You know you spend too much time on aeroplanes when you know all the answers to the Air New Zealand inflight trivia quiz. Yes, the even numbered name of Van Halen's hit 1980s' album was 1984. Yes, nitrogen has seven electrons and, hence, protons. Yes, methane is also called "marsh gas", boletus edulus is an edible mushroom, Invercargill has the nation's westernmost town hall and Marge is the tallest Simpson. Yes, I'll have the bagel bites and hummus and a plastic cup of chardonnay, thanks, yawn.
Yet, just when you despair that the baggage carousel of life has no more surprises as you face another day of bad coffee and boarding passes, someone, an airline angel perhaps, will say, "Hey, taste this," and that something smacks you around the chops, wakes you up and breathes life and imagination back into your brain cells and taste buds.
That something was a new ginger beer called Ranga. You'll find it in supermarkets and I love it because it's like ginger beer on steroids.
Fortified with a splash of 4.6 per cent alcohol, it's spicy and snappy on the palate with just the faintest edge of sweet. You may say it's like your favourite chunk of ginger crunch, boosted with a bit of booze and bunged into a bottle.
Either way, it's dangerously tasty. $20 for a six-pack. www.ranga.co.nz
IT'S A HARD ROAD FINDING THE PERFECT PINOT BUD ...
It's not every day you go from brewing Speight's by the tankerload to crafting tiny quantities of trophy-winning pinot noir, but that's the path Dunedin-born Crawford Brown took in 1998 when he planted a rabbit-infested paddock in Central Otago and called it Bannock Brae.
After more than a decade of hard slog, Bannock Brae Barrel Selection Pinot Noir had built up a long list of five-star ratings and a swag of gold medals, but when it was crowned Champion Pinot Noir and Champion Wine of the Show at the NZ International Wine Show (the largest in the country) Crawford and his wife, Catherine, were absolutely gobsmacked.
The top gong at that show has traditionally gone to a chardonnay so, for Brown - once a master brewer with Lion Nathan - being the best of the best from over 2100 other wines means he can add master winegrower to his business card.
With expert winemaking skills provided by Jenn Parr (named Champion Winemaker of the Year at the same show), the wine, at $54 a bottle is now in hot demand. www.bannockbrae.co.nz