This column was first published in Your Weekend magazine in The Dominion Post, The Christchurch Press and The Waikato Times on Saturday 8 March 2014.

If you could make your own dream wine, what would it be?

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Bernard Hickin, chief winemaker for Jacob’s Creek at Blend, the winery’s pop-up bar in Auckland in February 2014

A big, bold, black blend of shiraz, grenache and merlot? Or a single grape varietal – a gutsy Aussie cabernet that stands on its own tannic feet? The idea of DIY wine was launched in Auckland last month by the makers of Jacob’s Creek at their pop up bar, Blend.
There was also a virtual online experience, which ran simultaneously, and the winning wines will be available to purchase later this year, according to Fabian Partigliani; head honcho of Pernod Ricard NZ, which distributes Jacob’s Creek wines here.
New Zealand was the trial market for the pop up Blend bar because we Kiwis so famously take to innovation like ducks to… you know what. To date no Aussie cities have yet had the pleasure of the Blend experience.
Three Jacob’s Creek winemakers flew over for Blend, two remaining on site for the three weeks it operated out of a glammed up shipping container. It was kitted out with a shiny new bar and cutting edge technology, including a mobile German Bürkert bottling machine which bottled your dream wine under inert gas (nitrogen) to prevent oxidation. How much the Bürkert cost is anyone’s guess, but Jacob’s Creek chief winemaker Bernard Hickin said the machine was developed specifically for Blend. Everyone who rocked up to Blend to have a go at making their own wine could buy a bottle for $20, and no self-respecting winemaker would allow an unstable wine to leave a winery; even a temporary one housed in a shipping container. In theory, over 548 different red and white blends were possible from four reds and four whites; shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, grenache, sauvignon blanc, moscato, chardonnay and pinot gris. Hickin’s preference was a red led by the fresh and fruity shiraz (50%) with grenache fleshing out the wine’s curves at 30% and cabernet sauvignon adding spine at 20%.
My preference was bottled as Blend No. R2404 and was 40% each of shiraz and grenache, with 20% cabernet sauvignon. I like grenache to have more say in the matter than it gets at 30%. But that’s the beauty of Blend. We can each create a taste to suit our own palate. The two most popular Blends, a white and a red, will be commercially available in New Zealand mid year.

www.jacobscreekblend.co.nz

Wines of the week

Shoestring sensation

2012 Trelune $16-$17

Let’s hear it for malvasia; a warm climate Mediterranean red grape which puts the capital ‘s’ in soft and the ‘f’ in full bodied. This southern Italian red is a blend of malvasia with two other ingredients – hence the ‘tre’ in the name. It’s a lovely drink, especially at this price. From specialist stores or Bennett & Deller, phone (09) 378 9463.

Treat of the week

2012 Il Conte Pecorino Navicchio $17.90
If you like chardonnay, you’ll love the full bodied pecorino; its rich, intense flavours would work well with the cheese of the same name. Its mid gold colour, nutty aromas and long, creamy finish also make it a winner with a Sunday roast chicken… From sapori.co.nz

Reaching for the stars

2012 Porters Martinborough Pinot Noir $45
This silky pinot from the father-son winemaking duo of John and Hugo Porter lifts the lid on pinot noir’s delicate, silky nature and smooth, drink-me softness. It all comes back to vines – well, nearly all – since the vineyard this was made from is now over 20 years old. It’s also about sensitive winemaking – light pressing and gentle practices at their tiny Wairarapa winery. Bravo. From Martinborough Wine Centre or email: info@porterspinot.co.nz