John Hawkesby

John Hawkesby is a wine writer for Canvas Magazine.

If you ever find yourself having a wine with the Queen ...

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Word has it that the cellars at Buckingham Palace hold some of the world's greatest wines from sublime vintages.

While it is most unlikely that Her Majesty ever pops downstairs to select something special for dinner, one suspects her highly knowledgeable cellar master knows every bottle by name, provenance, vintage and producer ... when its optimum drinking time is due, and whether it will go best with the freshly caught Balmoral salmon or the Argentinian grass-fed beef.

All wines would be decanted and one can only imagine the quality of the glassware into which the wine is poured - hand-cut crystal from either Germany or Austria, all polished to within an inch of its life.

As one has not been invited to any of Her Majesty's residences for dinner, one can only surmise as to what it must be like to choose between the Chateau Latour 1928 and the Chateau Cheval Blanc 1947.

No doubt a palace menu would indicate what wine would go with each course, and the appropriate varietal would be poured for you, at precisely the right moment, into the correct glass from a bewildering line-up of glassware.

There are rituals and protocols ... for example, do not, under any circumstances reach immediately to sip or even sniff - so gauche. Wait for your esteemed host to raise a glass - and under no circumstances are you to drain the lot in one over-enthusiastic gulp.

Swirl, sip and savour, make no comment - no one is interested in your opinion. And leave a little in the bottom of the glass, indicating you are familiar with this wine.

Finally, one must never ask for a "top-up" - one will not be invited back.

2011 Ohau Gravels Pinot Gris, $25
From New Zealand's newest wine-growing region, north of the Kapiti Coast, this is from an extended summer vintage delivering a luscious rainbow of flavours including pear and ripe melon with a touch of fruit sweetness.

2011 Johanneshof Cellars Gewurztraminer, $28.50
A boutique Marlborough producer with a habit of providing top-flight gewurztraminers that wouldn't be out of place on any royal occasion. Sheer bliss. Everything a great wine should be.

- NZ Herald

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