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HB Syrah excites UK Co-op buyer

22 November 2010


HB Syrah excites UK Co-op buyer

UK buyer of fine wines for the Co-operative Group, Maria Elener was in Hawke’s Bay last week with the express purpose of trying local Syrah wines and her experience has left her very impressed and excited about her discoveries.

While not making a definite commitment, Ms Elener was enthusiastic that a Hawke’s Bay Syrah could be added to the line up of wines to be stocked by some of the nearly 4000 UK food stores she has the responsibility of buying for.

It was a recommendation by the New Zealand Winegrowers representative in London that she experience New Zealand Syrah. This led to the specialist Syrah regional tasting organised by Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Inc. on her 24-hour stopover in this region.

It was hosted by Dr Alan Limmer, who is acknowledged as the Syrah pioneer in New Zealand and Hawke’s Bay, and Ms Elener says she felt she packed three days of knowledge into her much shorter stay. “I have learnt so much about what the local wineries are capable of and so much background information from Alan, it’s been a revelation.”

So much so, that she now plans to alternate her annual Australasian buying trip between Australia and New Zealand rather than attempting to cover both countries in one trip. “Australia currently supplies 20 percent of our stock so by default I spend more time there but now I can see that I need to spend more time here. There is just so much more to the New Zealand wine story than Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.”

In addition to the regional tasting held at HBWG, Ms Elener visited Church Road, Elephant Hill, Te Mata Estate and Ager Sectus (Crossroads) wineries. She says that the Syrahs and Cabernet Merlots she experienced in her Hawke’s Bay tastings were more elegant and lighter stylistically than Australian wines and this was more where the English consumer’s palate was moving to.

“I think the New Zealand style of wine is bridging the gap.”

The Co-operative Group is the UK’s largest organisation of its kind with a turnover of £9.4billion and 87,000 employees serving around 10 million customers a week through food, healthcare, travel, funeral care and financial services.

As one of its team of wine buyers, Ms Elener is responsible for the Australian, New Zealand, Italian and Fairtrade wine markets.


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