As soon as the temperature climbs into the 20s, Kiwis abandon the confines of the kitchen table and turn to the art of eating outdoors.
Ah, the joys of picnicking. I mean, what's not to love? The inevitable sand that finds its way on to your food, sticky-footed flies hovering doggedly just out of swatting distance, nippy ants secretly zigzagging up your shorts, cramp in your legs from sitting down too long, and getting grass stains on your skirt. Yep, you just can't beat it. Simply bake yourself a bacon and egg pie, gussy up an assortment of asparagus rolls, sausage rolls, cheese rolls, in fact anything that rolls, together with a sweet slice of something-or-other, then bung it all in a basket, and Bob's your uncle.
It's especially nice - if you are within walking distance of your accommodation - to pack a tasty bottle or two in order to elevate your al-fresco indulgences to new heights. But before you get carried away, there are some important tips to consider when it comes to choosing your liquid picnic refreshments.
For starters, you need to make sure you pack wines sealed with a screwcap because, as sure as eggs, your bottle will get knocked over by a cricket ball (or the canine chasing it) and then the cork will fall out and you'll lose the wine. Or you'll choose to picnic on the slope of a grassy knoll and the bottle will just refuse to stand upright. Or you'll forget to pack the corkscrew and the afternoon will turn to custard.
Second, go for stem-less, plastic, all-purpose drinking vessels such as the GoVino. They won't tip over and they won't shatter into sharp shards of plastic if you step on one. Picnic-friendly wines
Best bacon and egg wine: Church Road Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2012, $29 You'll want a clean, tangy, fruity wine with a crisp texture to complement that lovely pastry and the rich egg filling and salty bacon. This classic chardonnay is just the ticket, with its juicy white peach and mandarin flavours and refreshing finish. www.churchroad.co.nz
Best asparagus-roll wine: Stoneleigh Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013, $26 The first sauvignon blanc I ever tasted was the 1993 Stoneleigh Marlborough sauvignon blanc. I was a student waitressing at a restaurant called Bardellis' in Christchurch. It changed my life and 20 years later I still love it. Pungent and herbaceous, with red capsicum, passionfruit and lime. Superb with anything featuring asparagus, gorgeous with Greek salad, sensational with smoked mussels and fabulous with fritters of all descriptions. www.stoneleigh.co.nz
Best ginger crunch wine: The Ned Marlborough Pinot Gris 2013, $20 A flicker of pink and aromas of poached pear, spicy quince and baked apple make this one super-pretty wine indeed. It's just delicious with this classic slice because its crisp, snappy acidity, tasty allspice and apple pie texture work beautifully with the rich, ginger topping. Magic. www.thened.co.nz
Holy Golden Anniversary: Fifty years ago, the Marist Brothers at Mission Estate harvested some pinot gris grapes and winemaker Brother John Cuttance included them in the recipe for what was to become New Zealand's first methode traditionnelle. Released in 1963, it was called Fontanella because it reminded the then rector of fountains he'd seen in Italy. Cuttance made a pink and a white version and high demand meant that customers could buy only one bottle each for eleven shillings and sixpence. Fifty years later, winemaker Paul Mooney and his team at Mission Estate are continuing to produce sparkling pinot gris under the name Fete (French for "party"). To celebrate, at 9am on December 9, 50 bottles of Fete 750ml will be available from missionestate.co.nz at the current equivalent of the 1963 price: $2.20. There is a limit of one bottle a customer, until they're gone. If you miss out, don't fret. Mission Fete is available from most New World and Pak'n'Save stores and liquor outlets for $19.99.
Not Just A Pretty Story : In 1981, when Terry and Bev McCashin built their Mac's brewery they planted the seed for what is now a ferociously vibrant craft brewing movement. Back then New Zealand's brewing landscape was dominated by two large corporates and was largely a homogenous wasteland.
Since then, Kiwi politics, society and business has evolved dramatically and the McCashin family's journey over the past 32 years captures all that in The McCashin's Story ($45, Random House). It's the story of crafting a revolution and celebrating inspiring Kiwi entrepreneurial spirit.
Stoke Coconut and Vanilla Pilsner 500ml 4.6% abv $8This is a snazzy number originally created as a MarchFest brew by Ondrej Vojta, McCashins' resident Czech brewer. It's a bit like a pina colada in a pilsner. Fragrant, creamy coconut and vanilla collide with tangy, zesty hops and tasty malt. Great with raw fish dishes or anything loaded with coconut, chilli and coriander. www.glengarrywines.co.nz