A kiwi tasting project

Wine Class, by Jo Burzynska

By Louise Johnson
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Julia O’Connell, one of only a handful of women in the world to make premium méthode traditionnelle

Julia O’Connell, one of only a handful of women in the world to make premium méthode traditionnelle [©Liquid Ideas]

Helen Masters, winemaker, Ata Rangi, Martinborough, New Zealand
New Zealand's Deutz Marlborough Cuvee Blanc de Blancs and Brut
Melton Estate, near Christchurch in New Zealand,  is a boutique vineyard producing premium wines


Its tagline reads “all you need to know about wine in New Zealand” and it rings true, but Wine Class is also a great introduction to the world of wine where-ever in the world you may be.

Author Jo Burzynska is a wine editor of the New Zealand Herald’s Viva lifestyle magazine. UK born, she gave up the “stupendous selection” of wines available in Britain in favour of New Zealand’s exciting, youthful and dynamic wine industry. Her international experience adds great value to her exploration of wine styles and the comparisons she is able to make between New Zealand, Australian and European reproductions of each variety.

Wine Class is most definitely pitched at the wine beginner. It explores, by chapter, the process and mechanics of tasting wine, whites, reds, sparkling and sweet, the winemaker’s influence, terroir, the wines of Australasia, international wines and wine and food matching. Additional chapters look at storing and running a blind tasting to test your new-found knowledge. Each chapter has a group of tasting recommendations to help you explore the styles and concepts discussed and each group of three wines include a good mixture of Old and New World varieties and an outline of what to expect from each.

For those well versed in the basics the “further afield” chapter may hold the most interest. Of course the obvious French appellations are included, but she also covers Italian, Spanish, German, South American and South African regions and their specialities.

Jo encourages wine enthusiasts to explore these regions. “We become better judges of the character and quality of our local wines once we’ve benchmarked them against classic examples, such as sauvignon blanc from the Loire, pinot noir from Burgundy and riesling from Germany, and seen how varieties from other New World countries shape up against our own, such as the sauvignon blancs of Chile and south America,” she says.

As a wine lover who was guided well by a knowledgeable wine merchant, Jo recommends finding a good retailer who can help you explore new wine styles. As a tip she offers a essential difference between New and Old World wines: “Rather than fruit being to the fore, the focus of European wines tends to be on texture; this is because so many of them have been made specifically to go with food, which can really bring them to life”.

So take note of the “perfect pairings” chapter, which offers excellent advice on matching food and wine. If you’ve followed the tastings through the book as a home-made wine class you’ll have a solid grounding to make some excellent choices. For the timid the tasting recommendations for each food style will give you, at least, a choice of three wines to go with a meal.

For beginners Wine Class offers a great overview of the world of wine. Most wines should be available in Australia, but with the help of a good wine merchant you should be able to find substitutes to match the prescribed styles. If you’re visiting New Zealand and want a preview of the specialities of each region it also offers great value and for wine experts there is still enough depth and variety in the tasting recommendations to make it a worthwhile tasting project.

Wine Class by Jo Burzynska is published by Random House New Zealand, RRP $35

VisitVineyards.com members and subscribers can purchase Wine Class with a 12.5 percent discount off the recommended retail price through our online book partner, Seekbooks.


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October 22nd, 2009
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