NWWA – Meet the Judges: Michael Bann

Originally from Australia, Michael developed his interest in wine growing up in the family retail liquor business. He went on to study horticulture and winemaking, and worked vintages around Australia and France, before coming to New Zealand in 2006 where he met his wife and started a family. Michael has been winemaker at Rapaura Springs since 2012, and winemaker at Summerhouse wines since 2013. He is passionate about Marlborough wines and developing new varieties and styles within the region. He is an experienced wine judge, having participated in all the major wine competitions in New Zealand, as well as a keen motorcyclist.

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

“My parents would often open interesting wines at home that may have been dropped off by the sales reps and that they were looking at stocking and I would often get the opportunity to taste them. However, I remember my father opening a cellared bottle of Hill of Grace and Grange side by side. I don’t remember the vintage exactly, however as a late teen I remember being impressed by the power and the youthfulness of these wines.”

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

“Unfortunately my cellar is quite small maybe 100-120bottles.  My most recent addition being a bottle of Rioja that was purchased from the local New World store. I bought a bottle for a recent trip with friends into the Marlborough sounds and thought it was good enough that I needed to go back for another!”

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

“Chardonnay in the form of bubbles (Blanc de Blanc) would be a drink of choice for my wife and I on many occasions. Life’s a celebration, why shouldn’t you open a bottle of bubbles any time you want!”

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

“The Loire Valley France. A region that focusses largely on Chenin Blanc “Vouvray” and Sauvignon Blanc “Pouilly Fume and Sancerre” but have other unique regions within like Muscadet where they grow a variety known as Melon de Bourgogne that I have tried some lovely very fairly priced wines. The region is also a large producer of Crement style wines which I find intriguing if I can find them in NZ.”

What has been your most memorable wine and food moment?

“One of my favourite was many years ago whilst a bottle of 2001 Claymore Dark Side of the Moon Clare Valley Shiraz with marinated Kangaroo fillets done on the barbie!”

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

“I’m unsure to be honest where the pendulum will go next. Winemakers are always experimenting and trying to create wines that are unique and different, some work and some don’t. I think that Covid-19 may have also played its part as to the changing consumer environment.”

What do you enjoy most about judging at the NWWA?

“It’s always a pleasure and honour to judge at any New Zealand Wine show. The professionalism, high calibre of judges and true comradery that goes on. There is also the high quality of wines we get to judge and knowing that they are all at an affordable price and accessible to the consumer!”