80s punk rap pioneer is a fine wine dude

By Yvonne Lorkin

Back in 1988 I had big hair. Big meaning a spiral perm, streaky frostings, shaved sides and a teased fringe. I had a stonewashed denim jacket, white boots, stretchy ribbed jeans with zips up the ankles, a black fisherman's-knit jumper and an attitude. I was also in love with the Beastie Boys.

They were white and pasty, and wore leather jackets and their baseball caps on backwards. They were rappers, they were punks, and anyone following their career over the last few decades will know they were an incredibly clever and talented - not to mention hilarious - trio.

Back then I could never have imagined (when I was fist-pumping the air to Fight For Your Right To Party at the Karamu High social) that all these years later I would have a proper, grown-up interest in common with one of my idols.

Gone are the days of swilling bottles of Brass Monkey out of brown paper bags down back alleys of the Bronx; maturity (and a lot of money) has led to an appreciation of the world's fine wines for Beastie Boy Mike D, otherwise known as Michael Diamond.

He happens to be an expert on the stuff these days, having been collecting for years, and he's even writing a blog on the subject.

His prose is a far cry from "Like a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape, I'm like fine wine when I start to rap", although there's still a touch of crass. He recently described a 1998 Chateau Cheval Blanc as "a big ass, cleavagey beauty".

In an interview in Grub Street magazine he explains, "I like wine, but I hate reading about it, because I think wine writing is not a lot of fun. So I try to make it a little more fun."

"There are people who try to make it fun, and then they review, like, really cheap bad wine, but I review actually really ridiculously fancy wine."

This Beastie is a huge fan of white burgundy, or chardonnay. "Because really, there's no cap on how complex, esoteric or ethereal white wine can be," he says. "As you work your way up the food chain, especially with white burgundies, you get these very complex situations jumping off all within one bottle."

Mike adds: "It's really about how much you're willing to spend."

And the club set like to spend big. A favourite among the likes of Jay-Z, Kanye West and Drake, a 15-litre Nebuchadnezzar of Armand de Brignac Brut Gold NV Champagne worth an estimated $160,000 was bought to Usain Bolt's VIP table at Movida nightclub in London last month after the Jamaican sprinter helped smash the 4 x 100m relay record at the Olympics. Wow.


Vertical tasting is a wine thing. It's where multiple vintages of the same wine are tasted side by side so you can compare the differences in each year and track how a wine is developing over time.

But now Invercargill Brewery is getting in on the act, by simultaneously releasing four vintages of its manuka-smoked bock known as the Smokin' Bishop.

When originally released back in 2007, it was the first commercially available smoked beer in New Zealand. "We promised it would age beautifully," says brewer Steve Nally, "but by winter's end every drop had been drunk."

So the only way he could prove his point was to hide a 600-litre batch of the beer away from his sales team each year since then (not an easy thing when money's at stake) in order to deliver on his promise. Often referred to as "bacon in a glass" with a smoky, single malt-type edge, tasting the 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012 side by side is a total revelation.

The 2008 now smells like smoked wild pork bacon slathered in Marmite while the shiny new 2012 has a hint of roast pork, a cappuccino-coloured head and a bready, beeswax flavour on the finish. I'll be looking out for age-worthy beers from now on.

- Hamilton News

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