NWWA – Meet the Judges: Antony Mackenzie

Ant Mackenzie has worked in the New Zealand wine industry for over 25 years, holding various positions including stints as a general manager, wine consultant and wine science lecturer at Eastern Institute of Technology. He is currently working for Hãhã Wine Company as chief winemaker whilst continuing to develop his own wine brands under the Ant Mackenzie Wines banner. He enjoys keeping a finger on the pulse of New Zealand’s wine industry through awards judging, taking part in the New Zealand Wine of the Year Awards, The Royal Easter Show Wine Awards and has recently been appointed Chief Judge of the A&P Hawke’s Bay Wine Awards.

How old were you when you had your first wine ‘moment’?

“Probably at 22 when I tried the 1989 Vidal Reserve Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay.  Amazing wine.”

What does your own wine cellar look like and what is your most recent addition?

“Owning a wine business I have 1000’s of bottles!  My drinking stock is probably a rotating 200 bottles.  I’m still working through wine allocations and winemaker swaps from 10 years ago!”

In the last 12 months, which grape have you drunk the most of?

“I would have to say Chardonnay but closely followed by Gewurztraminer.”

In the last 12 months, what’s the most exciting region you’ve discovered or re-discovered?

“It never really left me but German Riesling is pretty special.  The diversity of styles is huge now with warmer vintages and possibilities of drier wines becoming more regular.”

What has been your most memorable wine and food moment?

“There have been many but for the sheer fun of the evening, the dinner I did with Rick Stein up at Kauri Cliffs was memorable.  On another occasion the celebrity chef didn’t turn up to an extremely fancy dinner, I had to carry the night with a room full of disappointed guests-that was memorable!”

Wine styles continue to fluctuate. Where do you think the wine-style pendulum is swinging?

“We live in exciting times with regards to wine style.  Nobody has monopolies on wine styles these days and pretty much anything goes.  The traditional wine business model has been disrupted which has opened the doors to innovative winemakers doing exciting and creative things.  How we communicate about wine is totally different these days, people trust their own sense of taste a lot more and are not shy about expressing opinions!”

What do you enjoy most about judging at the NWWA?

“For me this was the first year being involved so it was a delight judging with Kate Radburnd and Nick Picone.  We all have quite different palates but somehow we managed to reach agreement without removing the gloves!”