WINE PERSONALITY OF THE MONTH | STEVE BENNETT
Steve Bennett has worn many hats in his career in the wine industry– importer, retailer, educator, writer, judge and producer. He was the youngest person in the world to be inducted as a Master of Wine at the tender age of 25 and in his career he’s tasted more than 100,000 wines.
Wine writer Joelle Thomson said of Steve: “We are spoilt for choice in this country by some of the most adventurous wine importers in the world, like Steve Bennett. If you are buying wine from Steve, it is likely that the wines will stop you in your tracks.”
We are very lucky to have the founder of Bennett & Deller wine merchants, bringing his expertise to
Farro, sourcing an array of different varieties and styles from Spain, Italy and France. We caught up with him this month…
What do you love about importing wine?
New Zealand wine is very good, but over 90% of it comes from just five grape varieties and there are thousands of different varieties in the world. In New Zealand we enjoy a wide variety of cuisine – Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Italian etc, but can get caught in the trap of drinking sauvignon blanc and pinot noir with everything. I love being able to provide consumers with a whole array of different varieties and wine styles to those available locally – like a ‘food-court’ of wine if you will.
What do you think the Spanish, Italian and French wines offer?
Spanish wines offer amazing consistency and value, especially the full-bodied reds. Italian wines offer an array of exciting indigenous flavours and are brilliantly food-friendly. French wines have poise and polish from decades of refining their styles.
Do you think the influence of the Med adds a certain character to wines from the region?
Broadly speaking, Mediterranean wines offer bright, bold, intense flavours derived from the consistency of the regions warm climate. Centuries of food-culture have refined those wine-styles to partner local cuisine.
How do you select your wines?
I’m fortunate to have a world-wide circle of contacts through the Master of Wine fraternity
and access to huge variety. I use my experience to select wines based on both taste and value
for money – with the Kiwi consumer’s tastes in mind – we like bright, clear flavours. I want
wines that stand out from the competition and offer great value… people tend to buy my wines
over and over again.
Choosing wine can be a bit daunting, what tips can you offer customers?
It’s good to make a note of wines that you really like so you can remember them and then
venture forth try similar varieties and regions. I’d also encourage consumers to try something
new. Your favourite wine might be the next one you buy. If you come across a variety/region/
producer you aren’t familiar with use Google – there’s a wealth of readily available info a
finger-tip away that can give you the confidence to move out of your comfort zone.
What’s your favourite wine memory?
My favourite wine memory was just back in 2014 in a restaurant in Barolo, Italy. The
restaurant owner popped home to his private cellar to get me a bottle of my birth year Barolo
from my favourite producer (and charged me a very modest price) – at 46 years old the wine was
in much better condition than me!