Jane Skilton initially planned to study Electrical Engineering after leaving school, but quickly realised that volts and amps would be unlikely to hold her interest. Instead, she applied for a job in a local fine wine shop and a career in wine began. She completed the Wine and Spirit Education Trust Diploma exam (gaining the Frescobaldi and Cognac scholarships) in 1988 and gained her Master of Wine qualification in 1993.

She married her New Zealand husband and moved to Auckland in 2000. Jane now divides her time between teaching WSET wine classes through her own school, the NZ School of Wines and Spirits and Le Cordon Bleu New Zealand, writing about wine and looking after her family. She is the Wine Editor for the Food Magazine and regular contributor to Gourmet Traveller Wine and Wine NZ.

We asked her a couple of questions about herself, about NZ wine, and her battle plan for Game of Rhones.

What’s your wine story?

I’ve never done anything else since the day I left school – got a job in wine shop and voila. Now I have a wine education business, am NZ editor for a wine magazine and judge. Anything to do with wine to be honest . . .

What are three things you need to know about New Zealand Syrah?

Fantastic, world class quality, amazingly well-priced and made by people who REALLY believe in the variety. Wines with true heart and soul.

What are three things you need to know about Hawkes Bay Syrah in particular?

See above! Ability to deliver flavour and personality in a medium-bodied wine. Not overblown, not too oaky, not too alcoholic. Wines with grace and fragrance.

G, S or M?

S always but a little bit of me loves G (fleshy and fruity – what’s not to love?).

What is your battle plan on approaching a tasting of over 100 Rhone style wines?

Go to the less crowded stands, maybe the newer labels that don’t have so much history? Then really talk to the winemaker. You may be amongst the first to discover a gem.

What would be your top 6 producers to try at Game of Rhones? 

Too hard!!!! Who would turn down the opportunity to taste Henschke? But I’ve tasted the wines often so:

Trinity Hill
Craggy Range
Shaw and Smith
Yarra Yering
I’ve never heard of Ministry of Clouds so definitely this
ditto Vinteloper

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