A Wine Writers View on the World of Wine. Formerly Magics Wine Guide and Reviews for Newbies
Occupation? Wine commenter
How did you get into wine?
Osmosis really, as I was dragged around France back in the late 70’s by my dad, whose passion was bigger than the industry itself. We had wine served at every lunch and dinner, although most of it went untouched. These two key events are what sparked my interest in wine, but it took until I was 23 to appreciate it.
What is your favourite grape?
It changes depending on mood, but it is more often than not Pinot Noir. I love the fickle nature of the grape, and when made well its truly expressive of terroir.
What is your favourite wine?
Slightly different to my favourite grape, it would have to be Chateau de Chanoines 1998.
Do you have a country of preference?
How do you enjoy wine? With food, on its own, social etc?
I love wine no matter what the occasion, it’s so versatile that there is a wine for every occasion.
What influences your wine choices? Price, occasion,season etc.
It’s multifactorial, I tend to drink more red in Winter, more white in Summer, friends appreciation of wine, and what I’m eating are all decisions I make when deciding what wine to drink.
Champagne! Over priced in the current climate?
No, definitely not, they have a product that people are still willing to purchase no matter what the economics are like. It’s where any wine producing country would like to get to, but very few are able to retain their price points.
How do you think sparkling wines now fare against them?
New Zealand is making some cracking examples of methode traditionelle, but also France does too. I love the Blanquette de Limoux and cremant de Bourgogne as much as I love New Zealand bubbles.
Are boutique wineries the way forward?
If you’d have asked me that last year the answer would have been a resounding yes, today I’m more measured. I do feel that they tend to be more genuine, but they also cut corners and sell themselves out just as much as alarge scale winery.
Some of the Bordeaux first growth chateaux make 20,000 cases, few New Zealand wineries make that much. Also some larger wineries pave the way into new markets, and the smaller boutique wineries can ride on their coat tails.
So how did a guy from Blighty (England, just in case people were wondering) end up making a name for himself in New Zealand?
I studied winemaking at EIT in Hawke’s Bay, then owned a retail store, created a video diary of all the tastings and then it just evolved into spots on national radio stations, articles in newspapers, and my site attracting lots of attention for the no bullshit reviews.
It’s been reported recently that it’s now cheaper to buy Kiwi wines in the UK than in New Zealand. What’s your take on this?
Sad really, the excise tax on wine in New Zealand makes it difficult for wineries to make any money these days. This coupled with the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and contracting markets has made it increasingly difficult for wineries and so many are selling wine whatever the cost just for cash flow.
There will be a rebalance in the future, but at the expense of many wineries.
Do you think this will affect how people purchase their wines in future? e.g. maybe buy cheaper, inferior products, or look to other countries to buy their wines from.
This is a difficult question to answer. I believe that if New Zealand wine is made to a chemical formula then it’s at risk of being copied in countries that can make it cheaper. The consumer who is buying at the sub six pound range is generally buying on price alone, so they will inherently buy from whatever country has the cheapest wines on sale in the varieties that they like.
Are retailers doing enough to educate the public on wine? I don’t mean health wise.
Many retailers offer onsite wine tastings, emails, and a variety of other marketing stuff, but few have managed to educate through social media.
Gary Vaynerchuk was an inspiration of mine, I didn’t like his loud American way, but he had a palate that was intune with my own, and he took me on an American wine adventure, he also educated me to American wines that would have otherwise remained a mystery.
It’s through new media channels that wine retail can engage with a new audienc and in the process make some real money.
What do you think the wine industry needs to improve on?
Well, the list is long. Adopting new ways of communicating, speaking to the consumer not to them as a cash cow. Telling people the history of wine, the passion and dedication that went into the wine they are drinking, the story of the land, teach the consumer about terroir.
People are educated about these facets because the large modern wineries have no story to tell and they are owned by massive conglomerates.
Wine writers need to get out of supermarkets pockets and tell the real story of wine.
Which wines, countries or regions do you think are worth keeping an eye on for the future?
What tips do you have to anyone looking at getting into the wine trade?
Do it, just just dip your toes in, just dive in headfirst and that way you’ll meet some incredible people along the way. Don’t be afraid to question what and why people are doing, what wine comes from what region, everyone has to start somewhere.
What’s the best thing, for you, about wine?
It’s all about the people, the people in the industry, on the whole, are quite amazing. Most are doing it out of passion than a drive to make millions.
The move to organics and biodynamics excites me. New Zealand is slow to get on the boat, but it’ll get there soon enough.
In wine terminology, how would you describe yourself?
I’m probably a bit of a mystery bottle, I was tight and closed to start with but always had potential! When I reach that potential the world should look out, until then carry on as you were.
Thank you Jayson for your thoughts.
You can listen to Jayson in his guest slot on the Radio Wammo Breakfast Show with Glenn Williams at Kiwi FM every Friday morning around 9.30am, New Zealand time, or Thursday, 10.30pm, UK time.