Meet the Expert - Cameron Douglas
Master Sommelier. Educator. Wine Judge. Writer.
As his country’s only Master Sommelier and as South Pacific Director for the Guild of Sommeliers worldwide, Cameron is known as the Unofficial Ambassador of New Zealand Wines. He heads up the Wine & Beverage Program at Auckland University of Technology (AUT).
Favorite wine region? Too many to name! I really enjoy wines from Chile, Argentina, Portugal, France, Italy, Spain, and home — as well as some from the US.
Favorite wine story? Wine and War" by Kladstrup.
Light-bulb moment? Drinking red Burgundy from the same vineyard I'd picked grapes from and tasting soil, air, mood, calm, and great pinosity.
Last meal? Duck confit and Petrus.
Desert island wine? Champagne - it keeps me happy and matches perfectly with sand.
If you could live anywhere in the world… Rather happy at home thanks, but if I had to change it would be San Francisco.
Bucket list? Travel to (and back to) all the countries I enjoy wine from. Keen to visit Scotland and Ireland. Would like to go into outer space at least once before I die and experience weightlessness.
If you ruled the world, what would you do on Day 1? Remove all guns of any type and let people live to a very old age and be looked after by caring souls who are paid extremely well.
Greatest achievement? Passing Master Sommelier exams in 2007 and then having the honor of sharing my knowledge with those who are amazed by wine and seek similar goals.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Contemporary Art - perhaps painting.
Cameron’s journey to becoming the first Master Sommelier in the southern hemisphere was an arduous one — but then New Zealanders aren’t ones to flinch from uphill struggles. “I’ve conquered my own Everest, finally,” he said after receiving, in 2007, the Court’s trophy for achieving the highest marks in the MS exams. “It took me a long time to get there.”
Born and raised in Auckland, Cameron left school at age 16 and started work as a bank teller. That lasted until a part-time gig as a waiter convinced him to swap the security of bank work for “the adventure of the hospitality world.” After cooking at a popular cafe, he found himself working front of house at a restaurant whose owner traveled the country for wines. Each one that the restaurateur let the 19-year-old taste came with a story about its discovery —and Cameron was fascinated by the idea of wine not just as a drink but as an experience that comes with its own backstory and unique personality: one that enriches us socially and culturally.
Five years at an upscale hotel exposed Cameron to fine wines and prompted him to learn more about enology and to refine his palate by studying tasting techniques. In 1993 he started a decade as sommelier at one of New Zealand’s most iconic restaurants, during which time he simultaneously taught (first at a polytechnic, then at AUT), wrote for Hospitality magazine, and studied for a B.A. in education. As if all this wasn’t enough, he took up the suggestion from the editor of Cuisine that he pursue the Court’s Master Sommelier diploma.
In 1999 in New Zealand there was no established training course for Cameron to follow, no predecessors to mentor him, and — once he felt ready to tackle the Court’s exams — no place within 8,000 miles to take them. For eight years he relied on internet contact with his American mentor Evan Goldstein, spent a small fortune on wines and, on his own dime, made multiple trips to the U.S. He learned from every setback and eventually, in London, scaled his summit, earning the title Master Sommelier. He later joined the Board of Directors of the Court of Master Sommeliers and has been instrumental in the formal establishment of the MS qualification in New Zealand.
In addition to teaching full-time at AUT, Cameron writes about wine and continues to run the consulting business he started with his wife in 2003. Curating wine lists, judging wine competitions, and speaking on his country’s food and wines takes him all round the world — he travels to the States alone about eight times a year. Through his wine selections for the Club, he encourages members to explore the aromatic and tactile pleasures of NZ’s world-class Pinot Noirs, Syrahs, Rieslings, and Burgundian-style Chardonnays, as well as its signature Sauvignon Blancs.
Cameron will never stop seeking to share wines as “complex, exciting, beguiling” as the first great red Burgundy he tasted, a wine that opened up “a great big romance and action adventure story in one.” Dedicated to the Court’s “pay it forward” philosophy, he will always be a generous mentor to those who want to follow in his footsteps.