Morven has worked in the wine industry in one way or another for most of her life. She started her company, Tradecraft, in 2015 with a view to providing a sales and marketing strategy service to boutique wineries. She works closely with wineries like Huia Vineyards and MANA Winegrowers, a collective of six organic wineries from Marlborough. Morven’s parents, Anne and Laurie were amongst the pioneer winemakers in Central Otago so wine is in the whanau.
The latest endeavour for Tradecraft is to help bring Not Serious Wine Chats to NZ. We spoke with Morven about how the ethos of these chats relate to her wine life.
WC - When was NSWC first started?
M – Dominque McMillan started Not Serious Wine Chats in Melbourne just over a year ago. The idea had been kicking around for a while. Dom had been working at popular wine bar in Melboune and Natural wines were staples on the wine list. She realised introducing these wines to the punters took both her and the punter back to wine 101 when it came to explaining the wine and selling the wines easily. It was a reminder that wine can be bloody intimidating and to Dom that made no sense at all.
This was the common ground for Dom and me. We chatted on the phone about how the end consumer – the dude that actually pulls the dollar from their wallet – was often left out of the wine chat. You know, those casual, relaxed chinwags over a glass or two of wine. There are some great wine shows out there designed to engage with the public and it’s important they exist but where Not Serious Wine Chats fits in is in the more intimate social chat. The goal is to make it chilled enough so everyone – anyone – can feel comfortable asking a question about wine. Getting rid of that wank factor is vital if you want more people to partake.
WC - I noticed that a lot of people on your panel are sommeliers and/or work in the wine business so why were they drawn to NSWC’s?
M – Getting a great bunch of speakers together is where the magic lies. If you only have winemakers on the panel then the conversation will always default to their experiences. You can’t have a chat about without a winemaker but there are plenty of other people involved in making wine and getting that bottle to market. Good banter happens when people share a passion but not necessarily an opinion. A wine waiter will have a different take on how the public like a wine as opposed to the winemaker or viticulturist who made it. We hope that the speakers are drawn to NSWC because it gives them a chance to be candid and not formal when chatting about wine. It also gives them a chance to talk about topics that fascinate them. It’s a place for a wine worker to talk about wine in general as opposed to just always talking about their wine. We hope it ignites the passion in the speakers as well as the crowd that comes along.
WC - There are some really divided opinions I’m sure!
M - Yea, we hope so! That’s the name of the game. We don’t want everyone on that panel to always agree and creating polarising topics is where great discussion can be found.
WC - So what kind of levels of wine knowledge do you see in the crowd?
M - As we’re just starting out in NZ it’s yet to be discovered here but we know that with the Melbourne crowd it’s a mix of hospitality folk and public. One of the really great things that’s come from the talks in Melbourne is that those who are young in the hospitality industry and starting their careers are coming along to a great, informal, relaxed chat and using it as a way to learn about their craft. Trade tastings can often be very formal. You drink the wines in a certain order. Everyone is very quiet – talk about intimidating if you’re new to wine!
Our real aim is to appeal to people who know nothing, who are beginners on their wine journey. They might have a bit of interest, know what they like and know that a holiday in the vines is a good way to spend a week. It’s those guys we want to invite to belong to the NZ wine industry.
A - When have you had a really intimidating wine experience?
WC - Hard to keep count! I’m pretty relaxed when it comes to having an opinion but probably my very first official wine tasting is the one that really stands out.
I was with my parents at a tasting hosted by Alan Brady, who, alongside Rolfe Mills was pretty much the pioneer of Central Otago Wine. I was young and surrounded by a bunch of winemakers. Alan had selected a range of very expensive Burgundies (wines made from Burgundy - a region that makes Pinot Noir in France). He insisted on letting talk about the wine first so I wouldn’t be influenced by the pros in the room. I was really intimidated. I was ok with smelling and tasting because I’d been doing that with Mum and Dad but I knew the wines were bloody expensive and maybe they were world class and here was I, about to say I didn’t like it. The first thing that came to mind when I put my nose in the glass was Elastoplast. Internally, I really panicked and went bright red and probably started giggling nervously. Alan said I needed to say what was in my head right then so I blurted it out and he said, “that’s right, I get that too.” I possibly owe Alan Brady my entire career for that one moment.
A - Do you have a controversial wine opinion?
WC – I’m nervous to say this out loud but the boats still out for me on natural wine. I’m really intrigued by it. I’m certainly full of admiration and incredibly supportive of anybody who’s innovative, experimental and wants to get to the roots of their craft.
I’m also right behind less fussing about by winemakers when it comes to making wine. So in those aspects I have a lot of respect for the natural wine movement. But I do really struggle what ‘natural wine’ actually means. There are ‘natural wines’ that have been made with non-organic fruit. What? That ain’t right. My real concern though is there are wineries and winemakers already making beautiful – effectively natural wines but who don’t fit in with this movement. Excluding those talented, experienced people from the craft doesn’t sit well with me. I think there is space for a “natural wine” category so the more we talk about, learn about it and include everyone in that banter, then the faster we will know just what that category is and hopefully have some good fun tasting some really interesting wines in the process!
WC - My one is that I love Sauv. A lot of people in the NZ wine industry turn their noses up at Sauv but I’ve come full circle!
M - It’s actually one of our upcoming talks in NZ, it’s going to be about why we love/hate Sauvignon Blanc.
WC - I’ll have to get to that one! Now do you have any recommendations of wines that are at a lower price point?
M - I’m really biased as Huia vineyards is a client but they became a client because I’ve had a long-time respect for Claire and Mike as they are true owner/operators, farming organically and they make really beautiful wine! Huia wines aren’t at the lower end of the price point but they are incredible wines for the price. Thankfully, there are a lot of really great NZ wines where this applies.
WC - I feel like you’ve already covered this really well but what do you want people to take away from Not Serious Wine Chats?
M- That wine is about good times. It’s yummy. It’s interesting. The people who make it are passionate artisans and they have some great stories that ought to be shared. But most importantly we want people to take away that you don’t have become a wanker to be a wine fan.
WC - Last question! What does wine mean to you?
M – A broad question. I really love the people in the wine industry. They’re grafters – they work hard. They’re risk takers – you plant a lot of money in the ground when you start a winery and they’re humorous – they play hard! Wine embraces a really great culture and it brings people together…usually over good food too and that right there is how you get Not Serious.
Not Serious Wine Chats debut in Auckland on Monday the 23rd of July. Get your tickets (if there are any!) here.