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This year will go down in history as a year without precedent - an annus horribilus for many and one that most will be glad to see in the rear-view mirror as we look forward to, hopefully, better times in 2021.
It has been a year that has thrown up many challenges and I sense a feeling of exhaustion as it draws to a close.
I’ve spoken to several people who are aiming to keep Christmas and New Year celebrations low key, revelling in the simple joy of connecting with friends and/or family, while the Kiwi classic camping holiday is a draw for many who recognise its pleasures and cost-effectiveness in tough times.
So I’ve put my thinking cap on regarding food and wine matching for camp fare. Some might feel after the constraints of the year that keeping it flexible and just enjoying whatever lies to hand is far less hassle.
I certainly identify with that thinking as I’m often keen to revel in a lovely bottle of wine, rather than getting bound up in specific food and wine matches.
However, here are three broad options that could make sense and needn’t break the bank.
A drink of celebration, and togetherness that can be frivolous or serious. Where would we be without bubbles at this, or any time of the year?
Whether it’s the fizzy moscato styles for those with a sweet tooth, the moreish off dry and dry Italian proseccos, Spanish cavas that offer incredible value, the raft of Kiwi bubblies that allow us to drink well and local, or the wide range of French fizz ascending to Champagne, there is something for everyone and for every budget.
The choice has grown enormously over recent years, with a huge variety of domestic and overseas versions. The trend continues towards drier styles, which work equally well as an aperitif at the end of the day, but can also provide a winning accompaniment to either lighter lunchtime fare or robust evening menus.
There are many sharply priced versions that drink superbly, while special occasion local versions offer real style and have never been better.
Australian shiraz (or cabernet)
When you’re getting stuck into burnt sausages or bloodied meat from the barbecue, a big gutsy red is almost a necessity and Australian reds definitely have the “cuddly” factor.
Australian winemakers have learnt to pare things back from some of the excesses of the past, so that while they still offer super richness and generosity, there is also freshness.
The choice is endless, covering every imaginable price point from the daily drinker to the truly special occasion.
No matter where you find yourself over the holiday period, there’ll be a supermarket, liquor store or wine shop with a big selection of all these wine styles (or possibly even a winery that could do with your support). Be adventurous, and have fun.
Finally, let’s not forget another terribly important beverage: water!
Summer sun and outdoor activities can absolutely suck you dry, so don’t forget to stay hydrated. This is never more important than when you are enjoying a wine at the end of a long, hot day.
Stay safe, and have a wonderful festive season!
Marlborough sparkling sauvignon blanc
Rating: Very good to excellent
I tasted two vintages side by side: the 2019 was more subtle, supple, rounded, developing creaminess and green herb notes. Lower acidity and elegance showed the benefit of a year in bottle.
The ’20 was more punchy and vivid, boldly scented with passionfruit, sweat, cut grass. A rush of gooseberry and cut grass, bright acidity, a wisp of sweetness to balance.
It screams summer drinking!
Rating: Excellent to outstanding
Beguiling nose of toast, bread dough, dry honey, brie, a citrus undercurrent. Creamy mouth feel, dry, weighty, the citrus core mingles with biscuit and rock melon.
The flavours leap from the glass - this is fresh, vibrant, super zesty and full of appeal. Quartz Reef has long experience making this wine and it shows. Classy stuff.
Rating: Very good
Juicy, bright nose with raspberry lollies, jubes and perfume. The palate is sweetly fruited with raspberry cordial, a wisp of plum, oak char and fruit jubes, a Christmas fruitcake note builds over time.
Uncomplicated, very easy drinking that reminds me of the raspberry fizzy drink that I’d get as a treat as a boy. Fresh, clean, all-round appeal with a hint of sweetness.