There’s a bit of a survey making the rounds of the Twittersphere asking if Purple Death might be the worst wine ever made.  I think that’s a tad harsh.  Back when I was a teenager and it was the only thing I could afford that actually had any alcoholic strength; I thought it was pretty tasty.  Long before the internet came along offering all sorts of recipes which detailed how you could mix Purple Death with other things to disguise how it really tasted, I simply used my leftover change to buy a big bottle of Schweppes lemonade.  Nice.  But pretty soon the bright lights of Blenheimer and Blue Nun took over and it was all over for Purple Death.  It disappeared from the shelves of the shops I frequented and became but a misty, slightly seedy memory.  No more the odd, squint-inducing combination of blackcurrant, cough medicine, sweaty feet and liquorice for me.  That was until this Twitter thing sparked a fluttering of fingertips on computer keys and lo!  Purple Death is actually still being made by the Sapich Brothers out in Henderson, West Auckland (no surprises there) and it’s only fifteen bucks a bottle.  I still chuckle over the label, “it is best drunk with teeth clenched to avoid foreign bodies”.  So if you’re stuck for a classy present option for your nearest and dearest this Christmas I think I may’ve just solved your problem.

Fizzically Fit – Sparklings of the Season

Millton Vineyard Muskats @ Dawn

With a striking bottle design featuring a silver crown seal and an exclusive Kate Sylvester print on the label, Millton Vineyard’s Muskats @ Dawn 2011 ($22) is a “biologically produced” pearler from Gisborne which I hear was the surprise hit of the local wine and food festival this year.  “We couldn’t keep up with demand – it was unreal!” says Monique Millton.  But it’s easy to see why because it’s a deliciously floral, crisply tropical, East Coast kiwi take on the Italian classic Moscato d’Asti.  At only 8.5% alcohol with soft stonefruit flavours, a zesty-fresh mouthfeel and a long, sexy finish, this wine is bound to be a sure-fire hit this summer.

Winemaker Sasha Grayson has launched her own range of sparkling wines called Everwild.  The wines are really beautifully packaged and come in at around $19 a bottle at the supermarket.  Forget the marketing spiel about the wines being for ‘women with hectic schedules’ and ‘reflecting the natural beauty and rugged coastlines of New Zealand’ – they’re actually just really good.  The Everwild Reserve Sparkling Cuveé Riche NV has attractive aromas of white peach and summer flowers, elegant mid-palate weight and a spritzy, tangy length of flavour.  The Everwild Reserve Sparkling Brut NV smells like marshmallow and fruit toast.  It’s zingy and mineral-driven and while not as weighty in the mouth as the Riche, it has with some nutty complexity on the finish.  Everwild’s Reserve Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc NV is a far cry from a lot of the other unpleasant green and sweaty sparkling sav’s on the market because it’s a tasty example which boasts soft, tropical passionfruit and lime characters, and a tangy, dry spritzy length of flavour.

Twin Islands Marlborough Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut NV $20

One of my favourite local sparkling wines full stop.  Lovely aromas of rising dough, almond meal and lemon pith.  With delicate bead and a vibrant mousse it is rich and mouthfilling, dry yet wholly satisfying.  Beautifully balanced with great persistence of flavour – make sure you try it if you haven’t already.


Twin Islands Marlborough Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut

Henkell Trocken Dry-Sec NV $17

This snappy German sparkling has been part of our supermarket-scape since aeons ago and I’m convinced Henkell Trocken is popular because it manages to blend taut minerality, nutty notes and a full, textural biscuity finish.  Widely available.

Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Cava $19

The Spanish sensation in the black bottle is celebrating its 150th “años” and it just keeps getting better.  I think it’s actually leapt ahead in quality terms to what they were offering a decade ago.  With its distinctive chalkiness and lemony-dry length this classic cava is a fantastic match with barbequed seafood slathered in lemon and fresh herbs.  Widely available.

Freixenet Cordon Negro

Tuatara London Porter 330ml $19.25x6pk

Brewed using crystal, chocolate and roast malts, this beer oozes espresso, caramel and cocoa characters.  I love the rich smoothness of the texture and how it coats the mouth in silky, savoury flavours which hang in the mid-palate long after you’ve swallowed.  For stockists visit


Tuatara London Porter

Old Mout Cranberry Cider 1.25lt $12

The thing I really like about this cider is that it’s not too sweet; in fact it has that delicious cheek-puckering astringency that cranberries are famous for.  It’s also not too fizzy, so no carbonated explosions in the mouth every time you sip – it’s actually incredibly delicate and spritzy with tangy, berryish length.  It’s a flavour combination that really works and it has ‘hot day at the beach’ written all over it.


Old Mout Cranberry Cider