I always say there are two wines in the world – the one YOU like and the one YOU don’t like. But it’s great to figure out why you like something and how to choose the wine you will like. Learning about wine is fun. I have made a lot of friends over a bottle or two of wine, like Karen Macalister-Hohnen. Karen is a friend of mine who has been in the wine industry for nearly 40 years. In this time she has taught countless classes on Australian and imported wines through various wine education institutions in Sydney. I sat down with Karen this week to find out exactly how she ended up in the wine industry and what she is drinking at the moment….
How did your love of wine initially come about?
Thirty seven years ago whilst completing a Hospitality course at Ryde College of TAFE, I was offered a 4 day job selling Hunter Valley wine to Restaurants (the 5th day was College day). Two years down the track a friend sponsored me for a bank loan for $5,000 which bought me a second hand Datsun Bluebird and I was off representing and selling wineries from all over Australia to restaurants in Sydney and Canberra. I pioneered Brokenwood, Taltarni, Bowen Estate and Cape Mentelle wines into a male dominant Sydney market and it was lots of fun growing up and learning with Iain Riggs, Doug Bowen, Dominique Portet, David Hohnen (no relation to me!), James Halliday, Len Evans and John Beeston to name just a few.
Is this when you decided to pass the knowledge on to others?
Wine education became a passion for me in the 1990’s with my course accreditation of Introductory and Advanced levels of Wine Knowledge. These were consumer courses via The Regent Hotel, Sydney and The InterContinental Hotel, Sydney. Today I am an Accredited Educator for the English wine qualification ‘Wine & Spirit Education Trust’ and deliver these courses for various training providers, in particular The Sydney Wine Academy and the Prince Wine Store in Sydney .
What influences you when you teach your classes?
My influences have been working across three different disciplines that are sensorialy linked – wine, agriculture and cooking. I have met and worked with many innovators and pioneers across these industries who have contributed to my continual passion, learning and development.
Do you recommend any wines for us to drink this season?
What am I drinking for winter – some wonderful wines from the 1991 vintage that celebrated the birth of my son Archie. Seppelt Sparkling Shiraz, Tollana Shiraz and Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon. But if I wanted to select a wine for guests this weekend, I’d pick up a Pizzini Nebbiolo from the King Valley, Victoria, an Alamos Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina and a vintage Charles Heidsieck Champagne.
Have you had any wines lately that really excited you?
What have I tasted recently that blew me away – a little boutique vineyard in Beechworth, Victoria called Golden Ball – awesome 2008 Shiraz and a very European styled Chardonnay from 2012 – that means it has all the qualities for drinking Chardonnay now (if you like a less fruit driven style) but has the structure and balance for further ageing to 5+ years – great investment.
What is the best value wine you’ve found for drinking right now?
A seriously sophisticated but comfortable wine to enjoy right now has just been released by Tyrrell’s Wines called ‘Part & Parcel’. Recommended at $25, this is a great daily drink wine made from mostly Semillon with a touch of Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer. Low alcohol at 11% and easily fits into the daily standard drink recommendation.
What is your worst wine faux pas?
I was served a glass of wine at a friend’s place one day which I wasn’t happy with. I asked the other guests if they were experiencing a dank, musty aroma to which they replied in the negative. Theeennn, I suggested to my host that they may have a mouldy cupboard (lol) – there was great pretence of insult at my suggestion that their cupboards were mouldy, but on smelling the rest of the glassware, they had the same smell. So, to this day I am treated with a specially cleaned glass on my arrival at their place so that I don’t ‘put my foot in it’ again!
What is you most memorable wine?
1955 Moulin Touchais Anjou Doué La Fontaine (Chenin Blanc). This was opened when it was 52 years old and we shared it over a meal at Tetsuyas in Sydney. An outstanding wine that matched nearly every dish served in the degustation menu.
Karen teaches regularly at the Sydney Wine Academy and the Prince Wine Store in Zetland NSW. You can also attend one of her lessons at the North Sydney Community Centre where she will be teaching 2 courses in September 2015 for beginners and those with a bit more knowledge.[/fusion_text]