Birthday wines

How delightful to meet up with a few Circle of Wine Writer friends to share good food, conversation and, of course, wines – which became birthday wines as it was a day of special celebration for me!

This was the first CWW BYO event and was held at the famous Lahore Kebab House just off Commercial Road in London’s East End.

Organised by Jim Budd, the new chairman of the Circle of Wine Writers, the evening was a great success and I look forward to such informal events in the future.

Here is a short video of the wines that we shared (everyone brought a special bottle with them), offering an array of tastes and excitements as we drank them with the delicious, cheerful dishes.

Thank you for arranging this event, Jim, and good luck on your charity cycle ride for Esme along the river Loire later this month.

Bungy Jumping, New Zealand

Bungy jumping, New ZealandCrazy if you do, crazy if you don’t – that’s Bungy Jumping, New Zealand!

bungy jumping new zealand

So what would it be? Did we or didn’t we do bungy jumping new zealand?

bungy jumping new zealand

We’d flown down from Auckland to Queenstown for a few days to discover more New Zealand. On the road through the Gibbston Valley to Wanaka we planned a stop at a rather special historic place.

bungy jumping new zealand

We were going to see the Kawarau Bridge, built way back (this is New Zealand, remember) in 1880, providing a key access route to the Central Otago goldfields.

Harry Paisley Higginson’s inspired design is outstanding in this rugged setting. The schist masonry towers have a superb affinity with the surroundings and the wooden stiffening truss gives a strong visual link across the 300′ (91.44m) gap. It was a thoroughly well-designed structure still showing its sound construction.

bungy jumping new zealand

But there’s more history about this bridge. Back in 1980s AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch, inspired by the ‘Land-divers’ of Pentecost Island (I remember seeing TV documentaries about the land divers in the UK years ago) they decided to try it themselves!

bungy jumping new zealand

First they did extensive testing on latex rubber cords and then proved it was safe with their first jump in Tignes, France, not far from where we live in France. They generated a lot of publicity by bungy jumping in different places – even from the Eiffel Tower!

bungy jumping new zealand

In November 1988, despite the fears of sceptics who thought it was a tourism operation which would never catch on, the world’s first commercial bungy operation opened up at the Kawarau Bridge. And here it still is!

bungy jumping new zealandThe Kawarau Bungy Centre, Gibbston Valley, South Island

The centre, built into the side of the gorge, has a lot to offer with shops, a café as well as the appropriately named Liquid Courage Bungy Bar, which sounds Dutch to me…

bungy jumping new zealand

No, not preparing for a bungy jump, but for one of the other thrills, the Zipride.

bungy jumping new zealandIt was time to make a decision: to do or not to do. Having decided, here is Wink preparing herself for, yes you guessed it, lunch, at the Gibbston Valley Cheesery, just along the road!

Needless to say I also made the same decision – here is a post by a braver man than me who did his bungy jumping new zealand.


Wine AKL Show, Auckland

140816.140 AKL Wine Show, Viaduct Centre, Auckland, NZ_blog

August in Auckland is Restaurant Wine Month with lots of culinary events and restaurants offering special menus. Part of the celebrations was the Wine AkL Show held over a weekend at the Viaduct Centre in the up-and-coming Wynyard Quarter of the harbour area.

Wine AKL Show

The Viaduct Centre in the Wynyard Quarter, Auckland

Sixty wineries, mainly from New Zealand, were exhibiting their wines and there were a number of interesting seminars, some just 20 minutes offering a snapshot of a particular wine style, wine or just good advice on how to taste wine.

And not just about New Zealand wine.

Other seminars were twice as long going into more detail. Indeed  on of the speakers Nick Stock, from Australia, presented a tasting of Jura Wines, particularly because Peugeot, one of the main sponsors of the Wine AKL Show is based in Franche-Comté, France, the same region as the Jura.

Wine AKL Show

Nick Stock, second from left, enjoying the feel of Peugeot

We were there for just one session (one of three over the weekend) and met a few old friends as well as making some new ones.

Wine AKL Show

We caught up with Larrry Mckenna who was showing his Escarpment Wines from Martinborough. I first met Larry in the very early days of the New Zealand wine success story in the UK and used to buy his Martinborough Wines from farsighted Suffolk agents, Adnams for my wine bar. Popular they were too!

Wine AKL Show

Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011
The attractive ruby colour draws you into this wine, together with a bouquet of sweet blackberries, spice with a touch of wholemeal toast.  Dry with gentle, maturing tannins with tasty smoky plums completed by a long finish. Will age well for another 5 years.

A rarity for New Zealand is a Pinot Blanc. Larry is a dedicated pinotphile so it makes sense that he should plant a white Pinot in this Pinot-friendly part of the world. With a nod to Kaiserstuhl, Germany, the home of the graceful Baden Pinots, his third vintage was showing very well.

I can now understand why Karl Johner, from Baden, also makes wine up the road from Escarpment in Martinborough…

Wine AKL Show

Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Blanc 2012
Greeny gold with roasted peaches and herbs on the nose. Dry with good taut acidity showing rich, elegant fruit that is well balanced and weighty.

Wine AKL Show

Two wise owls

It was good to meet Emily Camblin whom we hadn’t seen since we all attended the second European Wine Bloggers’ Conference four years ago in Lisbon. Emily is now working for Villa Maria and was at the Wine AKL Show with their new wines called Wise Owl.

Time for lunch which was another treat as the little food corner was run by Auckland’s Euro Restaurant and Bar.

With only a little time left we made our way South – to Central Otago, a beautiful region we’d visited two weeks ago. A trio of wineries shared a lively stand under a striking purple banner and it was good to meet Sarah-Kate Dineen who, with her husband Dan, own and make Maude Wines. We’d tried, and enjoyed, a couple of their wines during our recent stay in Wanaka.

They produce Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chardonnay from Central Otago and a Sauvignon from Marlborough.

Wine AKL Show

Maude Central Otago Pinot Gris 2014
Mid gold with pear, flowers and white currants on the nose. Dry, good acidity with a creamy rich texture with bags of spice; well balanced with a long finish.

Wine AKL Show

Maude Central Otago Dry Riesling 2014
Pale gold, lime blossom and apple on the nose. Dry bags of refreshing acidity, citrus and good minerality. This is the third vintage made with fruit from their Mount Maude vineyard.

Wine AKL Show

The back label showing the useful Riesling Taste Profile scale, developed to help consumers in their choice of wine by the International Riesling Foundation.

Wine AKL Show

Maude Central Otago Pinot Noir Reserve 2012
Palest ruby, dark chocolate, coffee cinnamon buns, toasted buns in fact! Dry, good tannic structure an elegant concentrated rich, fruity wine with some spearmint showing through; lingeringly long. A gem that will age delightfully.

Wine AKL Show

Two gems: Wink and Sarah-Kate

I had noticed someone on the stand wearing a T-Shirt telling us who drinks Riesling…

Wine AKL Show

It was none other than the Big Cheese (well, it says so on his card) of Mount Edward Wines, Duncan Forsyth! We tasted his Riesling which he made with Anna Riederer.

I can only echo what Ernie Loosen, a top Mosel producer says:
“The Mount Edward Riesling, My god it’s so good it could be JJ Prum.”

Mount Edward Central Otago Riesling 2014
Zesty citrus on the nose, medium dry, medium weight with tangy acidity. Pure fruity wine with lots of minerality. A wine to enjoy with Thai food, and it will improve over the next few years.

The Wine AKL Show was a great success and a worthy component of Auckland Restaurant Month.

Wine AKL Show

A last look at the Peugeot models…


A French corner in Auckland

French corner in Auckland Where can you find a good selection of French wine, cheese and hospitality in Auckland? Jura wine too… In Nouveau Marché of course! Or, as it is known in New Zealand, Newmarket just to the west of the CBD. I discovered this French corner in Auckland at Maison Vauron. French corner in Auckland When you enter Maison Vauron you are regaled by a range of French cheeses and other French goodies; La Fromagerie is also a café where there are lunchtime specials as well as coffee and patisseries. It was very busy when I was there as was the wine shop upstairs. French corner in Auckland And what a wine shop!

With its vaulted ceiling and polished wooden floor it looks the business, with wooden boxes, shelves and the ubiquitous blackboards enticing you to explore and discover French delights in every nook and crannie!

French corner in Auckland

©Maison Vauron

Should you not find what you are looking for there is always wise help and guidance from Scott Grey (left) and Jean-Christophe Poizat as well as other enlightened assistants.

This French corner in Auckland, the Maison Vauron wine shop, offers nothing but carefully selected French wine, mainly from smaller producers, as well as beers and eaux de vie.

 French touches abound.

French corner in AucklandMagnums and berets from Tariquet, SW France.

However the main reason for my visit was to deliver copies of Wink Lorch’s Jura Book, which is on the shortlist of the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Awards 2014. French corner in Auckland Within minutes of handing over the books a customer had snapped one up to read with his case of wine! French corner in Auckland And there was Stephane Tissot‘s Vin Jaune nestling on its shelf, a long way from home… French corner in Auckland

Before I left this French corner in Auckland I could do no more than react to this message, selecting a sparkler from the Loire.

French corner in Auckland

Monmousseau Cuvée J.M. Sparkling Touraine, Loire, France nv Pale gold, decent mousse, apples and floral notes. Dry, good acidity with appley notes pervading this supple sparkler.

French corner in Auckland

I join mes amis français in singing the praises of this French corner in Auckland!

Cracking Grahams Ports

Cracking Grahams Ports

Over the years I’ve enjoyed cracking Grahams ports so it was interesting to attend a small tasting to discover see the new style of their aged tawny ports – style of wine as well as the new classy packaging.Cracking Graham's PortsA small group of us gathered at the smart O’Connell Street Bistro in the centre of Auckland to meet Jorge Nunes, Graham’s Asia Pacific Representative, who presented the tawnies as well as a couple of older ports, one of them very rare and precious.

William and John Graham founded their firm in Porto in northwest Portugal to trade in textiles. In 1820 they accepted twenty-seven barrels of Port as payment of a debt. The two brothers decided then to devote their energies to making the best Port wines from the Douro Valley: and so the Graham’s Port house was born.

In 1970, nearly a hundred years after their ancestor AJ Symington left Graham’s to set up on his own as a Port producer, the important Symington family bought Graham’s.

Jorge told us that the usual production of a port house is 80% standard and 20% premium product, whereas it is the other way round at Graham’s: 83% Premium and 17% standard.

Cracking Grahams Ports

He introduced the new style of Aged Tawnies, a development made by Charles Symington when he took over from his father, Peter, who retired as MD in 2009. Aware that there was a good stock of fine old port (Graham’s have 17,000 barrels in their cellars!) the packaging was dramatically upgraded: heavier clear glass bottle packaged in smart cardboard tube – not dissimilar from Balvenie Malt Whisky presentation…

The port therein maintains the Graham’s richer style though with higher acidity adding an appealing freshness to the wine.

Cracking Grahams Ports

Graham’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port
Toasted red fruits, coffee and nuts. Sweet but with a bright acidity. A mellow palate shows rich fruit flavours, figs and honey completed by a long finish. Direct.

Cracking Grahams Ports

Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny Port
Pale tawny, nutty, hazelnut and spicy red fruit. Sweet, good acidity, great swoops of delicious fruit, mellow touch of orange peel all with spicy yeasty sourdough notes. Long finish.

Cracking Grahams Ports

Graham’s 40 Year Old Tawny Port
Ochre tawny, demerara, savoury, dark red fruits, sweet but again balanced with good acidity still. Spicy with dusky herb notes – Christmas dried moscatel grapes… Great finish.

Cracking Grahams Ports

To show the versatility of these cracking Grahams Ports the chef produced three delicious little desserts which went so well with the wines.

We then had a change of focus, moving on to a Colheita Single Harvest 1969.

Recognising the 1969 wine as truly outstanding, Charles Symington, Head of Winemaking at Graham’s, selected it for a limited release.

Graham’s 1969 Single Harvest is a special bottling of only six casks from the 1969 harvest, each cask producing just 712 numbered bottles. Charles tasted each of the 21 casks of 1969 Port still maturing in Graham’s lodge and selected the six he deemed exceptional.

Cracking Grahams Ports

Graham’s Colheita Single Harvest 1969 Tawny Port
Pale bronze, toffee caramel with vanilla, dark stewed red fruits, sweet, concentrated rich fruits, crystallized citrus peel, allspice… Still fresh and full of life.

The event culminated in a very special treat – the merest sip of a  wine from 1882!

Cracking Grahams Ports

Ne Oublie

The Symington family has released 656 bottles of a Port that dates back to the arrival of their great-grandfather Andrew James Symington in Portugal in 1882.
The family have named this wine ‘Ne Oublie’ after the original  Graham’s family motto and for the company where Andrew Symington started his life’s work. The name reflects the respect with which the family regard their great-grandparents’ joint decision to commit themselves and their descendants to Portugal, to the Douro and to Port.
Now 130 years later his direct descendants have bottled one of the remaining three barrels. The other two barrels have been entrusted to the next generation of the family and it is they who will decide their future, in 2025 at the earliest.

We were provided with our drop from this elegant 10cl sample bottle.

And how did it taste? Very special – a taste of history!
Pale tawny, a very expressive bouquet of spice, caramel and honey as well as cooked strawberries and cinnamon. Sweet but with bright acidity. Spirity notes rich spicy deliciously complex with a long soaring finish, all still amazingly fresh.
Graham’s have made a charming little film about the timeless ethos of Ne Oublie which does give you a sense of place, the family and the wine.
This was a very special tasting with every wine a treat. It is encouraging to see how port is regaining its rightful place in the pantheon of great wines.