Tag Archives: Wine

The joys of abundance

img_9603

 

I used to be able to buy a glass ( or bottle) of wine without a care in the world – especially for those who toil on a daily basis to create what fills that particular glass or bottle.

Changed days.

In the relatively short time we have been the proud new parents of our little vineyard in paradise, we have had more sleepless nights , stress and worry than any of our collective three offspring or two labradoodles ever brought us.

Don’t get me wrong. Like actual new parents, we love it. We are bursting with pride, we tell anyone who stands still long enough all about it and like childbirth, you forget the pain quickly as you appreciate the benefits!

However we have a new found respect for the hard work of those making the decisions to ensure that harvest brings the best quality grapes that , in turn, will make the highest quality wine.

Yesterday in the vineyard was the green cut or final thinning ; the time you take out a varying quantity of grapes, depending on what mother nature has thrown at this particular vintage. Certain weather conditions will bring greater numbers of bunches per vine and heavier weights of bunches. All of this is critical to the winemaker to ensure they get the best product for them to weave their magic in the winemaking process.

‘Waste not want not ’

Now it may be my Scottish blood, but I’m no fan of waste. Seeing beautiful bunches of grapes ( that taste sensational!) lying disregarded – even if for the ultimate sacrifice – makes me sad but then, more positively, makes me start looking for ways they can be used.

We’re not alone, a quick drive around our neighbourhood shows many of the vineyards doing the same thing in their quest for the perfect vintage.

I spent part of the day collecting the disregarded bunches and distributing them to family and friends ( ….funnily enough not as much of a novelty for them in this wine region, as it would have been in urban Auckland…!).

New friends find it wildly amusing that my newcomers eyes still marvel at the produce around us – and the amount that goes unused and unloved. They tell me that over the years  I’ll get used to it.

I’m not so sure.

I love the idea of using everything I can – for ourselves and sharing –  and I have set myself a challenge this year of making maximum use of everything we produce. Not quite self sufficiency- I’m nowhere near capable enough for that ! –  but at least a step in its general direction.

To be honest, some things are easier than others ! Apricots ? Plums ? No problem.

So I up my challenge to try to make things I’ve never done before.

‘Fun with grapes’

Finding good productive use for the surplus grapes is the current challenge.

After a quick trawl on-line, thoughts turn to verjuice and delicious natural juice from sun kissed grapes that on another day would have made stunning pinot noir.  Then there’s jams, jellies, raisins – thanks to a borrowed dehydrator-  and when all else is done, there’s compost!

I have added them to my growing list of ‘things to produce’ in my search for using as much as I can from this wonderful little pocket of the world that we call home.

Of course there is always a silver lining – the birds are happy with this suddenly readily available and easily accessible food source so hopefully , if we are very lucky, they may focus on that and leave our netted precious bounty alone.

Cheers,

Fi

 

FullSizeRender-1
what a waste….

 

You can also follow me on Instagram at nzgoodlife  See you there !

Advertisements

Nothing new under the sun

It’s been on my mind a lot of late that more and more of us are looking to upcycle, recycle, reuse and repurpose. Some through necessity but mostly out of choice.

I don’t think it’s just an age thing – although age certainly does bring increased sentimentality. But also, I’m finding, a desire to reconnect to the past through objects that have seen their fair share of history and, in turn, have many stories to tell.

When we moved into Paradise – one year ago to the day – there were many connections to the past. The original homestead burned to the ground some years ago but the fireplace and sliding lounge doors were saved and are now part of our farmhouse. When M and I first saw them ( not knowing the history) we immediately talked of changing them but a year has softened out attitudes to many things. History and connections to the past being high up on the list. Horseshoes litter the paddock that is now home to about 3000 baby vines  (just planted for your future Pinot Noir drinking pleasure!) and a variety of broken bits of old china, glass and some parts of old farm equipment that cannot be explained.

We also have a woolshed. A fabulous, wildly romantic, over 100 year old woolshed overlooking the vines with the beautiful Wither Hills in the background, that I dream of converting to a wonderful accomodation retreat for visitors ….. Sadly my enthusiasm has met with the bare faced practicalities ( from those who know far more than me)  that it is riddled with wood borer and likely to collapse at any time…..But, not to be outdone I am playing the repurposing card and tugging at the historical heartstrings, so we may yet find a way of keeping her raw and natural beauty for generations to come to enjoy – even if she’s being enjoyed in a slightly different way than our wooly four legged friends !

We have also taken a real pleasure in sourcing pre-loved furniture that can be lovingly restored and given new home and meaning. Visits to antique shops and on line searches have become a hobby that only a few years ago would never have been part of our thinking. And I love it.

I also seem to have come full circle in my style choices. When living in the North Yorkshire Moors, my 19th century ‘Weavers Cottage’  would only entertain being filled with suitably old style furniture and effects. Sadly these were no longer wanted as they made way for a modern style in the next life stage and I pine after their loss.

Thankfully there are a few items we still have and treasure from family that take pride of place in our home . M’s favourite chair from his beloved Granny which could tell many a tale, being just one.

Sentimentality and connection are such a powerful part of who we are and those items that reflect that are to be cherished.

Fi

 

Brancott homestead, Marlborough
The original homestead

 

394403319
The Woolshed

 

Of frost and fans

fullsizerender-1
Frost fan against an indigo dawn

On the many visits to Marlborough before making the permanent move , I have always loved seeing the large but elegant fans in the vineyards which make up the stunning landscape of the area.

They were almost reminiscent of days spent in Holland and the beautiful windmills amongst the fields of bulbs .

That’s where the similarity – if indeed there ever was one – ends .

Our baptism of frost came on day 2 in Paradise . Frosts can wipe out your budding vines and destroy your crop for the current vintage year and even beyond . It’s not a vineyard owners friend at this time of year . Fair to say , no one thought to mention this on the sales particulars …..

But , enter the fans . Without getting all technical , they warm the air by helping it circulate around and stops frost from settling . To do this they are big .And tall .                And noisy . Very noisy .

We are surrounded by vineyards so the culmination of all the frost fans jumping into life is loud – and unmissable .

Last year , as first timers , our response system was based on watching the weather forecast from several sources ( in case one was wrong ) , then based on that , me waking up every hour to look out the window to see if the temperature sensitive alarm lights were showing the right colour for us to leap into action . There are 3 colours of alarm  . One says get ready to move , the second says run quickly to your vineyard and the third says find another day job . Suffice to say that after you see the first colour , your chances of sleep after that – until the sun has risen and starting spreading her warmth – is limited at best.

Then there are the frost pots . Or Dante’s Infernos as I fondly(?) renamed them . Fiery scary noisy heaters that warm the areas the fans can’t reach.

And then there are the helicopters . Larger vineyards bring them in at massive cost to fly low and move the air around their vines. A skilled and precise job with no air traffic control and only night sight vision keeping them , and all of us below,  safe. Not for the faint hearted . No surprise then to know that Richie McCaw was piloting over our heads most of the night . ( I can’t say that didn’t add something wonderful to the overall experience !)

I’ll never forget one moment when standing in the middle of all of this , having the thought that it’s the closest ( thankfully) I’m likely to get to a war zone.

M , being the more practical , was thinking of the commercial opportunities of offering overnight frost experiences to Marlboroughs visitor population …!

Our first night was spent walking around making sure everything was on and operating and then waiting in the hands of Mother Nature .
The payback for this disruption to your nights sleep however is more than compensation . Achingly beautiful sunrises – the likes I have never seen before .

Thankfully these frost events, we were assured, were few and far between and there had never been two in a row . That is , until our third night in paradise .

But this time I knew the drill and knew what would make an overnight stay amongst the vines, more palatable .Pillows, blankets , food , hot drinks and extra clothes are now a permanent fixture in the Ute and ( to be really honest )make it a bit of fun and you always have a spectacular sunrise to look forward to in one of the most beautiful settings on earth. Reality kicks back in when you then just have time for a quick shower before travelling somewhere or skyping a client !

As I’m typing this I’m on a flight heading home to Paradise with frost predictions for the next two nights . It’s the weekend so slightly more manageable than a busy travelling work week , but the thing I’m most excited about is seeing the next most amazing dawn .

How fortunate are we .

Fi

fullsizerender
  Buds worth protecting

 

Harvest time

“The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest”  – William Blake

Marlborough, as well as all other New Zealand wine regions, is currently alive with the sounds of harvesters, trucks, bird scarers and backpackers accents from all corners of the globe as they pick up casual harvest work.

It’s a magical, frantic, stressful and intense time of year.

Watching harvest from the sidelines – with an occasional opportunity to get amongst it – has been an eye opening experience and has given us both a further massive appreciation for that glass of wine we have for so long taken for granted.

On D day , our grapes were hand picked to ensure minimum impact and were collected in antique prams – ingenious yet perfect for holding the small amounts of grapes in each crate. This protects them and their skins which ultimately gives Pinot Noir its flavour.

Wine making is not for the faint hearted. especially for wine makers whose life’s work is to produce world class wines of the highest quality. We are thrilled that we have one of those individuals looking after our grape babies.

Calculating when to harvest is rocket science ( or almost). Balancing of the sugar levels of the grapes vs the weather forecast of imminent rain or wind is key as both can have a catastrophic effect on the quality of the wine. It’s nail biting stuff and you need to be made of strong stuff to be in this job.

FullSizeRender-2
Gently does it 🙂

But the buzz around the winery is palpable. It’s hugely exciting . A new wine is being born.

Our wine has no interference. Nothing is added. Nature is allowed to do her thing with nothing but gentle encouragement ( and a good dose of classical music!).

Within days the wine has already started working its magic – it looks, smells and tastes great . We have been visiting every day like proud parents 🙂

IMG_9955-1
Mum and Dad learning all about it

As this wine is laid to a well deserved rest for 18 months before bottling, we look forward to seeing the next vintage burst into life ( and our glasses) in May. Then it’s time to start all over again and give our next bunch of grape babies the best start in life possible.

So next time we pour that glass, maybe a quiet thanks is in order and a nod to those wine magicians who have toiled so hard for our pleasure.

Cheers !

Fi

A wine for all seasons

Hot sunny day. It has to be Rosé ( current favourites being the magnificent 2015 vintages from Te Whare Ra and Fromm La Strada ).

IMG_7706
Choices, choices…..

That was 2 days ago. It was 36c (or 96.8 F) in the vineyard and hot hot hot. Nothing else would do to provide that relaxing tipple to help enjoy the days labours.

Today, cooler times and a girls’ mind turns to more complex things. Pinot Noir to be exact – not too heavy and easily enjoyable.

Rosé just seems wrong when the temperature drops and there are hints of a chill in the evening air.

There’s something very special about hugging a big glass of something red and full bodied when you’re thinking of snuggling in for the evening. It brings to mind a story I shared over dinner the other night with some visiting friends of my (much) younger days and first interest in wine. After a busy working week, my habit on a Friday was to leave early and visit my company’s expansive wine cellar ( how lucky was I ) – pick my new bottle of choice and head home to my little weavers cottage in the beautiful North Yorkshire village of Osmotherley, light the coal fire, stoke the Aga and get comfy in front of the fire with a very big glass. Heaven.

There will still be some Rosé days left before Autumn truly sets in ( as well as Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and some other white varietals…) but the reds are starting to call my name and it makes the thought of colder nights that bit more palatable 🙂

Cheers!

Fi

 

12144691_1706200869600171_6570899220499649070_n
For long cosy evenings in front of the fire…

Busy times in the vineyard

I used to be able to buy a glass ( or bottle) of wine without a care in the world – especially for those who toiled to fill that glass or bottle.

Changed days.

In the relatively short time we have been the proud new parents of our vineyard in paradise, we have had more sleepless nights , stress and worry than any of our collective three offspring ever brought us.

Don’t get me wrong. Like actual new parents, we love it. We are bursting with pride, we tell anyone who stands still long enough all about it and like childbirth, you forget the pain quickly as you appreciate the benefits!

However, it’s hard. Not really on us, but those that are helping us make decisions to ensure the best harvest brings the best quality grapes to make the best quality wine.

Yesterday was the green cut or final thinning ; the time you take out a varying quantity of grapes, depending on what mother nature has thrown at this particular vintage. Certain weather conditions will bring greater numbers of bunches per vine and heavier weights of bunches. All of this is critical to the winemaker to ensure they get the best product for them to weave their magic in the winemaking process.

Now it may be my Scottish blood, but I’m no fan of waste. Seeing beautiful grapes ( that taste sensational!) lying disregarded – even if for the ultimate sacrifice – made me sad but then, more positively, start looking for ways we could use them.

We’re not alone, a quick drive around our neighbourhood shows all of the quality vineyards doing the same thing in their quest for the perfect vintage.

I spent part of the day collecting the disregarded bunches and distributing them to family and friends ( funnily enough not as much of a novelty for them in this wine region, as it would have been in Auckland…!).

So, thoughts turn from verjuice ( see previous blog on this recipe for unripe grapes) to delicious grape juice from sun kissed grapes that make some of the most stunning pinot noir in New Zealand.  I have added it to my growing list of ‘things to produce’ and will share in due course.

Of course there is always a silver lining – the birds are happy and hopefully may leave our netted precious bounty alone, but for me it’s another lesson of the fragility of being in the hands of nature and therefore the need to be nimble enough to make hay ( or grape juice) while the sun shines.

Fi

 

 

 

Drinking in the good life

 

12144691_1706200869600171_6570899220499649070_n

 

There are many many many reasons why I love where I live and live where I love.

The clear air.

The less busy way of living.

The natural produce.

The friendly and authentic people.

The glorious hills acting as a glorious movie-set backdrop everywhere you look.

The bountiful vines . Everywhere .

But today, another reason soared to the top of my list.

It’s Friday , we have good friends coming to stay over the Marlborough Wine and Food Festival weekend and we wanted to get some wine to share. In the past, this would have involved a trip to the supermarket or, far less frequently, a good wine shop.

Today it involved driving to one of our neighbourhood wineries – 4 minutes from home. We went to the cellar door, selected what we wanted, tasted again something that we had forgotten and went happily on our way with our treasure.

Today’s favourite winery is Fromm. The wines are wonderful and, being next door,  you don’t get much closer from vine to table than that.

Sláinte !

Fi

Feed the birds…

FullSizeRender
Netting on a perfect day

We would happily pay “tuppence a bag” to stop the wretched things gorging on everything ripe !

Today was netting day – and I think we got the timing spot on . The grapes are turning colour ( veraison) and the birds have not done any damage. Nets are not pretty but they do the job. We are on the final push towards harvest and our babies are now hopefully safe.

It’s an odd situation. I take great pleasure in putting out wild bird seed and ensuring there is plenty of water to look after our wonderful bird families who in return give us the most fantastic bird song.

In addition to the many various types of bird around us, we have doves. How cool is that! They are calm and friendly. They sit and wait as we feed our hens and then happily get stuck in to the hen feeder with them. They provide a stunning white feathered escort alongside the cars everytime we drive home.

They’re great.

1012582255_2155a90ce4_b
Beautiful turtle dove

However, when you have precious vine babies and other produce waiting to burst into life, you can’t help but get protective.

On one hand I’m feeding the birds to protect and nurture them but when they become vine and fruit enemy #1, it’s all on.

If anyone has any ideas for protecting nature’s spoils from our feathered friends I would love to hear them. Everything we have tried doesn’t seem to work. Nets it is then.

Bird scarer
Useless bird scarers providing  fiesta atmosphere for the birds’ feasting….

Saying that, as I type I’m listening to them.

I wouldn’t swop this glorious birdsong for anything.

Fi

 

 

 

Wobbly boots

There’s a first time for everything and today was no exception.

I take massive pleasure and pride from living in New Zealand – the shaky isles. They’re given that name for good reason – we live on major fault lines and therefore experience the odd shake – or mother nature’s sneeze as some gentle folk call it.

After 15 years in New Zealand, I had managed to avoid any shaking of any kind until today. As I was finishing a blog, I felt the weirdest of sensations. The room went slightly soft focused and bent a little and it felt like someone ( perhaps a giant) was pushing the side of the house while everything in it was resisting. It was short and sharp. By the time I had actually realised what it was and took action, the second one hit – gentler this time. Ignoring all advice I’ve assimilated over the years to ‘Drop, cover and hold’, I grabbed the doodles ( our unconcerned labradoodles) and what seemed essential at the time – my shorts which had been discarded on what was a very very hot Marlborough day .If the house was going down, I was not going to be out and about in my knickers.

However damage was limited to that displayed in the photo below.

12715813_10153417729633030_1089284451795655845_n

Joking aside, it was a jolt that will stay in my memory . I now know what an earthquake actually feels like ( this one was 5.8 magnitude and not far away). That will hopefully allow me to focus on the right advice and pay less attention to what I’m wearing!

Cheers,

Fi

 

 

 

 

Sunrise on a bountiful day

Today began with the most beautiful sunrise – almost Hotel California album cover colour hues, for those that remember.

eight_col_sunrise

It was an absolute joy to be doing M’s 6am airport drop off as it made me enjoy more hours of  this wonderful day – something I’ve been too guilty of missing in the past. We joked at the traffic issues on the way – three cars, one truck and an enthusiastic cyclist.

The vineyard was already buzzing when I got back. Grape thinning was today’s activity as we race towards harvest. Although I find it heart-breaking to see our beautiful babies ( pinot noir grapes) being discarded , I understand the reason behind it is to develop the quality of those left to grow. That’s so important for the integrity of the pinot noir we produce.  Note to self : learn to make Verjuice *

verjuice

It’s netting day tomorrow so my first task today was to buy 25,000 biodegradable net ties. I had clear instructions and let’s face it , how difficult could it be? As it happens , very. Who knew there were so many styles, types and qualities. I do now. PGG Wrightson is another world . I know I’ve changed when I catch myself admiring the new Swanndri fleeces and commenting on how comfortable and durable they will be ……so sad…!

Today’s bounty included finding uses for the forest of rhubarb – crumble, jam and fruit paste for cheese match – not sure about the last one but it’s worth a try.

My other challenge at the moment is what to do with our laden 100+ year old pear tree. It has never been harvested in the past – lucky cattle enjoyed the feed! What I’ve learned is that pears don’t ripen on the tree. If they are ripe on picking they will be soft and mushy and not at their best. You pick when giving slightly at the neck and then refrigerate for quite a few weeks and then at room temperature. However one slight limitation is that my fridge is a normal size and by my calculations will probably chill only about 30 of the hundreds on the tree so I’m putting my best bartering skills to the test and doing some swops with friendly local folk. One friend who is incredibly handy, is going to make pear cider (yum!) and another will swop for locally caught venison ( again, yum!). I’m currently on the look out for milk ( goats/ jersey for cheese making ), limes ( for Margaritas ) tomatoes ( because we seem to eat our body weight in them each week) so if you’re keen to swop, get in touch 🙂

IMG_6410 IMG_6414

Just some of the beauties from the pear tree – thanks to Mum and Dad for providing the perspective on its size 🙂

Cheers ,

Fi

Verjuice (/ˈvɜːrˌs/ vur-jooss; from Middle French vertjus “green juice”) is a highly acidic juice made by pressing unripe grapes, crab-apples or other sour fruit.[

Great recipe. I’ll try and share the results !

http://honest-food.net/2015/07/22/how-to-make-verjuice/