Mary-Therese Blair, aka MermaidMary, is a relatively new kid on the New Zealand wine writer “blog” but one who already picked up great amount of wine media gigs with her well-educated yet fun approach to the world of wine.
Tune in to the gal from Ireland on Saturday afternoons when she chats wine and cocktails on Magic Talk. You can also spot her wine recommendations and stories in Cuisine, Concrete Playground as well as Newshub Travel & Lifestyle.
We caught up with her to find out more about her love of wine and Mermaid adventures.
What do you do?
I am a wine writer and also contribute on Magic Talk for wine and cocktails. My style is quite different as I tend to be a lot more casual in my approach. My passion is to make wine more accessible and I believe the way to do that is to talk about wine in a fun and casual way.
You can make a point and express an opinion without getting lost in a pit of pretentious, alienating wine speak that very few people really understand and it’s my goal to do so.
You call yourself Mermaid Mary. What’s the story behind the name?
I got nicknamed MermaidMary years ago when on holiday with friends in Italy, while everyone else had a dip in the water I spent hours in the warm water of the Mediterranean ocean, when we were leaving my friend yelled out – “Come on MermaidMary” it stuck and I love it. I’ve always had a deep affinity with the ocean and as a teenager I wanted to be a marine biologist.
When it came time to decide on a brand name I couldn’t give up MermaidMary and as it turns out it works well as I believe in drinking beautiful, special wines, so my tag line has become “why drink like a fish, when you can drink like a mermaid”.
When and why did you fall in love with wine?
I’ve always enjoyed wine however the love affair went next level when I moved to New Zealand ten years ago. The range and quality that is produced her rivals anywhere in the world and I can’t believe how lucky we are to have such an embarrassment of wine riches in our back garden. That’s why I decided to study wine and get my WSET qualifications.
Wine is one of those amazing subjects where once you start to learn about it, you realise you really know nothing! It’s such a vast subject that includes, geography, history, geology, meteorology and science – the more you learn, the more you have to learn. It’s fascinating.
If you were a wine, what wine would you be?
Something fruity and delicious served in a large curvaceous glass with a long slender stem – great glassware is everything!
What’s your do-to wine at the moment?
I am definitely one of those people who goes through phases and I’m currently obsessed with Italian red wines, Barbera, Barolo, Barbaresca, Sangiovese, Montepulciano – oh mama!
Italy has over 4,000 different grape varietals and most of them we’ve never heard of. There are even Italian wines with a New Zealand connection as our very own ex-All Black John Kirwin has his own range of Italian wines JK14 – their Malanotte is breathtakingly good.
Which wine are you saving for a special occasion?
I’m pretty sentimental and I have a bottle of Allan Scott Gewürztraminer that I was given when I was invited to the launch of the vintage – for me that wine represents the very first invitation as a wine writer, the start of MermaidMary being taken seriously as a brand and me as a wine professional.
For some reason I just can’t bring myself to drink that wine. Maybe I’ll open it when I reach another MermaidMary milestone.
Wine & dine, what’s your favourite match?
I’m a pretty low-maintenance type of gal and my all-time favourite food match is fish and chips and bubbles. My best friend Jem opened my eyes to the match years ago and believe it or not the combination of the greasy, salty Fish and Chips and the cleansing acidity of the wine make them the perfect combination (A zesty Sauv Blanc works very well too!).
The only way it gets any better than that is if you make the bubbles Champagne and take the lot to the beach to enjoy as the sun goes down with someone special.
Share a fact about yourself that only a few know
I’m a lactose intolerant Coeliac, which I don’t tend to tell people unless they need to know as I get a lot of eye-rolling when I say I can’t have gluten. I do get that it’s a popular thing to be gluten-free these days but for me it’s not an option. I got really sick a few years ago and after a barrage of doctors, specialists and tests for Africa these intolerances were one part
of the diagnosis.
Once I eliminated them from my diet there was a big improvement in my health and I’ve never looked back. I know some people opt to be gluten-free I don’t know why anyone would do it unless they have to as it does make dining out more complicated!
Hidden gems and favourite wine spots in New Zealand
One of my favourite things to do is to pack wine and a picnic and to hike up a hill (ideally overlooking the ocean) and find a secluded spot to pop a bottle of wine, sit back, and enjoy the view with a well-earned glass of something delicious and some nibbles.
In New Zealand the best place to be is outside, I’m continentally blow away by the beauty of this country and feel so grateful I live here.
Advice on buying wine
Buy what you want to buy and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it. We’re lucky here in New Zealand as we have a lot of great local wine that is available at an excellent price point.
If you want to try something new go to a good liquor store and ask the staff their opinion. They are trained to know what to recommend. Or drop me a line on my social media – I am always happy to give some advice. One of my favourite things is getting requests from people about what to try, I always follow-up to see if I got it right and it’s so wonderful to hear
when I have.
Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
I am an Oprah disciple! Her lessons around being your authentic self changed my perspective on life. I used to try writing about things that I thought other people wanted to hear about and it never went anywhere. When I stopped doing that and writing about what I loved and what I’m passionate about – wine – it just took off and I’ve never looked back.
Oprah also she talks about being responsible for your energy and rejecting negative energy. This was another important lesson for me – I will never give something a bad review, I just won’t feature it. A lot of hard work and dedication goes into making wine and just because I don’t like doesn’t mean someone else won’t enjoy it. My opinion is just one of many and I want to celebrate the good, not focus on the negative.
I love SuperSoul Sundays and I’m already looking forward to the day when I sit there with Oprah sipping a glass of wine talking about my success story.