John Saker is a writer and author based in Wellington. He’s the wine writer for Cuisine NZ magazine, wine columnist for Fairfax newspapers and Your Weekend, and has written a book: How To Drink A Glass of WinePinot Noir: The New Zealand Story and Vinacular. 

Facing a battle as epic as GAME OF RHONES requires strategy: We asked John for his Rhone tips and tricks, and a bit of background, too.

What’s your wine story, in brief?

I began to get serious with wine when I lived in France in the late 1970s, playing basketball professionally. My French teammates saw it as their duty to act as wine tutors. I began to write about wine 20 years ago and currently write for Cuisine magazine and Fairfax newspapers.

What are three things you need to know about New Zealand Syrah?
  1. It’s not Aussie shiraz
  2. As with sauvignon blanc, there’s a natural synergy between this archipelago and the variety
  3. It’s surprising how good it can be across several different regions.
What are three things you need to know about Hawkes Bay Syrah in particular?
  1. At its best, it offers spectacular aromatics
  2. Molten tannins
  3. There should be more planted
G, S or M?

S really does the business. Without it, it’s reduced to ‘bu_ine__’

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

Slow food is where it’s at

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

A full stomach and dental insurance

What do you drink when no one is watching?

Mauresque (pastis and almond cordial)

What’s your Game of Rhones producer hitlist?

Easthope Family Winegrowers
Elephant Hill
M.Chapoutier & Delas
Trinity Hill

Shaw + Smith

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