Celebrating wine ‘pirates’
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.
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.