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June 06, 2019


The New Zealand Cellar sits down with Wilco Lam from Dry River to discuss all things wine in our "Down In The Cellar" series.


Who do you admire most in the world of wine and why?

My admiration in the world of wine shifts all the time. It’s such a big industry with so many cool people doing so many different things that it's never just one person that inspires me. There's one person where you think ‘ooh you’re awesome’ and then you talk or listen to someone else and think ‘wow never thought about it like that’. It shifts all the time, there is no hero necessarily. My only hero that I think has a major impact on me and how I think about wine and farming would be Charles Darwin.


What wine variety are you most excited about for its future in NZ?

Wine Blends. The future is blends, I think single varieties are all fine and you have fantastic rieslings, some beautiful chardonnays and pinot noir, but I think the excitement is in blending. Not necessary old school cabernet sauvignon/merlot blends... we recently made a pinot/syrah/tempranillo/viognier blend and I think it’s really cool that people are receptive to new concepts and new ideas.


Have you had a “wine moment” ? Like a specific point in time where you knew you wanted to work in the wine industry?

Yes, there have been several. But my one moment was drinking Vega Sicilia and I thought wow I’ve got to find out about this. That was when I was 16 living in Amsterdam and working at a school for hotel management and I thought I’ve got to change careers. It didn’t happen that quickly, but in the end it did happen. The other one was in Italy when we went to the centre for slow food which is in Bra, Piedmont. There’s an old castle and underneath it is a wine storage place for all these producers. I had a couple of friends, and we bought all these fantastic Barolos (although I can’t remember which ones they were). All I can remember is drinking this 10-15 year old Barolo and it was unbelievable. The impact was phenomenal.
Then there are always the wines that surprises me. Lately it’s been the Mas de Daumas Gassac, a massive blend from the South of France that's not an expensive wine at all but it’s just brilliant. But really it’s ongoing, ever changing. At Dry River we’re not stuck in our ways which perhaps is a new philosophy and idea that we’ve put in. Yes we're an established brand with established recognition but the new idea is that nothing is safe.


What are your 5 favourite wines available at The New Zealand Cellar?

Millton Chenin Blanc
Neudorf Chardonnay 
Burn Cottage 
Black Estate - recently met Nick and Pen who are such cool people (with great music recommendations)


What is your biggest learning curve you’ve met working in the industry?

Actually lately, we made a wine - Syrah blended with Viognier - and I just hated it. I’m really gutted about it. It’s done now and I’m moving on - I now know what I do and don’t like.
Another that was huge - pruning grape vines. I started working in the vineyards for about 7-8 years and the one thing that I really, really loved was grape pruning in the winter and vine maintenance. It was pretty much just 8 hours a day standing behind the vine for 3 and a half months pruning - you don’t do much, just stand there trying to get the best for the next 5 years. There are big learning curves in something so simple in the vineyard. It brings it back to basics. Really, the people who work in the vineyard are the people that bring the romance.


So - set the scene for us. You are having the night of your life….

What are you drinking (from your range)?
1996 Syrah

Who are you drinking it with?
I would rather drink it with myself so I can have the whole bottle..

What are you eating?
It doesn’t matter because the wine is far more important anyway. It can be fish and chips that’s fine!

And what music is playing?
Pen and Nick introduced this - Nicholas Jarr

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