I always love coming to the UK – my English parents immigrated to New Zealand in the 50’s so our family has a lot of connections there and every time I visit, London feels more familiar and welcoming. NZ and the UK have so much in common (love of fish and chips, rugby, and Olympic rowing success) that trips to the UK are enjoyable rather than culture-shock-inducing.
The food and wine scene back home in NZ is increasingly sophisticated, with world renowned chefs making the most of seasonal, local ingredients in extremely skilful ways, while here in the UK, more and more kiwi-themed cafes and eateries are popping up. Being able to get a decent flat white at places like Peter Gordon’s Kopapa, Ozone Café in Shoreditch, or The Counter Café in Hackney Wick, has just been the icing on the cake for travelling Kiwi’s (although my personal preference is for a perfectly barista-ed short black coffee). Visiting these, as well as the more traditional UK restaurants is always a favourite part of the job – I try and make wines that work well with food and friends, rather than focusing on blockbuster styles aimed to win medals in blind tastings. The chance to sit down and taste through our range with restaurateurs reinforces the quality of our food friendly wines and allows me to give them a glimpse of ‘our place’. It also gives me the chance to check out the latest ingredients on the menus and think about new food and wine matches.
The relaunch of Nautilus Cuvee Marlborough Brut NV in the UK after an absence of ten years has given me yet another excuse to visit some of these delectable dining establishments. Despite fielding questions of whether it’s a sparkling Sauvignon (No – it’s one of NZ’s most highly regarded traditional method sparkling wines, pinot dominant, late disgorged with a rich palate and a long dry finish) it is a joy to share this wine with like minded sommeliers. It’s only available in tiny quantities, and is never going to be a wine you see “out and about” in large scale retail, but everyone who has tasted it has fallen in love with it and they become friends for life.
I’m looking forward to catching up with many of our sommelier mates on this tour – all the more so now that Negociants has its own dedicated pair of on premise sales people. Like Batman and Robin, Butch Cassidy and Sundance, or Bret and Jermaine (had to get a Flight of the Concords reference in somewhere…), Barossa Boy Dan Renshaw and our buddy from back home, Rich Ellis have been banging the drum since early this year. It will be great to enjoy a few well earned drinks with them at some of their new accounts.