Thursday, 7 March 2013

Would you like to try the banana bubbly? Wine tasting in The Cook Islands

The Cook Islands was little detour, a chance for a bit of rest and relaxation.  And it was everything we expected.

The Cook Islands

Transport in the Cook Islands

And so much more . . .

We came across Raratonga’s only winery while taking our hired moped out around the island – and we couldn’t resist.  But we decided to go back on foot, so we could bring our empty bottles.  Which was a slight problem - on arrival we encountered a notice asking us to honk our horns three times for attention . . . 

We made honking noises as loud as our reserved Britishness allowed. Nothing happened.  So we made some more.  And then the door burst open and out came third generation Cook Islander Mr Koteka, who welcomed us in to see his winemaking operation. 

Which was unlike any other that we’ve seen on this trip.

Mr Koteka explained how he makes his wines from bananas, mashing them and fermenting them and, if necessary, topping up with coconut juice.  We were invited to taste the result.  Mr Koteka joined us with a resounding cheers!

Koteka's banana wine - in a recycled whiskey bottle
Everything produced here is bottled in recycled bottles.  Any wine that doesn't make the grade goes on to be fortified into vodka.  We had a taste of that as well.  Then we tried the liquer, which is infused with all sorts of things before being decanted into recycled wine bottles.  We tried some coconut chilli liqueur from an Oyster Bay bottle – label removed and Koteka’s own label added.  (We recognized the bottle from the lid.)

Mr Koteka showing us how he infuses his banana vodka to make liqeur
This must have been the smallest winery (bananary?) of our trip.  Yet Mr Kotaka was as enthusiastic about his wine/vodka/liquer making as any winemaker that we’ve met.  We might not have found notes of leather, cedar and musk in his 2012 vintage, but Mr Koteka’s enthusiasm made up for that.  I thought his banana wine might go well chilled with soda water – a sort of Cook Island spritzer, I thought the vodka was suitably firey and the chilli and coconut liqueur would make an interesting post dinner discussion point.  I did like it, Oyster Bay bottle and all, but we have to restrict ourselves to keep within our weitght allowance, so we had to pass on buying one. 

Mr Koteka didn’t mind – and we left him with some empty wine bottles.  And some beer bottles.   ‘Oh good,’ he said with a big grin.  ‘I’m going to make some banana beer!’

We drank a lovely bottle of Cloudy Bay that night – I wonder how soon that will have banana liqeur in it?

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