The WineFolio Crystal Ball

Warning – none of this is to be taken too seriously… but I sat at the weekend, at the end of the first month of 2021 – with COVID knocking on our door again – and wondered what the next year has in store for the New Zealand – in the bits where our world of wine and tourism intersect.

First off, let’s think about wine tourism. I reckon the borders will be closed for the rest of the year.

If the vaccination program goes well and we don’t have a massive leak of the virus out of our MIQ – like is currently happening as we speak, domestic tourism will see some of the tourism operations through – including our rather fabulous and visit-worthy Cellar Doors, but now that the subsidy is all spent what will the autumn and, god forbid, winter hold? Winter is Coming, and even if we start to get vaccinated and therefore an inkling of hope starts to rise over the horizon… that would all have to hold, and prompt a travel bubble with our friends in ‘Straya before we got even close to ‘normal tourism’ levels of spend.

We can unfortunately expect a higher level of (at least, seasonal) closures to Cellar Doors, restaurants etc than in 2020. Hoping that events like FAWC, Winetopia, and Marlborough Food & Wine will continue to provide beacons for lovers of the wines to gather and celebrate, but also to provide promo opportunities for our wine labels. It may be a tough year after the summer. A couple of years ago, one of the marketing groups in the region close to where I live, ran a couple of ‘Wine Days out West’ where the local Cellar Doors had special events, and you could buy tickets for a bus that ran between them – it was a FAB day out – and we bought heaps of wine. Particularly at our last stop – I recall one member of our group putting down their glass and declare “time to go shopping”. Isn’t that a result! If Waiheke, Matakana, Clevedon and West Auckland all did that, say every fortnight, I’d have a decently full calendar to see me through the winter!

Wine-wise, my crystal ball has been telling me that a couple of things are likely to happen in the near future. Number 1 is the resurgence of Sauvignon Blanc. For a while now Sav has been suffering from the ABC effect (Anything But Chardonnay) where so many wine drinkers have been saying “Oh no, I don’t touch the stuff”. It’s a form of wine snobbery – Sauvignon Blanc is the drink of the uneducated proles – ‘if only they had a bit of wine knowledge they would drink something else’. BS. There’s a reason that New Zealand – actually substitute Marlborough for that – Sav is so popular in the world of wine. It’s really good, and it’s blooming distinctive. And it’s darn near impossible to replicate. I urge anyone to try one of the majestic 2020s of this varietal. I’ll single one out – The Rapaura Springs Rohe – Dillons Point is a wine of dazzling intensity. That’s a bit unfair on others – so many have been excellent this year. But, wait, it doesn’t stop there. Try a Wairarapa Sauvignon Blanc – the fruit profile is quite different, more tropical on the palate, and less on the herbaceous profile. Johner even make a sticky version (one of three magnificent sweet wines, including a Syrah) And Hawke’s Bay is coming to the party as well – The Supernatural, or Halcyon Days both make ‘natural’ versions from this region that are a revelation. These may well turn your idea of New Zealand Sav in a whole new direction.

Second thing that’s likely to happen is the continued march of Syrah. We’ve almost become complacent about how many international trophies our Syrahs triumph in, in the big overseas competitions. The IWC must wish someone other than Hawke’s Bay would win! At WineFolio, we’ll be having our next Top 10 Tasting in a few weeks time, and it’s a go at Syrah. I’m really looking forward to seeing how everything’s looking – and can anyone knock Hawke’s Bay off it’s perch. I’ve tasted some great Syrah from around the country this last year, so we will see.

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