Mistress of wine comes to NZ

This column was first published as Cheers in Living magazine in The Herald on Sunday, Auckland, New Zealand, 16 August 2015.

She buys wine for the queen, she was the first journalist in the world to pass the difficult ‘Master of Wine’ qualification and she has over 246,000 Facebook likes on her website – and, now, Jancis Robinson is coming to New Zealand.
Her name may not be a household word for all Kiwis, but Robinson is regarded in wine circles as the most influential critic in the English speaking world; and throughout Asia. And her trip to these shores is good news for pinot noir producers in this country. Her presence is likely to ensure a high turnout at Pinot Noir 2017; an event that is open to all and held every four years on Wellington’s waterfront. The 2017 event was originally scheduled for January 2016, but was bumped forward by a year to make way for the first New Zealand International Sauvignon Blanc conference in Marlborough, in early 2016. Confused?
Well, the organisers of both events thought that it would be too much to ask wine drinkers, wine makers and others (such as writers) to attend two big wine events in one week, so now it will be Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough at the start of 2016 and then Robinson will come to Wellington at the start of 2017; and Pinot Noir lovers can hear her speak and drink Pinot Noir to their heart’s content.

PS (this part wasn’t in the original column and I am adding it now): In 2013, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir together accounted for 73% of grapes grown in New Zealand; that is a lot of eggs to have in one basket, even if global demand for both of these wines is at unprecedented success levels. Wine is now New Zealand’s sixth biggest export earner and, as such, it deserves to be regarded as a good news story for this country – rather than a bad news health-averse one. We can learn as a nation to drink in moderation and incorporate alcohol into our lives in a positive cultural way, as the Europeans have some for millennia. Lion New Zealand is one of this country’s largest alcohol producing companies and it has now launched an initiative aimed at doing just this; it is called Enlighten and it is in bars now, which have Enlighten menus of drinks that contain significantly less than one standard ‘drink’ (that’s the amount the human body can metabolise in an hour). It is a small step in a very positive direction. Watch this space.

Drink of the week

What: 2014 Matawhero Gisborne Chardonnay

How much: $18-$23

From: Glengarry’s stores

Why: It’s a damned tasty ripple in the new chardonnay wave; the trend towards crisper chardonnays which have more citrusy flavours, higher acidity and still retain a full bodied smoothness. If you’re a big buttery chardonnay fan, check out this wine’s big sibling; the 2014 Matawhero Reserve Gisborne Chardonnay – all the bells and you-know-whats are present and counted.