To drink wine well doesn’t require a whole heap of instruction. To start to understand and appreciate the nuances – that requires a bit more in the experience, consideration and guidance departments.
Ask a Wellingtonian where to go to taste and learn about interesting beers and you’ll likely need to stop them talking, the list is so long and so obvious. In comparison to the active and eclectic beer scene, the wine scene in Wellington is obvious only to those who go out of their way to be in the know.
No promises are made that this list is final and complete, but it is as well-rounded as possible. And while there is more happening than a quick glance might suggest – I would love to see more diversity in the types of events on offer, especially at the more experienced end.
In-store samples are a beautiful thing. If you don’t know what you’re after, give what’s open a try. If you like it, problem solved. If it’s not for you, it encourages a conversation with staff – like it, love it, hate it, want something with more fruit, less tannin, greater acidity – all of these tidbits can help the staff guide you to the perfect wine.
Regional and Glengarry tend to open samples on Saturdays, while Wineseeker has something open during the workweek. Each of the three key retailers can be generalised to a certain type of stock and tastings.
Glengarry (Mostly 53 Hutt Road, Thorndon, sometimes 85 Upland Road Kelburn) is where you’ll pay the highest prices for your tastings due to the fine wine focus this retailer takes with their tastings: recent events have included the likes of Schloss Vollrads, Marchesi Di Gresi and Chateau Pontet-Canet. You won’t be surprised to learn that head office is in Auckland, as the Wellington store gets only a subset of the fabulous tastings the big smoke sees.
Wineseeker (89-96 Victoria Street) offer tastings on two tiers – the free and the paid. Free tastings will follow a theme, will be a handful of bottles and will be well attended. Most recently they ventured off to Northern Italy in tasting format.
The paid tastings will most often look at a region or the contrast of Old and New world styles. They’re popular enough that there is usually two seatings (on a Tuesday and again on a Thursday, for example) and even then spots sell quickly. Delicious wines aren’t the only reason to attend a Wineseeker event – store owner, Michael, is pretty handy in the kitchen and each tasting is paired with a shared platter of matched eats.
Caitlin and Colin at Regional Wines and Spirits, both expats, both relatively new to New Zealand, are spearheading the movement towards social wine events for wine lovers in the capital.
The basin reserve shop has always run a range of events in their tasting room – the inexpensive ones will likely be a producer or distributor showcasing their wares; the more pricey ones are likely to be the studious Library Tastings hosted by Geoff Kelly (highly recommended if you can make them). These tastings take a historic look at wines.
Brand new are the Tuesday tastings – running weekly at 7.30 (after the shop has closed) – the tasting of 8-10 wines will be paired with discussion on the regions/producers/styles that make up the evening’s theme. Interactive, fun, social – all words bandied about when talking about these new offerings.
Beyond the three shops above, Truffle Imports (Fogel Building, 22 Garrett Street, Level 3) also runs the occasional tasting, but you need to first be a customer in order to get an invite. If premium European wines are your thing – it’s worth the effort.
Watch out for the second part of “Where to taste wine in Wellington – Clubs & Groups” which I will be sharing with you next week.