A road trip navigated by world-class speakers, talented winemakers, a Hollywood actor and an American rock star, followed by tastings, tastings and more tastings was the agenda for Pinot Noir NZ 2017.
For those of you not accustomed with ‘the best Pinot Noir event on the planet’ Rachael Fletcher, Executive Officer of Pinot Noir NZ 2017, explains that the event kicked off in 2001, when New Zealand Pinot Noir began to acquire its prominence on the world wine stage.
“Instead of having all of our wineries head overseas every year to tread the globe pushing our Pinot Noir, we thought why not bring everyone to New Zealand and deliver a true Kiwi experience, showcasing not only our wines and our wine regions, but also our personality, and what makes us tick,” Rachael said.
“It has continued to grow from strength to strength and the number of participants and attendees has grown as a result. We’ve reached a point now where we are at capacity – we don’t want to grow, it’s about delivering an event that is unique and thought-provoking, with the goal of doing it better every year.”
In 2017, 115 wineries from New Zealand participated and 600 delegates – everyone from writers, buyers, trade, sommeliers and Pinotphiles, to winemakers from around the world took part in the day sessions, and 750 delegates attended the social functions each evening.
A rock star, actor and a master of wine
So, how did the event surpass guests’ expectations this year?
“The culinary and social program is a really important part of the event. All of our lunches this year were held at the Pinot Pavilion, which was a large purpose-built marquee on the waterfront in Wellington,” Rachael said.
“The culinary programme was delivered by an all-star line-up of Kiwi chefs, who served up fresh local ingredients alongside some fantastic NZ wines.
Rachael said notable presenters during the day sessions included New Zealand actor Sam Neill, owner of Two Paddocks a premium Pinot Noir winery in Central Otago, an Australian wine writer Andrea Frost, and Elaine Chukan Brown out of the US.
Tool singer Maynard James Kennan, owner and winemaker at Caduceus Cellars – Merkin Vineyards in Arizona was also a big drawcard.
The NZ speaker line up was a significant part of the programme, with winemakers, and notable Kiwis being a strong focus. New Zealander of the Year, Dame Anne Salmon, set the scene on day one for the agenda that followed over the course of the three days.
“Another highlight was our panel for the International Tasting, with Jancis Robinson OBE MW, Mike Bennie, Marcel Giesen and Kenichi Ohashi MW – the world’s only Master of Wine and Master of Sake – who together explored the definition of greatness and quality in wine, and what it means to them,” Rachael said.
“They all selected two of their favourite Pinot Noirs from anywhere in the world and explained why they believed the wines were examples of greatness and quality.”
Each afternoon guests attended the ‘Pinot Noir Road Trip’ – where they tasted and travelled the virtual length of New Zealand with wines from Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa, Nelson, Marlborough, North Canterbury, Waitaki and Central Otago.
“The afternoon sessions allowed you to get up close and personal with the winemakers, sample different wines, explore different regions and learn about the personalities behind the wine.”
Over the course of the three afternoons, delegates could have sampled as many as 350 different Pinots from around the country. And after a full day of Pinot-talk and tasting, the festivities kicked on each night.
“On the first night, 10 of Wellington’s kingpin chefs produced entrée sized signature dishes that showcased the bounty from our land and oceans,” Rachael said.
This was followed by our more formal dinner on night two, which celebrated greatness by treating guests to exceptional wine, food and Kiwi entertainment. It was a great opportunity for everyone to put their glad-rags on, and enjoy some pretty special moments.
“To round out the event, on night three we had the Grand Finale. It was essentially a farewell party where everyone could eat, drink, mingle, dance and farewell the friends they’d made or reconnected with. One of the country’s best party bands, The Eggs, completely set the tone, and rocked the waterfront!”
Rachael said although Pinot Noir is the key message of the event, it’s really just a hook.
“On a higher level, it’s an opportunity to tell a bigger story and establish a really strong international connection to New Zealand, a connection to our culture, our wines and all of those individual personalities behind who we are.”