Stephen Wong MW
Stephen Wong MW. The letters after the name are brand new, but come as no surprise for those of us who’ve listened to Stephen’s thoughts on wine for a while. The Malaysian born kiwi resides in Wellington where he has long been a key person in this city’s hospitality scene. More recently he’s emerged as a wine educator on a national level.
He has also championed the natural wine scene in New Zealand, encouraging producers to take the risk of putting these wines in bottle, and consumers to open them.
He’s an interesting person then to ask about New Zealand Pinot Noir. His answer captures all of the dynamism and energy we want to see in our wines. Phrases such as ‘still changing my mind’, ‘ridiculously exciting’ and ‘so many different directions’ encapsulate the scene.
The question he asks himself often is “what if someone asked me to open one bottle which best represents New Zealand Pinot Noir?” He feels the complexity of the answer is a sign of maturity. No longer is there an obvious choice. He can see two camps emerging which transcend regionality; the ‘lighter, floral, lacy group’ versus the ‘classic, grand cru, later harvested’ wines.
Stylistically he thinks wine making still has a hand over regionality, and wonders what role low sulphur and whole bunch decisions have in expressing the sense of place.
The immediacy of our lives provide an opportunity to produce digestibility in wine he thinks. Social media provides a platform upon which people can recommend wines to their peers and followers. What place does that leave for hard to find, expensive to buy, must cellar wines he muses.
His natural wine bent hasn’t polarised him, but he can see benefit in supporting an ‘other end’ of the spectrum. He says;
“I think that it is possible to nurture & support something without being 100% sure that the position we are taking is entirely intellectually defensible because the goal is to create conversation. It’s being able to appreciate that the world might not be changed by my generation but by the generation we inspire”.
“Just like vignerons are custodians of terroir and the land, we can be custodians of ideas. We can protect these ideas because some day, down the line, someone might be able to do something amazing with them”.
He poses many more questions on his website (http://www.winesentience.com/numatic-press/2016/1/7/wine-sentience-online-20) and that ability to create conversation is of huge value to us all.