Only days to go until Christmas and preparations are mad. But during the crazy scramble to organise who is going to bring the trifle, who will be in charge of strawberries, who's bringing the bubbly, who's dressing up as Santa and who's going to sort out the new potatoes, please think about those impressionable children and teenagers that'll be watching your every move. You might think they're not the foggiest bit interested in what the uncool oldies are doing, but believe me they're taking in everything they're seeing and somewhere, somehow down the line, whether they realise it or not, they'll model their behaviour on you.
There's something about Christmas that loosens our grip on what constitutes moderate alcohol consumption. Just because we're among family and dressed in our best clothes and drinking nice wine from the family crystal, we tend to think that somehow that excuses us from being labelled "binge drinkers". Yet no matter how well we're dressed and what we might consider our social status to be, the accident and emergency staff, the Victim Support people, the police, the fire officers and Women's Refuge staff, the Anger Management and Alcoholics Anonymous counsellors - not to mention the funeral directors - only see the end result of excessive consumption and it's not pretty.
You're reading this column, therefore you're literate, you're media-savvy, you're interested in wine and food, you have spare cash (otherwise you wouldn't have bought this newspaper), so clearly you're an intelligent person. Now you might think it's a hoot having that fourth glass of bubbles while opening presents with the kids that morning or that seventh beer while basting the ham on the barbecue or that it's a laugh giving your 14-year-old nephew a sneaky glass of port when his parents aren't looking - but it's not funny and that's where our problems start.
Sparkling wines get screwed
Kim Crawford has launched the first screw cap lid on a New Zealand sparkling wine. The best part of the last five years has been spent perfecting the unique closure, ensuring it was suited to traditional (five-gas volume) or high-pressure sparkling wines and it's now available on the Kim Crawford First Pick sparkling sauvignon blanc ($17). Okay, so you won't hear the "pop", but the benefits include no more eye injuries from rocket-propelled corks and you can have just one or two glasses then screw on the cap, lay the bottle down in the fridge and keep those bubbles fresh for later. Plus there'll be no more worrying about someone kicking over the bottle and spilling the wine during that game of backyard cricket this summer. Excellent.
Galliano goes groovy
Any child of the 70s will attest to pretty much every household tiki bar having a tall, golden, cone-shaped bottle of Galliano on the shelf. It was glamorous, mysterious, but how do you drink it? What do you mix with it? Today the iconic, secret-recipe spirit has its own young ambassador in Ago Perrone, one of the world's most exciting, experienced and downright smooth bartenders.
"It is a true Italian spirit, very full, generous and I love its bitterness and vibrancy," he says. Made with over 30 ingredients, its taste is very difficult to describe.
"Galliano is very complex and spicy, but it adapts to your mood and sense of occasion," adds Perrone, who in addition to bartending at the likes of The Connaught and Montgomery Place, is famous for creating drinks for Vogue, Wallpaper and GQ. And now he's created a special Christmas cocktail just for us ... yum.
60ml pinot noir
30ml Sauza Tequila
10ml fresh lime juice
a splash of bitters
Stir in a Boston shaker and serve in a wine glass. Garnish with grated nutmeg.
Born to be wild
Just in time for Christmas comes a new book by well-known New Zealand wine writer Joelle Thomson and if you're up for a cracking good yarn, you've come to the right place. Inspired by the pioneering ethos of some our industry's most respected characters, Joelle decided to dig deeper.
"My goal is to expand on the lives and contributions of key people in New Zealand wine, whose tales of tenacity reveal what makes them and their wines tick," says Joelle. "Here you will find philosophers, scientists, entrepreneurs, modernists, perfectionists and hedonists - not to mention a couple of party animals, too - who define New Zealand wine." So for the skinny on the Finns, the Brajkovichs, Fistoniches, Patons, Donaldsons, McKennas and a dozen more of our wine industry's ground breakers, you'll find it here. London-based Tim Atkin MW pens in the forward, "I've been lucky enough to get to know all but one of the people in this book. Several of them are individuals I count among my friends. More to the point, I've watched them and their wines develop over a period of 20 years. Looking back at the NZ wine scene of the early-1990s (when I first visited) and comparing it with today, I can't quite believe the transformation. Has any wine-producing country achieved so much in only two decades?" The answer, Tim, is no.