Wine expert and founder of New Zealand Cellar, Melanie Brown, opened her first Wine Bar & Store at Pop Brixton last year. Here, Melanie tells The Resident why she is championing New Zealand wines, how to look like a wine expert in restaurants and what she’s drinking now…
Why did you set up New Zealand Cellar?
Because of my love of New Zealand Wine! I was so disappointed with the lack of knowledge and supply of premium New Zealand wine in the UK that it felt only natural after my long stint at The Providores (Melanie played a fundamental role in developing wine list at the Marylebone restaurant), to put together the best showcase of New Zealand Wine. My aim is to create a wider conversation that contributes to increasing sales of premium New Zealand wine from producers that are not so well known in the UK.
What do you say to New World wine sceptics?
A lot of New Zealand’s wine fame is largely surrounded by intensely flavoured Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Although we do really have to thank this style as it immediately catapulted New Zealand to worldwide fame it does bring a certain scepticism as comparatively it is not particularly complex or too difficult to produce in the winery. I’d like to encourage these sceptics to look past this style and discover new regions and varietals that New Zealand is producing. For instance, Gisborne produces some very exciting wines from varietals such as Arneis and Chenin Blanc that are gaining some very nice recognition. The key would be for these sceptics to look for wines driven by a good core minerality and balance. There are also some very fine Bordeaux examples being produced from the Gimblett Gravels region in the Hawke’s Bay – the first New World region in the world to be recognised as an area based solely on the terroir of the region.
Which are New Zealand’s most exciting regions at the moment?
Gisborne and Waipara. One of my favourite producers, Millton, are based in Gisborne and are making exceptional wines from grapes like Viognier and Chenin Blanc. My aim is to provide an exciting platform that can suitably highlight the integrity of the vineyards from these regions. Waipara is gaining some serious excitement surrounding Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and is definitely a region to watch.
What’s your favourite New Zealand wine and food pairing?
A 2012 Kalex Pinot Noir from Central Otago matched with a great Kiwi BBQ. This Pinot Noir is made up from a selection of small parcels from throughout Central Otago and is a quintessential Central Pinot with an abundance of fruit and plenty of violet characteristics, and who can really go passed a good ol’ Kiwi BBQ?
In general what sort of food goes well with New Zealand wines?
New Zealand is famous for producing wines packed with flavour and character and so I believe the best match are foods with the same flavour and intensity. Peter Gordon’s food at The Providores is my favourite example – his Fusion cuisine (a real blend of European, Asian and Pacific cuisines) can sometimes be misunderstood, but Peter has an exceptional palate and is able to use a range of interesting flavours that provide a fabulous sense of excitement and I think paired with New Zealand wine makes a perfect match.
What would you order in a bar that’s a safe bet?
Marlborough Pinot Noir. Marlborough is producing some of the best value Pinot Noir’s from New Zealand. Plentiful vibrant fruit and great character. Although these wines aren’t overly complex they provide certain safety net for me if I was ordering in a bar. Marlborough is the ‘hub’ of the New Zealand wine industry and it was only a matter of time before they started getting recognition for other wines.
Where do you like to go in London for New Zealand Wines?
Vinoteca have an exceptional wine list and wine shop. They have a small but concise New Zealand range and are very focussed on sourcing new and exciting varietals, which is exactly why I like to head here and learn something new.
1 Remember your sommelier/wine waiter is your friend. They are paid to be there to assist you in your drinking decisions. Ask them for guidance – to perhaps suggest a few bottles from them menu that would go with what you are ordering. Most of the time you will be talking to a real lover of wine and they will be only to happy to share their enthusiasm with you. They might direct you to a wine you had never heard of that comes in under your budget and makes your taste buds sing. (It’s always a good idea to indicate what your budget is.)
2 It can be tricky ordering wine for the table if you are all eating different things. However as a very general rule, if you’re having the chicken, and your friends have ordered, say, the salmon, the lamb and the mushroom risotto a good Pinot Noir will see you right – it’s light enough to match well with the salmon and chicken but has enough character and backbone to stand up to the lamb and the rich creamy risotto. (Of course, the type of cuisine and sauces used will come in to play here).
Visit the Wine Bar & Store at Pop Brixton, 49 Brixton Station Road SW9 8PQ; 020 3633 3986; thenewzealandcellar.co.uk