A tale of two worlds calls for a seat at the table

The world of wine is filled with stories, and there’s a new one doing the rounds.

The seductive mix of natural beauty, alchemy and conviviality has made wine and producing wine an inspiration for romantic tales and legends since forever. 

Now there’s a new tale on the table, a film doco that’s a tale of two worlds – the old world and the new world of wine. 

New Zealand-produced A Seat at the Table is scheduled to première in the official selection at the New Zealand Film Festival (NZFF), in Auckland, on Sun 28 July. It has also been selected to screen at the 2019 Vancouver Film Festival in September, and is in the running for the Toronto, Napa and Camden film festivals. 

Shot in New Zealand, London and France over the course of three years, A Seat at the Table features interviews with a full cast of top international wine critics, writers, French wine producers, fine wine merchants and a who’s who of New Zealand wine makers, packaged together with sublime footage of New Zealand and French wine country.

Kiwi producers and directors David Nash and Simon Mark-Brown, of Republic Films and Studio Nash, beautiful homage to wine has been inspired by the premise that New Zealand’s new world wines have what it takes to take on the wines of the old world. 

A wine-lover who took time out from his professional life to gain an accreditation from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust of London, David Nash says he’s captivated by wine because “every bottle has a story.” 

He describes A Seat at the Table as a coming of age story about New Zealand finding its place in the world of wine, and its ambition to make some of the best wines in the world. 

And, while that might be seen by the old world as confronting, A Seat at the Table graciously opens the door to a world of mutual respect, envy and compassion, while asking and ultimately answering the question ‘Has New Zealand earned a Seat at the Table?’

“As the youngest country in the world and the last to be populated,” says Nash, “New Zealand is in the enviable position to learn from everyone else’s mistakes.” 

And, in the tradition of a good drop, there’s a cheeky side note and a whiff of intrigue around the story of ‘the gumboot clone’, and how cuttings from the famed Romanee-Conti vineyard in Burgundy, made it through New Zealand Customs on a serendipitous journey that led to plantings in some of New Zealand’s most celebrated Pinot Noir vineyards. 

Long Synopsis: A Seat at the Table 

Rare bottles of French fine wine sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you want to make great wine, as a winemaker anywhere in the world you hold up France as the benchmark. For centuries, the monks of Burgundy and Champagne and the great families of Bordeaux dedicated their lives to understanding the land, the process and what to plant where and why. There’s no way to short-cut hundreds of years of hard work into a few decades. Or is there?

A Seat at the Table is a coming of age story about New Zealand finding its place in the world of wine, and its ambition to make some of the best wines in the world. As the youngest country in the world and the last to be populated, New Zealand is in the enviable position to learn from everyone else’s mistakes. 

A Seat at the Table explores all the factors that build a world class wine region from day one, to taking on your heroes, toe-to-toe and winning. Storylines from critical blind tastings to climate change, generational succession planning and cultural stigma all intertwine to create a fascinating link between two countries, creating the same end product that in many ways are so similar and yet worlds apart. 

In a revealing line up of interviews, we come to understand how the wine world actually works and we confront the challenges regardless of whether you’re the underdog or standing on the pedestal. 

A Seat at the Table opens the door to a world of mutual respect, envy and compassion, while asking and ultimately answering that one question: Has New Zealand earned a Seat at the Table?

Background: Wine in New Zealand

2019 marks 200 years since English missionary Samuel Marsden made the first recorded vine plantings in New Zealand, in the Bay of Islands in 1819. Marsden observed that “New Zealand promises to be very favourable to the vine”. However, the unfenced vineyard was destroyed by goats (nzhistory.govt.nz). 

New Zealand’s earliest recorded winemaker was the British Resident James Busby who served “a light white wine, very sparkling and delicious to taste” to French explorer Dumont d’Urville at Waitangi in 1840. Busby had first planted vines in 1833. 

The first Pinot Noir vines were planted at Lansdowne in the Wairarapa region in 1883. 

The early and latter origins of the New Zealand wine industry go back to the work of settlers from Croatia, France and Germany-speaking Europe. 

Two international wine events are held in New Zealand: the International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration held every three years in Marlborough, and Pinot Noir NZ held every four years.

  • New Zealand wine is exported to more than 100 countries.
  • New Zealand wine exports are valued at $1.75 billion annually. 
  • Wine is New Zealand’s 6th largest export good. 
  • 98% of New Zealand’s vineyard area is Sustainable Winegrowing NZ certified. 
  • New Zealand has 670 wineries, up over 30 years from less than 100. 
  • Sauvignon Blanc is New Zealand’s most widely planted variety. 
  • Sauvignon Blanc accounts for 73% of wine production followed by Pinot Noir at 8%.
  • 17% of the world’s Sauvignon Blanc originates from New Zealand. 
  • 500 international wine industry influencers, 600 wines, 117 wineries were represented at the 2017 Pinot Noir NZ celebration. 

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