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A big day out

Okay, so Christmas is out of the way and it is time to move beyond religious ceremonies to the real celebration of this time of year: sand festivals. These require picnic food, large quantities of sunblock, limited clothing and extensive coastline, preferably with surf beating away at it.

In these sophisticated days, sand festivals also demand wine: not too much, as the combination of wine and sun and wind can put as much fluting in your brain cells as the wind does to the beach. But the wine that is required must also conform to a number of parameters that will render drinking it immune to the various vicissitudes of a day at the beach.

The first essential feature is sand resistance. A visit to the beach, to those among us who have never ventured there, delivers particles of sand into every fold and crease of skin, clothing and food, so you can bet that some will get into the wine. Second, the wine must be immune to vigorous movement, as most journeys to coastal spots take twisting roads that can send your bottle careering about the boot. Third, our remarkable bottle will need enough flavour to stand up to extremes of temperature, from frigid - if it has been plunged into a bag of ice for too long - to lukewarm, if the cooling system malfunctions.

As the food will also range from warm ham to soggy tomato sandwiches and disintegrated quiche, vigorous flavour serves a dual purpose: it can be just what is needed to get the lunch down and keep it there. One of the remarkable and little recognised health benefits of wine is that it provides surprising resistance to most forms of food poisoning.

Now for the Christmas miracle. No, not Keisha becoming pregnant while filming her Virgin performance, but the miracle of the wine; sauvignon blanc to be precise. Marlborough sauvignon blanc. If ever there was evidence that this is God's Own, it is Marlborough sauvignon blanc.

The Aussies have their gargantuan red, shiraz, sweet and thick and heady alongside that nation's natural inclination to drought and bushfires, whereas New Zealand gets the cooling enthusiasm of sauvignon blanc. Vivacious and vigorous enough to dismiss any sand with a shrug, convivial in the company of Marmite and lettuce sandwiches and smoked salmon tarts, it's irresistibly fresh and pure. No wonder the Aussies are importing it by the shipload.

Email: keith@sommnet.com