Misha & Andy joined the annual Negociants New Zealand tour of New ZealandFor a week every year, we join our distributor along with some of New Zealand’s icon wine brands as well as some legendary wineries from Australia, and tour the country. It’s called the Negociants Fine Wine Tour and it’s all about engaging in interesting discussions on a range of wine topics through the Masterclasses as well as showcasing each winery’s range of varieties and latest vintages to both the trade customers and consumers.
Our first stop was Auckland, returning to our favourite venue -the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. Our trade session kicked off with an enthusiastic audience (and a record number attending the event) who started arriving early, keen to get through the ranges of nearly 30 wineries. Held concurrently with the trade tasting, there were also four wine Masterclasses during the afternoon.My assignment was as a panelist at the Pinot Gris Masterclass where we provided our thoughts on the variety, its place in the world and why it can, (or never can) make ‘great wine’. We presented 6 examples of the variety including a 2012 Hugel Tradition Pinot Gris to have an example from Alsace – where arguably the best examples of Pinot Gris originate. The New Zealand Pinot Gris examples ranged from vintages of 2014 back to 2009 with the oldest being from Dry River – a producer who built their reputation in New Zealand with this variety back in the 1990s where they were one of the first producers. I presented a 2010 Misha’s Vineyard Dress Circle Pinot Gris which certainly showed this variety can produce wines that age beautifully, which was also one of the topics discussed in the class. This Masterclass was presented in the four cities we visited and each time it generated interesting debate amongst attendees particularly when we came to discuss the fact that Pinot Gris is “loved by the masses but often scorned by the experts”. Before we left Auckland after our first hectic day, Andy and I decided to try one of the new Auckland eateries that’s been getting some great reviews – Little Jimmy. Located in Epsom, this suburban bar and eatery has an unpretentious feel but absolutely nails it in every aspect of their operation – no wonder it’s hard to get a booking here! Of course they have Misha’s Vineyard wine on their list with our Dress Circle Pinot Gris offered by the glass, along with a fabulous selection of premium glass pours. Little Jimmy has a policy of sourcing their food and beverages from top quality boutique New Zealand suppliers eschewing any of the dominant market players – and it’s a strategy that works well for them. Our next port of call was Tauranga and this was the first year the Negociants tour had incorporated the Bay of Plenty. There was plenty of interest in both the trade and consumer event and the Trinity Wharf Hotel was a fabulous location by the water. After a great late night dinner with the Negociants team and our fellow wineries, we were up early to fly to Wellington en masse for our next series of events. The InterContinental Hotel in Wellington was host to our series of events in the nation’s capital, and as always, was a great venue. It was good to catch up with lots of familiar faces there including Raymond Chan, who did a great write-up of most of the brands at the event on his blog. http://www.raymondchanwinereviews.co.nz/blog/negociants-nz-fine-wine-tour-2016 Our ‘travelling roadshow’ team get-together in Wellington was the Wholesale Boot Company (WBC) – a very funky first storey space- where it was Hapi Daze all ‘round (one of the Garage Project’s pale ale brews).. We knew we were going to enjoy the food at WBC when it kicked off with bowls of pork crackling and lime & chilli peanut popcorn – and the food didn’t disappoint from there! Our final early morning flight was bound for Christchurch and back to The George Hotel. We love The George – it always feels very familiar and absolutely never disappoints. Our final day of tastings and masterclasses went off without a hitch and we then celebrated the end of the tour together at Harlequin Public House where the celebrated chef Jonny Schwass cooked up a storm for us! The great thing about travelling with the wineries on the Negociants portfolio is that you get to chat with some of the legends of the Australian and New Zealand wine scene – some of the New Zealand brands include Greywacke, Palliser, Rippon, Two Paddocks, Vinoptima and Saint Clair – and from Australia there are iconic brands like Brokenwood, Henschke, Jim Barry, Langmeil, and Vasse Felix. And during our evening dinners, each winery brings some wine to share with the group over dinner so it’s a fantastic way to educate and expand one’s palate. And it’s pretty nice being able to ask Johann (as in, Johann Henschke) to pass down the bottle of Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz, for another top up! It’s always sad to finish the Negociants tour – it’s always an incredibly busy week but we get to see so many trade and consumers around the country and get to discuss interesting wine topics in our Masterclasses – and most importantly we have fun! There is an incredible camaraderie with the Negociants team and all the wine producers they represent. We love being part of the Negociants New Zealand portfolio and feel very fortunate to be part of their ‘family’. They took on Misha’s Vineyard at the very outset and I remember Clive Weston, the MD, telling me there were three things he looked for in any new addition to their portfolio: great wine; a great label; and people you enjoy ‘breaking bread’ with. This was the 7th time we’ve been part of the annual Negociants roadshow and have enjoyed ‘breaking bread’ with them every time!