Brits lose their bottle(s)

By Yvonne Lorkin

Righto, there's been loads happening in the world of wine this week, so let's just dive in.

I was saddened to read in the latest issue of Decanter magazine how a cache of pre-World War II wine found in a suburban garden was destroyed by the British army bomb squad.

A reader described how he'd found a metal cylinder in his garden in Suffolk. Feeling suspicious, he "stepped away from the flower bed" and called police. The bomb-disposal unit arrived and carried out a controlled explosion, which then revealed a bomb shelter, a common feature of wartime backyards in Britain.

The bomb squad found a wine rack holding a large number of full French bottles with dates ranging from 1931 to 1937. But before the reader could thank his lucky stars for the find, the squad announced they'd actually discovered two more unexploded bombs in the same site which had to be destroyed, collapsing the shelter and obliterating the wine.

The reader went on: "A secret wine cellar containing old vintage wine had just been blown up in front of our eyes. It was depressing to end the most exciting day in our lives with a cup of tea, instead of something infinitely more interesting."

His story reminded me how lucky I was to have been able to try some pre-war fine French wine. They'd been stashed in a secret cellar for decades. They were opened at a tasting at EIT in 2007. The 1938 Ch. Rouget from Pomerol was deliciously savoury and leathery, and the 1937 Ch. Gruaud Larose from St Julien was loaded with spices and silky to taste. Sampling the 1934 Ch. Lascombes from Margaux was nothing short of a spiritual experience. It was a cabernet sauvignon-dominant wine that had baked prune, old leather and espresso-like aromas, while on the palate it was lush, juicy and holding its fruit with savoury layers. The room went quiet, everyone marvelling at what they'd just consumed.

The Lascombes cork was handed around and I remember someone saying: "It's really spongy and yellow," to which I replied: "If you'd been soaking in wine for the last 73 years, you'd be a tad spongy, too!"

Movie-time wine

First it was Sideways, then Mondo Vino, then Blood into Wine, and now it's time for sommeliers to have their time on the big screen with a new movie due to be released, called simply Somm.

Somm is the story of four wine professionals trying to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier exam, which has one of the lowest pass rates in the world.

The exam covers literally anything to do with the world of wine - and that is just the beginning. Access to the Court of Master Sommeliers has always been strictly regulated and cameras have never been allowed anywhere near the exam.

In scenes reminiscent of reality shows like The Apprentice, Somm shows the students running the gamut of emotions as they're pushed to the limit of mental and sensory endurance.

Director Jason Wise travelled to six countries over two years to shoot the film, and as to whether the four students were successful - that's yet to be seen.

"Somm highlights not only their extreme level of commitment, but the all-encompassing effect it has on their lives," Geoff Kruth, chief operating officer of the Guild of Sommeliers, told

A release date for New Zealand has yet to be decided, but you can watch the trailer at

Speaking of sommeliers ...

Showing his support for and belief in the importance of the sommelier profession, Sir George Fistonich was thrilled to award aspiring master sommelier Damien Detchevery the inaugural Sir George Fistonich - Villa Maria Estate - Court of Master Sommeliers Scholarship.

This is granted to the top student of the Introductory and Certified Sommelier Exam Programme, the first qualifications towards the distinguished Master Sommelier Diploma. Twenty-eight aspiring sommeliers participated in the course and exams run by master sommeliers Cameron Douglas and Brian Julyan over three days at Villa Maria Estate earlier this month.

The scholarship supports Damien by funding his Advanced Sommelier course and exam in Britain or the United States, as the New Zealand course programme does not go beyond graduate stage.

"I believe it's important to raise the standard of the sommelier profession in New Zealand for our wine and tourism industry," said Fistonich, Villa Maria Estate's founder and managing director.

"I am pleased to be able to offer this support to one of our aspiring New Zealand sommeliers, who I know will go on to be a great ambassador for how New Zealand wines are perceived and enjoyed."

For more info on sommelier training in New Zealand, email

Something a wee bit different

Standing in a queue for the loos will be that much more bearable for visitors to this year's Melbourne Food and Wine Festival because, if they happen to be in Joost Bakker's pop-up restaurant, their pee will actually put food on the table next year.

According to Australia's Hospitality Magazine, sustainability guru and restaurateur Bakker will harness the power of pee in order to run his restaurant, The Greenhouse.

The restaurant will be powered by mustard seed oil, and diners' urine will be transported to a farm and injected into the soil as fertiliser to help develop the oil for future food and wine festivals.

"We're building a waterless female urinal, and of course waterless male urinals already exist, and that [urine] gets diverted into a storage tank that goes straight to the farm and then the farmer's got a way of directly injecting it into the soil as fertiliser," Bakker told Hospitality.

Apart from its chargrill and wood-fired pizza oven, the restaurant will be run entirely off mustard seed oil, and forms part of Bakker's commitment to showing Australians how to live - and eat - more sustainably.

"It's mainly to show people that there's no such thing as waste - everything has a value," he said. "I think in the future everyone will [be harvesting urine], because at the moment one-third of the world's gas is used to create fertiliser for agriculture, so it's just not sustainable to do it that way, and yet we've got seven billion people creating fertiliser every day ... it just makes sense to use it".

- Hamilton News

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