It's par for the course in this job to eventually find yourself in possession of a ridiculous amount of wine accessories.
I have foil cutters, a boxful of decanters, enough glassware to kit out a small restaurant, wine racks, bottle coolers, bottle stoppers, vacuum pumps and a large bag of those horrible, jangly charms which you attach to the stem of your glass so you don't lose it at parties (which I never use because most of them are in the shape of tiny plastic penises - a decorative hangover from some hen's party I'd hosted eons ago), magnetic tannin softeners (don't ask), all manner of aerators and, finally, (I found this quite concerning) a recent rummage around my cutlery drawer revealed I own twice as many corkscrews as I do teaspoons.
However, although wine accessories can provide hours of fun for all the family they're hardly considered the most "fashionable" of things - until now. The new Envoyage Tasschen Weekender is the new Hermes Kelly bag or Gucci clutch for the wine-minded modern woman.
Swiss creator Claudia Eike says she had the idea while thinking of a bag that could hold all the items needed for a woman's whole day. So, naturally, complete with compartments for your keys, makeup, cellphone, iPad, a small decorative puppy, wallet, protein bars, a spare pair of heels, a frock and some pantyhose, a first-aid kit, a sewing kit, nappies, vouchers, an umbrella, breath mints, your diary, a Swiss Army knife, a torch and an Epi-pen (because you never know when you may need an adrenalin boost) - she has cleverly added a zip-up compartment big enough to hold a bottle of wine. The bag is made from goat leather and will set you back about $1600.
However, if you have the means to spend only a fraction of that and you don't want the hassle of carting a glass bottle and a corkscrew around then the Swiss again have a solution for you.
The new Vernissage is basically a cardboard cask in the shape of a handbag. It features a cunningly concealed easy-squeeze tap on the side from which you can pour yourself a sneaky drink and it comes in three snazzy colours: white for the chardonnay/viognier blend, black for the syrah/cabernet blend and a pink one for the rose.
I'm not entirely sure when or if the Vernissage will make it to our shores, but I'm certain that if you superglue a shoulder strap to a cask of Country White and cover it with sparkly spray paint it will do for a classy alternative at any occasion.
CHINA ON MY MIND
Wine producers are ramping up their efforts to corner the Chinese fine wine market. Patience, perseverance and years of relationship-building have led to some clear and present sales for some switched-on Kiwi wine brands as the Chinese are now starting to understand that wine doesn't need to come from France to be fantastic. So though our key export markets are still Australia, Britain and the United States, New Zealand producers are finding innovative ways to give the Chinese a taste of Kiwi.
Villa Maria has been exporting to China since 2000 and it's its most rapidly growing region. In 2010 it employed its first dedicated Asia market manager. Last year it appointed its first China-based employee and in May it unveiled a fully translated Mandarin website. It was launched online through social media platform Weibo (China's version of Twitter).
China has 538 million internet users and more than half are active on Weibo, so having an online presence is an essential part of brand-building. To direct Chinese consumers to its Mandarin mobile site, Villa Maria has attached QR (quick response) code stickers to its 2012 new release wines, which also allows it to interact with Villa's 50th vintage celebrations.
Getting its message to Chinese wine consumers has also been a priority for Hawke's Bay Winegrowers.
"There is a growing interest and inquiry about Hawke's Bay wine as a result of the Chinese enthusiasm for high-quality premium red wines that this region is renowned for," says executive officer Lyn Bevin. Twenty-six of the regions wineries export to China and visitor numbers to the winehawkesbay.co.nz website are about 40,000 hits a month, prompting Hawke's Bay Winegrowers to have their site translated into Mandarin. "We are keen to make it as easy as possible for Chinese visitors to find what they need from our site," Bevin says. Videos on the site featuring local wine personalities have Mandarin subtitles.
"Some of our visitors simply want to download the wine trail map and get tips on etiquette, but others want serious information on soils, terroir and other winemaking information," Bevin says. "There's specific information just for members, and there is also a section for trade and media. We also provide other tourism information about Hawke's Bay, so it's a multi-faceted site." Printed material translated into Chinese is available to visiting Chinese media, buyers and wine lovers.