Cold shivers: An ode to New Zealand's own Cold Duck wine

by Paul Little / 08 December, 2016
This column has had occasion to look at unfortunate experiments with alcoholic beverages before. Of the many regrettable libations that litter our past, however, surely none is likelier to induce a sentimental shudder in those who sampled it than the sparkling little number that went by the name of Cold Duck, brought to you by (among others) the house of Montana.

It sits on the nostalgia shelf alongside Blue Nun, Marque Vue and porcupines made out of grapefruit with cheese cubes on toothpicks all over them.

Cold Duck had its origins far, far away. According to legend, one Prince Clemens Wenceslaus of Saxony, desperate for a bevy at the end of a night’s carousing, mixed together all the dregs lying around his banquet hall, called it Cold End and knocked it back.

This evolved into a concoction that was equal parts Mosel, Rhine wine and Champagne and almost certainly tasted nothing like Montana’s Cold Duck, although the local name derives from the German original. The legend is now believed to be untrue.

An American variety was also popular for a long time, but there was no need to aspire to foreign versions when we could make our own Cold Duck perfectly well here. 

When an unopened 1973 bottle was discovered in Blenheim last year, it elicited this febrile report in the Marlborough Express, whose accuracy is hopefully commensurate with its salaciousness, referring to Cold Duck as “the red sparkling stuff that made housewives giddy at 5pm in the 80s… it had the unfortunate nickname of the ‘knicker stripper’.”

Thoroughly derided by most, Cold Duck has at least one respectable defender in Cloudy Bay winemaker Sarah Burton, who understands that wine is not just about hitting the right notes. “My most memorable wine experience [was when] I was at university,” she told website Wine-Searcher. “We stopped for fish and chips and cracked open a bottle of Cold Duck. It made a moment something special. Wine is really cool like that. It’s not necessarily about the wine; it’s what the wine does for a group of friends.”

In 1997, Montana celebrated its 25th anniversary and put Cold Duck back on the market and at centre stage, as the only sparkling wine served at one celebration, to the bemusement of many. As the National Business Review reported, it “was an intriguing choice to showcase. Almost undrinkable in its original form, Cold Duck has been relaunched with a cute 1970s treatment by Saatchi & Saatchi. It’s still undrinkable but less so.”

Montana even drafted in poet Kevin Ireland to come up with a verse called “Cold Duck”. With his characteristic lightness of touch, and a wit much drier than the wine it celebrates, he wrote:

Do you remember
those dazzling times
of dances, parties,
food and wine,
the midnight swims,
the talk, the tunes,
and the corks we aimed
at the summer moon?

More recently, Cold Duck has even become the vinous equivalent of a political scapegoat. In 2014, Prime Minister John Key praised the wine industry’s economic performance and diversification, pointing out how far it had come since the time of his wedding, when all he’d been able to offer guests was Cold Duck and Marque Vue.

He had a point. Like many other unlamented past products of our food and wine industry, Cold Duck may have been most important for convincing consumers – and winemakers – that there had to be something better than this.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Richard Prebble: Jacinda Ardern will face the tyranny of events
86009 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Politics

Richard Prebble: Jacinda Ardern will face the tyra…

by Richard Prebble

I predicted Bill English would lose the election and the winner would be Winston Peters. But no forecaster, including the PM, predicted her pregnancy.

Read more
Aokigahara: More than just the ‘suicide forest’
85966 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z World

Aokigahara: More than just the ‘suicide forest’

by Justin Bennett

It's known as a 'suicide forest', but Justin Bennett found Aokigahara's quiet beauty outweighed its infamous reputation.

Read more
Truth and Lye: New perspectives on the brilliance of Len Lye
85816 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Arts

Truth and Lye: New perspectives on the brilliance …

by Sally Blundell

New essays on New Zealand-born US artist Len Lye elevate him to the status of Australasia’s most notable 20th-century artist.

Read more
Brain activity may hold the secret to helping infertile couples
86046 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Health

Brain activity may hold the secret to helping infe…

by Nicky Pellegrino

For about a third of infertility cases in New Zealand, there is no obvious reason why seemingly fertile couples struggle to conceive.

Read more
Farewells on the Auckland wharves, captured by photographer John Rykenberg
85964 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Farewells on the Auckland wharves, captured by pho…

by Frances Walsh

More than one million images from Rykenberg Photography, taken around Auckland, are now in the Auckland Libraries Collection. But who are the people?

Read more
'Termite hell' for Golden Bay man after he woke covered in insects
86027 2018-01-18 11:59:55Z Environment

'Termite hell' for Golden Bay man after he woke co…

by Hamish Cardwell

A Golden Bay man spending his first night in his new house says he woke to find his bed, walls and floor covered in hundreds of creepy crawlies.

Read more
Ten ‘stealth microplastics’ to avoid if you want to save the oceans
86015 2018-01-18 11:18:49Z Environment

Ten ‘stealth microplastics’ to avoid if you want t…

by Sharon George and Deirdre McKay

There's a growing movement to stop the amount of wasteful plastic that goes into our oceans, but what about the tiny bits we can hardly see?

Read more
It's time to chlorinate New Zealand's drinking water
86001 2018-01-18 09:41:15Z Social issues

It's time to chlorinate New Zealand's drinking wat…

by The Listener

The inconvenience to chlorine refuseniks is tiny compared with the risk of more suffering and tragedy from another Havelock North-style contamination.

Read more