Christmas decorations in one of the country's biggest and most respected wine merchants say just about all that needs to be said.
They remind us this is Christmas, but it is summer, not the middle of a northern winter.
Instead of winking, plastic Christmas trees, there are beach umbrellas hung with glittering festive baubles. Beach balls, a bucket and spade, even a surf board compete with the liquid gifts and the goodies that will be given or consumed on Christmas Day. Finally someone has faced the reality there will be no snow (or there shouldn't be) here on Christmas Day and that many of the customs traditionally associated with the festive season are not really appropriate Down Under.
The customs to which I refer, of course, have nothing to do with the giving and receiving or the good cheer that is normally associated with Christmas. It's more to do with the way we celebrate it with a great nosh-up based on what our cuzzies do on the other side of the world at their mid-winter feast.
Sorry, but sitting down to a roast meal with piles of veges, lashings of gravy and a rich red wine to wash it down; of steaming Christmas pud and another wine to match just doesn't make much sense to me any more. Certainly not on a summer's day.
For me these days the choice is to go with summer, and with the foods we eat and the wines we drink at this time of the year.
Whichever, the choice of wines at least, is endless, and exciting too if you throw a bit of caution to the wind and buy what you like and what you think your guests will too, without spending a fortune.
Some wines to go with Christmas (not just dinner) and the time of year:
Coopers Creek The Bellringer 2012 Gisborne Albarino, $20
Spain's great gift to the wine world. A lovely pure and punchy, peachy white with a generous twist of citrus is a first for New Zealand. A must-try summer wine.
Lindauer Classic Brut Cuvee, $15.99
This smart, crisp and yeasty, hugely drinkable blend of chardonnay and pinot noir has just won for the third consecutive year one of New Zealand's major bargain bubbly tastings. A great Christmas/holiday buy.
Esk Valley 2010 Gimblett Gravels Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec, $23
When the red meat is served this is the wine to go with it. A rich and gutsy dark-fruited Hawke's Bay red that slides effortlessly across the palate. A steal at this price.
Villa Maria 2012 Private Bin East Coast Arneis, $15
An Italian alternative to sauvignon blanc that can be difficult to grow, but not to drink. Produces fresh, intensely scented (citrus, almonds) sometimes honeysuckled wines like this. Dry, delicate, delicious. And summery.
Grasshopper Rock 2010 Central Otago Pinot Noir, about $30
A sensual, food-flattering red wine that recently topped one of the country's biggest tastings. Wonderful florals, juicy black fruit. Outstanding value for money.
Wooing Tree 2012 Central Otago Rose, $25
One of the more consistent examples of this pink wine yet to be fully appreciated here for its versatility. Made from pinot noir that smacks of strawberries and stonefruit. Medium dry.
Felton Road 2012 Bannockburn Riesling, $26
Let's go the whole hog with this summer variety and buy one of the best. An intense but lower alcohol (8.5 per cent) citrus-driven wine with a touch of sweetness. Superb.
Selaks 2010 Winemaker's Favourite Reserve Chardonnay, $23
A one-size-fits-all grapefruit-powered Hawke's Bay chardonnay with a pleasantly creamy finish that will suit those who want to take the middle road with summer whites.
Saint Clair 2012 Premium, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, $21.50
The Ibbotson family make more variants of sauvignon blanc than just about anyone else. This rich and racy model, with currants in the mix, is perfect for summer.
Yealands Estate 2012 Awatere Valley Gruner Veltliner, $25
A good example of the hottest new white wine on the block - a native of Austria with a fresh and slightly spicy citrus flavour. Dry and delicious. Enjoy.
- The Southland Times