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Queenstown Case for reconciliation grape idea

An olive branch? Sam Neill holds a case of his latest wine, Socialist Chardonnay, addressed to ex-Queenstown mayor Warren Cooper.

"Dear Warren, I hope you enjoy this wonderful wine. Thanks for the inspiration! If you're off the turps at the moment, by all means give this box to the charity of your choice. Perhaps an environmental charity would be appropriate! Cheers, Sam Neill"

Photo: Sophie Hazelhurst

Two Paddocks Picnic Socialist Chardonnay label

It appears time is indeed a great healer.

While they may not have quite kissed and made up, two old Queenstown adversaries showed yesterday they may have reached a truce.

It has been almost five years since actor Sam Neill and then Queenstown Lakes District mayor Warren Cooper engaged in a very public spat, primarily over rural subdivision in the district.

A series of insults and taunts were traded between the pair, with Neill accusing Mr Cooper's council of being out of control, and the mayor himself a “liability” who should “stay at home in front of the telly”.

Development in the Wakatipu basin had reached the point that was “incredibly short-sighted and stupid”.

Mr Cooper retorted that the actor had a “damned cheek” and should stick to film-making.

He could not stay home and watch the “telly” for fear of seeing Neill's face glaring out at him, he said.

While Neill said he was trying to speak out on behalf of ordinary New Zealanders, Mr Cooper claimed Neill was a “chardonnay socialist” who did not want to share his piece of paradise.

Yesterday, Neill gave a cheeky nod to his old opponent by sending him, “in the spirit of forgiveness”, a case of the latest label from his winery, Two Paddocks.

And the name of the wine?

Socialist Chardonnay.

In a note penned to Mr Cooper on the back of the case, Neill thanked him for the inspiration, and invited him to enjoy his “wonderful wine”.
He said if Mr Cooper did not want all the wine, he could send it to a charity of his choice — perhaps an environmental one.

Mr Cooper chuckled when contacted by the Otago Daily Times and reminded of his taunt.

“I was rude wasn't I?” he said.

“That was all part of, not exactly a feud, but an interesting debate.

“Many people took it very seriously. I'm not sure if I did.”

The case of wine perhaps showed he was ultimately the winner in the clash, he said.

Describing Neill as a “fine New Zealander”, Mr Cooper said he was looking forward to receiving the wine and probably would share some of it with a charity.

“I think his idea about giving some to an environmental charity is an excellent one.

“Maybe it's because I'm getting older, I'm getting softer.”

Mr Cooper said he would dig out a special 1975 vintage, bottled to commemorate Sir Robert Muldoon's election to Prime Minister, and send it to Neill.

© Copyright 2005, Otago Daily Times. Posted with the permission of the publisher.

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