Bob Campbell is one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed wine experts, part of an elite group holding Master of Wine qualifications. There are only 343 Masters of Wine wordwide, and, on top of this, Bob is also an accomplished writer, public speaker, chartered accountant and founder of The Wine Gallery. With New Zealand on a wine buzz this month due to Winetopia, we took the chance to ask for some advice from the master.
What is currently an on-trend or “socially acceptable” wine to be drinking?
I tend to drink what I like rather than following any convention, but here are a few thoughts on upward trends. Chardonnay is strongly back in fashion after being elbowed aside by pinot gris a few years ago. That’s a trend I’m very pleased about. Sauvignon blanc continues its popularity, particularly in export markets where it leads by a huge margin from everything else. New varieties on the map include Albariño, which I believe has a strong future in this county. The sparkling Italian wine, prosecco, continues to enjoy growing popularity with look-a-likes emerging to cash in on the trend.
How important is the glass? Should we swap long-stemmed wine glasses for more contemporary tumblers?
Glasses are very important. I estimate that the difference between drinking out of a good glass and a poor glass can contribute as much as 25% to the pleasure I get from drinking a glass of wine. I like to use large-bowled glasses that are fine (and not chunky). I marginally prefer stemmed glasses, but regularly use stemless glasses, which can often be more practical (easier to stay in the dishwasher). Like wine, the choice of glasses is a personal thing. Choose a shape that pleases you. I don’t use separate glasses for red and white wine, preferring to put a little less wine in the glass when I drink white rather than using a smaller glass.
How does alcohol content affect the taste of wine? Is there a perfect percentage?
As alcohol increases it tends to make wine become more full-bodied, very slightly sweeter and it can make the texture slightly softer. However, excess alcohol can leave a slight burning sensation on the throat and give the wine a thread of hardness. The perfect alcohol level varies from wine to wine. Alcohol must be “in balance” with the other components in the wine.
What is your view on the New Zealand wine industry?
The New Zealand wine industry is remarkably healthy when compared with wine industries in many other countries. We are now the 13th largest wine-producing country in the world, having just overtaken Brazil and Greece. The prices we earn in most export markets are higher than just about every other country, which says a lot about the quality perception people have for our wine. We do “quality” (as opposed to “quantity”) very well. Our cool climate styles (fresh, bright, high-energy wines) are very much in vogue at the moment.
I’d like to see New Zealand’s wine regions devote more attention to improving the wine tourism experience with more restaurants at cellar doors and more innovative ways of show-casing our winemaking and viticultural methods.