Model Winemaker

I had to have a chuckle the other day after I’d tweeted the news that international supermodel Kate Moss had purchased a £130,000 vineyard in France for her new husband Jamie Hince.  Replies included “unless she’s careful the wine will taste thin and lack body”, and cheekily referring to her cigarette habit and other vices “it’ll have great legs, but may taste smoky and need some extra substance to maintain consistency”.

The 37-year-old style icon bought the winery as a present after receiving advice from her ex-love Johnny Depp who owns a vineyard in the Massif des Maures hills near St Tropez.   “Johnny was incredibly encouraging and told Kate that producing wine has been an amazingly rewarding hobby” says a source.

Famous for quipping “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”, the model was inspired to buy the vineyards after visiting the South of France and trying out the region’s various wines, and she now plans to name one of the bottles after herself.  “Kate is planning on naming the wine after herself and has even suggesting using a Merlot grape to produce the inaugural Vin de Mossot” says one insider.  I’d have thought naming it Domaine Skinnay, or Chateaux de la Waif would’ve been far more interesting don’t you?

Sailors get Savvy

In a race resembling the great annual quest to deliver the first bottles of Beaujolais from France across the channel to England, over 100 hardy sailors and sailoresses braved the elements in Cook Strait recently to deliver and release the new vintage 2011 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough Sounds in the South Island to Wellington city in the North.

The north westerly wind was blowing 29 knots on the start line situated outside the Tory Channel entrance and the race had to be started twice because too many yachts eager to start were over the line too early resulting in a general recall for the entire fleet to ensure a fair race for all.   On board each of the yachts was a bottle of 2011 sauvignon blanc padlocked inside a wooden box.

The twenty-one wineries participated this year including: Lawson’s Dry Hills, Cloudy Bay, Spy Valley, Saint Clair, Mud House, Waipara Hills, Fairhall Downs, Te Hua Valley, Villa Maria, The Ned, Hunters, Terrace Heights Estate, Torea, Yealands, Mount Riley, Kim Crawford, Oyster Bay, Stanley Estates, Cloudy Bay and Tohu.

The WineWorks Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Yacht Race began in 2001, and marks the official launch of Marlborough’s new vintage Sauvignon Blanc wines.  The Line Honours prize was awarded to the fastest yacht, ‘The Guarantee’, taking 3 hours and 32 minutes to reach Wellington was skippered by Geoff Herd carrying 2011 Tohu Sauvignon Blanc. 1st on Handicap was ‘Summerwine’ skippered by Nicki Jenkins, carrying Stanley Estates. 2nd on Handicap was Montego Bay III, skippered by Bob McVeagh, carrying Fairhall Downs. Harcourts Rural provided a special prize for a 26 foot tracker called ‘Bright Eyes II’, skippered by Kerry Kirk, an outstanding effort for a smaller yacht in tough conditions.

German Riesling Woes

According to a story in, fans of German riesling may have to prepare for a shortage of their favourite tipple due to devastating hailstorms which hit the Mosel Valley recently destroying cars, buildings and up to 50% of the grape crop in some areas.  During the 15 minute storm hailstones the size of tennis balls crashed through roofs and windows and absolutely decimated some vineyards yet due to being so localised, other neighbouring vineyards remained relatively unscathed.

Worst hit were vineyards at Lösenich and Kinheim, where up to 50% of the grapes were destroyed.  The only ‘positive thing’ to come out of the chaos according to locals is that the hail was followed immediately by rain, which washed the surviving bunches clean of juice and sugar from the damaged grapes, reducing the danger of further damage from fruit flies.  Winemakers are now praying for warm dry days and cool nights.  If there is any more rain, the damaged bunches could quickly rot, and the riesling harvest is still weeks away.

Ethiopian vino?

My first reaction in seeing headlines in French newspaper Le Monde detailing a new winemaking venture in Ethiopia was one of slight revulsion.  How can the notion of people standing around clinking glasses of Ethiopian wine even be entertained when the region has remained in the grasp of famine for decades?  Instantly an image of Bob Geldof shaking his head in disgust screen-printed itself on my cerebral cortex; it was just too weird.  Reading on though, I realised perhaps I was guilty of knowing next to nothing about the country in question.   Ethiopia is home to 88 million people and is twice the size of France with coffee, livestock and maize being the major export earners of the region.

Parched, infertile deserts only make up a tiny part of a country which has six different climatic zones including amazing mountainous areas, lush valleys, and dozens of lakes and volcanoes. Plus they’ve been making wine in Ethiopia ever since the Italian forces occupied part of the country from 1936 to 1941.  Missing the wines from home the soldiers planted vines not far from Addis Ababa and in the south-east to make wine for their own consumption.  But on a much larger scale the Ethiopian government has joined forces with French wine and brewery group Castel to invest in vineyard sites which will diversity the nation’s agricultural offerings.

A site near the town of Ziway 170km to the south of Addis Ababa now sports a 125 hectare vineyard planted in merlot, syrah, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay which should produce some 800,000 bottles a year. The first harvest is scheduled for November; and if you thought protecting your vineyard from pests like phylloxera, powdery mildew, leaf-roll virus and apple moth was hard, spare a thought for Guy Campillo, vineyard manager for Castel.  “We were getting pythons, hyenas and even hippopotamuses in the vineyards. As a result we had to dig a two-metre-wide trench around the vineyards to protect them. Since then it’s been fine.”

A birthday for our bubbles…

Who’d have thunk it?  Lindauer, the signature fizz of this fair land has turned 30!  Undoubtedly without this classic bubbly there’d be weddings, 21st’s, office shouts, Christmas parties, birthdays and (dare I say it) funerals which would be much less cheery affairs.  So raise your glass to a brand which consistently over-delivers where value-for-money is concerned and with the exception of Fraise (not a fan sorry) it just gets better as each year passes.


Squawking Magpie ‘The Stoned Crow’ Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2009 $40

Inky-dark and packed with concentrated plum, cocoa, sexy spices and lifted dried-herb aromatics.  In the mouth it is luscious, juicy and elegantly flavoursome.  The tannins are solid, present yet beautifully integrated and contribute to stunning length of flavour.  This is a superb wine which is built for the long haul.  There’s precious little available so visit for info on how to buy.

Squawking Magpie 'The Stoned Crow' Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2009

Lindauer Special Reserve Brut Cuvee NV $19

I love its classic coppery-gold colour and the aromas of oatmeal and ANZAC biscuits.  Elegantly spritzy in the mouth with tangy white peach and creamy, toasty characters on the finish it’s a great value bubbles for any occasion.  Widely available.

Lindauer Special Reserve NV

Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Gris 2010 $26

Half the juice was fermented in older French oak which contributes to the toasty, fig-like notes on the nose and the nectarine stone and spicy pear flavours on the palate.  At 14% alc it’s far from delicate, but if mouthfilling succulence is what you’re after then look no further.


Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Gris 2010