Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Wine in semi lockdown, New Zealand @ level 2, 15 May 2020

This morning’s walk and take out coffee gave me a chance to reflect on Covid-19 and how it’s changed our lives, some of us more than others.

New Zealand started off well but as we inch closer to the lives we refer to as normal, the worst side of us starts to peer out from under lockdown. Normal people doing normal things, like standing too close to each other when signs clearly state a 1 to 2 metre safe distance.

The man in the queue behind me at my local café this morning inched closer as we waited in line, until he was so close that I put my hand up and said ‘I’m trying to safe distance’, to which he rolled his eyes and asked if I was serious. “Definitely am,” I replied, trying to find a smile.

Situations like this make me wonder if I’m living in a parallel universe.  As a work colleague said, prior to lockdown, “It’s not just the virus that will kill us, it’s how we respond to it that’s going to do the real damage.”

If you’re reading this and able to enjoy coffee and wine, which, for me, are essentials, then we’re the lucky ones. We can choose to enjoy these good parts of life, which remain daily pleasures, lockdown or not. We can go out to exercise, to stand in line for coffee (or not) and to safe distance, knowing it will lower the potential risk of contracting what is, for me at least, a horrifying prospect.

We began so well. New Zealand infections and deaths from Covid-19 are, so far, incredibly low compared to many other countries. And yet, as soon as a drop to level 2 was announced,  many began to act as if it was already here and everything normal could resume. Safe distancing, to take one example, seems to be regarded as an optional extra, by some. This is dangerous thinking. I still prefer to act as if I have the virus in terms of hygiene and contact. That way, I am less of a danger to myself and everybody else. I would love to visit my mum for instance, but since she lives in a different region and is potentially less strong than I am, I won’t be doing this for some time.

In the meantime, I find that wine is not only an essential service for those who have to harvest the grapes in lockdown, but an essential part of softening the daily hurdles that life throws at us. I have long since tired of the advice not to drink alcohol in lockdown, lest we become too reliant on it. My career morphed from journalist to wine writer so long ago that while I am hugely aware of health in food, exercise and safe drinking limits, I also look forward to a glass or two of wine at the end of each day. It’s not just the flavour and alcohol I enjoy, but the mental stimulation and voyeuristic charm. Armchair travel doesn’t get better than wine, for me. Every glass stimulates my mind, takes me to another country, region and vineyard, to the people I’ve met or read about who grew the grapes and made the wine.

Today’s wines of the week will be published this afternoon.