a take on wine

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs

a tongue in cheek look at wine.

Submitted: October 28, 2017

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Submitted: October 28, 2017



Alf wanted Henry to go with him to visit a guy in Palmerston who needed advice about his trees. Henry reluctantly agreed to go on condition they start early because his diary was already full of commitments that were hard to break.

Trevor was all set for a yarn and he invited them into his shed where he had a private museum of the district’s history, which Henry found interesting but was mentally bouncing from one foot to the other to get the show on the road! At the rear of Trevor’s shed he had a bar! With pride, he told the foresters that not only did he make wine he also blended his own whiskey and fortified his wine by standing it in brandy casks. He insisted that Alf and Henry sample ‘his best’. They lost an hour or so tippling.

Alf was enjoying himself, smacking his lips, eyes gleaming with a steady sway on! Trevor became increasingly talkative, prattling on about his hobby! Henry couldn’t get the hang of this wine tasting game, none of it was really drinkable, and he couldn’t taste what the others reckoned they tasted. Some of it made his gums curl up in protest! An old, familiar forestry refrain buzzed through his head! He lost track of the wine varieties: banana, peach, apricot, parsnip, raspberry, some fortified after fizzing in brandy casks. Alf shouldn’t have been driving for the rest of the day, he was so well lit he didn’t need headlights! The tree advice given at the end of the day wasn’t exactly textbook either!

When the local, Mill House opened as a restaurant, it became the trendy place for various functions. The locals were mostly new to the wine drinking malarkey, so most opted for the cheapest on the list: Cold Duck or Premier Curveé. The more monied, bought Blue Nun, the most expensive on the list so were therefore entitled to hold their little finger up as they swigged. All of them swigged, because they were traditional beer drinkers. Most of them were crook the next day no matter the price!

A while later along came the days of wine and cheese evenings! More refined than the beer-swilling aftermatch functions the forestry boys were used to. But they were at least a good fundraiser for the school committee. Henry didn’t think much of any of those fancy-named wines. He enjoyed leaning back in his chair, nibbling cheeses and listening to the talk of the wannabe connoisseurs trying to taste flavours within the plonk that the label reckoned were ‘hints of’. Isn’t wine just grape juice? Where do the spices and other fruits come from? Henry mimed that old refrain.

Years rattled along, as they do, and to cash in on the opportunity of vineyards being established in Central Otago and the Waitaki Valley, Henry and Co, decided they should propagate grape plants. Grapes aren’t difficult to propagate, but there is a science to it so it has to be done properly for the growers’ long term viability. This was serious stuff.  Most of the important grape varieties are susceptible to a soil borne virus, so the response has been to breed rootstocks that don’t have susceptibility to the virus. Most are known only by a clone number and growers, have their preferred numbered clone. First Henry propagated a range rootstocks from cuttings to bulk up plants for cutting material.  The scion was grafted onto the rooted clone cuttings. They kept a range of scions preferred in the target area: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. It was simply through his work that Henry had any clue about the names of wines.

Through a quirk of fate, some years later, Henry was touring the Waitaki Valley and trooped into one of the boutique wine shops. He paid an exorbitant price for a bottle of Pinot Noir, which was the first vintage from the very plants he had propagated! It was special to Henry and he shared it with friends on a special occasion. Actually he had no intention of buying any wine that day, he was with a group and had to tag along. But they were doing the wine tasting thing in boutique wine shops, sniffing and sipping. Ha, the old forestry refrain again popped into his head.

Within a month or two, during the biennial reunion of his forestry cronies, they toured a vineyard in Marlborough. Henry kept mum about his experience with propagating grapes - an old nurseryman’s trick to pick up information. The pleasant young woman who was hosting the tour explained everything very well and accurately. That is until she reckoned connoisseurs can taste which rootstock the grape variety is grafted on to. Ding, ding! There’s that old refrain again.

During his travels, Henry visited a monastery cloistering some German monks near Soni Falls, in the Usambara Mountains. A very well-run establishment husbanding some of the biggest dairy cows he had seen! Their standard for everything was so high, he was enticed to purchase a whole case of their wine. Back at Makumira, he found it to be miss-labelled! It should have read Paint Stripper. He sang the forestry refrain aloud in Swahili!

According to Henry, the effect of wine has a bigger plus than the taste of it! But there’s never one rule.  After touring Australia’s Hunter Valley, he had cause to rethink. He bought a bottle of Botrytis wine. He was fascinated because botrytis is a fungal disease, a common enemy in the nursery industry. The sales person referred to it as liquid gold, and Henry’s wan smile hid the little jingle dancing around in his head. His empty purse was a testament to the liquid gold rhetoric though! The wine was the colour freshly extracted clover honey, and mellow. A true nectar, which might just show that you get what you pay for! 

Sure these days Henry enjoys relaxing with the odd glass of Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir or Shiraz. He’s still not a sniffer or a swirler, but he’s learned to sip away with a hopeful, contented countenance. Still it’s just glorified grape juice.


Here’s the refrain. Feel free to target anyone you (don’t) like with it. It’s loosely to the tune of My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean.

Oh bring me my portable shovel

Oh bring me my potable pick

They’re talking a load of old bullshit

And we’ve got to get rid of it quick!


Bullshit, bullshit,

It all sounds like bullshit

To me to me!

Bullshit, bullshit,

It all sounds like bullshit

To me…


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