Cityscape caught up with New Zealand’s first and (so far) only Master Sommelier, Cameron Douglas MS, ahead of his stint in the Wine Seminar Lounge at the South Island Wine & Food Festival, to tap his genius on all things wine.
How did you become a Master Sommelier?
My career in hospo started as a chef/cook working at various Auckland outlets in the 1980s – I learned so much about aromas, textures and flavours in food – as well as how to cook. After a couple of redundancies I decided to swap to front of house, and discovered very quickly how much I loved people, food, and wine and how those three elements created a synergy within the dining experience – at any level. Back then fine dining was VIP; today, not so much. I eventually discovered how much I loved the wine experience and began to explore how I could develop this aspect and stay interested in hospitality. Eventually after a few years and while at Vinnies Restaurant I learned of the Court of Master Sommeliers programme. Till this time I was an un-credentialed sommelier. By 2001 I had started my journey on the CMS program with the level 1 course and exam. The Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas was the venue – daunting to say the least – but it opened my eyes to a new and different level of education housed within the hospitality sector. I passed level 1 and the journey was set and I knew what I wanted to do: be the best sommelier I could. This became a Master Sommelier credential about 7 years later.
It sounds like a dream job; what’s the least fun aspect?
Great question! Managing time and being able to maintain the very high standards I set for myself and finding the balance between family, volunteering time for other sommeliers, and wondering if I’ll ever get the chance to mow my own lawn instead of paying a contractor!
What can we expect from your session in the Wine Seminar Lounge at the South Island Wine & Food Festival?
Brosé and Rosé for Other Humans: rosé is a bit like your fave cuppa tea in the morning – so familiar, so easy to drink and so god-damned popular! Why? That’s kinda what I’m gonna talk about.
How do South Island wines hold up on the global stage?
Extremely well, but it’s also about creating awareness on that stage – that’s the tough bit. We need more New Zealand wine ambassadors overseas.
Where are the most unusual places you have you seen them popping up?
Texas, San Diego and Florida.
What is your go-to summer drop?
The list is long I’m afraid, but a few include: Sparkling Rosé, Funky Sauvignon Blanc (Ata Rangi), Aged Pinot Noir, exploring Chardonnay’s many faces, IPA Beer and a really decent cigar at the end of the day.
What are the exciting Kiwi wines that need to be on our radars?
Readers have to research these: The Landing, Brick Bay, Westbrook Waimauku Chardonnay, Puriri Hills, Clearview Estate, Ceres Wines, Alexandra Wines – all of them! Misha’s Vineyard – all of them! Schubert Wines, Millton Muskats @ Dawn, Mangaorapa Pinot Noir, Syrah from anywhere in New Zealand – the obvious, and Otago and Marlborough expressions.
What are the 5 must-try wines at the South Island Wine & Food Festival?
Anything you’ve not considered trying before. Don’t just go for your faves – be adventurous and explore! Learn about and embrace the small-fish players.
What are your pro-tips for getting the most out of the Festival?
Sun-block (hopefully), drink loads of water (it’s not a race!), shake the hand of a stranger and enjoy the wine and food together.
South Island Wine & Food Festival
Hagley Park, Dec 2