If there’s one thing surer than death and taxes, it’s that by now you’re probably wondering what on earth to do with all that excess Christmas chocolate, the boxes of crystallised ginger that grandad keeps forgetting to take home with him, all the uneaten Round Wine’s or Krispie’s left in the Griffins Sampler tin and those annoying bowls of festive mixed nuts that no one touched because the nutcracker‘s been awol since nineteen ninety three.  The answer is very simple; it’s called Nana Billy’s Biscuit Cake.

Nana Billy's Biscuit Cake & Sparkling Shiraz

Melt 4oz each of sugar and butter together with 3tblsp cocoa powder. Whisk in an egg and a teaspoon of vanilla essence, then heat till the mixture starts to bubble.  Add 250g of crushed biscuits, a cup of currants or raisins, half a cup of chopped crystallised ginger and a half cup of chopped nuts.  Press into a slab tin then cover it with melted chocolate and more chopped nuts then chill completely till set.  Slice it into hefty slabs and consume with gusto together with a large glass of sparkling Shiraz.

Bleasdale Sparkling Shiraz

I absolutely adore a good, Aussie sparkling Shiraz with anything remotely chocolatey, especially if there’s fruit, spice and nuts involved.  It’s a sweetish, plummy, fizzy red wine; and while that may sound sickening to some, believe me when I’ve spent a hot, dusty day in the outback fending off goannas and rabid tree-bunnies all day, it’s pretty much corka, rippa, bonza, grouse mate.  I’m also hoping we can embrace it over here because there are some delicious, well-priced examples available which really hit the spot.  Any supermarket worth its salt will stock the Wyndham Bin 555 Sparkling Shiraz NV ($16) which ticks all the boxes for ripe, red fruits and dark berries combined with cocoa, smoke and spice.  Scenic Cellars in Taupo stock the absolutely delicious Bleasdale Sparkling Shiraz NV ($26) from Langhorne Creek which has concentrated plum, cocoa and dark berry notes combined with intensely rich yet refreshing length.  But my new favourite comes from McLaren Vale’s Penny’s Hill Wines and it’s called the Black Chook Sparkling Shiraz ($25).  Made by talented winemaker Ben Riggs, this wine has intense plum, pepper and blackberry aromas with a rich, smooth spritzy texture and a robust, fruity finish.  For stockists contact www.federalgeo.co.nz .

Akarua Central Otago Noir Ice 2011
Akarua’s Noir Ice 2011 $40 is a definite new favourite.  I’ve only tried one dessert-style pinot noir before, so it’s a rare example indeed.  Wax sealed, individually numbered, it’s scented with strawberries and cream and oozes candyfloss, toffee and rose caramel richness. Harvested at optimal ripeness and flavour, the grapes were then frozen in a blast freezer before being slowly pressed over 3 days to release the sugary juice and separate it from any water crystals to concentrate the flavours.  It’s simply stunning.  www.akarua.com

I just need a bit more moo time…

Australian scientists at the Victorian Department of Primary Industries have discovered that if cows consume regular quantities of a by-product of the wine-making process called ‘grape marc’ then they appear to reduce their methane emissions by more than 20%  Apparently a dairy cow produces the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as an average family car.  Grape marc is basically all the skins and seeds left over after grapes have been crushed and pressed during winemaking.  There’s a huge amount of this waste produced every year and mostly it goes into compost, but it’s a big deal trying to find a suitable way to deal with it all.  It turns out that not only does this winemaking by-product cut down on bovine burping and flatulence, it’s also a fantastic high-fat feed supplement which of course results in productive, efficient milk making and higher amounts of ‘good’ fatty-acids in their milk – which are linked with improved heart health and all sorts of cancer fighting weaponry.   So I think it’d be brilliant for us here in NZ to be able to package up all this grape waste and feed it to our cows because it’s a win win for wineries, farmers, people who aren’t lactose intolerant and of course the environment..

Church Road Reserve Hawke’s Bay Viognier 2010 $40

I love the essence of orange oil, quince and wild flowers on the nose and the immediate burst of mandarin, apricot and soft spices in the mouth. Its lusciousness and mid-palate texture is absolutely divine and it’s a superb example of the style.  One glass is just never enough.  For stockists visit www.churchroad.co.nz


Church Road Reserve Viognier 2010

Kidnapper Cliffs Hawke’s Bay Pinotage 2010 $45

One of the most sophisticated examples of pinotage on the NZ market, this wine oozes cranberry, redcurrant, rosehip tea and cherry cola aromas yet it has a spicy edge with savoury, dried herb flavours and is soundly built with solid tannins a warming mid-palate and lengthy persistence of flavour.  To order visit www.kidnappercliffs.com


Kidnapper Cliffs Hawke’s Bay Pinotage 2009

Rochdale Pear Cider 330ml ($15 x 4pk)

A lovely, full-flavoured cider that bursts with tangy, pure pear character before finishing with refreshing acidity and excellent length of flavour.  Drink super-chilled with snapper slathered in spicy mango salsa.  For stockists in your area contact www.mccashins.co.nz


Rochdale Pear Cider

Tresillian Single Vineyard Akaroa Chardonnay 2009 $23

This is a superb Canterbury chardonnay chock-full of melon, mango and peach notes on the nose all followed by an explosively fresh burst of tropical and citrus flavours in the mouth.  Clean, long and linear, it’s a lovely drink indeed.  Buy from www.tresillian.co.nz


Tresillian Single Vineyard Akaroa Chardonnay 2009

Sustainable Dots Hawke’s Bay Gewurztraminer 2010 $19

If you’re a fan of fabulous, well-priced gewürztraminer then this is for you!  It’s a beautiful example with lychee, rose and soft spices on the nose followed by clean, crisp, tangy tropical flavours in the mouth.  It’s a wine with fantastic lines and definitely leaves an impression.  More please!  For info on how to buy visit www.osawawines.co.nz


Sustainable Dots Hawke's Bay Gewurztraminer 2010