Was really lucky to sneak in a quick chat with Matt Stafford when he was over in London recently. Between trips round all the top wine sellers in the UK he managed to spare 5 minutes for me to take about what it’s like to be a winemaker at the brilliant Craggy Range vineyard in New Zealand…
I’m not normally one for these “grape days”. Every other bloody day it’s something like Barbera Day or Pinot Gris Week or something daft like that. And you only ever hear about it the day it’s happening anyway. What use is that? Well not this week boys and girls!!
Every wine-o out there will no doubt heard of Yealands before. They are a big family wine estate with vineyards stretching all over the famous Marlborough district in New Zealand. I’ve been sent 5 bottles of their different Sauvignon Blancs and been asked to come up with something “arty” to promote them on International Sauvignon Blanc Day, this coming Friday, the 5th May. Arty? Have they met me?
Taittinger champagne and Villa Maria from New Zealand are sponsoring this year’s BAFTA awards. From anyone outside these shores that’s the British Academy of Film & Television Arts awards. It’s the big night in film and TV for the British, so only right that there’s plenty of booze on hand to celebrate and commiserate in equal measures!
When I got involved in the idea of doing this tweet up session I was a bit wary about selling out a bit too much. I’ve never really been involved in tastings for what I think to be brands. What kind of company are Villa Maria? Sure I’d tried their wines, and liked them and thought they did a great job in promoting kiwi wine. But what if they were big brand wine guys, like the Echo Falls of this world, intent on sticking stuff on the shelf without a care of the wines or the world they grow it in. Sounds a bit daft, but I genuinely worry about that kind of stuff.
I’ve probably said this before but I’m going to say it again anyway. I didn’t get in to wine off the back of trying one glass of wine and having some “eureka” moment. My path to not just seeing wine as a means to get strawpedo-style drunk was spending time with some winemakers up in the North West hills of Italy. They work their arses off for next to no money (mostly) working ridiculous hours. But they bloody love it, and that’s completely infectious!
I’ve got a wine tasting session coming up next Thursday night for Villa Maria wines. I’m doing it alongside the amazing Mel who runs NZ Wine Cellar in POP Brixton, one of the coolest places for a foodie to hang out in the whole of London. Our job yesterday was to wander round the different stalls and pair up the two wines we’re going to be focusing on with the food on offer. But where do you start pairing food to a particular wine?
This week I headed down to Thames for a wine dinner that UK wine agents, Hatch Mansfield, were putting on. Gordon Russell was over from the Esk Valley vineyards in Hawkes Bay in New Zealand. I don’t get lucky enough to drink much wine from there that often, so it was a real treat for me to head down and have go at what they’re up to.
Few wines in living memory hit the world as hard and as fast as Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Speaking as someone living the UK I’d guess that most of my mates, whether they’re wine-o’s or just having a few glasses here and there, will have drunk this eponymous white wine. In the late 90s and throughout the 2000’s it became a wine that even if you weren’t paying attention, you’d still kind of recognised it.
Lots of acidity in there, gooseberry, lychee, tropical fruits, and a lovely texture when you were swilling it round your mouth. I still remember heading down to Majestic Wine a few years back to make sure my stocks of Ned were always topped up. But what do they say about too much of a good thing?
Fast forward to these days and Kiwi wine makers are almost apologetic about it as wine drinkers now give it the same attitude as a shit 80s perm. I mean that’s just daft, that classic Kiwi style is still incredible, but I guess we’ve had our fill of it for now maybe? Well from what I tasted at the NZ Wine tasting last week, they’ve come up with a solution, or eight!
They ran a “Sauvignon Blanc” masterclass. There were 8 different glasses on the list (from what I can remember) and all of them tasted completely different. Well, I say different, they were all still the same grape, but you know what I mean. Some oaked, some smokey, some minerally, and rather than try and copy the Marlborough style to get sales volumes up, different regions round the two islands are pioneering their own take on it. Really great to see.
Keep an eye out for the new styles hitting wine lists near you soon!
Afternoon all. Hope the day’s treating you all well so far. I’ve been out and about trying to get back into my running routine despite the fact it’s knocking on 0 degrees outside at the minute. All the accounting I was talking about last week is soooo nearly there now that I can live like a normal human being again and come out of the cave that is my office.