Working in a Wine Shop

Working in a Wine Shop

POST BY HANNAH CROSSLEY

So you want to work in wine? Who could blame you?

This industry is constantly growing, changing and reinventing itself. Let’s face it; wine as a beverage choice is going nowhere, just the way we buy wine is constantly evolving and we industry elves need to adapt with it in order to make a living.

Like wine, there are different jobs for different palates – in as much as your personality and style could determine which area of the wine industry would be best suited to you. I am generalising a little when I say that you could find your niche by understanding whether you are an introvert or extrovert – and whether you want to live in the country or the city.

I can list a few jobs I believe would be more ideal for the introvert, which tend to be those people who prefer their own company, like working at their own pace or as part of a small team. These are - winemaker, oenologist, cellar door manager/worker and maybe importer and blogger are options to name just a few.

Regarding the vineyard and winery jobs these tend to only be stressful at certain times of the year, apart from vintage and the risk of bad weather, a winemaker’s job is consistent and almost predictable. It’s a farming job so as you would care for your livestock, you’re caring for a beautiful bottle of wine that makes its way into the world to make us happy.

Importers and bloggers mostly work alone, and if you have a spare $100,000 then get travelling the world now and find yourself some amazing wines. Or just talk about wine from the comfort of your desk and you may find, in time, that same wine coming to your door instead! (You can see the route I have taken!)

For the extroverts among us there is a confidence that is required to sell wine. You are either preaching to the converted or asking someone to try an expressive Gewurztraminer when they have not stepped beyond a standard Pinot Grigio.

To sell wine there are these few options – Sommelier, distributor, sales rep, or wine retail. Sommeliers, for one, are some immensely dedicated people and you can always tell a good one by their wine list. If you prefer working till all hours of the morning then you will love this job, and I hope for your sake you also love your co-workers as they are now your family, your friends, your everything! Also say goodbye to weekends.  

In comparison, and the reason why I bring you here today, you can always work in a wine shop. I had been working in restaurants for about 10 years and I found myself at risk of going prematurely grey and having frown lines that even Botox could not fix. To my irritation, working as a Sommelier was no longer an option for me.

But for over 2 years now I have been working in wine shops and I love it as the hours are more manageable and stress doesn’t seem to be an issue. Along with staff discounts and samples from wine reps you are always tasting. My palate has improved tenfold over these last two years and that comes down to the wines I have been exposed to daily from around the world and hence improving my knowledge.

Working at The Winery has taught me more about New Zealand wines than any book could because the Enomatic Wine Serving System creates a tasting style that is immersive and comparable.  You are, for example, able to taste 8 Sauvignon Blanc's from different regions and with that you can discover differences in soils and climate and even winemaker styles. If one doesn’t suit you, who’s to say the next one wouldn’t be a perfect fit. 

What do you need to do to work in wine?

Attend wine education classes. WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) is trusted around the world and can be that elevating factor that will get you the job. There are beginner’s courses and you could build up to becoming a Master of Wine.

Taste as much wine as you can…within reason, and not all at once! (If you could, I’m am not only envious of your bank account but your liver’s resilience).

Visit wine regions! This is the best experience and you get to see where it all comes from. If you are on holiday and you need something to do for the day head out to the nearest wineries, you will not regret it. A valuable time to go is September/October in the northern hemisphere, and March/April in the southern. This is about the time of vintage and if you are lucky you could get a tour of the winery and see the whole process up close.

Also buy some good dental hygiene products – wine really does a number on your teeth.  

And buy a decent gym pass - I don’t think I need to tell you why! 

 

STAFF FAVOURITES

As I work with some pretty awesome people at The Winery who all know a great deal about wine I have asked them all which is their favourite wine in the shop and why.   Happy drinking!

Renee’s Favourite

CRAGGY RANGE SOPHIA 2015 “It’s a beautiful wine and it takes you to a happy place!  It's elegant and balanced, that Sophia is a sexy and seductive drop!” 

CRAGGY RANGE SOPHIA 2015

“It’s a beautiful wine and it takes you to a happy place!  It's elegant and balanced, that Sophia is a sexy and seductive drop!” 

Gwen’s Favourite

HERON'S FLIGHT RESERVE SANGIOVESE 2013 “It has a special place in my heart. Gotta love a deep, bold Italian wine, where you can imagine yourself sat on a haystack in dungarees with prosciutto and this wine in your hand. NZ have done Italy right with this wine.” 

HERON'S FLIGHT RESERVE SANGIOVESE 2013

“It has a special place in my heart. Gotta love a deep, bold Italian wine, where you can imagine yourself sat on a haystack in dungarees with prosciutto and this wine in your hand. NZ have done Italy right with this wine.” 

Juan’s Favourite

SACRED HILL RIFLEMANS CHARDONNAY 2015 “It’s not overly buttery, but it’s balanced with some smooth minerality and a smokey finish. It’s the mac-daddy of NZ chardonnays!”

SACRED HILL RIFLEMANS CHARDONNAY 2015

“It’s not overly buttery, but it’s balanced with some smooth minerality and a smokey finish. It’s the mac-daddy of NZ chardonnays!”


Maryann's Favourite

Larry's Favourite

Hannah’s Favourite

HERON'S FLIGHT VOLARE 2014 “Its ‘Grunty’! Great amounts of oak, not too much but it softens off the tannins and it blends well with the fruit. Give me this and a comfy chair and I am in heaven.”

HERON'S FLIGHT VOLARE 2014

“Its ‘Grunty’! Great amounts of oak, not too much but it softens off the tannins and it blends well with the fruit. Give me this and a comfy chair and I am in heaven.”

VALLI WAITAKI PINOT NOIR 2015 “Big ripe plums and a silky palate. Its soft and gorgeous and something to curl up in front of the fire with.”

VALLI WAITAKI PINOT NOIR 2015

“Big ripe plums and a silky palate. Its soft and gorgeous and something to curl up in front of the fire with.”

TWO PADDOCKS PINOT NOIR 2015 “It was the first wine I tasted when I landed in Queenstown and no wine has every matched that moment! Grab a glass of this beautiful, earthy, funky wine then stare at the mountains and feel that smile roll across your face”

TWO PADDOCKS PINOT NOIR 2015

“It was the first wine I tasted when I landed in Queenstown and no wine has every matched that moment! Grab a glass of this beautiful, earthy, funky wine then stare at the mountains and feel that smile roll across your face”

Hannah's Big Days Out

Hannah's Big Days Out

POST BY HANNAH CROSSLEY

Working in Queenstown gives you certain privileges, one of which is this enthusiasm of the wineries seeking help from local hospitality staff for vintage. In exchange for your help with harvest for as little or as long as you like, they give you an incredible chef prepared lunch with every style of wine they have to offer for you to quaff leisurely as you make friends and network. The offer of free wine can go either way though with hospo staff, you can definitely tell the difference between those who are working the night shift to those on their day off.

DOMAINE THOMSON

My Manager Maryann was invited to ‘The Big Day Out’ held by Domaine Thomson and to my delight she asked me to join her. This trip was a large affair, staff from restaurants around Queenstown and nearby Arrowtown boarded a coach headed for Cromwell, the centre of the winemaking region in Central Otago.

Domaine Thomson are famed for their Pinot Noir, so much so they don’t grow anything else. Their Explorer, Surveyor Thomson and TSS Earnslaw Pinots all benefit from the care and love of biodynamic farming headed by the beautifully boho Su Hoskin. I envied that she looked so comfortable in the vineyard wearing a long flowing skirt, where she made the rest of us look overprepared and out of place in our walking boots and puffer jackets.

Su showed us to her shed that overlooks the stunning vineyard down towards Lake Dunstan where she conducted all her biodynamic voodoo. With moon charts and astrology signs marked upon walls, barrels and hatches to hidden chambers underground it was overwhelming to see the lengths that are taken to create a biodynamic farm, these guys aren’t even fully certified yet! Not long till they are though.

Yet, the three stars of the vineyard were the long haired highland cattle named Mathilda, Artemis and Mimolette. As they watched over our demonstration we were charmed to discover that their poo comes in good handy, but not in its raw form…the poo goes under a vital ‘massage’ process before it is transferred back to the land. Yes, the cow’s shit is massaged by hand to remove all the hay and larger ‘items’ whilst activating the vital chemicals and organisms so that only pure goodness is returned to the earth.

To add to the experience Su and Domaine’s Marketing Manager Claudio Haye arranged a ‘blind’ blind tasting with an outstanding lunch created by The Rees’ Ben Battenbury. Recognising that our senses are heightened when one is restricted, they provided scarves to cover our eyes and it really does allow you to taste wine better. Or it makes you oblivious to how ridiculous you look sniffing into the depths of your glass while wearing a silk scarf. Give it a try, nothing better than drinking in the dark!

AMISFIELD

Amisfield was next on the event calendar and they definitely wanted us to get our hands dirty. First port of call was the Pinot Gris which was quickly being stripped from the vines and our legion of hospo staff were sent down the rows to help. From one side of the vineyard to the other we were delivered on a custom trailer of the back of a tractor with the dogs running alongside, it was like Disneyland for winos.

We saw every aspect of the winemaking process from picking, to destemming, to tank, to plunging, to barrel aging. Tasting ferments is always fun and jarring for anyone who has never tasted a semi-fermented wine before – it doesn’t taste great! Even tasting wines from the barrel can be slightly disappointing. The wines are really tight and often high in acidity, but once they have been filtered and fined and bottled for a period we are talking about a completely different animal. After all, we want to be as relaxed as the wine when we drink it.

Again, the food was amazing only made better with the accompanying vast selection of wines that we all made our way through – sadly this time I was on the night shift! Didn’t stop me tasting though. 

All these experiences are valuable for anyone who works with wine in any shape or form. It’s a complex creature and knowing even a little of how its crafted it wildly rewarding, and kind of makes you sound really smart when you can reel off a load of information about the wine. We all win!!

AMISFIELD PINOT NOIR 2014 A superbly balanced crop from Amisfield's single vineyard located at the foot of the Pisa Range created this well balanced gem.  An appealing ruby hue with sweet aromatics of black cherries, Doris plums and hint of cinnamon and clove. The palate is subtly smooth, complex and lush with dark chocolate and herbal characters, finely grained tannins and a seductive lingering finish. Enjoyable now but will continue to unfold.

AMISFIELD PINOT NOIR 2014

A superbly balanced crop from Amisfield's single vineyard located at the foot of the Pisa Range created this well balanced gem.  An appealing ruby hue with sweet aromatics of black cherries, Doris plums and hint of cinnamon and clove. The palate is subtly smooth, complex and lush with dark chocolate and herbal characters, finely grained tannins and a seductive lingering finish. Enjoyable now but will continue to unfold.

EXPLORER PINOT NOIR 2016 Explorer, is designed in approachable style, it packs a punch but can be easily enjoyed now. Medium-bodied, light red cherry fruit flavours are laced with some cool, herb notes. Fresh, lively acidity adds juiciness to the fruit, and along with soft subtle tannins, this has a gentle mouth filling, textured palate. The acidity remains a feature and carries through to a racy finish with some lingering berry fruit and sweet spice flavours. This is a lively, well-textured Pinot Noir showing some cool, thyme herb interest.

EXPLORER PINOT NOIR 2016

Explorer, is designed in approachable style, it packs a punch but can be easily enjoyed now. Medium-bodied, light red cherry fruit flavours are laced with some cool, herb notes. Fresh, lively acidity adds juiciness to the fruit, and along with soft subtle tannins, this has a gentle mouth filling, textured palate. The acidity remains a feature and carries through to a racy finish with some lingering berry fruit and sweet spice flavours. This is a lively, well-textured Pinot Noir showing some cool, thyme herb interest.

SURVEYOR THOMSON PINOT NOIR 2013 Domaine Thomson's premium label has the reputation for being the first "Burgundy" to be produced in Central Otago because of its the French wine-making style and bio-dynamic farming principles. The resulting wine has pleasant notes of spiced plums, dark berry fruit and dried herbs, along with a distinct tannin structure attained from 30% whole bunch fermentation, longer extraction period and use of French oak barriques. 

SURVEYOR THOMSON PINOT NOIR 2013

Domaine Thomson's premium label has the reputation for being the first "Burgundy" to be produced in Central Otago because of its the French wine-making style and bio-dynamic farming principles. The resulting wine has pleasant notes of spiced plums, dark berry fruit and dried herbs, along with a distinct tannin structure attained from 30% whole bunch fermentation, longer extraction period and use of French oak barriques. 

Lonely Planet ranks Central Otago in Top 10 most intriguing wine regions

Lonely Planet ranks Central Otago in Top 10 most intriguing wine regions

Central Otago has topped the list of Lonely Planet's 10 most intriguing regions to visit ....

Central is famed for sublime alpine scenery, the energetic resort town of Queenstown and, since the 1990s, some world-class winemaking. Its wild landscapes make up the world’s southernmost wine region with vineyards spread throughout the deep valleys and basins of six sub-regions – Gibbston, Bannockburn, Cromwell Basin, Wanaka, Bendigo and Alexandra.

The local soils have proved excellent for Pinot Noir and Central Otago is lauded as one of the best places outside Burgundy for cultivating this notoriously fickle grape. It would take a good two days’ touring to get a comprehensive taste of the place, with around 30 wineries regularly open to visitors, and many more by appointment (the scene remains largely in the hands of friendly boutique enterprises). Visitors short on time could focus on the Gibbston Valley (with cycle touring a possibility).

Of course all wine lovers should also visit us at The Winery!

Check out the other Top 10 regions here.

Central Otago Pinot Noir glass by Riedel

Central Otago Pinot Noir glass by Riedel

The Winery team were fortunate to get front row seats at the launch event for the Reidel’s new Central Otago Pinot Noir glass.

Chris Keys and Mark Baulderstone   (Image supplied by COWA)

Hosted by Mark Baulderstone who is Riedel’s Australia and New Zealand Managing Director and Gibbston Valley winemaker Chris Keys, the event was structured to taste four Pinot Noir’s from the sub-regions of Central Otago – each wine being specifically selected to present quite different styles of Pinot Noir.

The wines were presented in five different shaped Riedel glasses, four of which were designed for Pinot Noir.  The fifth glass was for Cabernet Sauvignon, a glass best described as a “bucket” capable of holding more than a full bottle of wine.  It served its purpose to show just how poorly the wrong glass presents a wine (Mark says it is a great water glass).

Five Riedel tasting glasses, with #1 on the left.

Those who have been fortunate to have attend a Riedel Sensory Workshop will have experienced the significant differences of using a glass that is specific to the wine variety being tasted.  Riedel are widely recognised as the world’s leading wine glass producer and this is how they built their reputation, by creating varietal specific glasses (this is an important point to note)

The glass shape affects where the layers of aroma molecules accumulate within the bowl and where the lip of the glass delivers the wine into your mouth.   In simple terms, that affects how you can get your nose in the glass to smell and what aspects of the wine are highlighted on your palate as you taste it.  The correct glass does not make a wine better, but it can absolutely make it smell and taste better.

So why have Riedel done this?   It seems the answer lies with Georg Riedel who is the 10th generation head of the 250 year old family company.  Georg is a self-confessed Pinot Noir fanatic and throughout his lifetime of wine travel across the world Georg has always sought out Pinot Noir - travelling with Georg was described as being “on a Pinot Noir orgy”.  

Two years ago Georg led a workshop in Queenstown where winemakers tasted their own Pinot Noir from 14 different glasses.   

Two glasses stood out and the Central Otago Wine Growers Association (COWA) have worked closely with Riedel  since then.  Riedel developed 6 different prototypes and invested nearly €250,000 (NZ$375,000) in the project.  

The most interesting aspect of the event was lining up the 4 glasses to see and understand the evolution that Riedel went through in creating the perfect glass for Central Otago Pinot Noir.

The physical differences between the glasses are obvious when you line them up.  Glasses #2 and #4 are extensions of glasses #1 and #3 respectively.  

The same wine smelt and tasted different in every glass – so with 4 wines tasted in 4 different Pinot Noir glasses, we had 16 unique experiences.  Whilst each wine was obviously different, the attributes that each glass shape highlighted in those wine was very consistent.  This is what we found:

#1 –  Restaurant Pinot Noir Glass

Developed in 1986 the aromas highlighted by this glass were predominantly the floral, sweet fruit and alcohol characteristics.  I personally found those very appealing and at times I favoured this glass - if only aroma was being considered.  However the wines tasted shorter on the palate, with more acid and they lacked the depth of character that other glasses showed for the same wine.

#2 – Vinum XL Pinot Noir Glass

This glass was developed in 2006 when Riedel worked in conjunction with Oregon Pinot Noir producers.   As can be seen from the profile photo, it is an evolution of glass #1 with an extended lip added.  This changes the point to where you nose can enter the glass and as a result I smelt more of the herbal, mushroom and savoury characters that good Pinot Noir displays, particularly as they age.  This glass definitely showed the more complex aromas and on the palate the lip shape added more body to the wine, than glass #1.  This is the glass we have historically been using at The Winery for Pinot Noir tastings, it’s a good glass.

#3 – Extreme Restaurant Pinot Noir Glass

Designed in 2003 as part of a more angular glass collection we all found that this glass initially concealed the aromas that were so freely given in glasses #1 and #2.  With time the wine began to be revealed, particularly the herbal, mushroom and savoury notes, but not as overwhelming as in glass #2.  On the palate the wines were more fully structured and there was quite a firm tannin feel in the mouth, the alcohol presented a little too strongly.  This glass shape was not the most pleasant to put to my mouth, I found it too angular and it placed the wine at the front of my tongue.

#4 – Extreme Restaurant Central Otago Pinot Noir Glass

Here we have it, OUR glass for Central Otago Pinot.  For the photo we raised the base of the glass so the profile shows the evolution of the design, because the stem is not as long as glass #3.  In this way you can clearly see the difference of the extension with the elegant tulip lip (as with glass #2). 

The majority consensus was clear across the 30+ local winemakers and restaurateurs who attended the event.  The larger bowl and this shape combines the best features to showcase the unique aromas and flavours of Central Otago Pinot Noir. 

The aromas are perhaps not so easily accessible but they are more balanced with both the floral (glass #1) and savoury (glass #2) components displaying a wonderful harmony that showcases the fruit weight.  The addition of the lip delivers the wine more elegantly into the mouth and the palate depth and structure that glass #3 showcased is evident in this glass, without the alcohol coming to the fore.   That gives a fuller mouth feel, with more texture and flavour.   Each wine was more interesting in this glass - you keep coming back to see how it is evolving.  I’m one of those people who enjoys smelling the glass even 15 minutes after it has been emptied,  I find that tells me how good the wine is and how it will develop in the cellar.

CONCLUSION

The creation of this glass is a serious investment by Riedel.  It is also a bold move to attach a region to the glass name - I am picking that not too many French wine producers are going to be promoting the "Central Otago" glass for their Pinot Noir.   And that is what makes this story even more remarkable because this is the first regional and varietal specific wine glass that Riedel have ever created – this is a world first!

That is a hugely significant endorsement of the future of this region’s wines.  It is now the duty of everyone associated with Central Otago Pinot Noir to take this gift and showcase it to every Pinot Noir lover - let the orgy continue!