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Meet the Tasting Panel - Samantha Connew

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How did you end up in wine?


Sam: In a very roundabout way! As a law/arts student in Christchurch in the early 90s, I worked in hospitality to support myself and ended up front of house at a fabulous wine bar in the Arts Centre called ‘Annie’s’. We were exposed to a terrific amount of wine, all of which was available by the glass, and my love affair with wine started from there. It was a nice diversion from the rigours of a law degree.


What’s your story?


Sam: After completing my law/arts degrees, I went to Lincoln University and did a postgraduate diploma in oenology and viticulture before heading off to do my first vintage at Elk Cove in Oregon. That cemented for me that I was on the right career path and following that I did (back-to-back) vintages for several years before ending up at Wirra Wirra in 1999. I stayed there for ten years as Senior Winemaker before moving back east to take over as Winemaker/Manager at Tower Estate, followed by a stint as Hunter Valley Node Manager for the Australian Wine Research Institute. I started my own label, Stargazer, in 2012 and am now working full time on that, as well as doing some winemaking consulting.


Could you please tell us about a special experience that changed the way you looked at wine?


Sam: I was fortunate enough to be a scholar at the Len Evans Tutorial fairly early on in my career in 2002. This was prior to the ‘sea change’ of Australian Chardonnay styles and I have to say that some of the white Burgundies blew me away. Chablis is a favourite style of mine and it is certainly a reference point with what I am trying to do with my Chardonnay.


What has been the biggest change in Australian wine during your career?


Sam: I think the move to screw cap by the vast majority of producers has been an absolute revolution in Australian wine in terms safeguarding wine quality for the consumer. I doubt as winemakers that we would have the confidence to stand behind our wines the way we are now without it.


What would you consider is the most undervalued wine in Australia?


Sam: Our Fortifieds. And Grenache.


The Wine Society celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2016. If you could pick any Australian wine that you have tasted to serve at the birthday party, what would you choose?


Sam: 1965 Lindemans Bin 3110 Hunter River Burgundy.

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