Malcolm Jolley accompanies Jamie Drummond to Flavours of New Zealand 2018 and finds some new and old friends among some delicious wines.

Jamie and I attended the recent Flavours of New Zealand tasting this month in Toronto. Jamie’s mission: interview as many NZ wine producers as he could that afternoon, during the trade tasting. My mission: walk the floor, taste some wine and take a few pictures while doing it. For once I drew the long straw (though I think we’d both agree we enjoyed the show very much either way). Flavours of New Zealand was divided into two parts, for trade (mostly sommeliers and wine journalists – the popular consumer tasting was held in the evening.) The first part, held at the beginning of the afternoon, was a ‘Aromatic Discovery Tasting’, which was hosted by Master Sommelier Jennifer Huether. Huether adopted a typically Kiwi casual approach to the ‘seminar’ (pictured above), laying out bottles of NZ Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and even Albariño for people to self pour: participants had a guide book of the wines to refer to, and the Master Sommelier herself to ask questions of. The result was a boisterous, dare I say fun, and ultimately informative session, since it encouraged conversation among us. A great start.

The County Pourer Lynn Abernathy and CAPS Ontario’s Kim Gertler take a pause from the seminar.

The second part was a more traditional walk around tasting. While there were many notable exceptions, the main theme of this year’s show were Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, which have each become the respective white and red calling cards of the New Zealand wine industry. As a journalist, I thought it was particularly interesting that a good plurality, if not majority, of the wines shown were around the $20 price point for whites, and $30 for the Pinots. While there were certainly a few outliers, like the famous and expensive Old World style Cloudy Bay and a remarkable non-oaked Chardonnay from Kim Crawford that tastes like a wine priced at double it’s current rate, the wines generally showed very well in a clean and precise way, that wines from New Zealand so often do. If there was a poorly made wine at the show, I didn’t taste it.

Here are some of the characters I saw and met over the afternoon…

Rachel Spencer, Second Secretary, Trade and Economic, New Zealand High Commission, Ottawa, is flanked by Georgian Hills vigneron Robert Ketchin and GFR’s resident mad Scotsman. For many, many years Robert Ketchin was the man in Canada promoting New Zealand wines, and while his own winery project has grown into a more than full-time occupation, he is as passionate about NZ wine as ever.

Jennifer Huether MS pauses from discussing the finer points of aromatic New Zealand wines with importer Justin Foxcroft from Vintage Trade and Vinexx.

Jordan Clark from Lifford Wines & Spirits finds a quiet corner to talk to Andrea Backstrom, the ‘A’ and one half of the dymanic duo at A+M Consulting and Communications, who ran the show and helps the New Zealand Winegrowers in Canada.

The ‘M’ in M+A, Melissa Stunden introduces Jamie to Rhys Julian from the Giesen Wine Estate to set-up an interview (stay tuned to GFR…).

Master Sommeliers must attract as two-fisted John Szabo MS was seen lurking over the Riesling table.

Angie Aiello from iYellow Wine Club toasts Jascha Baraness, Sr. Manager for Restaurant and Beverage Serives at the CN Tower.

Jamie gets into a pre-interview discussion about winemaking in the Atawere Valley with Michiel Eradus from Eradus Wines.

As the seminar began to wind down and the main room began to fill up, Tony Aspler CM began to make his rounds.

A familiar sight to me: Jamie interviewing the wine trade, Rhys Julian from Giesen.

Greg MacDonald is an affable and knowledgeable man who is the category manager for New World wines  at a small boutique retail operation called Vintages at the LCBO.

Importer Andrew von Teichman, of Vonterra, happily poured the Toi Toi Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Central Otago Pinot Noir for the crowds.

Geoff McFadeon from Lion gets up close and personal in between pouring the crisp bubbles of Lindauer’s North Island Classic Brut Sparkling.

Food and wine writer Alison Kent surveys the scene looking for a scoop, or possibly just a glass of Kim Crawford Rosé.

Rogers & Co.’s Harris Davidson and Kyle MacQuarrie flank Simon Waghorn, winemaker and proprietor of Astrolabe Wines, that poured some of the more interesting vineyard specific Marlborough wines.

Last but by absolutely no means least, the fantastic vigneron Erica Crawford (right). Erica is also known as the wife and partner of winemaker Kim Crawford, who left the winery that still bears his name to co-found Loveblock Wines with her. She stands with her angent Anne Jasper of The Vine. Jamie’s interview with Erica Crawford is the first one he’s released from Flavours of New Zealand at GFR: click here to watch it now.

Good Food Revolution attended Flavours of New Zealand as a guest of New Zealand Wines, a Good Food Fighter. Please support the businesses and organizations that support Good Food Revolution.