>Viel Llama um nichts


The New Zealand wine industry has its roots in the Dalmatian and Lebanese immigrants of the late 19th/early 20th centuries who brought their culture, vines and enjoyment of the products thereof to an exceptionally wowserish and puritanical New Zealand.

Thank goodness.

I used to zip out to Henderson to the west of Auckland on my Suzuki 250 and buy stuff directly from these old guys with big grins full of gold teeth and their wizened wives

Shocking stuff, but when you’re 19 – 2 years away from the legal drinking age – you take what you can get.

The owner of the wine shop in the Northcote Shopping Centre knew Mum and Dad, so no point trying there too often…

“Now come on, Jonty” he’d say “I haven’t been invited to your 21st birthday, so I KNOW you’re not legal”



These days, you’ll still see names like Babich, Corban, Delegat, Nobilo, Jelich, Selak, Soljan, Milicich – the list’s endless – on wine labels around Auckland.

Most of them came over to dig kauri gum up north and when that gave out, they moved down to the Big Smoke.

They metamorphosed from Dalmations (“Dallies”) to Croatians, Serbs and Yugoslavs until the tensions between the various factions got a bit heated and they decided to go back to being Dalmatians.

A couple of years back, they decided to donate some animals to the Auckland Zoo as a token of appreciation to their new homeland.

I have absolutely no idea why they’d choose an genus which is native to Peru – maybe that’s what was missing in the lineup at the time and they probably already had a couple of goats – but they ended up sponsoring a herd of llamas.

Affectionately known as the Dally Llamas

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