Megan Abbott-Walker runs a wine consulting business, and is an all-round NZ wine legend. We asked her a few questions about Game of Rhone, New Zealand wine, and for her battle tasting tips. 

What’s your wine story?

During over 10 years working in the hospitality industry my love of wine has grown and grown. Beginning in Wellington, then moving through Auckland, then Melbourne for over six years before returning to Auckland. Among the roles I have taken on are those of Sommelier, Beverage Manager and Sake Sommelier. I have successfully completed my studies for the WSET Diploma (Level 4) and am looking forward to the next step in my studies of wine. What now? Now I am a sommelier and wine consultant living, drinking, creating and enabling in Auckland, New Zealand.

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

Elegance, fragrant spice and fruit, bold yet finely structured.

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

Terroir expressive, black pepper spice, lush and concentrated.

G, S or M?

I like the intense broodiness of Syrah (either darkly floral or with a little animal rusticity) and it’s the serious thinker of the group but the flirtatious juiciness of Grenache can win me over pretty easily.

What’s the one thing to keep in mind when matching Rhone varietals to food?

If we’re talking the reds I think you need to keep in mind the structure and weight of the wine as well as intensity of flavour. A lighter style such as you can find in some New World examples in particular (such as single varietal Grenache wines) can be surprisingly good matches to dishes that aren’t heavy – think charcuterie or dishes that need bright, vibrant fruit. Whereas traditional, highly structured Old-World style wines would lend themselves very well to intensely flavoured dishes such as salty, herb redolent, charred and caramelised meats. Don’t just assume that these varieties will be hugely powerful wines!

What would be your (battle) plan on approaching a tasting of over 100 Rhone style wines?

The spittoon is my friend. If you can, aim for lighter reds or whites (generally lower in acidity in the Rhone so safe to have early on) to begin, followed by heavier reds, finishing with sweets such as Muscat de Beaumes de Venice.

What do you drink when no one is watching?

I have no shame about drink choices, whether it be incred wine or Mezcal or Beer. Although this one time I had Jack Daniels recently (that’s pretty shameful)

What would be your top six producers to try at Game of Rhones? (from the list below)

NZ

  1. Craggy Range
  2. Easthope Family Winegrowers (personally excited to see their reds as I haven’t yet but previous experience with whites was bangin’)
  3. Man O War (for a powerful take on NZ Syrah)

AUS

  1. Brash Higgins (vibrant, natural, concentrated wines)
  2. Henschke (classic, iconic Australian winery with power and grace rolled into one – haha get it?!)
  3. Yarra Yering

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