Joelle Thomson Writer

Author, journalist, speaker

Month: July 2018 (page 1 of 3)

How to forage in cities… start with lunch at Auckland event

Food & Wine Event 

Celia Hay, founder of the Food & Wine Event and the New Zealand School of Food & Wine in Auckland

Food foraging is hot right now but how do you live the forage dream in an urban environment?

A day long event in Auckland this year has the answer to that question and a whole lot more, says Food & Wine Event director Celia Hay, when talking about the  Urban Forage Lunch she has planned for Saturday 18 August at the New Zealand School of Food & Wine.

The lunch will focus on fresh foraged ingredients,, how to identify, find and prepare them And the forage lunch is just one of the sessions at the W&F Celebration, now in its fifth year.

It’s the brainchild of Celia Hay, founder and director of the New Zealand School of Food & Wine.

She’s on a mission to empower people through learning and to champion the finer points of an industry she is passionate about – food, wine and hospitality.

This year’s Food & Wine Event also includes cooking classes, wine tastings by industry professionals and a new Auckland wine competition, which will award three top wines made exclusively from grapes grown in the region.

Lynnette Hudson, winemaker for Tongue in Groove Wines and wine tutor

This year’s wine tastings include a natural tasting, talk and discussion by winemaker Lynnette Hudson of Tongue in Groove Wines, who is also the consultant winemaker for Pyramid Valley and a tutor at the school.

And I will present an hour long tasting on one of this country’s most underrated grapes, Chenin Blanc, which has a small but strong fan club. Chenin Blanc was once one of New Zealand’s leading grape varieties but today there are just 22 hectares of Chenin remaining in the ground in this country. It is big in South Africa, however, where it is the most planted grape variety and it is also the great white of the Loire Valley in France. This tasting will compare and contrast wines from all three countries, looking at the vast range of styles possible with this versatile white grape.

NZ Sommelier of the Year and Junior Sommelier of the Year

This year’s day-long food and wine event also includes a significant hospitality  industry competition that Celia Hay has been instrumental in reviving – the New Zealand Sommelier and Junior Sommelier of the Year Competition.

Both aspects of the competition are open to those working with wine in the hospitality trade. Those who compete in the New Zealand Sommelier and Junior Sommelier of the Year Competition have the chance to learn the tricks of the New York hospitality trade from Master Sommelier Jonathan Ross, who will take a masterclass for New Zealand sommeliers.

Ross will share secrets from his time at Eleven Madison Park restaurant in New York, which was placed first in the World’s 50 best restaurants in 2017. He will talk about his time there, the value of being a member of the New York Sommelier community and why he pursued a career in hospitality.

Auckland Wine of Origin Trophy

Master of Wine Bob Campbell will lead a session on wine judging, wine competitions and the process of how to become a wine judge.

“Together, we will then taste a selection of Auckland wines made from grapes grown exclusively in this area. The top wines (a white, a red and a sparkling) will be awarded the inaugural New Zealand School of Food and Wine Auckland Wine of Origin Trophy,” says Hay.

Wineries attending

Wineries, importers and distributors attending this year include Loveblock, Pegasus Bay, MacVine, Mt Michael, Greystone, Clos Marguerite, Giesen, Vidal, Peter Maude Fine Wines and Yealands.

Where, when and how to book

  • The Food & Wine Event is at the New Zealand School of Food & Wine on Saturday 18 August and Sunday 19 August from 12 noon to 6pm.
  • General admission tickets cost $60 per person and include entry to call events on the Sunday, including cooking demonstrations, gourmet nibbles and snacks served throughout the day and wine tastings with industry experts.

Event timetable 

Saturday 18 August

9am to 2pm Urban Forage

5pm to 9pm Foodography Dinner


Sunday 19 August

11am to 12pm – New Zealand Sommeliers and Wine Professionals

Presenter: Jonathan Ross MS

12 noon – One Dish Dinners with Celia Hay

Learn how to prepare a meal in one pan on your stove top or barbecue

1pm – Salmon Three ways with David Schofield

2pm – Discover the Great White – Chenin Blanc with Joelle Thomson

Taste deliciously diverse and ridiculously affordable Chenin Blanc

4pm – Natural wines with Lynnette Hudson

Taste wines produced with as much left to nature as possible

Monday 20 August 10am to 2.30pm –  Auckland Wine of Origin Trophy

Free of charge to members of the New Zealand Sommeliers and wine professionals, presented by Master of Wine Bob Campbell.

Can nature’s beauty change our perceptions of flavour?

If a picture speaks a thousand words, then these ones reflect nature at its breathtakingly beautiful best.

Wetjacket Arm in Fiordland was the inspiration for Greg Hay’s Wet Jacket Wines

These pictures were taken in Fiordland, New Zealand in June this year. It’s a place where it’s impossible to take a bad picture, come rain, hail or shine – and there’s plenty of seasons in each day in this remote corner of New Zealand.

The reason for the trip is wine. Not that any of it is made in this rugged and damp beauty, but a new brand is named after it.

Wet Jacket Wines is the brainchild of viticulturist Greg Hay; a nature lover, member of the Fiordland Conservation Trust and one of Central Otago’s modern wine pioneers, each in equal measure. Or perhaps his love of the great outdoors exceeds his love of wine, but, if so, Hay’s not saying. He’s just happy to bring another group of wine and food professionals to his favourite place on Earth.

He launched his new wine brand Wet Jacket Wines in 2016 from a humble cellar door housed in one of the oldest stone crofts in Otago; on the road between Lake Hayes and Queenstown. The cellar door doubles as a tasting room, summer picnic area – where better to sip rosé in the sunshine and soak up the ridiculous beauty of the dramatic mountains which surround the place. And it has a cheese room, which is devoted to one of the South Island’s best cheese brands – Whitestone from Oamaru, which makes outstanding hard aged cheddar styles and creamy bries to fresh white salty goat’s cheese, but I’m getting away from the subject at hand.

If you haven’t heard of Wet Jacket Wines, you’re in good company. It remains under the radar and probably will do for some time.

Production is pretty small. Only about 3000 cases are made each year by winemaker Pete Bartle, who doubles as the manager of VinPro in Central Otago. And since sales are nearly all from the cellar door of this evocatively named wine brand, there’s no middle man to share the profits with. It’s an unusual formula for a New Zealand wine brand these days when most sell upwards of 80 per cent of their production offshore. But it works.

So, there we were hearing all about this, cruising through Dusky Sound in Fiordland and trying to keep our jaws from dropping at the insane which-way-is-up scenery. Pictures speak louder than words down here, but every second in this place made me thankful for the journey.

It is remote. It takes a plane ride, car trip, overnight stay in Te Anau, private helicopter and dinghy to finally set foot on the launch which will be our home for the next two days, but what a ride.

Every year, Hay invites a small group of restaurateurs, wine specialists and writers (hence, yours truly) to experience the place and stay on the Pembroke – the old launch he co-owns with a group of fellow Fiordland fanatics.

The boat lives where he would like to – between Wetjacket Arm and Broughton Arm in this intensely beautiful part of the world. It’s the the second wettest place on Earth and can be so bone chillingly cold that it’s hard to believe anyone ever survived here hundreds of years ago, without the creature comforts of today. Lighting a fire alone would be a hard ask in these damp conditions. Food, however, was plentiful, thanks to the once prolific bird life, which has now been severely depleted by early settlers and the waves of pests they brought with them; it began with Polynesian rats and dogs and ended with the aggressive Norwegian rat, which is said to have decimated more birds than any other of its species.

The crazy beauty of the place did something else that I’ve only experienced in the great outdoors too – it dialled up the deliciousness of the wines we drank.

If this seems like a big claim, then all I can suggest is drinking a glass of Wet Jacket Pinot Gris or Riesling while cruising in the extreme green Sportsman’s Cove – check it out below. (The same thing once happened to me when walking the Routeburn Track with a glass of Marc Bredif Vouvray and also with a glass of Pinotage (of all things) while standing at dusk in a wild game park in South Africa.)


My favourite all all the little places we’ve been is the pragmatically named Sportsman’s Cove. It is so full of rimu trees, bonsai looking beech trees and emerald green water that it seems to transport me to a colouring in book rather than a real place.

Like the rest of Fiordland, its beauty seems magical. A little like Alice in Wonderland, I am loathe to leave this special place. But leave we must.

We’re here to taste wine, fish for food and soak up stories about the conservation work that Hay has been involved in for the past several decades. As a member of the Fiordland Conservation Trust, he is more than a little keen to ensure this beautiful Unesco World Heritage Site is kept as intact as it possibly can be.

His previous work with the trust has been heavily involved with bird translocation to preserve and build up species that have been depleted. He remains dedicated to the preservation of this wilderness, and it’s easy to see why.


He chose the name Wet Jacket Wines to bring awareness to the plight of this fragile place in an ever so subtle way. It works, if you come here to visit. And few people do. I can’t help hoping it stays that way.

Learn more about Wet Jacket Wines here:

Wine of the week… from a towering giant

Roll on 1 September… release date for this beauty – Quartz Reef Blanc de Blancs 2013

Rudi Bauer is a force to be reckoned with.

He was the first professional winemaker in Central Otago’s modern wine industry. He was the first to make a bottle fermented, traditional method (aka champagne styled) sparkling wine from the region. He is a perfectionist, having studied grape growing (viticulture) and winemaking for nine years in his homeland, Austria, before working vintages around the world and finally winging his way to New Zealand in 1985.

He was in Wellington today for a whirlwind tasting of his new wines, the pinnacle being his first Blanc de Blancs bubbly from the 2013 New Zealand vintage.

Like all Quartz Reef wines, this bubbly is biodynamically certified and made with grapes 100% grown on his own estate vineyard in Bendigo – one of Central Otago’s warmest corners. He owns 30 hectares of land there and has had Chardonnay for quite some time, but this is the first wine made from it. And what a wine. 

Wine of the week

2013 Quartz Reef Methode Traditionelle Blanc de Blancs RRP $70

All the Chardonnay grapes in this wine were grown on Quartz Reef’s estate vineyard in Bendigo and all from the outstanding 2013 vintage – one of, if not the best year for grapes in the South Island (and many parts of the north) in the past few decades. This wine is all about Central Otago’s climate, which means high but balanced acidity – and no malolactic fermentation – give this wine its beautiful vibrancy and feeling of energy… the fresh acidity provides balance to the delicious honey, savoury, fresh flavours, which finish long and tasty.

  • Today I described Rudi on a Facebook post as a dab hand at winemaking in the deep south, only to be corrected by one of his many fans – “not a dab hand – a towering giant”. And so he is, too.
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