It'll hardly rip anyone's knickers to know that wine is a great partner for all sorts of practices. Take the pairing of wine with cheese; the French have been doing that for centuries. We Kiwis have been doing it ever since someone impaled a cube of cheddar with a toothpick and stabbed it into an upside-down orange. Nowadays, it's a highly evolved, interesting culinary conundrum - will one opt for the merlot and Manchego, sir, or perhaps a small lump of gorgonzola with one's gewurztraminer?
Wine and food pairing is so common that wine competitions now award extra medals to wines whose flavours favour a multitude of meals. Choosing the right wine to match your movie or TV show? I'm sure there are definite sensory synergies between the two because I can stomach Sarah Jessica Parker only with a hefty glass of chardonnay in my hand.
Wine and music is an interesting development, with a lot of research going into how our perceptions of aroma, flavour, texture and quality are influenced by musical tones and soundscapes. My friend, Jo Burzynska (wine writer for NZ Herald's Viva), is even hosting a seminar on the subject at the New World Wine and Food Festival on December 3 in Hagley Park, Christchurch.
Now I'm not sure, and don't quote me on this, but I think I may be the first person to stumble upon the joy of "wine and literature matching". This is the result of weeks of fighting over the remote during the Rugby World Cup, my children hogging the computer at night and me sulking in the bedroom with a book. I discovered that when tackling J. Bronowski's cerebral Ascent of Man, a muscular cabernet sauvignon is the ideal sip for soaking up facts, timelines and long, Latin words.
A stimulating syrah is my drink of choice for Malcolm Gladwell or the Freakonomics series, chardonnay is a must for Ben Elton and Marian Keyes while sauvignon suits the pace of Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo any day.
My absolute favourite pairing of wine with the written word is one I've only just discovered. I hadn't read any Katherine Mansfield since the 6th form until I picked up Some Other Country: New Zealand's Best Short Stories. It opened with At the Bay. I was sitting under our plum tree with a glass of good rose.
The wine was youthfully fresh, vibrant and multilayered. It suited the sunshine and the the story. Later, after looting my library for more Mansfield, I opened a rose from France. It was earthier, with brooding depth of flavour and it suited the sad, sombre mood of Miss Brill, while the Invivo rose, with its splash of sauvignon in the blend, was sharp enough to cut through the escalating jealousy and smouldering sexual tension of A Cup of Tea beautifully. Mansfield prose and rose, a magical marriage. Try these ...
La Vieille Ferme Cotes Du Ventoux Rose 2010, $25
Made by the Perrin family from Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah grown on the slopes of Mont Ventoux in the Rhone Valley, this is what you drink if you like your rose on the dry, moody, minerally side. Expect subtle cherry notes, soft spices and a silky, slippery finish. Contact www.vintners.co.nz for stockists.
Rockburn 'Stolen Kiss' Central Otago Rose 2011, $23
Hints of rhubarb and spicy cherry leap from the glass, with a burst of fresh raspberry, melon and tangy plum on the palate. Lovely, enduring length of flavour makes this a winner with lamb salad.
Spy Valley Marlborough Pinot Noir Rose 2011, $21
One hundred per cent pinot noir from the Southern Valleys sub-region was separated into a combination of oak barrels and stainless steel tanks to ferment, which has resulted in gorgeous richness and aromatic interest in this wine. Stewed strawberry, juicy plum and spicy length make this a new favourite. www.spyvalleywine.co.nz
Ti Point 'Ruby' Rose 2011, $22
Tracy Haslam has used 100 per cent merlot from her tiny Matakana Coast vineyard to create this wine named after her eldest daughter. Perfumed with red apple, baking spices and plum blossom, it's dry, crisp and terrifically textural on the finish. www.tipoint.co.nz
Lime Rock Pinot Rose 2011, $20
Created from 100 per cent Central Hawke's Bay pinot noir, it has delicious strawberry shortcake aromas and a juicy, multilayered palate of ripe cherry, cranberry and creaming soda. Absolutely lovely with salt-and-pepper squid. www.limerock.co.nz
W5 Marlborough rose 2011, $12
Prepare yourself for strawberry sorbet on the nose and luscious cherry and raspberry flavours in the mouth. A touch of sweetness balances the clean acidity and adds to the lengthy finish. Superb value and available exclusively from www.blackmarket.co.nz
Invivo 'Sophie's Rose' 2011, $15
Pale and pretty, this is a crazy blend of pinot noir, merlot and sauvignon blanc. Creaming soda, berries and cornflour-dusted confection aromas lead to a snappy, citrus-driven, slightly herbaceous flavour. www.caros.co.nz
Gladstone Vineyard Wairarapa Rose 2011, $25
This blend of cabernet franc, merlot and malbec has attractive aromas of marshmallow, watermelon and candyfloss, yet it's got crisp, dry, spicy berry flavours and solid length of flavour. A good match with smoked salmon drizzled with lemon. www.gladstonevineyard.co.nz
Tresillian Canterbury Rose 2010 $21
A tasty merlot-pinot blend created from fruit grown in Tresillian's French Farm Valley vineyard near Akaroa Harbour. It has sweet raspberry and redcurrant aromas and a clean, ripe cherry note in the mouth.
Lovely acid balance assures a crisp, dry finish on this wine, which is the perfect picnic partner. www.tresillian.co.nz
And now for something different:
Russian Standard Gold Vodka 1ltr $45
This Russian vodka is quite different to others I've tried in that it's really aromatic with really interesting mineral, floral aromas and a tiny splash of fennel and juniper. It also has a textural, warming mouthfeel and a robust finish - great stuff.
Chang Beer (Thailand) 330ml $3.40
I've been ordering this beer for years, usually as a palate cleanser when popping into any Thai restaurant because the crisp, citrus and subtle toffee aromas and clean, malty, slightly bitter finish works beautifully with spicy foods. Chang translates to "elephant" which, to the Thai people, symbolises happiness, harmony and prosperity.
The secret to it being the number one-selling beer brand in Thailand and an international award winner is the purity of the water used in the brew - so clean it's even bottled as mineral water. Widely available.