This year continues what we have experienced since the start of 2015, with Sue supporting me through the various treatments and procedures as we live with the diagnosis of the cancer returning. There are a lot of hospital appointments which take up a lot of time. Sue manages to fit her distribution business around them, and it always surprises me how much she actually gets done with her work! Being one of the most experienced representatives working in the market, Sue gets the credibility she deserves, and the orders for the wine she distributes keep on coming in! As mentioned many times, the Wellington market is tight and smaller than most people realise, and it has many very knowledgeable operators, so Sue’s success is a sign of the respect she garners.
Steve and Eileen Voysey have a mind-boggling portfolio of wines, from the reserve-styled ‘Vigneron’ range to the innovative ‘Heart of Gold’ tier, to the very accessible ‘Voysey’ range. Steve and Eileen have grown grapes for many years, but Steve has a penchant for fine-tuning his wines to guide them into the styles he wants them to be. The latest project is working with the Glera grape to make authentic Prosecco wines. Steve has proven himself with method traditionnelle, and he will no doubt be a success with the growing Prosecco category.
The Red Barrel vineyard, winery and cellar door show visitors that it is a true boutique operation. It’s the way that John and Juliette Lockie want it, so they are aware of everything going on. They are by no means ‘control freaks’ as the 2.5 ha vineyard is kept immaculate by their team of gardening ladies, and winemaker Dave McKee from over the road at Black Barn rules in the winery. The cellar door and function area is where the Lockies show their style. It’s very popular.
As part of the refocus at Vynfields since Harry and Zinder Gou purchased the business at the start of 2014, the wines are all Pinot Noir based, with the red table wine being the export driver in China. Unfortunately for the domestic market, there is no Riesling – including the very popular ‘Bliss’ Sparkling, and there will be no more ‘Mad Rooster’ as phylloxera has affected the performance of these varieties. Production levels have been adjusted and the vineyard under consultancy care.
The introduction of the ‘Zarathrustra’ Sauvignon Blanc and ‘Zoee’ Rosé, named after owner Daniele Alemagne’s son and daughter respectively has been a real success for the Pond Paddock brand that only had Pinot Noir before. There is Chardonnay in the works too, having been planted at the Te Muna Road site. Daniele has Simone Amorese, originally from Italy, but working several years in Martinborough now, as his winemaker; he also tends to the viticulture.
The Charles Wiffen brand is a major part of Sue’s sales. It is interestingly so, as the label is quite conservative, but clearly the reseller and consumer know how good the wine is in the bottle. The Charles Wiffen wines are generally elegant and stylish, and usually released with a little bottle-aged on them, so the wines show their real colours. Most of the winemaking is handled by James Rowan at West Brook in Auckland, but Rebecca Wiffen, at Lawson’s Dry Hills is more involved now.
Over 5 generations, the Bishell family have become part of the fabric of Marlborough with 190 ha of property next to the Woodbourne aerodrome. Being farmers, they’ve had to diversify, and contract grape-growing became the major part of the business (they also have gorgeous cherries!). With the 2015 vintage, they introduced their own label – Caythorpe. They have the services of award-winning Jeremy McKenzie at the nearby Isabel facility making the wines.
The Chapman family are not your typical grape growers (if there is anything typical about any of them!). Their vineyard on Georges Road in North Canterbury is immaculately maintained by Pete Chapman. Pinot Noir and Riesling is supported by Pinot Gris and Syrah, and these are proven performers for the district. But they have now added Albarino, Viognier and St Laurent, and the first wines from these vines are looking exciting. The vineyard is Biogro certified organic.
It was a shame that Douglas Brett and Jane Young decided to close down their 36 Bottles Central Otago brand, due to family, work and lifestyle pressures a couple of years ago. Knowing Douglas and Jane, and their love of wine and connections with Central Otago, it must have been a difficult decision. The wines of their negociant operation made real inroads into the market, as Douglas and Jane had an eye for quality.
Domaine Rewa is a strong quality-focussed winegrowing venture run by a strong quality-focussed owner Philippa Fourbet. The 5.5 ha vineyard was established in 1997, and it is now certified BioGro organic and run to biodynamic regimes with Grant Roulston and Gary Ford of Vinewise tending to the viticulture. The highly respected Pete Bartle of VinPro makes the wines. Talking to anyone in the know in Central Otago, Domaine Rewa is highly respected.
You’ve got to admire the determination of the Desert Heart girls, Denny Downie and Jane Gill. Having established their dream vineyard at the end of Felton Road in Bannockburn, they unfortunately lost control of it. When sorted, the girls sold the vineyard to Sam Neill of Two Paddocks who makes his super-premium ‘The Fusilier’ Pinot Noir from the fruit. Denny and Jane are developing a new site down the road with cellar door, serving wonderful food platters.
The 12 ha Bendigo vineyard of Domenic and Ally Mondillo is devoted to Pinot Noir with 10 ha and Riesling with 2 ha. The vineyard is immaculately kept by Domenic, the viticulturist and his team, and whatever the Mondillos do not use in their wine is snapped up by keen buyers. The Pinot Noirs do not have the hardness and need for aging as many Bendigo wines, making them immediately appealing. And the Rieslings have an exoticism which is beautifully intriguing.
Ruru is the wine brand of Lucienne and Roland van der Waal who established their Immigrant’s Vineyard venture in 2012 when they acquired a 20 ha vineyard on Airport Road between Clyde and Alexandra. Pinot Noir is the predominant variety with some Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. They both tend to the vineyard and have engaged Antony Worch of Alexandra Vintners to make their wines, though Pete Bartle makes the Gewurztraminer. They have tasted show success already!
Most wine distributors would tear their hair out trying to work with the limited-production and diversely styled wines that Brendan Seal makes. Not so Sue, as she thoroughly enjoys making available to adventurous resellers exclusive bottlings of eclectic character that once are gone, are gone. It makes life exciting. Brendan has now moved from Central Otago to a heritage building in Dunedin city where he makes his Central Otago wines at his URBN VINO winery.