Thirsty work: Wines worth watching

By Colleen Thorpe

Wine writer Yvonne Lorkin is taking to our television screens with a new series called Thirsty Work. It's a show that unearths some of the personalities behind New Zealand's successful and innovative wine and beverage industry.

The seven-episode series (which debuts on Food TV on August 15, 9.30pm) soaks up New Zealand's beverage landscape. Not just vineyards, but barrel halls, tank rooms, cellar doors, wine stores, supermarkets, breweries and backyard vignerons.

Throughout the series we get to share the stories and passion of each producer, all whilst taking our taste buds on a tiki-tour around some of the country's most jaw-dropping locations.

"I really wanted to create a show that encourages people to look beyond what's in their glass and connect with what they're drinking on a personal level," says Yvonne, "to reveal that there's a person, a family and often quite a hard-case story behind that bottle that you've just bought."

Lorkin adds, "But the other priority is to make viewers feel more confident about buying and tasting wine, to increase their knowledge of food and wine matching and to give them some handy hints about how to sound flash in front of their friends."

Is this your first time before the camera?

No. I used to host a music video show many years ago on Auckland's MaxTV back in the mid-1990s and I've fronted a few commercials over the years.

How long does it take to make one programme?

It's a bit of a moving beast really. We were really lucky that in the early stages we weren't under any pressure from the network to deliver by a certain date, so we could take our time getting the best footage possible and finding the best team of editors etc ... but we started filming for the series on November 30 last year and we're debuting on August 15 - so it's taken a fair bit of time to make seven episodes.

Are you nervous in front of the camera ... or a natural?

I'm always nervous just before "action" is called, but once I start things tend to flow reasonably naturally, I guess - hopefully I'm not too wooden on screen. I try to imagine the camera lens is actually another person watching and listening to me rather than a machine.

Did you have to have a lot of retakes? Tell us a funny moment from one of these.

My middle name is re-take. I had a really embarrassing moment when we were shooting on an incredible hillside vineyard overlooking Lake Dunstan in Central Otago. The weather had been crazy all day, snow, wind, rain, you name it and we were running out of time to interview the vineyard owners. Suddenly there was a break in the clouds, the wind dropped and we had just minutes to do our interview.

We set up the shot, everything was ready to go, our director called "action", I looked at the camera, opened my mouth to speak and an enormous insect flew right down my throat. I was gagging, running around and waving for water and no one knew what on earth was wrong with me - it was gross, embarrassing and all caught on camera.

What's the best and worst thing about filming?

For me the best thing is everything I'm learning about the process of making television, and the buzz I get seeing my ideas on screen. The worst? Not being able to afford an on-location makeup artist - I'm always paranoid about my mascara running or my hair being too flat or spiky-uppy.

What is one drink you wouldn't touch ... and why?

I'm not a fan of sambuca. I hate the stuff. It reminds me of tacky nightclubs, cheesy bartenders and out-of-control hens' nights.

Have you got a favourite wine?

That's like asking me to choose between my children. But I adore the great New Zealand sparkling wines i.e. Quartz Reef, No.1 Family Estate, Morton Estate, Deutz, Pelorus, Nautilus, Palliser and Hunter's Miru Miru.

Is it really important to match food and wine?

It's depressing when a great dish is ruined by the wrong wine or vice versa but it's hardly the end of the world. It's nice to have some basic food and wine matching skills and some sure-fire combinations - but the fun is in the experiment.

A lot of people say 'I'd love to be a wine writer', but there's a lot more to it than just drinking wine. Tell us about it ...

There's a lot more to it indeed. But I really, really love my job and am incredibly fortunate to be in this business. I taste a lot of wine every week, but I don't think I drink more than the average person as I'm spitting out practically every mouthful after making my notes.

What's left in the bottles that I buy or are sent to me by wineries is usually given away to visitors, neighbours, my hairdresser, the teachers at my children's school, anybody in fact. I hate the idea of tipping a bottle of wine down the sink, even if it's not to my taste, someone else may really enjoy it, and someone has worked hard to produce it.

I'm a big believer in putting your palate on the line if you're a wine writer and for me that means putting your name forward to judge at wine shows.

It's all very well for me to recommend wines that I think are great each week to thousands of people via my newspaper column, but if my taste buds don't stack up to those of my peers in the industry (winemakers etc ... ) then problems could arise.

It's a necessary skill to be able to identify when faults occur in wines and what separates an average wine from a bronze, silver or gold medal winner - this then translates directly to my star ratings in my column.

Plus when you judge regularly you pick up knowledge, you see changes in wine styles/varieties and trends, and you very quickly become aware of areas where your palate may be challenged.

I've learned that while I'm a bit of a ninja at picking up cork taint and the presence of Brettanomyces in a wine, I struggle to detect volatile acidity so I have to work on that.

Plus, judging gives me a chance to go in to bat for the consumer because they're my employer, essentially.

I will always fight for a wine that may not necessarily be technically correct for the class its been entered in but has fantastic drinkability, because that's important.

What three New Zealand foods are top of your list?

Only three? This is tough, but it would have to be Whitestone Windsor Blue Cheese, Bluff oysters and whitebait.

Tell us three things about yourself people may not know or may be surprised to learn.

One, that I'm a karate nut (yes, Seido Karate dojo in Christchurch, I will be back at training soon).

Two, I have a severely deviated septum which I'm too paranoid to have operated on in case it damages my sense of smell.

Three, I used to own a voice-over agency supplying voice talent for TV and radio ads and I still really like doing accents and character voices and stuff. And look out if you line up next to me at the mum's 100m sprint race on sports day at school - because it is on. (Oh, that's four - sorry.)

How do you relax?

Fishing and cooking and watching television shows about fishing and cooking.

Oh, and I like pruning things, roses, shrubs, anything ... give me some secateurs and I'm happy.

- Hamilton News

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