Wine people: Keith Hammond
If I were asked to profile a typical wine enthusiast I would describe them as intelligent, inquisitive, sociable and at least a little competitive. That description certainly fits Keith Hammond, a recent friend whose smiling face appears at every wine tasting I present at Caro’s.
Keith was born and raised in Los Angeles. His father worked for Southern Wines and Spirits, now the largest wine and spirit distributor in the US (called Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits), so there was always plenty of wine around. He drank wine but didn’t take it too seriously until a lightbulb moment during a visit to Santa Barbara and Paso Robles with his future wife, Polly. They knocked on the door of a few wineries.
“We chose wineries at random”, recalls Keith. “If I knew what I know now I would have been more selective and visited top producers like Au Bon Climat. But I tasted a cabernet sauvignon that opened my eyes to the flavour possibilities in wine. It had a distinctly asparagus flavour, not exactly a flattering descriptor, but it was a clearly identifiable flavour. I was fascinated.”
“After we got married we moved to New Zealand in 1999 in pursuit of a better lifestyle for our future family. I was blown away by the freshness of the cool climate wines here. They were a huge contrast to the big, jammy Californian wines I was used to.”
Keith’s enthusiasm for fine wine was put on hold while they had a young family, but was rekindled around five years ago. He has a modest cellar of around 100 bottles, primarily to learn about how wine ages.
“It took me a while to appreciate the character of aged wine but I’m now a big fan of well-aged bottles.”
The greatest wine he has tasted is 1982 Heitz Cellars Margaret Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
“Tasted quite recently it was still fresh and absolutely beautiful.”
Keith’s favourite wine gadget is the Coravin, which he uses to taste the same bottle of wine many times over a long period. He’s enthusiastic about being able to use Coravin on wines sealed with a screwcap. A tip for Coravin users: Keith buys replacement gas cylinders on Amazon at significantly discounted prices.
His favourite wine and food match is Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia with Iberico ham and manchego cheese “unbelievable!”
Favourite wine app? Definitely Vivino.
“Vivino was responsible for increasing my wine budget substantially. It’s a very social space for wine geeks. Inevitably I’d see bottles your friends from the app were drinking and I’d hunt them down on the Wine-Searcher app and try them. I got a bit obsessed and used the app so much I rose to the number 1 spot in NZ for 2 years. Recently with the launch of our digital wine marketing business, I’ve spent less time there so now I’m in 4th place. I’m on Instagram quite a bit more now as that is a great platform for building a business like ours. The urge to get obsessive on Vivino does pop up quite often, however!”
In addition to running his own business devoted to assessing and training manual labour, Keith assists his wife Polly to develop her digital wine marketing business, which involves building wine websites, newsletters, e-commerce and driving social media programs – “anything on a computer”. Check it out here.
Keith is currently studying towards his WSET Level 3 Certificate. I’m fairly sure that his academic aspirations won’t end there.
* I am a director of Wine-Searcher