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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
31 Jul 2012

What vintage is this charming relic found in our linen cupboard, do you think?


Would anyone care to date, in the comments box below, this tea towel designed for New Zealand wine producer Nobilo's when pride of place (top centre) went to a wine described as 'French style red wine' with the marvellous name of Chateau Valley? (It reminds me of the brand Côte de Villages dreamt up by one long-gone UK wine importer to give a burgundian veneer to the most basic wine.) There are no vintages given on the labels above as clues but other notable wines made by the Nobilo family then included 'German style' Müller-Thurgau, an 'Ormond Valley Chardonnay White Burgundy' and a varietal Pinotage described as 'Light Classic Dry Red'.

At least the design was prescient enough to feature Gewürztraminer (accent proudly in place in this instance) top left, the variety to which Nick Nobilo, who sold the family company ages ago and has watched its passage as a small cog in the giant global machine that is Constellation, is now devoted with his Vinoptima label.

The text in the middle assures us 'The wine-making tradition of the Nobilo family began centuries ago on the sunny Adriatic Island of Korcula. Today this tradition is still maintained and is reflected in the superb, quality table wines produced at the Huapai Winery. Share this skill and enjoy the taste of the acclaimed Nobilo's red and white table wines.'

From the late 19th century there was a big influx of Dalmatians to New Zealand, initially in search of gold and then as diggers of buried kauri gum that was much in demand for varnishes and linoleum until synthetic floor coverings appeared from the 1930s. The first incomers were followed by later immigrants, particularly in the years leading up to the second world war, when prospects in Croatia were particularly poor. From the Croatian Adriatic coastline and its many islands (of interest to grape researchers today) they brought a wine culture, even if their wines were initially dismissed as 'Dally plonk'. Today's NZ wine industry still has many a revered Dalmatian name. Not just Nobilo (whose family also produced a famous golfer) but also Babich, Brajkovich (of Kumeu River), Delegat and Fistonich (Sir George, owner of Villa Maria and Vidal).

Nick reminded me that it is part of New Zealand folklore that, were it not for Dalmatian influence, the country might have voted for national prohibition of all alcoholic drink. The first vote, in 1911, had to achieve a 60% vote in favour for it to be carried. The proportion of voters in favour was 55.8%.

So, what date would you put on that tea towel?