This is New Zealand’s first documentary on how wine is made, following the process from growing the grapes to harvest and winery work, finishing with the wine in the bottle to be opened and consumed. It is the work of Ben Naden, a wine retailer with 20 years of experience, owner of ‘La Cantina’ in St Heliers, and Shayne Cox, winemaker and director of Corazon Wines, who has worked over 25 vintages in New Zealand and Europe.
It has a remarkably down-to-earth, Kiwi-blokish and near-droll feel to the presentation, with Shayne taking on the star role. Shayne is your quintessential New Zealand winemaker, rugged and practical, with a thoroughly trustworthy understanding of the winemaking game, from go to whoa. Listening to his presentation is like conversing with your handyman next-door neighbour. Dressed in well-worn t-shirt and weathered jeans, with a ‘not afraid to get his hands dirty’ attitude, and working from his low-tech, add-on winery in Henderson, West Auckland, he makes it look all too easy. I felt if I should jump into a tank and lend a hand.
The seeming ease and simplicity of growing grapes, harvesting them and turning them into (good) wine is a credit to the confidence, good communication skills and clear-cut filming and editing carried out by Ben and Shayne. They’ve done their job well and achieved their goal of entertainingly informing the viewer how to make wine. It’s so accessible that novices and those without much knowledge of wine can follow it all easily. Those with a lot more knowledge also get a great deal out of the documentary. Even if you’re a winemaker yourself, you can see how someone else approaches similar tasks and problems. The jargon and tech-talk is generally quite low-level, but explained when necessary.
Therefore, it may surprise you to know that Shayne is actually a bit of a renaissance man in New Zealand winemaking terms. His expertise has led him to set up a cutting-edge style operation making single vineyard wine expressions, which are all the rage at present. Ironically, this is from a winery based in the historical region of Henderson, where many of this country’s pioneers had their vineyards and wineries. His wines have been pretty successful on the show circuit, and he and the Corazon label are becoming increasingly well-known. Being aware of this, Shayne’s passion and love of making wine is clearly evident.
Passion and Patience is aimed at educating and entertaining the general audience. This can be seen by the lack of any agenda, such as selling Corazon wines or publicising La Cantina. Shayne regularly puts the objective view forward, with the choices and pros-and-cons of vineyard and winery practices, and actions available in the winemaking process. His own preferences are very much secondary. Looking at two samples of lees and must of a just-fermented Chardonnay, Shayne says of the clearer sample “this is how you make fruit-driven chardonnay”, and of the murky-looking sample “this is how you make funky chardonnay”. It’s that simple. After watching it, I think I’ll have a go at vintage next season…