Time for a bit of wine and dine

KAT PICKFORD
Last updated 11:30 05/12/2012

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A group of Marlborough wine makers have launched an industry association to discuss technical developments in their field in a social forum.

The Winemakers' Association of Marlborough chairman Matthew Mitchell said the idea of forming a group had been discussed for a couple of years, and a steering committee was appointed in May to put a programme in place.

The association aimed to host technical seminars and workshops, a wider range of wine tasting with in-depth discussions, and the chance to meet other wine makers from around the region, he said.

Mr Mitchell, who is replacing Liam McElhinney as Marisco's head winemaker, said their meetings so far were largely informal, but 185 people expressed interest in taking part in monthly events.

"The thrust is very much about putting together a calendar of events and adding value for our members," he said.

"The hardest thing is trying to get winemakers' commitment to meet for functions when quarter of the year is taken up with harvest."

As an association, they presented an attractive proposition for experts to speak on a range of topics to help inform winemakers and increase their skills.

For example, last month a specialist in selective tartrate removal system (STARS) spoke to the group about his experiences and fleshed out the technology's background and how and why it worked.

Although STARS was a relatively common technique used to remove bitartrate crystals - a natural by-product of the wine-making process - the exact process was not widely understood, he said. The network also gave an opportunity to taste and discuss each others' wines and the financial ability to buy the best wines from around the world.

"As winemakers, people who drink a lot of wine, this is quite an attractive proposition," Mr Mitchell said.

Membership was restricted to Marlborough winemakers or people working in the industry aspiring to be winemakers.

It also gave winemakers who worked for Marlborough wineries but were based elsewhere an opportunity to meet and share ideas with their peers.

"It allows people the freedom to critique wines in an honest fashion, and hold a level of discussion about aspects of the wine that most interests us."

The future of the association could evolve to take an advocacy or lobbyist role, but they remained focused on ensuring the success of the events calendar, he said.

"The sheer ability to get everyone together and have a drink is priceless - we don't get to see a lot of each other."

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- The Marlborough Express

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