Tuesday, 14 May 2019 12:27

A unique opportunity — Ronan Sayburn MS

Written by 
Ronan Sayburn. Ronan Sayburn.

The UK’s Ronan Sayburn MS on his experience with the New Zealand Scholarship known simply as Sommit™.

Eighteen sommeliers from around the world took part in Sommit™ in January this year. 

They had the opportunity to indulge in the wide range of varietals New Zealand produces, away from the eyes of the media.

With our own Stephen Wong MW and UK’s Ronan Sayburn MS as the presenters, much was gained by all participants. Sayburn tells us more about this unique event.

You were involved in the Sommit™ as a participant in 2016. What did you personally get from the event?

As with all trips to New Zealand, a great overview of the country and current wine scene - but importantly meeting the people, tasting the food, feeling the culture, seeing the geography and climate and networking with wonderful group of international sommeliers.

Why were you involved this year?

Cameron Douglas MS, along with Stephen Wong MW, who normally hosts was unavailable. As I am a great fan of New Zealand and its wines I was asked to step in for Cameron.

In your experience, how unique is this event and why?

A trip to New Zealand is always special. It’s a small country with a great presence on wine lists all over the world. Internationally known for great Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc’s and Pinots from Otago but there is so much more of the story to tell. Great Syrahs and Pinot Gris, sustainability, clean fresh wine from a clean green environment. 

Holding the event with no media present - how much does that allow the Sommit™ to delve deeper than in other forums?

It’s a closed room and we have an open forum where we want people to praise or criticise in equal measure, to ask questions and form opinions based on the global wine scene and what they can see based on tasting a big selection of New Zealand wines. Do they like Sauvignon Blanc, do they like Chardonnay? Where does it fit in the wine world, commercial or fine dining? Or are unique varieties better to plant in New Zealand - Albarino, St Laurent? We want people to get passionate about what we, the world and our restaurant customers want. Should we serve or educate or lead or all three? It’s a discussion between global sommeliers that should be animated and personal.

What were the most interesting take homes that you got from the participants?

The wide variety of markets and customer bases that each candidate work with. From Europe, Asia and the USA, from fine dining to casual dining, all needs are different.

Is there anything New Zealand wine producers should be considering, that you picked up during the Sommit™?

If you make natural wine - make sure it’s not spoiled with aromas that classically are observed as faulty - high volatile acidity, high brettanomyces, high oxidation - make balanced wines. 

New Zealand wine makers are making some natural wines but the movement is slow.

Keep Sauvignon Blanc in a higher bracket of quality - regional variation within Marlborough, single vineyards, barrel aged wines,  

What do you expect the outcome of this to be, for the individuals participating.

An experience of a lifetime! 


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