Thursday, April 19, 2012

thesis thoughts

A wise man once said, “it takes a lot of beer to make good wine.” Touché. Perhaps I could offer a corollary: it takes a lot of beer to write about good wine.
No, that’s just an excuse for drinking. (And a pathetic one at that.)
Let me start over.
“Well, you see, I just wanted to go there. I figured I’d find the story once I was there.”
Matthew Fort’s ostensibly wise words comforted me that my decision to go to New Zealand was not a foolish one. Just one brilliant idea would suffice; others must surely follow. He had wanted to travel around Sicily and write about it, and by Jove, he did. Never mind that at that point of his life he was already a well-established writer and editor at The Guardian…with a publisher. I am twenty-four with a much-neglected blog that even my Mom has stopped reading.
But I had already booked a ticket, so I ignored the obvious. I’ve wanted to come to New Zealand for a long time, well before I skipped school to buy the just-released extended edition of The Return of the King. (Yes, I did that.)
The first part – getting here - was no problem. It’s been nearly five weeks since I arrived in Windy Welly, and what a whirlwind it has been! (Yes, I did that.) From the Vynfields rosé that rivaled its provençal counterparts and the peppery, pork fatty Schubert syrah of Martinborough to shelling out an absurd amount of cash to prove that I indeed do not have TB and am consequently fit for migrant labour; across the Cook Strait to the omnipresent gooseberry and green Marlborough Sauv-Blanc (actually saying Sauvignon Blanc makes you sound like a wanker); then resilient Christchurch, luxurious Queenstown, and Cromwell. I have no adjectives for Cromwell. Its main attraction is giant plastic fruit. Oddly enough, it’s a mere ten kilometers from arguably the country’s best Pinot Noir. Of course I can dub it a “mere 10K” now that I’m not biking said distance at seven in the morning. Two weeks of fruit-picking, botrytis detritus, and smoko breaks, and here I am again in Wellington, with dirty hands and a slight farmer’s tan.
But I haven’t yet found the story. I have twenty days to find it, research it, and write a thesis about it. Like I said, it takes a lot of beer to write about wine.
So now, I’ll propose a poll, hopefully cathartic and revelatory in some bizarre way.
Is the story...
…about the extent to which the New Zealand wine industry acts as a sustainable model?
God, I hope not. This is the sort of argument we’ve been discussing ad nauseam. I could easily switch a couple of proper nouns and submit that paper; I’ve written it at least three times before. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a worthy topic, but not one I’d like to devote more than ten minutes to.
…biodynamic wine in New Zealand? A case study of Felton Road.
I’m already bored.
…the current conversation in wine? With the demise of Parker-esque scoring systems, and the arguable rise of a new generation concerned with issues of sustainability, what is the next phase of wine journalism?
It could make for a mildly interesting five paragraph blog post. That I would neglect to write.
…Old World vs. New World: is this a false dichotomy? What can one teach the other?
Beyond my knowledge/capabilities. No, thanks.
…a comparison of the New Zealand and Italian wine industries; one, rooted in thousands of years of history, the other roughly the same age as the unified Italian state. Yet both – like much of the wine world – underwent significant changes in the 1970s and 1980s: where are they now, and what does this mean?
A potentially legitimate idea…that would require even more legitimate planning, research, time, and intelligence. I have twenty days.
…Wine travel in the 21st century.
I came to New Zealand with high hopes of grand adventures. Perhaps I’d read too much Mario Soldati and other memoirs of wealthy middle-aged men; they were living in a truly dynamic moment of wine. I’m just a girl biking from cellar door to cellar door, pretending that this “experience” will “develop my palate” and “broaden my vision of wine.” Did I say broaden? I meant blur.
So there’s the rub: you’re twenty-four, interested in wine: great, where do you start?
But really, where do I start?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I don't want to know... many kidneys a lamb has.

Because if they're are anything like us – and I’m fairly sure they are, at least in this respect - I may have eaten my way through four little guys. With a side of bacon.

I wish I could say:

a. That it was four in the morning, and I was drunk.

(I wasn't. It was a sober dinner.)

b. That I misunderstood the menu description.

(I didn't. It said "Lamb kidneys with bacon." I got lamb kidneys with bacon.)

c. That my reason for choosing the restaurant - it was the favourite haunt of Viggo Mortensen - was ultimately justified; that my prolonged deliberations over "should I eat kidney number-that-shall-not-be-named?" were interrupted by the cast of the Hobbit mirthfully parading in and regaling me with tales over many a pint and unshod tabletop jigs.

(They didn't. But isn't that a great offal-OD-induced hallucination?)

No, none of the above happened. I just ate a ridiculous amount of lamb kidneys. I told myself that this, along with other slightly shameful Kiwi dining experiences, has been a lesson in how the other half eats. But in this case that would only be true if "the other half" meant Johan and Eddy. And even that's a stretch. They have standards and limits.

On the way home I bought spinach and a carrot as some sort of pathetic attempt to atone for yet another sin of gluttony.

In fact my greater shame is that this is my first post from New Zealand, where I have been visiting wineries, working the harvest, chasing hobbits, discovering the glories of the Kiwi Pilsner, and eating an awful lot of offal. (Sorry, it had to happen.) Now that I've left the internet desert of Central Otago - and only have the minor distraction of writing my thesis - I'll write a bit more about exactly what I have been doing here. Of course I'll have to figure that out, first.