Cel­e­brat­ing wine ‘pi­rates’

Central Otago Mirror - - CENTRAL NEWS - By MARY-JO TO­HILL

For­mer It’s in the Bag pre­sen­ter John Hawkesby is host­ing ‘‘It’s in the Bot­tle,’’ an event cel­e­brat­ing 25 years of com­mer­cial wine pro­duc­tion in Cen­tral Otago, at Cromwell on Satur­day. The broad­caster turned wine ex­pert from Wai­heke Is­land said he and the mighty grape did not be­come prop­erly ac­quainted un­til he was tour­ing Hawke’s Bay in the 1980s, host­ing the Kiwi game show where par­tic­i­pants could take the money or the bag. De­scrib­ing him­self as ‘‘a late de­vel­oper and mildly tee­to­tal’’ all that changed when he sipped Te Mata Es­tate’s bordeaux-style Col­eraine, which caused a sen­sa­tion in the early 80s, sig­nalling a turn­ing point in the New Zealand wine in­dus­try. ‘‘The Col­eraine turned my head. It was the equiv­a­lent of an epiphany for me. Back then you could buy it for un­der $30 a bot­tle. Now you’d have to give up your first grand­child.’’ A grand­fa­ther him­self now, there’s no talk of Hawkesby giv­ing up one of his own, for the money or the bot­tle. How­ever, that ini­tial taste taught him to ap­pre­ci­ate qual­ity, which is why he was look­ing for­ward to head­ing south for this week­end’s big event, with pub­lic tast­ings of six pinot noirs from the Cen­tral Otago sub-re­gions in­clud­ing Ban­nock­burn, Alexan­dra and Bendigo. Hawkesby likened Cen­tral Otago wine grow­ers to the pi­rates of the Caribbean. ‘‘They’ve got at­ti­tude, they’re naughty and they know how to party.’’ He ad­mired grow­ers’ col­le­gial­ity and the ‘‘spirit of co-op­er­a­tion where suc­cess is shared.’’ ‘‘No mean-spir­ited per­son ever made a de­cent pinot noir.’’ In Hawkesby’s opin­ion, Cen­tral Otago wine-mak­ers were the best-trav­elled of any in their in­dus­try throughout the world, be­cause they had to go far to gain the nec­es­sary knowl­edge, com­bin­ing old world know-how with mod­ern tech­nol­ogy. He also be­lieved that the ‘‘spec­tac­u­lar rise’’ of winer­ies had helped put the re­gion on the map be­cause ‘‘not ev­ery­one wants to go bungy jump­ing.’’ He will be joined by one of Aus­tralia’s most re­spected wine crit­ics, wine writer and in­ter­na­tional wine judge, James Hal­l­i­day.

Photo: JOYCE HAWKESBY

Take an open bot­tle to din­ner and tell your host it’s ‘‘breath­ing’’ so you don’t have to drink their cheap plonk. Wine never tasted bet­ter than when you are sit­ting among the vines from whence it came. Plas­tic corks are OK for whites, but reds need a proper cork. Screw caps are OK too, but they de­stroy the ro­man­ti­cism of the pop­ping sound. Even ex­pen­sive reds will not keep, so drink early to avoid dis­ap­point­ment. If your red’s been open for sev­eral days, put it in the fridge to freshen it up. Never drink out of a cheap wine glass. A cold beer is still the best on a hot day. Avoid hang­overs by drink­ing less and bet­ter. If you don’t like the wine at a func­tion, drink orange juice and tell peo­ple you are driv­ing. Bugs in your wine won’t spoil the taste if you whip them out quickly. Pop cul­ture: Swap­ping the bag for the bot­tle, broad­caster turned wine ap­pre­ci­a­tor John Hawkesby will host the re­gion’s 25th an­niver­sary wine­mak­ing cel­e­bra­tions this Satur­day, or­gan­ised by the Cen­tral Otago Wine As­so­ci­a­tion.

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