Even if you’re only drinking the occasional glass of wine with dinner, the acidity and tannins will play havoc with your enamel. However in my job, where I’m tasting a couple of dozen wines a week (or up to a hundred wines a day if I’m judging), it’s like I’ve declared all-out war on my poor, tortured teeth. Every wine is swirled around every nook; cranny and cavity before being spat out, leaving behind a layer of flavour loaded with ambitious acid molecules just aching to attack. They’ve got periodontal membrane on the brain and no amount of Sensodyne can stop it.

But the pain is worth it every time I taste something sensational that I can recommend you try. However you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth and this week there were a few more tragic examples than triumphant ones.

As I stood in line at my local supermarket recently I watched almost every second person pop a bottle of Whale Point, Obikwa or Two Oceans wine into their trolley.

two oceans chardonnay

whale point sauvignon blanc 2010

obikwa pinot gris








From left: Two Oceans Chardonnay 2009, Whale Point Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Obikwa Pinot Gris 2010

These South African brands have been around for years and are regularly discounted to way below the $10 mark. Yet I’ve avoided them for no other reason than that they make me uncomfortable; a bit like the sort of scratchy discomfort you get when you pull on a really tight sock after cutting your toenails too short. But perhaps I was being unfair, snobby and (dare I say it) maybe even a teensy bit racist? I had to know what the appeal was.

Sacrificing my place in the queue, I zigzagged back to the wine aisle and bought three examples to take home. The Whale Point Sauvignon Blanc 2010 $10.99 (SA) has a ‘certified integrity & sustainability’ sticker on it from the South African Wine and Spirit Board – and that’s about all it can boast. Initially there’s a hint of lime on the nose but then it quickly becomes dull and vegetal. In the mouth there’s a split second burst of fruitiness before the flavour falls away to nothing. Boring . The Obikwa Pinot Gris 2010 $9.99 (SA) sports a label stating that it comes in a “new, eco-friendly, lightweight bottle” which is true because when I popped it on the kitchen scales it came in at over 100g lighter than the Whale Point. But that’s about all it’s got going for it. There’s a faint frangipane aroma which is ok, and to drink there’s some decent acidity but the flavours were all over the place and flabby. Dull as dishwater and lacks length of flavour.  Last up, the Two Oceans Chardonnay 2009 $10.99 (SA) hails from the Stellenbosch region of South Africa’s Western Cape. I tried really hard to look past the horribly old-fashioned label because it’s what’s inside that counts and for a second or two things looked encouraging. However the aromas of tropical fruit, toast and hints of peach and pineapple dissolved into flavourless pap in seconds flat. 

Trade Me Tasting

Hawke’s Bay winery CJ Pask have come up with an innovative way to canvas the tastebuds of everyday kiwi’s by offering someone the chance to be their ‘wine consultant’ for 6 months. The position is currently being advertised on Trade Me and unsurprisingly it’s attracting a huge amount of interest. “20 applicants will be chosen, of which we will send one free bottle of wine for a trial review” says the ad. “If your review is picked, you will become our very first wine consultant for the next 6 months! Each month we will send you 6 bottles of wine, one bottle for reviewing and the rest for you to enjoy!”
It’s a pretty clever way to get publicity and a ton of new contacts for the CJ Pask database – but if you’re 18 years of age or older this could just be the beginning of a new career path, or at the very least, six months free wine!

Mulled Magic

Thankfully in the world of wine some things never change. Like the desire to slosh a few litres of otherwise decent red wine into a pot, cook it for a couple of hours and attempt to drink hulking amounts of it to “ward off the winter chill”. It’s also something economically alcoholic to offer friends who drop by because they know you’ve got a fireplace, a fridge full of nice cheese and Sky TV. Instead of opening the good stuff you can slake their thirsts by doing something rather superb with that cask of Velutto Rosso in the pantry or those cleanskins you’ve hidden out in the shed.
In medieval times mulled wine was thought to be extremely healthy – not surprising considering the drinking water at the time was less than sanitary. These hot, alcoholic drinks sustained their health during the cold winter months and helped disguise how miserable medieval times actually were.
Mulled Wine (serves 4 grownups)
Pour a bottle of cheap, fruity red wine, a cup each of orange juice and ginger ale into a saucepan and gently heat. Add some sliced oranges and lemons, ½ a teaspoon of nutmeg, five cloves, ½ a cup of brandy and four cinnamon sticks then keep an eye on the mixture and wait until it becomes hot to the touch – DON’T LET IT BOIL. At this point you could blend in ½ a cup of sugar and adjust the taste with water or citrus herbal tea if need be.

What to drink this Week

Redwood Cellars Mulled Wine $16 
If you’re not inclined to slave over a hot stove when it comes to creating this classic winter warmer, then this is the just the ticket. Scented with ripe, plummy fruit and hot cross bun spices; it’s a tangy, sweet, juicy microwaveable treat. A steaming mug whilst watching the campfire just seems far too appealing. Visit www.redwoodcellars.co.nz to buy online or to locate stockists near you.

Redwood Mulled Wine
Redwood Cellars Mulled Wine

Invercargill Brewery ‘Men’N Skurrts’ Scottish Ale 330ml $6
This gutsy, malty, frothy-headed Scotch ale tips its hat to Invercargill’s pioneering forefathers with a splash of peat smoke. It’s a solid, Southland beer that’ll warm the cockles and shiver your timbers – but only for a limited time. Visit www.invercargillbrewery.co.nz for how and where to buy.

Invercargill Brewery's Men'n Skuurts

Tukipo River Estate Fat Snapper Chardonnay 2010 $20

A collective ‘Oh wow!’ rose from the table as soon as my guests started sipping this new Central Hawke’s Bay chardonnay. With incredibly concentrated guava, peach, grapefruit and pineapple aromas combined with elegant acidity, power, freshness and vitality on the finish it’s sensational stuff for the price. Visit www.tukipoterraces.co.nz for where to buy.

Fat Snapper Chardonnay
Tukipo River Estate 'Fat Snapper' Chardonnay 2010