The New Zealand wine industry is a close-knit community and one name that keeps popping up when looking at new and innovative initiatives is Cameron Douglas MS.
Cameron is a great example that a career in wine can have many different paths. He is wearing a lot of different “wine hats” all over the place. If you follow him on social media, you can see that he is a well-travelled flying Master Sommelier who is very passionate about spreading the New Zealand wine love. Always with him is Francois, his equally adventurous travel mascot.
Let’s find our more about Cameron Douglas, New Zealand’s first and only Master Sommelier:
Sooo, what do you do?
Great question – sometimes I am not sure which aspect of my life is actually my occupation as all the components add up to one big job – however: I am a tenured senior lecturer at AUT University in Auckland, New Zealand – have been in this role for 20 years already.
Since passing my Master Sommelier exams in 2007 I have started a small business with my delicious wife (Janet) called Sommelier Services – we run a consultancy focusing on restaurant management – advising on wine and beverage programmes, guiding staff to be better at what they do which can involve anything from how to polish glassware to selecting the right wine and food combinations for their customers to understanding the law regarding alcohol service.
Also – I taste and review wine for any wine company that wants a critical review or comment on their range – most of the comments, though not all, are published to my blog (camerondouglasms.blogspot.com). I also receive and review wines as potential candidates on a wine list.
Also – I write and maintain winelists for several restaurants – mostly in New Zealand with one in New York City called the Musket Room – this restaurant has a Michelin star.
Also – as a member of the NZ Wine Writer Association I travel the country quite a lot keeping my palate fresh and gathering material to write articles or commentary on a particular place or topic.
Also – I write for 2 publications (Hospitality and FMCG magazines) and a regular contributor to Decanter magazine.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
Gym, breakfast, write or taste wine for an hour, get to work and lecture at uni, tasting with a wine company or head home and get dinner ready, some days I watch TV, I have a few favourite shows.
Number of years in the wine industry
I prefer to call it the wine sector as this allows me to include my years as a dedicated sommelier actively promoting wine to guests – 25 years.
ASB bank teller.
Why did you decide to become a master sommelier?
In the hospitality sector it is very easy to hit the glass ceiling and not have access to promotion or an effective career move. This happened to me so I had to decide to specialise or change roles – I did both.
I decided what I enjoyed the most in restaurants – which is people, food, wine (mostly wine) and bringing those three together better – the role of a sommelier would take care of all this and assist me in transitioning into a specialist field. After that came study, travel and exams. Clearly this means sacrifice – no tv, no extra hobbies, stay home and read a lot.
I also needed a plan B. This was what to do if being a sommelier didn’t pan-out. So I spent 8 years studying part-time and also got a bachelor of education degree (hence my AUT uni role).
To answer the actual question – why become an MS?
Because I love being a guide and mentor to others – helping them achieve their goals in wine and education. Paying it forward brings immense satisfaction.
Why should others pursue a career as a sommelier?
Totally rewarding career pathways can be created and directed by the individual, if you have a curiosity about beverages (it’s not all about wine), love to taste and appreciate them all then connect others to your passion then this is serious option in the wine and hospitality sectors.
It’s not for everyone one though - if you don’t like the service sector, helping people have a fabulous time or just like red wines only then this is not the role for you.
What would you do if you wouldn’t work in the wine industry
I’d either become an artist – painting or at least seeing if i can develop that in some way – or open a breakfast and lunch cafe close to home.
If you were a wine, what wine would you be?
Syrah – muscly and powerful when young than softer and more elegant as I age yet retaining all the hallmarks of who I am regardless of age.
Wine & dine, what’s your favourite match?
That’s a bit like asking my favourite car or movie – too many. Pretty much anything that has truffle on it with sparkling wine. Though I can’t go past a decent Pinot Noir and fresh piece of fish and green veges.
Share a fact about yourself that only a few know
I’m really good at making risotto.
Hidden gems and favourite spots in your region
Karekare Beach, Piha Beach, Matakana.
Things you still want to do – what’s on your bucket list?
More travel. I am really keen to get to Italy again, see Spain, Portugal and visit my family’s origin in Scotland and explore whisky regions while I’m doing it.
Tell us a bit about Francois, your travel companion
Francois belongs to my wife (Janet) he was liberated from a prison – a linen closet in a hotel in Dijon, France in 2005 and has been traveling the world with us where ever we go.
He loves flying and sight-seeing and will always say yes to anything we ask of him. He loves his picture being taken and is well versed in the wine classics, not afraid of heights or any other bear that may come his way.
Last book read
Advice on buying wine
Cheap doesn’t always mean low quality, expensive doesn’t always mean high quality. Find a wine adviser you trust and follow their advice until you get bored; your palate will change throughout your life going from sweet wines to dry wines, perhaps back to sweeter wines all the while building up a memory bank of those that were most pleasurable.
Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?