Next Tuesday sees the second annual Women in Wine lunch, where three leading ladies of New Zealand wine chew the fat and share their wines with guests at Auckland's Longroom. Jo Burzynska caught up with the trio and quizzed them on their work and wider vision of wine.
Jules Taylor Wines
A Marlborough girl born and bred, Jules Taylor held prestigious winemaking posts at Kim Crawford, then as senior group winemaker at Constellation NZ, before opting to focus full time on her own Jules Taylor label.
How did you come to be a winemaker?
I've always worked in the vineyards as a holiday job, so ever since the wine game has been a part of my growing up here in Marlborough. After I completed a degree in zoology at Canterbury University, I enrolled in the Lincoln's post-graduate diploma in oenology and viticulture. My first job in the wine industry was at the Vintech winery, followed by a number of stints in Italy, Australia, as well as two vintages at Cloudy Bay before a winemaking role at Marlborough Valley Cellars, a contract winemaking facility then shared by Kim Crawford Wines, Saint Clair Estate and Cape Campbell.
How is the Jules Taylor label going?
Great guns! It's been a lot of fun to follow my wines into the markets and meet the people at the coal face selling our wines. I think this aspect, after making the wines, is the most satisfying thing about this game, the people and personalities and friendships developed make it a lot of fun.
As the sauvignon surplus flips over to possible shortage this year, what are your feelings about the direction the wine industry is heading?
I think any correction to the situation of the last few years has to be a positive thing. Although the new paradigm that we entered after 2008 may be harder to break out of than we think. The one interesting development that I have seen recently, is that the diversity of New Zealand's wine production is starting to get some serious recognition internationally. Our other varieties are gaining traction off the back of sauvignon blanc. Not having such a reliance on a single variety is going to make our wine industry much more resilient in the long run.
What do you like to drink when you're "off duty"?
I'm pretty partial to a Tanqueray 10 and tonic actually, although lately I've rekindled an old passion for Campari and soda. If it's to be wine, I think a good Vouvray is pretty hard to beat.
After setting up the Brunton Road wine label, Kirsten Searle, along with husband Richard, purchased the historic Matawhero property in Gisborne and has spent recent years restoring it and the label to its former glory.
What was the motivation behind buying Matawhero?
Our passion for Gisborne and the wines we produce here. We have always believed that Gisborne wines do not get the kudos they deserve and what better brand to promote the best of Gisborne than Matawhero, as it was one of the first boutique wineries in the region.
What have been the joys and pains of restoring it?
The joy has been being part of the revival of this iconic brand. We have loved the feeling of bringing it back to life and sharing in all the stories from the past about the wines, the Irwins and also people's love affair with the brand. The pain has been the hard work, the juggling of family - we had three children under 4 when we bought the property in 2008 - and the general industry highs and lows.
How was this year's challenging vintage for you in Gisborne?
It was challenging, you can't deny that. A few grey hairs around the district. However, at the end of the day we still harvested some good parcels of fruit, in particular our chardonnay and pinot gris. Each vintage will always have its challenges and different varietals will do better each year. Overall we were pleasantly surprised at the flavours and quality of the fruit we harvested, given Mother Nature was not that kind to us.
What wine do you like to drink when you're "off duty"?
I'm a chardy girl! Yes, I know that Gisborne produces a lot of chardonnay but as a variety I like the different styles you can produce from it.
Allan Scott Family Winemakers
Initially training in hotel management and following a stint in the British wine trade, the eldest of the Scott children returned to Marlborough and took on the marketing for the family business.
What do you enjoy about working in the wine industry?
There is something unique about being able to grow a vine from scratch, nurture it, make it into wine and then be able to sell it to the four corners of the globe. The more pride and attention you give it, the better it will be. We are very lucky being a family of the land because we understand the whims of nature and learn to balance the fun parts of our industry with the needs of the future.
What's it like working in a family business?
I love the fact there is plenty of flexibility in our roles and at times I can factor my work around my children and their demands. We've also become much better at separating work and play and spend a lot of our down time together. It's also strengthened our family's relationships. It's not always easy to handle disagreements within families, but we've all worked too hard to allow that to happen: it's forced us to handle conflict and other friction in a much more productive and objective way. We often have to compromise or step back and trust each other, which has been to the real benefit of our relationships and our company.
So what have you been doing with the Allan Scott brand?
The last couple of years we have concentrated on consolidating our range, retaining and growing our place in the market and producing fantastic value for money wines. It's now time for us to make some noise and 2012 will see some changes, such as an image update and some fun activity with our methode traditionelles and Scott Base range, so watch this space.
What wine do you like to drink when you're "off duty"?
Everybody knows I'm extremely partial to bubbles. I can't help it, it's in the blood. But every now and then those bubbles turn brown, Moa Blanc Evolution, to be precise.
* The Women in Wine lunch in on Tuesday 3 July at Longroom, 114 Ponsonby Rd. Tickets are $75pp. To reserve a place email: firstname.lastname@example.org