As I’m up to my ears in wine all week, I don’t make a habit of visiting producers on my days off. But a long standing invitation to taste the wines made by one of my students, Alex Perez, at Tantalus Estate on Waiheke Island proved irresistible. With relatives visiting from New York and a sunny Auckland day in store, we took the ferry across the harbour.

The start of the 2016 Decanter World Wine Awards judging week did not bode well. I’d been excused judging on the first day (not enough NZ entries apparently) so was catching up on emails when I received a fraught text from Emma asking me if I could venture out buy her something warm to wear as Tobacco Dock was ‘freezing’. It was no hardship to dash off to Uniqlo for a padded jacket and it was money well spent (Emma’s) as it snowed the next day. Snow. In April.

A flying visit to Porto meant an opportunity to go to the Douro, a region I’ve always wanted to explore, but never made the time. A new motorway takes you most of the way there but the final 30 minutes is on roads so winding, they make the road over the Rimutakas look like the home straight on a Grand Prix circuit. It was queasy stomachs a go-go by the time we arrived at Quinta do Noval. Thankfully we were all back up to full strength pretty smartly. Have you ever been somewhere that was EXACTLY how you imagined it would be? Vertiginous slopes, walled terraced vineyards clinging to every slope, the river meandering down below. Red tiled, white washed[…]

Wine, balm for so many and so much. Dark days might send the majority scurrying for the embrace of any calmly cool white or warmly welcoming red to hand, but a stress-induced need for a drink turns me into a curiously specific wine hunter. I rummage in boxes from here to there, not knowing what I’m actually looking for but certain I’ll know it when I find it. After a trying day of the sort bureaucratic box ticking and arse covering that only building inspectors truly lift to an art form, the long deep sigh of relief revealed itself to be the 2014 Gibbston Valley ‘Le Maitre’ Gibbston Pinot Noir ($85).  Succulent, juicy, with freshness and verve. Walking the knife[…]

Emma and I are in Queenstown, as guests of Central Otago Pinot Noir Ltd, to take part in the 2016 Pinot Noir Celebration.  The opening session, “A Question of Style”, explored the relationship of winemakers to the region; consultant winemakers (eg. Dean Shaw, Pete Bartle, Rudi Bauer), those from out of region (Jim White), or from outside of NZ (Lucie Lawrence). Those who’d worked in the region for years (Matt Dicey, John Wallace). Emma and Ted Lemon discussed what style meant to each of them. Like all good sessions, there wasn’t enough time to discuss as much as (I think) the audience would have liked.  But a good, thought provoking start. Panel : Emma, Blair Walter, Jane Faulkner, Ted Lemon

We all see life through a prism of our own experience (and prejudices) but I must confess to being at a loss when reading the recent commentary on Wine Writers of New Zealand’s new Code of Ethics, triggered by Jo Burzynska’s recent article. Most of it centres around those who seek to defend paid-for wine reviews, mainly through strawman arguments or plain flawed thinking (e.g. everyone has a right to earn a living. Please, do me a favour and think that one through again but this time with a bit of logic employed). Often as not, the obtuse arguments and woeful ignorance simply reflect poorly on the writer’s ability to actually understand the topic on which they choose to comment.[…]