Earlier this month, the Australian recipients of the New Zealand Wine Sommelier Scholarship returned from more than 10 days across the ditch on an intensive programme that included Sommit™, the International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration in Marlborough and the Chardonnay and Sparkling Wine Symposium in Gisborne.

First launched in association with Sommeliers Australia in 2015, the scholarship has become a global initiative with representatives from Asia, Canada, Europe, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates, the UK joining the five Australian scholars – Matthew Dunne (Solotel), Emma Farrelly (State Buildings), Stephanie Jacob (Supernormal), David Murphy (One Penny Red) and Bridget Raffal (Sixpenny).

The 1½ day Sommit™ event held in Hawke’s Bay was a celebration of the lesser known aspects of New Zealand wine, with a particular emphasis on the facets that resonate with the sommelier community. Highlights included contrasting young and aged Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, smaller plantings including Albarino, Fiano, Gruner Veltliner, Gamay, St Laurent, Tempranillo and Lagrein and a bracket of aged Riesling and Syrah.

From Hawke’s Bay, scholars travelled to Marlborough for the three-day International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration to explore the complexity of New Zealand’s flagship variety, emerging styles, vineyard practices, winemaking influences and future trends. Three themes; Place, Purity and Pursuit anchored the content. ‘Place’ drew on Tūrangawaewae, the geographical places we feel empowered and connected to. ‘Purity’ explored topics such as climate, sustainability and flavour. The final day – ‘Pursuit’ – explored what the New Zealand industry and its stakeholders should pursue domestically and globally, outlining future challenges and opportunities.

A special low altitude charter from Blenheim over Nelson, Martinborough and Hawke’s Bay provided the means to get to Gisborne for the Chardonnay and Sparkling Wine Symposium – a day exploring Chardonnay clones and styles, yeasts, malolactic fermentation and reduction and the evolution of New Zealand sparkling wine – three sessions not for the faint of heart!

The Australian scholars are now tasked with putting together a list of wines that most inspired them from the hundreds tasted to share with you in our Pure Discovery workshops in May / June 2019.

Keep an eye on the Sommeliers Australia website for dates or emailnatalie.grace@nzwine.com to be added to the mailing list.