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Uncorked With Resident Winemaker Brian Bicknell
– Cuisine

1. Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into wine?
It is the weirdest thing but in the end it was written in the stars! After travelling and drinking through Europe in my 20s I became really interested in the taste of wine and the differences between areas. I returned to NZ to do a Botany degree and then needed some work so applied for a position at a wine store.

A heap of people applied and unbeknownst to me the owner charted the stars of the three most likely candidates. Apparently when I was born my three major planets lined up in a perfect triangle, meaning I have a ‘Lucky Trine’, and life will be good. I am not a believer but because he thought it was lucky he employed me, so it was lucky for me.

From then on I really dived into the world of wine and every Botany essay revolved around wine somehow, and I then wrote away to wineries and got a holiday job leaf-plucking, which I loved, and from there the rest is history.


2. Do you have a qualification in winemaking?
Yes I have a BSc in Botany from Auckland and a Post Graduate Diploma in Oenology from Roseworthy, near Adelaide.


3. What do you find the hardest part of the harvest?
This is a hard one as I truly love harvest. We have four additional winemakers come from all over the globe to share the experience with us and you totally devote your life to it. When not working you’re sleeping, and when awake it is all about the wine, so it is total immersion, which I love.

I suppose the hard part is the weather. While talking of the weather it can be pretty inane if you are living in a city where it does not truly affect you, but the weather is everything to us over harvest so we spend a lot of time looking at the horizon and over weather charts trying to determine what will influence our picking decisions.


4. Why does New Zealand have such great wines?
New Zealand does produce some very good wines but we need to keep striving to improve. The key really is site, the combination of aspect, soil, temperature, variety, and people, and we are fortunate to have a relatively cool climate to retain fruit characters (which can be a trap), but also a long ripening period so that we can ripen later varieties like Sauvignon Blanc.


5. What is the best wine you’ve ever tasted and why?
Maybe not the best wine I have had, but a very good one and one that changed the way I look at wine. It was a 1989 Domaine Leflaive 1er Cru Clavoillon that I had in 1992. From a great Puligny Montrachet producer it was the combination of this wine and a brief conversation with Michael Brajkovich that changed the way I make and think about wine, and have been doing natural/wild yeast Chardonnays ever since.


6. Our chefs are preparing succulent Venison steaks for our guests for dinner. What do you match this dish with?
For me it is Pinot Noir. The earthy, savoury notes of Pinot Noir along with its good acidity works so well with venison, especially if there is a truffle/earth/fungal note in the sauce. Mushroom, not creamy, always brings out the forest-floor notes of the wine and a jus with something like redcurrant in it brings out both the black and red fruit notes.

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