Attending an MW Education Seminar is hard work. Most of the students wouldn’t have sat for 10 hours a day in a classroom for some time and the stress of five days packed with formal blind wine tastings, intense theory sessions and lectures from renowned experts (Jean Guillaume Prats and Professor Dr Monika Christmann this year) tests even the strongest mettle. Add in the vibrant after hours programme and only those with stamina succeed. The European Stage One students look forward all week to the final day, a chance to escape the classroom and travel to Vienna’s Palais Coburg. The Palais hosts a tutored tasting and this year it was titled “The Great Whites from Austria”. We enjoyed wines from Weinguts Pfaff,[…]

The modern wine industry should be able to evolve quickly and even regions and producers full of history and tradition have learned to adapt and innovate to respond to external pressures, be they climate, market or consumer driven. As a wine commentator and educator, one of the best (and most challenging) things about working with wine is the need to keep myself up to date. So how could I refuse the opportunity to stand in an Austrian vineyard, in minus 9C temperatures, to learn how to gentle prune? The nine winegrowers who make up the Austrian Pannobile association were brave enough to let 45 x Stage One MW students loose in their vineyards. My group went to Weingut Paul Achs, a biodynamic[…]

(apologies for the blurry  photo – I couldn’t locate the ones I took myself so had to snitch from the Kumeu River website). The annual invitation to taste the new releases from Kumeu River usually involves driving out to the Brajkovich family winery in West Auckland. This year the venue was the only-just-reopened O’Connell Street Bistro – a lovely setting to be certain – though I couldn’t help but be disappointed we’d miss out on Melba Brajkovich’s famous wood fired steak and roast potato lunch.

As I’m up to my ears in wine all week, I don’t make a habit of visiting producers on my days off. But a long standing invitation to taste the wines made by one of my students, Alex Perez, at Tantalus Estate on Waiheke Island proved irresistible. With relatives visiting from New York and a sunny Auckland day in store, we took the ferry across the harbour.

  Human life depends upon the soil and yet we abuse it, degrade it, pour endless indelible chemicals upon it and suck the very life from it. Crazy, no? And yet apparently it’s people who practise organic and biodynamics who are the crazy ones. Yes that’s right, it’s those people who nurture, value and place soil above all else who are crazy. Who knew? Not me. But I must be crazy too as I happen to think they have the right way of doing things.   Last year I was fortunate to be a guest of Marlborough’s MANA wineries and attend the inaugural Organic & Biodynamic Conference in Blenheim. What I saw made me think that this has to be[…]

The start of the 2016 Decanter World Wine Awards judging week did not bode well. I’d been excused judging on the first day (not enough NZ entries apparently) so was catching up on emails when I received a fraught text from Emma asking me if I could venture out buy her something warm to wear as Tobacco Dock was ‘freezing’. It was no hardship to dash off to Uniqlo for a padded jacket and it was money well spent (Emma’s) as it snowed the next day. Snow. In April.

A flying visit to Porto meant an opportunity to go to the Douro, a region I’ve always wanted to explore, but never made the time. A new motorway takes you most of the way there but the final 30 minutes is on roads so winding, they make the road over the Rimutakas look like the home straight on a Grand Prix circuit. It was queasy stomachs a go-go by the time we arrived at Quinta do Noval. Thankfully we were all back up to full strength pretty smartly. Have you ever been somewhere that was EXACTLY how you imagined it would be? Vertiginous slopes, walled terraced vineyards clinging to every slope, the river meandering down below. Red tiled, white washed[…]