a grand conservatory, the park keeper’s house and more statuary.

We paused at the Seddon memorial which honours the life of Richard Seddon, an important prime minister at the end of the 19th century, before continuing down through Bolton Street Cemetery.

When the motorway was built through it in the 1990s they planned to move the 2000 graves in its path, only to discover another 1700 bodies there which were not documented! Which of course were moved as well.

A day in Wellington

By this time Wink needed a little encouragement to laugh…

On past the seat of government to return to walk along the quay to reach Cuba Street as it was well nigh time for lunch; in spite of our hearty breakfast we had worked up an appetite. And not just hunger because we were keen to discover more of Patricia Grace’s “…pulse and activity, and the warm decrepitude…as well as the edge here that one must walk which is sharp and precarious, requiring vigilance”. 

A day in Wellington

Bollards modelled on burgeoning Kiwi ferns

I will tell you how we got on during our day in Wellington in my next post…