Cheers: Pamper your palates

By Don Kavanagh

Knowing the story behind the label certainly enhances the whole wine-drinking experience.
Knowing the story behind the label certainly enhances the whole wine-drinking experience.

It's interesting going to wine events around Auckland. You'd think, wouldn't you, that with almost one third of the country's population living here, winemakers would be falling over themselves to get their product to the public, but there doesn't seem to be that many of them, or at least there didn't.

It's getting a lot better now and events like the Winter Warmup in Victoria Park a few weeks ago was a great event. Wineries took over the empty market units and offered a pop-up wine festival that covered most of the wine-producing regions of the country and saw big names like Villa Maria strutting their stuff next to more boutique producers like Spade Oak and Milcrest.

Just this week I've been to a great expo of Wairarapa wines, where icons like Martinborough Vineyard and Ata Rangi presented their wines alongside smaller operations like Lynfer, Paulownia and Gladstone.

What is great about these events is that you don't just get to try the wines, although that is pretty much the entire point of being there.

You also get to meet the people behind the wines, which is almost as important.

It does make a difference to be able to drink a wine after meeting the person who grew the grapes or made the wine.

It adds a nice depth to your appreciation of the wine and knowing the story behind the label is much better when you hear that story from the owner, rather than the marketing department.

So, I'm elated with the amount of wine events happening here but I wonder how well advertised they are.

The public response to such tastings can be iffy. Some attract hundreds, others are somehow less appealing.

And there is the suspicion that these tastings are advertised to existing customers of wineries via mailing lists rather than trying to convert the non-regular wine drinker.

One event I am looking forward to is the Waiheke Island of Wine Expo on September 17. It's at the Floating Pavilion, so it's a cracking venue and the line-up is fantastic, with 17 wineries taking part. It's a great opportunity to get familiar with Waiheke wines in a way that won't break the bank.

I'm going through a bit of a Waiheke wine obsession after having had some mouth-wateringly lovely wine from there recently.

When I first tasted wines from Waiheke, about 18 years ago, I was astonished not so much at the quality of the wine as to how on earth they could get away with charging so much for it.

I know that wine is a capital-intensive business and small production means big prices, but there was certainly an element of having to pay a premium simply because the word Waiheke was printed on the label.

I've changed my tune pretty radically down the years. The prices can still be right up there, but the level of quality has increased so markedly that you hardly wince at the price tag and several of my current favourite wines manage to pack exquisite quality into a reasonably priced bottle.

So, if you are not on any mailing lists and would like to try some of the loveliest wines currently residing in a bottle, check out the Herald's event website at www.events.nzherald.co.nz and make sure you make the most of this opportunity.

- Herald on Sunday

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