Wine Tasting: Ohau Wines

Ohau 2An hour and a half south of Whanganui lies the closest thing to a local winery: Ohau Wines, between Otaki and Levin. On a recent trip south to visit my sister in Wellington I decided to stop in. It was a cold, grey day, but the welcome at the small cellar door was warm and the marketing manager (whose name I regrettably forgot to ask) was passionate and knowledgeable.

I came to know of Ohau Wines when I discovered their Woven Stone range in a local supermarket, but I was amazed by the range of wines they had available – enough that I had to decline to taste many of them to ensure I could continue south safely and legally. Woven Stone (which is good wine) is their low-end, mass-produced supermarket range, and the winery has been doing some interesting things with their direct-sale-only wines. Continue reading “Wine Tasting: Ohau Wines”

Wine Tasting 101 (Part Five: Accessories)

Grape Harvest, by Dora Hitz C1910

Accessories! Whether it’s gadgets or handbags, we can never get enough of them, and the line between ‘need’ and ‘want’ is often blurred. The world of Oenophily is no exception, and a quick wander around the web will expose you to a vast array of things which you simply must have in order to make your wine-drinking life complete.

So, what do you really need? Based on what I have floating around my house, here’s a list of my Top 5 wine accessories. Continue reading “Wine Tasting 101 (Part Five: Accessories)”

Wine Tasting 101 (Part Four: Oenophilia!)

concise-world-atlas-of-wineOkay, so it’s actually ‘oenophily’ (‘loving wine’), but I like my version better. Two years after I started The Culture Project, people seem to believe three things about me:

  1. I know a lot about wine.
  2. I’ve read a lot of books, listened to a lot of classical music, and generally know a lot of stuff.
  3. I know what I’m talking about.

Here’s the thing: I don’t, I haven’t, and much of the time the things I say represent the sum total of all my knowledge on that particular subject. Oh, and I absolutely could not write this blog without Google and Wikipedia. So, how does one go from actually knowing nothing about wine to giving the appearance of knowing something about it? Continue reading “Wine Tasting 101 (Part Four: Oenophilia!)”

Wine Tasting 101 (Part Three: The Five Basic Characteristics of Wine)

how-to-taste-wine-step-3.jpgApart from confirming whether the aromas you identified at Stage Two of your wine tasting are reflected in the flavour, there are five basic elements to look for once you actually take that first mouthful of wine: the sweetness, the acidity, the tannins, the alcohol, and the body.

It can be helpful to hold that first sip of wine in your mouth before you swallow, moving it around and letting it coat your entire tongue. This doesn’t have to be an ostentatious, somewhat gross swishing – it isn’t mouthwash – but can be done subtly and discreetly without undue display. Continue reading “Wine Tasting 101 (Part Three: The Five Basic Characteristics of Wine)”

Wine Tasting 101 (Part Two: Name That Smell)

The second stage of wine tasting. (c) Wine Folly

In the first post in this series, I talked about the five stages of wine tasting. In this post I’m going to focus on Stage Two: Smell.

You may have noticed that regardless of their size many wine glasses share a common ‘tulip’ shape, being wider at the bottom and narrowing slightly at the top (they also have a stem, which I’ll hopefully remember to talk about in another post), and that they are much bigger than the 100mls which is a standard drink. This is quite deliberate: the extra space in the glass allows the wine to interact with the air, releasing the aroma, while the tapered shape then concentrates that aroma close to the drinker’s nose and mouth. So, what should you be smelling? Continue reading “Wine Tasting 101 (Part Two: Name That Smell)”

Wine Tasting 101 (Part One: The Stages of Wine-Tasting)

Let’s do it!

Some time back I said I’d write a post about wine-tasting, and then never got around to it. In this short series of short posts (I’m planning on keeping it as simple as possible) I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned about how to taste wine. Today is Part One: The Stages of Wine-Tasting. Continue reading “Wine Tasting 101 (Part One: The Stages of Wine-Tasting)”

Summer Holidays #1: Brick Bay Winery


I was fortunate enough to be invited away on holiday over New Year’s this year, to stay with friends in Wellsford just north of Auckland. As well as offering the opportunity to catch up with people I hadn’t spent time with in far too long, the Auckland region offered a number of interesting activities, some of which are relevant to this blog. One of the first on my list was a visit to a winery, and on this trip I chose Brick Bay Winery in Matakana. Continue reading “Summer Holidays #1: Brick Bay Winery”

Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC)

aoc-labelI haven’t said anything about wine in a while, so just in case you thought I was on the wagon (yeah, nah), here’s a post about why New Zealand champagne isn’t champagne.

It all comes back to the giant of global winemaking, France. In the early twentieth century the French government began laying the legislative groundwork for what would officially become, by the middle of the century, the Appellation d’origine contrôlée, the ‘Controlled Designation of Origin.’ Here in the New World we identify our wines by the grape varietal or varietals used to make it, which is why most of my wine-related posts concentrate on profiling the varietal wines most commonly found in New Zealand. Back in the Old World (i.e. Europe) wine is identified by its place of origin. Continue reading “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC)”

A Special Drop: Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry

Harveys Bristol CreamRecently my grandmother turned 90. It’s not easy to choose a present for a ninety-year-old, as they tend to have more or less everything they need (what my grandparents need most of all is one another: when my grandmother was in hospital with a heart condition a few years back she remarked that she missed my grandfather at night because she had no-one to put her cold feet on. “I don’t mind,” my grandfather replied, “because at least I know she’s there.” They’ve been married for almost seventy years.). But in a moment of inspiration my sister and I hit on the idea of a bottle of sherry. Continue reading “A Special Drop: Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry”

Wine Profile: Shiraz/Syrah

Known throughout most of the world as Syrah, this grape and the wine produced from it is called Shiraz in Australia, where it’s long been the mainstay of Brand Australia wine. And for good reason: while I have no experience of French Syrah, which is one of the primary grapes in Hermitage, and am told it’s very different, Australian Shiraz (and New Zealand Syrah, because the grape is taking off here too) is a definite favourite.

Shiraz wine folly
Shiraz/Syrah, (c) Wine Folly

Shiraz is an ancient city in Iran, which was once part of Persia, and while alcohol is officially outlawed in that observantly-Muslim nation rumours persist through the grapevine (ahem!) that villagers in the Shiraz area preserve their ancient wine-making and wine-drinking culture on the quiet. Continue reading “Wine Profile: Shiraz/Syrah”