Thursday, June 24, 2010
New Zealand - The 2010 FIFA World Cup Bites and Boozes
Finally Bite and Booze will cover the World Cup from the Oceania perspective. The "All Whites" (because their soccer team wears all-white uniforms whereas their rugby team, the "All Blacks" wears all black uniforms, though today the soccer team is wearing black so maybe somebody can correct me here) have had a great run at the tournament so far including a dramatic draw with Italy which may have been the largest upset of the Cup so far. However, their days in South Africa could come to an end today at the boot of Paraguay. Perhaps, just maybe, they can pull out a miracle. A victory today gives them a spot in the round of 16, and crazier things have happened. Still, they should not be forgotten on my series of World Cup country bites and boozes, so let's see what this island nation has to offer!
First, Robert Romero, who is a good buddy of mine that writes the blog Dead End, is currently living in New Zealand. Undoubtedly he is excited about today's match! Hopefully he's had a chance to wine and dine like a king over there. New Zealand cuisine is largely driven by local ingredients and seasonal variations. Occupying an island nation with a primarily agricultural economy, the Kiwis enjoy quality local produce from land and sea. Similar to the cuisine of Australia, the cuisine of New Zealand is a diverse British-based cuisine with Mediterranean and Pacific Rim influences as the country becomes more cosmopolitan. However, before the British arrived the Maori (New Zealand's indigenous people) had a cuisine of their own with influence from the Polynesian islands.
Unfortunately the Maori people did not have any form of alcohol. So for that, we'll have to fast forward to modern day New Zealand. While it would be easy to discuss the robust and exceptional wine region in New Zealand, I'd rather focus on something else: whiskey distillation.
This fine profession started early in New Zealand's history. The British, and particularly the Scottish, had a large influence on alcohol in New Zealand. Owen McShane is credited as the countrys first moonshiner turning out Chained Lightning at Oue near Riverton in Southland from 1850. His range of whiskies, gin, brandy and rum were all produced from Cabbage Tree root. Moonshine distilling became a cottage industry and grew mightily until the government of the day, alarmed at the potential tax loss introduced the Distillation Act in 1865. This effectively barred all distilleries that failed to produce 5000 gallons (23000L) annually. However, two companies did receive licences: the New Zealand Distilling Co of Dunedin and Crown Distilleries in Auckland.
In Auckland by 1872 the Crown distillery was producing 18000 gallons (80,000L) annually using 2000 gallon wash stills and 500 gallon copper spirit stills. Wholesalers apparently purchased this spirit in bulk then sold it in reused (and presumably already labelled) whiskey bottles as the Crown distillery never had a bottling line.
Vogels Government in 1879 (perhaps in response to demands from the Scottish banks who were financing the countrys new railways) effectively closed both distilleries by increasing local duties to equal imported prices. For the next 83 years there was no official local distilling industry in New Zealand until in 1962 a gin distillery licence was approved. The plant was jointly owned by the two brewery giants Lion and DB (I'm sure you can read more about them on the BR Beer Scene. A new company, Hokonui Distillers Ltd (formed November 3, 1961) thinking they may get a similar licence also applied but Customs Minister Sheldon refused it stating ‘good Whisky needs blending’.
History shows that they never did achieve this target, a glut of cheap Scotch Whiskey, hotel and wholesale licence ownership and brand loyalties all limited the success of the Wilsons and 45 South brands. Under Seagrams ownership, the last bulk whiskey was shipped overseas during the 1990’s and the plant was finally dismantled. Today the scene is reminiscent of the 1850’s with many thousands of private stills quietly going about their task, in homes, workshops and small factories throughout the country, perhaps a small victory for free enterprise. But significantly, Hokonui Whiskey is now legally available for the first time and its legend is celebrated every February at the Hokonui Moonshiners Festival in Gore.