The wine industry might be picking up in our neck of the woods, but in recession-ridden Europe, winemakers will look at anything to make a buck.
Take the vineyard owner in Bugarach, the tiny farming community at the foothills of the French Pyrenees touted by Armageddon experts as the only place that'll survive the Mayan doomsday expected to occur on December 21. He's produced a wine called "The End of The World", which is apparently a hit at the local pizza place. But hedging his bets just in case the predictions are wrong, he's stockpiled a Survival Vintage, which will go on sale from December 22.
I'm not sure what he'll be charging for either bottle, but judging by the reported numbers of "new agers" flooding into the village, which until recently boasted a population of just 176, signs are good.
No doubt they'll buy his wines to fortify themselves for when they meet the aliens (yes, aliens) who'll emerge from hiding inside Pic de Bugarach mountain (I'm not making this up) and pluck everyone in the immediate area to safety (that's what the internet and doomsday tourists are saying).
If this doesn't happen, then they're sure to buy more of his wine because there'll be a big party and barbecue afterwards, or they'll just want something to remember their silliness by.
It got me thinking, though, that should I be faced with certain death and destruction and the end of life, as I know it, who and what would I wish to be with as I drew my last breath?
Clearly it'd be my immediate family (if I hadn't figured out a way to save them first) the dog, the cat, some fresh flowers, a big glass and the Gimblett Gravels 2010 Annual Vintage Selection. Selected by Andrew Caillard MW, this group of 12 wines represents the absolute epitome of what can be achieved each year in arguably New Zealand's most famous red region.
Here are my picks from the bunch - they're not cheap, but then it's time to treat yourself isn't it?
BABICH IRONGATE GIMBLETT GRAVELS CABERNET MERLOT FRANC 2010, $35
Intense red rose, berry and seasoned leather aromas open up to punchy plum flavours and a deliciously warming, medicinal mouthfeel. I love how poised and elegant this wine is, and the persistence of flavour is just outstanding.
TRINITY HILL HOMAGE SYRAH 2010, $120
"2010 is quite possibly the best we've ever done," announced winemaker Warren Gibson as I sat down to a vertical tasting of Homage dating back to the debut 2002 vintage. It's a wine made only in the most exceptional years, and the 2010 is definitely one of the greats. Soft white pepper and fennel aromas lead to plush, juicy plum fruit in the mouth and tightly coiled tannins. There's an elegant, slightly meaty character that will need a few more years to really express its sophistication.
Newton Forrest Cornerstone 2010, $60 Glossy and gorgeous in the glass, but prepare to be seduced by the hot-cross bun and Christmas pudding perfume. If you can tear your nose away from the glass for long enough to sip, you'll be rewarded with buxom berry and chocolate flavours and a smooth, velvety texture. Don't be fooled though, there's some serious power behind this wine.
ESK VALLEY WINEMAKERS RESERVE GIMBLETT GRAVELS MERLOT MALBEC CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010, $59
Inky purple in the glass and boasts aromas of pomegranate molasses, sweet fruit-wood smoke and prune followed by layers of complex, berry and cocoa notes. It's built like a skyscraper, each level opening up to a floor with a different decor. With serious grip, muscle and warmth on the finish, it's definitely one for the cellar.
CRAGGY RANGE SOPHIA 2010, $73
Sophia is Craggy Range's flagship example of how the classic bordeaux varieties of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot can be sewn together to create a sublime red wine right here on our shores. Scented with anise, blackcurrant, dried herbs and gamey, earthy notes; in the mouth, it has solid fruit intensity, layers of spice and smoke and a powerful presence on the finish.
SACRED HILL HELMSMAN 2010, $85
My first taste of this was a few years before the millennium and back then I was told the name represented something that stood ahead of the pack and steered you in the right direction. A Helmsman is released only in years when the fruit is unrivalled and when winemaker Tony Bish is confident it'll stand the test of time. Intense black fruits, hints of dusty carpenters workshop, cheek-sucking tannins and an underlying power that makes you stop and think with every sip.