Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Winetopia worked wonders for morale

How was Winetopia? A winemaker asked me last night at a friend’s house at the end of a long weekend which I spent hosting eight sessions of indepth wine sessions at the event. The sessions ranged from 20 minute blind tastings to masterclasses, stage talks and even a food matching session with Jamie, chef and owner of Olive Cafe in Cuba Street, Wellington

Talks included Why Dry Riesling Rocks (and I included a medium dry wine to show that ‘dry’ is a relative term when it comes to the balance of acidity with residual grape sugar in this great white wine). And it was no surprise to find that most people who attended the 20 minute Riesling talk left it happily armed with a newfound appreciation for a wine that is so often dismissed due to being completely misunderstood. I’m not about to predict a Riesling revival any time soon or any time at all, for that matter. More left over for those of us who do love it, but it was a real privilege to have the chance to put great Rieslings in front of wine lovers who were open minded to not only try great Rieslings but to hear why they are worth revisiting. Riesling is not all sweet and not about gloopy texture or over the top flavours; it is one of the most refreshing white wines on Earth, along with Verdicchio and Chenin Blanc, for me. Two other vastly under rated wines, but I digress. It was also a privilege to host a master class called the Power of Pinot, another titled Why you should drink Marlborough Pinot. Why not? So many great winemakers in Marlborough have headed for the hills to plant Pinot Noir on sloping sites where ripeness is both intensified and staggered, and the results are staggering. Just think of Astrolabe, Auntsfield, Dog Point Vineyards, Fromm, Giesen, Greywacke, Nautilus, Whitehaven, Zephyr… there are many more, too numerous to name in this mini round up of what turned out to be an outstanding, power packed two days of Winetopia in Wellington this year.

The event was originally scheduled for July and was cancelled due to Covid-19. It was then rescheduled for October, which had both organisers and presenters on tenterhooks, wondering if it would be allowed to go ahead, what with looming threats of more outbreaks.

Thank the great guru in the sky that it did.

Winetopia surprised, amazed and exhausted me, all in good measure, mostly due to the genuine interest of those who paid to attend. It’s always fun to be asked to talk about a subject I love, but so much more rewarding when those listening have profound questions and thoughts of their own to throw in the ring. So, here’s a toast to organiser Rob Elliott and his talented, hard working Winetopia team.