Lordy where on earth has the year gone?  I swear it feels like only yesterday that I was racing around trying to buy Easter eggs and now it’s Christmas!  It’s been a manic, rollercoaster of a year and I’m sure my poor adrenal glands have totally wizened up to the point of resembling ropey old raisins.  So in a serious effort to alleviate stress this year, I’ve decided to get organised early, and I’m also letting my fingers do the walking by making shopping online my méthode de la journée when it comes to sourcing the perfect prezzie.  If you, or someone in your life is partial to being treated where wine is concerned then I suggest you head directly for www.temata.co.nzbecause they’ve just released what are arguably the aristocrats of New Zealand wine.  “2009 will be considered amongst the greatest Coleraines” says owner John Buck and I’d have to agree.

Te Mata Coleraine 2009

The Te Mata Coleraine 2009 $80  is absolutely destined for greatness.  A blend of 52% cabernet sauvignon, 43% merlot and 5% cabernet franc, the colour is impenetrably inky, glossy magenta-black. Perfumed with dark berries, exotic spices cocoa and rose, it oozes plush, plump fruit, soft, smoky notes, youthful acidity and has silky, ribbon-like tannins on the finish.  This has decades of life ahead of it and is a true pleasure to drink.

Te Mata Elston Chardonnay 2010

Lovers of the Te Mata Elston Chardonnay 2010 $35 will also be pleased to know that Buck believes “in all modesty, the 2010 Elston is probably the best version we’ve ever done”.  2010 was a sensational year for Hawke’s Bay chardonnay and I’ve got to agree with John, this wine is unbelievably gorgeous.  Fresh, crisp and crunchy citrus on the nose yet there’s tension, elegance and restraint in the mouth – which bodes well for a long life.  It boasts amazing length of flavour and it’s definitely a chardonnay for lovers of the classic French style.

If you’re anything like me and have Champagne on your wishlist then prepare to swoon when you see the eye-popping Christmas packaging Moet & Chandon are offering this year.  Dubbed ‘The Gift’ is a beautifully crafted metal box, finished in brushed gold, bound with a gorgeous, glittering gold ribbon.  But all this decadent packaging is actually ‘functional’ because it doubles as a re-usable isotherm cooler which keeps your cold bottle of Moët perfectly chilled for hours. Complete with a golden metal booklet for inscribing your Christmas message, it’s available from leading wine retailers and it’ll set you back $79.90.

I don’t know about you but there are members of my nearest and dearest who develop a special type of thirst come Christmas time – and that’s when knowing a thing or two about good whisky will see me right.  Lately I’ve become really attached to a fantastic Highland single malt from Ardmore ($80) 700ml (46%) Founded by one of Scotland’s most famous whisky families, Ardmore is also the core ingredient in Teachers Blended Scotch Whisky and the family have been distilling fine Highland Malt since 1898.  I love the lifted, smoky aromatics and silky caramel and spice flavours and its long, warming, toasty mouthfeel.  I’m also a recent convert to Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon ($45) 700ml (40%) and I can’t for the life of me understand why it took so long to taste it.  Each batch is totally hand-made from a single source of iron-free, limestone spring water, malted barley, wheat and yellow corn which fermented in old cypress tanks (not stainless steel) then it’s double-distilled and aged in old oak barrels.  It has a beautifully smooth oak and vanilla notes, plump, warming texture in the mouth and nutty length of flavour.

Throw out that crusty old cherry brandy you’ve had since the 80’s and make 2011 the year you update the liquor cabinet with something a bit quirky and exotic like a bottle of Aperol Aperitivo ($35) 700ml.  Produced in Padova by the Barbieri Brothers, Aperol is the number one selling spirit in Italy.  It’s basically a low-alcohol aperitif which has a gorgeous, bittersweet taste of orange oil, mandarin peel and exotic spices.  I have no idea how it’s made because the recipe is a secret, but at 11% alc it’s just perfect over ice with a splash of ginger beer and a squirt of lime as a summer afternoon refresher.

Sips of the Week

Gladstone Vineyard ‘Sophie’s Choice’ Barrel Fermented Wairarapa Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2010 $35

It’s as yellow as its Golden Retriever namesake.  The late Sophie spent 14 years chasing birds, eating the grapes which fell from the crusher and bludging food from customers in the café.  She’s much missed but this wine will leave a lasting impression.  Smooth, creamy mango, dried herbs and green tea aromas followed by deliciously complex flavours of marzipan, white peach and toasted nuts lead to a lovely, textural finish.  www.gladstonevineyard.co.nz

Gladstone Vineyard Sophies Choice Sauvignon Blanc

Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz Cabernet 2009 $45

Created from fruit sourced from two regions in South Australia’s Limestone Coast, Robe and Mount Benson. It’s a wine that’s walking away with trophy’s left, right and centre – and it’s easy to see why because it’s just so incredibly well-built.  Lifted pepper and smoke wrap around concentrated fresh plum, red currant and intense violet aromas.  It’s velvety, plush and elegant on the palate – a wine definitely designed to age beautifully.  www.treasureywineestates.com

Tuatara Ardennes Strong Golden Ale 330ml 6.5% $7

Bright and brassy with a  solid, foamy head in the glass, I love the aromas of citrus oil and exotic spices.  It’s tangy and crisp, yet very intense and gutsy on the finish – almost a meal in itself!  Great stuff.  www.tuatarabrewing.co.nz

Tuatara Ardennes

Tresillian Single Vineyard Canterbury Riesling 2008 $18.50

A lovely example of older riesling sourced from Tresillian’s ‘certified-sustainable’ Lumsden vineyard.  Prepare yourself for aromas of beeswax, tangelo, lime and mineral notes while on the palate is nicely balanced with a touch of sweetness and a crisp, tangy finish.  For stockists visit www.tresillian.co.nz

Tresillian Riesling 2008