Wine: Don't rain on my parade

By Yvonne Lorkin


Oh no. I can feel it now. We're getting too excited. It could be the vintage of the century, that's the word on the street. That's the word being bandied around in the cellars, in the vines, around the tanks and in the boardrooms and smoko rooms of wineries and vineyards across the country.

Northland, Hawke's Bay, Martinborough, Canterbury and Blenheim all look as dry as Central Otago. Central Otago looks like the Sahara. This drought is the stuff of dreams for our winemakers.

The excitement out there in the industry is palpable, there's a fizz, a fever-pitched hum. The worry, though, is that it could all go very wrong.

It's like when you're 18 and there's a party you've been looking forward to all your teenage life, and it's finally happening and you've planned how amazing it will be, and that you'll be the best-looking person there and everyone will think you are super-cool and you'll meet the love of your life and ... well, you get the idea. But because you're so hyped up things will go wrong.

You arrive with pen on your face, or parsley in your teeth and no one tells you.

There's a ladder up the back of your tights and the boy/girl you like pashes someone else in front of you, then you drink rum and end up curled around the washing line pole dribbling, "I'll never drink again".

Harvest is under way, so we need to stay cool. Aloof even. Like it's just any other vintage and we're not really fussed. That way we won't court disaster. Heavy rain will hold off for just another few weeks. And that's all we need, just another few weeks and then it can happily hose down.

So what will actually happen if a sudden soaking happens?

Well, the grapes are at the most crucial stage in ripening. That fine balance of sugar, acidity and concentrated flavours is nigh on perfect in vineyards across the nation. A downpour now means a) you can't harvest the fruit - because you don't want wet grapes and excess water going into the presses and b) thirsty grapevines will want to suck up as much water as they can and send it to their bunches - the berries can swell up and split, meaning dilute flavours and the risk of disease.

Those are things that can be remedied early in the season, but not at this late stage.

New Zealanders have a habit of getting far too wound-up and excited about the possibility of winning; we get so sure it'll happen that we prematurely write victory speeches, clear spaces in the trophy cabinet and dust off the champagne flutes - and then nine times out of 10, we'll lose. For 2013 to indeed become the vintage of the century, the party of a lifetime; the law of the vinous universe favours quiet, cautious optimism and while it wouldn't hurt, a heavy dose of prayer.

Celebrities investing in the wine game isn't a new phenomenon. Sting, Madonna, Cliff Richard, Dan Akroyd, Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas, Antonio Banderas, Gerard Depardieu, Richard Gere and Kyle MacLachlan (who has a wine named Pursued By Bear, one of the best wine names ever) are just a few of the famous people putting their nosejobs on the line to create fine wine.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are also now producing their own wine. It's a rosé called Miraval from their estate in Provence and they're even putting their names on the label, wine website decanter.com reported. French winemaker Marc Perrin is charged with producing the wines and says the Jolie-Pitts were present at the blending sessions and the couple are apparently super-keen to upgrade the winery and rework the labels across their range.

Anyone following the tabloids will know that Pitt and Jolie began renting Chateau Miraval in Correns, southern France, about four years ago. But it's less well known that they bought the property, which has about 60ha of vines.

Before the Jolie-Pitts, the Miraval wine was called Pink Floyd, because the band recorded The Wall in a studio there.

So there you go. Don't say I never teach you anything.

But now, from the South of France to South Africa. Lethal Weapon actor Danny Glover has joined forces with South African producer KWV to launch a new range of wines called, wait for it, African Passion. Despite the icky name, there are seven wines, including a cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, chenin blanc and moscato, all made at KWV in Paarl, from grapes grown in the Western Cape.

I have no idea if they'll be available in New Zealand, but 10 per cent of the proceeds will go to the TransAfrica Forum, an advocacy group in Washington DC focused on improving African education and human rights.

The wines have been developed to raise funds for the group, with long-term human rights activist Glover serving as an ambassador for the brand. A Unicef ambassador, Glover is most famous for his role as long-suffering LAPD detective Roger Murtaugh alongside Mel Gibson in the Lethal Weapon series.

KWV represented South African grape growers and winemakers and played a key role in organising and regulating the South African wine business until apartheid ended in 1990.

BRANCOTT ESTATE LETTER SERIES 'R' RENWICK SAUVIGNON GRIS 2011 $37

This is just a sensational wine that I had real trouble putting down. I loved the aromas of fennel, white peach and citrus brulee and the flavours - where do I start? It's a single grape - not a blend of sauvignon blanc and pinot gris (as is commonly thought), and if you're keen on a full-bodied, deeply textural white wine, this is it. On the finish, there's a hint of frangipane and almond - love it! www.brancottestate.co.nz

BLIND RIVER 'THE SISTERS' AWATERE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2012 $19

Oh wow! This sensational sauvignon blanc smells like lemon sorbet mixed with passionfruit sherbert on a bed of blackcurrant leaves - gorgeous! In the mouth it is clean, zesty and oozes fresh lime and juicy, tropical richness, with an underlying vein of herbaceousness on the finish which, incidentally, is luscious and long, long, long. Did i mention it had a long finish? www.blindriver.co.nz

- Hamilton News

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