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Today I’d like to introduce you to Winefolk. A great initiative by “wine lovin’ folk who create ways to bring other wine lovin’ folk together.”
Keep reading and meet Alissa (A) and Ben (B) as they tell us a bit more about themselves and what Winefolk is all about.
Hi Alissa, hi Ben. Thanks a lot for letting me feature you on Sip NZ Wine.
Let’s go …
When and why did you start Winefolk, what is it all about?
A: Initially Winefolk was a wine group Ben and I set up while we were studying Viticulture + Oenology as a way of discovering new wine and meeting other wine-lovin’ folk. Since starting our website and getting on social media we’ve had thousands of people connect with Winefolk in some way, so I guess it’s grown and evolved quite a bit since we started.
B: And it’s only been a year!
A: Winefolk is all about bringing people together to discover and share amazing New Zealand wine. I think people connect with Winefolk because we’re creating experiences that they can be part of. We’re not just telling them what we think they should drink. We’re getting the chance to host Winefolk events at wineries now, which has just been insanely awesome. I think people love getting the chance to learn more about the wine they drink and the people who make it! Like y’all at Sip, we’re totally about giving people a way to meet the makers!
You organise wine gatherings: who should attend?
B: I think everyone should attend a Winefolk gathering. It’s wine, and people and passion…what’s not to love?
What can they look forward to?
A: Winefolk gatherings are set up to be super relaxed and fun. We forage, we borrow and we share to create events that allow us to place more emphasis on what matters: the people and the wine.
Because we’re hosting events at wineries now, our Winefolk are actually getting to hear the stories straight from the source. At our Rippon event, Lois Mills (the founder of Rippon) came down and told us all about how the vineyard was set up and about the family’s connection to the land. It was incredibly special—we all left absolutely buzzing.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do, where are you based etc.?
A: So Ben and I are both similar in that we both left our previous, completely un-wine-related jobs, to pursue careers in wine. My first degree was in Communications, which I happily put to use for over 3 years at UNICEF and at a private public relations firm. Last year I got a scholarship to study Viticulture and Oenology and now I’m gaining as much industry experience as poss. I just wrapped up my first vintage at The Crater Rim and am gearing up to head North to do a vintage in Oregon.
B: After too many years working for the Government and a stint working in the family business I took a step back and decided I needed a change. Something that I wanted to learn about and become passionate about. Something that was a mix of science and art and involved living in a beautiful part of the country. So grapes and wine was an easy choice. Going back to uni was tough on the brain but essential in my opinion. I now work in the cellar at Amisfield Winery in Central Otago. And like Alissa I‘m heading to Oregon for a Northern Hemisphere vintage in a few months.
What’s your wine connection? When did you fall in love and why?
B: Well my earliest connection would have been Communion wine at Church and Mum telling me off for taking a big gulp. And then there were the teens and early 20’s where like other alcoholic beverages the purpose for drinking it was generally something other than appreciating it. My connection changed somewhat when my best friend Lucy & I lived in France for a year in 2009. We worked in a vineyard picking grapes. It was back breaking work but the camaraderie amongst the local frenchies and the sense of celebration and achievement was so cool. Being part of that definitely struck a chord with me and made me want to continue to be part of this crazy love affair with grapes and wine!
A: I think my initial connection with wine is similar to most people: little sips from my Mum’s glass and growing up with it always being present at special occasions. I didn’t think about it as being more than just a good time drink until I started getting really interested in chemistry. I was tutoring a 17 year old part-time and while he was thinking about University courses I was looking around to see what was out there that involved chemistry. Then I stumbled upon Lincoln’s V+O course, and everything just clicked. It’s been love ever since.
What’s so special about New Zealand wine?
B: Well where do we start….the people and the passion is probably up there. It is amazing to be part of the New Zealand wine industry and meeting some really special people that have helped put New Zealand wine on the map.
Nick Mills of Rippon. Clive Paton of Ata Rangi. John Buck of Te Mata. These guys are just a few of the legends—there’s hundreds of other wine legends out there giving New Zealand wine the rep it deserves. And as to the quality of the wine, well I think it speaks for itself really. Obviously Sav has made it big time on the global stage as there is nothing else quite like it. And hot on its heels is Pinot Noir from just about anywhere in the country grabbing accolades left right and centre. Bordeaux varieties from Hawkes Bay are top notch. Then there’s Chardonnay – I read just yesterday that Kumeu River pipped some Premier Cru Burgundys in a blind tasting. And we can’t forget Riesling. I mean wow. New Zealand wine is very special. We are lucky.
What’s your favourite New Zealand wine?
B: Tough question. There are soooo many. The reasons often extend past the qualities of the wine and into the experience. We had Quartz Reef bubbles at our wedding so that’s a special one. Recently I tried an Orange wine from Millton called Libiamo and made with Gewurztraminer grapes. It was pretty damn cool. Orange wine is sooo weird and unusual. That’s why I like it.
A: Wine(s)?? At the moment: Rippon’s 2012 Emma’s Block Pinot Noir + 2011 Riesling; Quartz Reef’s 2010 Methode Traditionelle Rosé; Pyramid Valley’s everything, but I’m digging their Sparkling Riesling. Bell Hill’s 2011 Pinot Noir.
If you were a wine, what wine would you be?
A: I don’t know what wine I would be, but I think Ben would be an Orange wine…
B: Haha. Yes definitely an Orange wine. You can never have too much Orange.
Wine & dine, what’s your favourite match?
A: My friend Anna (Cakes By Anna) pioneered a Pinot Noir cake. Cake and Pinot… now there’s a match made in heaven.
B: Another tough one. I am a sucker for dessert and by default a sucker for dessert wine. Amisfield do a pretty mean late harvest Sav it goes well with any citrusy or creamy dessert and even better with cheese.
Share a fact about your winery that only a few know:
A: I wish I had a winery!
B: Likewise. A fact about my future winery is that it is also a micro-brewery and micro-distillery. We have all the drinks covered!
Hidden gems and favourite spots in your area?
B: I live in Wanaka. Easily the best place to live in NZ—perhaps the world. This place and wider Central Otago/Queenstown lakes areas is full of hidden gems. My hot tip is to pack a picnic (including a bottle of New Zealand wine of course), strap on your boots and explore.
A: I’m based in Canterbury at the moment, so I’d have to say the Pinot Noir coming from the Waipara Valley/Omihi is fooking insane. I got the chance to try Bell Hill’s 2011 Pinot Noir and it nearly blew my mind. I think the hidden gems are the winemakers and their crews. Haydon Good (Crater Rim), Takahiro Koyama (Koyama), Theo Coles (Hermit Ram), Nicholas Brown (Black Estate), Jannine Rickards (Peg Bay), Dom Maxwell (Greystone), Lynnette Hudson and Angela Clifford are all just killin’ it.
Things you still want to do:
A: With my life? We could be here a while. With Winefolk, I’d love to see more wineries getting onboard so that we can host more Winefolk events.
B: With Winefolk it’s easy…spread the passion that makes New Zealand wine so damn awesome. With life I just want to WIN!
Last book read:
A: Ha, you got me! I read The Little Prince for the first time last night. That is the last book I read.
B: Okay this is a bit embarrassing as it shows my wine geekiness…on my bedside table at the mo is Jamie Goode’s Wine Science, Michael Coopers 2015 Wine buyers guide and a book by Ian McKewen that has taken my 6 months to read 100 pages (Damn Smartphones!)
Advice on buying wine:
A: Join a wine tasting group! That way you can try a whole bunch of wines and inevitably find one that just explodes in your palate. Letting the best wines go undiscovered is the ultimate bummer.
B: Try something new.
Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
A: Gah, that’s so hard. Probably Tim Minchin, Krista Tippett or Alain De Botton. But the final decision would be based on who enjoys vino the most.
B: Geez. You know what I would be so happy if I could get all of my best mates together from all over the world for one night of great vino, great food and many many many laughs. The way wine should be.
Thanks Alissa and Ben for your time and I look forward to my first Winefolk event!