NWWA – Meet the Judges: Jane Cooper

Jane is an experienced winemaker with 28 years of international experience and her own wine label, Alexia. Winemaking has allowed her to travel across the globe to Chile, the Hunter Valley, Italy and extensively throughout New Zealand. She consults at Ohau Wines on the Kapiti Coast and has just built a small urban winery and cellar door in Greytown in Wairarapa. Jane has previously judged at both the New Zealand Wine of the Year and the New Zealand Aromatic Wine competition and is the Chair of Judges for the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards.

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

“I was 17.  My brother had just turned 18 and Mum and Dad opened a bottle of vintage (can't remember which vintage) Charles Heidsieck Champagne that Dad had won in a Rotary raffle.  Bready, yeasty, lemony delight!”

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

“Bit low at the moment, probably only about 20 dozen.  Most recent addition a six-pack of wines made by Jen Parr in Central Otago.”

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

“Chardonnay.”

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

“North Canterbury, very exciting wines coming from there.”

What has been your most memorable wine and food moment?

“Hard to pick one and some of the good ones Iv'e forgotten.  I remember a goat’s cheese soufflé with a tight, lemony, nutty Hawkes Bay Chardonnay (Keltern Vineyard).”

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

“I get a sense in NZ it is swinging more towards more individual, creative wines that are very thoughtful rather than a more prescriptive narrow interpretation of varieties and styles.  Winemakers are trying different techniques and there is more tolerance (from both winemakers and consumers) on what a good or interesting wine is.  Another strong change is towards organic/sustainable wines that have provenance so that people know where they come from and feel an attachment to that place and the people that grow/make them.”

What do you enjoy most about judging at the NWWA?

“The camaraderie and 'feeling in the room' when we judge is great - we all enjoy the judging itself but also the group of people who do the judging.  Also, because you give your time for free, this show is very good at showing and telling you that they appreciate the effort that people go to.  Lastly, this show has a very real sense of helping people choose some wine that they know will be of good quality - they trust the NWWA results (lots of friends tell me they take the wee brochure with them when they go shopping!).”