Must-Have Wine: Feng Shui and the Year of the Rabbit

Related article: The Perfect Match: Lapin au Vin de Central Otago

The Wandering Palate has gone lunar! Notwithstanding I reside in Asia, the nucleus of my ideologies revolve around a back-to-nature approach to wine, food and the environment – sustainable, organic and biodynamic principals that revolve around the lunar calendar, its roots in ancient feng shui and Chinese gardening that have evolved over the eons.

As the Year of the Tiger comes to an end, the Lunar New Year fast approaches, and a significant proportion of the world starts searching for the answers to 2011, the Year of the Rabbit. Being a Tiger/Scorpion, I was searching all last year for the answers and while there were plenty of highlights it was a challenging year, to say the least. So welcome to the Year of the Rabbit, to be precise a Metal Rabbit Year, which last occurred in 1951.

And what auspicious wine should we be drinking in a Metal Rabbit year? Well, feng shui logic would lead to a wine with a certain degree of minerality and expressive of metal (yin), to which the red grape, pinot noir, is unsurpassed in its ability to transfuse the minerals from the earth through the vine roots to the finished wine.

Gold is unquestionably the most auspicious metal so where does one find pinot noir on this planet growing in soils with elements of gold? Answer: Central Otago, in the deep south of New Zealand, which was the epicentre of the famous 1860s gold rush. These early miners used sluicing methods on a large scale, scouring cliffs and embankments with water leaving sedimentary tailings among the alluvial schists, glacial gravels silts and quartz sands – and gold – in which vineyards are now planted.

These rugged Southern Alps of Central Otago are perhaps better known nowadays as "Middle Earth," where the Lord of the Rings was filmed, with its breathtaking precipices, glacier-tortured plateaus, chasmaic river valleys and vast shingle beds.

It is spectacular vineyard country blessed with profuse sunlight during the ripening period, with sundown as late as 10pm, the temperature then plummeting from the mid- 20s to around 14C, promoting high natural acidity and concentrating fruit flavours.

The region is also Rabbit Central, with the rodents reaching plague proportions and an ecological disaster, decimating the fragile vegetation of this already barren high-country landscape and causing soil erosion and permanent damage.

Rabbits are not indigenous to New Zealand (there were no animals whatsoever in New Zealand, only birds) and were introduced in the 1830s for food and sport but now are considered a pest. Alas, in New Zealand a metal rabbit is tantamount to a rabbit full of buckshot!

Having eaten rabbit all my life, I have perfected rabbit stew, which is now my wife’s favourite dish – and she’s is Chinese and born in the year of the rabbit – for those imagining any insensitivity or uncultivated behaviorism. See recipe: Lapin au Vin des Central Otago a la Wandering Palate.

It is no coincidence there is a Central Otago winery called Rabbit Ranch, affiliated with Rob Hay of Chard Farm, the pioneering winery in the region. In true New Zealand spirit, there is plenty of humorous innuendo, and while the pitch is jovial and the wines made in a bright and breezy early drinking style, they have exceptional price/quality rapport. Check out their website, www.rabbitranch.co.nz.

Thus it is befitting that the Rabbit Ranch Pinot Noir 2009 is the Wine Feng Shui choice for the Year of the Rabbit; "A bright-eyed red with hints of briar patch and a whiff of gunsmoke." With a lifted perfume of ripe cherries and stewed plums among toasty gun-flint smokiness and gravelly-granite minerals, there is an overall alluring and captivating charm to the bouquet. Its palate is juicy and crunchy with sweet ripe red cherries and strawberries, building with warming spices, its texture silky smooth and gentle ch’i with a sappy, savoury, herbal farewell and tailings of cool granite minerality. It is drinking perfectly and a lot of pinot noir for the money; arguably the best value pinot noir in all New Zealand. Moreover, great with rabbit!

And the feng shui for rabbit, it’s actually not that rosy for rabbits, with inauspicious stars and many obstacles and challenges. Chinese astrology predictions indicate rabbits will go through tough times in 2011. The advice to rabbits is to avoid arguments which will lead to elevated misunderstandings. To achieve good feng shui, they must start by having better relationships with people and communicate more, particularly in the office as the career predictions are ominous.

This will not be easy for a metal rabbit whose attributes are considered to be firmness, rigidity, persistence, strength and determination. The metal person is controlling, ambitious, forceful and set in their ways as metal is very strong; and they are self-reliant and prefer to handle their problems alone.

It is also not a good year for wealth luck for rabbits and it is advisable to manage your finances tightly and reduce spending (another good reason to drink Rabbit Ranch Pinot Noir). Moreover, rabbits must avoid gambling in the Year of the Rabbit.

The Chinese Zodiac animals that are compatible with rabbits in 2011 are the goat, dog and pig, so do your research before seeking a good mate!

Rabbit Ranch has been spotted jumping off the shelves in The United Kingdom through Stokes Fine Wines Limited www.stokesfinewines.com, in Australia through Rabbit Ranch Wines, email Warren@rabbitranch.co.nz, in the United States of America through Dreyfus, Ashby and Co., New York, www.dreyfusashby.com, in Japan through Minato Wine Import, Tokyo, www.minatowine.com, in Canada through The Delf Group jennifer@delfwines.com and in Singapore through Cold Storage and Jason’s supermarkets.

Rabbit Ranch can dispatch from the main warren www.rabbitranch.co.nz to anywhere in the world and it would be good yin and yang (balance in life) to send a twin pick or mixed case of Rabbit Ranch Pinot Noir and their excellent Pinot Gris (white).

Central Otago is world renowned for outstanding pinot noir and exceptional riesling, pinot gris and gewürztraminer. Gold-infused, auspicious wines can be found at these highly and personally recommended wineries:

Arum www.aurumwines.co.nz

Bald Hills www.baldhills.co.nz

Carrick www.carrick.co.nz

Chard Farm www.chardfarm.co.nz

Felton Road www.feltonroad.com

Misha’s Vineyard www.mishasvineyard.com

Mount Difficulty www.mtdifficulty.co.nz

Mount Edward www.mountedward.co.nz

Peregrin Wines www.peregrinewines.co.nz

Quartz Reef www.quartzreef.co.nz

Rockburn Vineyard www.rockburn.co.nz

Rippon www.rippon.co.nz

Two Paddocks www.twopaddocks.com

Valli - www.valliwine.com

Happy prospecting and Gong Xi Fa Cai

Related article: The Perfect Match: Lapin au Vin des Central Otago

The Wandering Palate www.winefengshui.com