Wine is often associated with the celebration of love. Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and the New Year are all perfect reasons to uncork a bottle.
But in the case of Sarah-Kate and Dan Dineen it was wine that cemented their love. They were both making wine for rival vineyards in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales when Sarah-Kate, a New Zealander, convinced Dan, an Australian, to move to the Central Otago region of New Zealand's south island.
Central Otago is one of the most spectacular places in the world. It is also rapidly becoming known as one of the world's best regions for cool-climate wine, especially pinot noir. American Robert Parker, probably the world's most influential critic, featured the region in his highly respected Wine Spectator magazine.
Jancis Robinson MW, wine writer for the Financial Times, who hosted wine dinners in Shanghai and Beijing last month, describes Central Otago as possibly "the next great pinot region" in the world. And influential Australia critic James Halliday calls it "God's country" for pinot noir.
Sarah-Kate and Dan have launched their own label in Wanaka in Central Otago (www.maudewines.com), and I had the pleasure of tasting the current vintage and some barrel samples while in Wanaka.
Sarah-Kate makes wine for her own label, Maude, and for a vineyard her parents own, Mount Maude. All are seriously good wines. The 2008 Maude pinot gris speaks of long romantic walks in an orchard, surrounded by the perfume of pears. The 2008 Maude pinot noir is refined yet complex - like a good relationship. The 2008 Mount Maude chardonnay is creamily elegant, with excellent length on the palate.
Barrel samples of the 2009 pinot noir and chardonnay offer even better things. The chardonnay is like walking into a bread shop and being embraced by aromas of brioche and bread dough. The pinot noir offers a range of red fruits, all contained in an elegant structure of new oak.
Wine speaks so much of love and wonder, and should be enjoyed in excess.