New Zealand Winegrower October-November 2023

Page 78


Te Whenua

Writer JOHN SAKER discuss his new wine newsletter, with its focus on New Zealand Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

This month I will be launching Te Whenua, a self-published monthly wine newsletter. The first issue will be free to all. From the second issue onwards, Te Whenua will be available by subscription only. For some time now, I’ve felt the wine industry has not been covered adequately in the media; that there is no-one on the ‘wine beat’. Yes, there are a few columns, but most of them are consumer-oriented, often of the ‘do I have a good buy for you, matey’ variety. Stories dealing with industry stuff – news and issues – in an open, independent way are rare. And they’re getting even rarer, given the faltering traditional media model.

“I won’t be scoring the wines I taste. I’m over it.” John Saker Te Whenua aims to counter that shortfall. It will be about the industry, for the industry, including distributors, somms, retailers and so forth – I would hope that wine insiders of all stripes will find something of interest. It will cover a broad spectrum of subject matter, with everything from interesting new practices to historical discoveries to climate issues to new investment in the industry. The results of my own tastings of Kiwi Pinot Noir and Chardonnay will also be published in each issue. Why Pinot and Chardonnay? Because they’re here, and wouldn’t it be a lesser world if they weren’t? I’ve long felt the enquiring, thirst-forknowledge winegrowing culture that has accompanied the growing of Pinot (and more recently of Chardonnay) in this

John Saker

country, is crucial to Kiwi wine generally. It gives us “cred”. It’s where the terroir discussion is centred. And the wines are so damned good. Their class and refinement and capacity to astonish (in a good way) place them in the top tier of New Zealand’s agricultural achievement. Other reasons for this specialisation include my not wanting to taste 500 or so Sauvignon Blancs every year (my dentist said he’d fire me if I did). I also simply do not have the time to cover the entire national output. I won’t be scoring the wines I taste. I’m over it. I’ve come to believe the only number that should be attached to a bottle of wine is the price. Yes, I was part of the wine show scene for many years, when I assessed wines in that way. My view has changed. Now I’m fine with saying what I like and why – as I would a piece of music or a book – but how disrespectful is it to give a wine a grade, like a teacher marking a piece of homework? When wines started receiving 100 points from critics, I knew it was time for me to get off that particular reservation. I feel liberated to have done so.

I will be tasting current release Pinots and Chardonnays blind, at tastings in the regions where they were grown. There will be no cost to enter wines into these tastings, only the provision of the bottle itself. I will taste (and do so in an unrushed way, giving each wine its due), assess, and write full notes on the wines I truly love and admire. These will then become card-carrying members of a category known as ‘John Saker’s List’. Producers (or distributors or retail outlets) are welcome to use the notes for promotional purposes, but they must be subscribers to Te Whenua. The newsletter is named for the Te Reo word for land, which is freighted with so much more than its English equivalent. Reverence, power, dependence, mystery and yes, love, are all tied up in that word. That it is also the Māori word for placenta, the original provider to each of us, I think is also apt. To receive the first issue of Te Whenua, or to send me a piece of news, email me at Subscribe at



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