As one of the founding Principals of Negociants New Zealand, I have dozens of fond memories from the last thirty years. Although times, wines and faces have changed, the strong relationship that exists between our two businesses remains as strong as ever.
It is fitting that Negociants NZ should be celebrating its 30th anniversary in the same year that we are marking thirty years of making 'The Armagh,' our benchmark Shiraz. New Zealand was our first export market for this wine and I remember hosting an 'under the table' launch at the Northern Club. Over the last thirty years, the style of this wine has changed, moving away from heavy American oak to the more restrained style that affords the wine a more delicate profile that is lower in alcohol.
Our early success in the NZ wine market came from our ability to produce rich, flavoursome red wines, which NZ producers had trouble making due to limited sunshine. We were not better winemakers but we were fortunate enough to have the tools needed. Fast forward thirty years and NZ has found ways to craft some truly beautiful red wines.
Some of my fondest memories in New Zealand take place on the Variety Club Bash, where I entered my very first bash car. Each day, we would take one or two trade customers out on the road with us for a few glasses of wine and lots of laughs.
A few names that stick in my mind from over the years are Don Fletcher (our first account), Tony Astle from Antoines (the first person to put us on a wine list), Mike Radich and Zuke Marinkovich, who came on that first bash! I consider Chris Green from Arbitrageur, John Lawrence from Boulcott Street Bistro and Mike Egan from Monsoon Poon, amongst my closest mates, thanks to our many years working together.
The last thirty years has seen our business grow and evolve. In that time, I have said good bye to my father and winery founder Jim, who sadly passed away in 2004, but I now have the pleasure of working with my two sons, Tom and Sam who represent the third generation of Jim Barry Wines and are slowly starting to take over the reins (although my brother John and I still try to visit NZ as often as we can to catch up with our friends in the Trade).
Today, New Zealand remains our third biggest and most consistent export market. After all these years, it is still an absolute pleasure to work with the team at Negociants.
Cheers to 30 great years!