This week I set myself a challenge to see if I could find six decent wines for under $60.  There’s deep discounting going on left right and sideways out there in supermarketland at the moment, so it shouldn’t be too hard I thought.

Because of the nature of my job, I do get to taste some rather fabulous wines every week, but they’re usually sneaking towards the top end of the scale price-wise, which is about as helpful as a hedgehog in a balloon shop when you’re on a tight budget.   Now I was bought up on casks of Blenheimer and Cooks Chasseur, cheap sherry and White Cloud, so I’m no wine snob.  A snazzy label and an eye-watering price tag doesn’t always mean it’s going to taste good and I endeavor to keep my mind open to the possibility that a cheap, nasty-looking bottle could actually contain something quite salubrious.

So out I went, armed with my eftpos card, to see if $60 could buy me half a dozen bottles of heaven.  It was plainly obvious that you’d be hard-pressed to find anything 100% New Zealand made for less than nine dollars in a supermarket.  Certainly all the sauvignon blancs, pinot gris and chardonnays I found were either blended with Australian or Chilean fruit or 100% sourced from overseas and the reds for under $9 were all made from either Australian, Chilean or Argentinean fruit.

So I picked a few bottles, trundled them through the checkout and took them home to sip.  As Welsh wonder-mum Nessa on ‘Gavin and Stacy’ would say, “I won’t lie to yer”, the wines (apart from the Spumante and the sauvignon) ranged from average to awful.

The Bernadino Spumante NV $8.99 ★★★½ was the star of the line up.  This classic kiwi fizz is actually rather fabulous because it boasts bright fruit salad and all sorts of grapey-goodness.  Yes it’s sweet, but it’s tangy and refreshing at the same time, plus it’s only 9.5% alcohol, so it won’t send you sideways too quickly.  One sip and I’m 20, it’s summertime and the world is good again.  Next up, the Riverstone Sauvignon Blanc 2013 $8.99 ★★★ is made from a blend of Australian and New Zealand fruit and it’s fairly fruity on the nose with passionfruit, lime and kiwifruit characters but in the mouth there’s an initial crisp, squirt of citrus flavour.  However that only lasts precious seconds as the flavour falls away pretty quickly.  Yet my husband (who is a huge sauvignon blanc fan) said “You’d be pretty happy with that for under ten bucks” – so there you go.  Following on it’s the Mill Road Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris 2012 $9.99 ★★, whose aromas of poached pear, sweet peach and apple made my brain perk up.  I thought “this could actually be fantastic”, however it tasted green and bitter, as if made with under-ripe fruit.  It was thin, weedy and pretty average all round.  You don’t see gewürztraminer under $10 everyday, so the Saints Gisborne Gewurztraminer 2012 $9.99 ★★ looked like a bargain.  It promised good things on the nose, classic Turkish delight, tropical fruit, spices and whatnot – however as soon as I took a sip I found a weird, sweet-sour note, a coarse, rough texture and a disappointingly watery finish.  Sadly it doesn’t get much better with the Saints Barossa Shiraz 2011 $9.99 ½.  Although it has some semblance of spice on the nose, it doesn’t have the sweet, ripe fruit you expect in shiraz, instead there’s an odd, salty, old fish oil smell and in the mouth it tastes sappy, thin, weedy and awful.  Finally it was time for the Longridge Hawke’s Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $9.99 . If you’re looking for something that smells green, leafy and compost-like, and tastes like a sharp, bitter, witches brew of badness then this is the wine for you.

If you’re determined to find wines for under $9 a bottle, you’ll find them on online wine sales sites such as who list brands like Squeaky Gate, Odd Socks, Marlborough Sun, Highway 50, Wandering River, Paua Cove, Huatoki Grove and Outback Jack – none of which I’ve tried or know anything about.  Good Luck.

Home Brewing Takes Guts…

Now this is wacky.  A 61-year-old Texan man has stunned doctors after they discovered he was making his own beer – in his stomach.  It all came to a head (stop, I know) when the man arrived at A&E complaining of dizziness.  Nurses breathalysed him and he blew five times the legal limit, however he insisted he hadn’t consumed any alcohol at all.  No one believed him when he claimed to live an alcohol-free lifestyle and even his wife was becoming increasingly concerned with his ‘constantly drunk’ condition.  Apparently he would get drunk at random times and in random situations.  So to solve the mystery, medical experts isolated him for 24 hours and constantly checked his levels.  Even without any alcohol his levels were as high as 0.12%.  The doctors then realized that he was infected with super-high levels of yeast, levels so high that he was actually making his own beer – in his belly.  Apparently he’d taken antibiotics following surgery back in 2004 that killed all his gut bacteria, meaning yeast could thrive unchecked.  He was also a carb-o-holic meaning that each time he ate something starchy, the yeast in his system turned the sugars into alcohol – making him drunk from the inside.  So they threw him on the Atkins diet and dosed him up with anti-fungal medication and now he’s walking the straight line.