Jim Harre’s passion for wine runs in the family – his grandfather, father and brother were all winemakers and his other brother is involved in the wine and food industry in France. Jim has been involved in the New World Wine Awards since 2008, this being his 13th year as Chair of the Judging Panel. He also has extensive experience judging in New Zealand as well as in Australia, China, Japan, UK and the United States. His roles include Panel Chair for New Zealand Winegrowers, Chair of Judges for the China Wineluxe Competition, Chair of Judges for the Victorian Wine Competition in Australia, Chair of Judges for the International Aromatic Wine Show, Panel Chair for the International Wine Challenge in London and San Francisco International Wine Competition and a wine consultant for Air New Zealand.
How old were you when you had your first wine ‘moment’?
“I’m not sure how old I was as we had family Sunday lunches where different wines would be tasted and discussed and even as a child was given a taste of watered down wine in a thimble. My first Moment of amazement in wine was 1973 working as a wine steward at the Meridian Room Restaurant in Auckland and tasting a 1950’s Chateau d’Yquem from France, like nothing I’d ever tried before, absolutely amazing.”
What does your own wine cellar look like and what is your most recent addition?
“It varies quite a bit as I’m more of a hedonist than a hoarder, at the moment there is around 450 bottles. Most recent addition is Isolated Hill Pinot Noir, a tiny wine producer in North Canterbury who is producing Pinot both as a Rose and a fantastic Pinot Noir off limestone soils.”
In the last 12 months, which grape have you drunk the most of?
“It would be a mix of Chardonnay and Syrah. NZ Syrah is unbelievable and the price is great value, Chardonnay is a bit like Pinot Noir in that it’s an evolving style with levels of complexity and character but with an almost endless number of regions to taste and enjoy, especially when you look at what the world has to offer.”
In the last 12 months, what’s the most exciting region you’ve discovered or re-discovered?
“The wines from the slopes of Mt Vesuvius in the Campania region, especially the the grape Fiano, beautifully textured with mineral, honey and spice notes, it’s a white wine with a bit of attitude that embraces food!”
What has been your most memorable wine and food moment?
“A dinner a few years ago in Paris where the host was a great cook and a wine collector and served with the beef Dish a magnum of Chateau Gruaud-Larose 1915, one of the great vintages and a time capsule of the summer of 1915. A truely spectacular dinner experience.”
Wine styles continue to fluctuate. Where do you think the wine-style pendulum is swinging?
“I think consumers are looking for more complexity in wines and becoming more adventurous in grape varieties and regions. Varieties from around the coastal regions of the Mediterranean are becoming more popular both in NZ plantings and wines from the country of origin, these are food friendly, often with a lightness of touch. Organic wines will continue to grow in volume as will sparkling wines like Prosecco and Cava, particularly the drier styles.”
What do you enjoy most about judging at the NWWA?
“It’s very satisfying to select wines that are of great quality at very reasonable price points, knowing that consumers will get the advantage of these selections. Couple with this, three days of spending time with a group of judges who are a selection of New Zealand’s best, some great dinners and extraordinary comradery and what’s not to like?”