Mary-Therese Blair introduces the new head judge taking Cuisine’s wine tastings into the future.
Memories are powerful things. Throughout our lives significant moments are etched in our brain: in an instant we can recall where we were, who we were with and what we were doing when something truly life-changing happened. Hopefully, (though not always), these recollections are positive and leave happy memories. The moment I read an email inviting me to take responsibility for the wine pages of Cuisine magazine was just such a moment for me. It meant I would go from being a regular features contributor to being part of every wine tasting and then creating the tasting notes that readers turn to issue after issue.
I won’t bore you with the details which, naturally, I recall vividly, but the feelings were strong. Proud to be considered a talented enough writer to expand my contribution to one of New Zealand’s most trusted and respected food and beverage publications. Elated to be taking a huge step forward in my dream of being a successful full-time writer. Panic, as the self-limiting part of my brain kicked in to try to convince me that I wasn’t good enough to stand among the highly qualified judges and wine writers who have historically held the responsibility for assessing wines for Cuisine.
I’m not going to lie, for a while there panic most definitely held the floor over all of the positive emotions. It really didn’t take too deep a dive into my psyche to figure out why. Quite simply put, doing this new job is a really big deal.
This issue marks the 200th Cuisine wine tasting. That’s 200 issues representing the very best of the wine industry; 200 issues of being trusted by both the winemaker and the consumer to find the finest wines from hundreds of entries and explain succinctly why they are either good, great or outstanding. So, 200 issues are no flash in the pan – they are a legacy.
When Cuisine tasting panel head judge, John Belsham, stepped down to focus on other interests, the enormous task of finding a head judge to lead the tastings began in earnest. Whoever would head up the tasting panel needed to be a great deal more than a talented palate. They needed leadership skills, a profound love of wine, a strong network within the wine community and the vision to help take wine tasting into the future while still maintaining the standard of excellence that the discerning Cuisine reader has come to expect.
There is no doubt that winemaker Ben Glover fits the bill as the new lead of the bi-monthly Cuisine blind wine tastings. In addition to being one of New Zealand’s most respected winemakers, he has a deep love and understanding of wine, not just from his home turf of Marlborough but on a global scale. Glover’s CV boasts responsibility for many highly acclaimed New Zealand brands such as Wither Hills, Lindauer, Corbans and Mudhouse. In 2016, Ben returned to his family’s company, Glover Family Vineyards, and the single vineyard- specific wine brand, Zephyr.
Not happy with pursuing excellence in winemaking for just himself, in 2018 Glover teamed up with business partner Rhyan Wardman to create The Coterie. This is a certified- organic winemaking collective in Marlborough where departure from the status quo is encouraged – a hub for boutique winemakers to innovate, collaborate and push boundaries.
Glover is a seasoned wine judge professional who has judged both locally and internationally since 1998, including being invited to judge at South Africa’s largest wine show as an expert in sauvignon blanc in 2019.
Of the Cuisine role Glover says, “Taking on the role of chair of judges for the wine category of this iconic New Zealand-owned food magazine is the business. The challenge for me is to make sure that the wine segment adds kudos to the magazine and enriches the reader’s awareness of wine, the quality and the ever-changing style of wines that are presented to us.”
I recently had the privilege of meeting Glover patriarch, Owen Glover. As the conversation closed I thanked Owen for his hospitality and in doing so referred to him as ‘Mr Glover’. He was quick to let me know that he’s no longer ‘Mr Glover’. “These days, around here I’m Ben and Jack’s dad,” he quipped. Clear to see the Glover sense of humour is intergenerational.
So, as we arrive at wine tasting number 200, it’s safe to say that the Cuisine tasting panel is in trusted hands. Over 150 New Zealand pinot noirs were assessed for this issue with Mr Glover at the panel helm, flanked by Dog Point winemaker Murray Cook and Master of Wine Emma Jenkins, and with me as associate judge wondering what I did to have the opportunity to be here on the first step towards another 200 Cuisine tastings. I feel so privileged to be part of the trusted voice of a highly respected publication telling the stories of great New Zealand wines.
Like I said, it’s a really big deal.