I’m a big fan of the work that Heart of the City do, and Auckland Restaurant Month is fabulous – lots of special menus and events. Wine AKL was one of the smaller events of the month. When it popped up in my email there were two things that made me like it immediately. It was $25 to go (earlybird) and that came with 5 x tasting tokens (I think) plus glass – excellent! Forgot to buy the earlybird but that’s ok, at $30 it was still a good deal especially with the first few tastes included.
I have to have an event rant here. There are some food and drink events that ask you to pay a ridiculous entry fee, then bleed you dry once you get in. The essential *festival glass* is thrust upon you for additional cash, and stall holders usually charge for food and drink at prices similar to what you would pay in an expensive restaurant. You will eat using sub-standard recycled eco-friendly utensils. Stall holders are usually stressed due to having to make back the fees event organisers charge them to be present, along with all the logistics of getting their kitchen and supplies in the venue. Added to that is the pressure of serving a hungry and thirsty crowd of impatient twats. You will queue for everything – food, drink and portaloos. If you can find a spot to sit down amongst the rubbish on plastic outdoor furniture you’re lucky. My preferred option is to go for a wonderful meal in a proper restaurant where you have a seat at a table! People serve you! You get real cutlery! Sometimes the toilets even have nice smelling hand cream! Perhaps this is a sign I’m getting old.
Anyways Wine AKL was a total dream, armed with tokens and glass I headed into the event with my wine friend Claire, she is a total pro. Writes for winesearcher even, which is like a wine encyclopaedia! At professional tastings you spit, at consumer ones like this not really. Before I get too far I’m telling you now I’m writing this entirely from memory assisted by tweets I wrote at the time, and was probably drunk by the end of the session.
Why are wine tastings great? They give you a chance to try all those crazy new wines that you think you might like, but don’t want to chance. There’s nothing worse than blowing your cash on an entire bottle of average. Often the wines on tasting aren’t available by the glass, or in this case came from lots of smaller producers who are a little harder to get. It’s all about tasting as much as you can, chatting to the producers who can tell you all about the wine and how it’s made. As a general rule it’s recommended to start with whites, then finish on the reds. You don’t want to blow your taste buds out too early in the game.
All the tastes were reasonable priced at around $3.50 – $5.50, and there was even a series of master classes for the hardcore run by several heavy hitters including a NZ vs Oz taste off with Bob Campbell and Nick Stock, there was another on Pinot Noir and one on Italian varietals – for these you pay a little extra. There were also a few mini sessions too, one of them titled along the lines of, Is Riesling the greatest grape variety in the world? I asked Claire if she thought we should go, she pointed out that we already knew he answer to that question (which is like yah, Riesling is the greatest grape variety evaaa <3). We ended up dropping by and got poured a lovely range of Rieslings from a few NZ producers while Nick Stock and a rep from each producer spoke about how great Riesling really is for about 15 minutes. That was free! We were so happy!
We started off with a walk around, the producers were organised by region which was extremely sensible and appreciated. Because there was someone doing freshly shucked oysters and bubbles I made us stop there for the first wine of the tasting. Yum! First proper stop was Pyramid Valley from South Canterbury, one of those crazy bio-dynamic, organic producers that I’d had at Golden Dawn and perhaps another wee bar (The Peach Pit?). When the hippies get into wine sometimes it’s not good, just because it’s made according to the moon cycle doesn’t mean it’s great wine. In this case it was awesome! Their Chenin Blanc was totally delicious – this variety is common in South African, but not so much here. Excellent. I’m fairly certain I tried their Chardonnay too, and something else but I can’t remember. My overall feeling about them was extremely positive. Elegant seems to come to mind?
We headed to Neudorf to take on their Riesling. It was good. Their label is so 80s it’s great. Moving on we headed to FROMM I’m not sure if they’re organic, but they do practice sustainable winemaking. I tried their off-dry semi-spritzy Riesling, a good palate cleanser, refreshing and low alcohol. I call this an exceptionally good breakfast wine. Tried something else too, again can’t remember.
Next up was the Kari Kari Chardonnay, which is based just out of Auckland. It was pretty good, but nothing overly memorable for me here, hence no photo.
It was time to change tack and get into the Pinot Noirs, this is a wine that New Zealand tends to make pretty well so we were in good hands. Unfortunately here is where my memory starts to go. So I will continue the bulk of this story in pictures, I remember really loving the Ostler and one of the Auntsfield‘s, and I got to meet Larry McPinot!
Apparently he’s a bit of a legend, I also remember thinking ‘The Edge’ was really great value. We did go back to the FROMM for their red, and enjoyed a few of the Rod McDonald Wines which were really great, the name was distracting and made me think of Ronald McDonald/Old Mc Donald had a farm musical mash-ups.
Then we bumped into an ex-colleague of Claire’s and tasted a few from the Marisco stable, how cool are their king series labels?
Then something great happened, with a bit of magic we made it into the Italian tasting with visiting US expert Shelly Lindgren. She took us through a wonderland of Italian varietals, Claire was losing her shit over the Tiganello – which is famous for being one of the first “super Tuscans”. I was just excited to be there, the line up was great, tried some amazing wines I’d never had before before but I just can’t remember anything. I wish I’d taken some notes.
The last thing you do after any wine tasting is have a beer and fries. The end.