Jack Cornes is a winemaker in one of the world's premium growing regions — Hawke's Bay — and 17 vintages later, he's still as excited about winemaking as the day he started.
Cornes is winemaker for Sacred Hill and loves the challenge of working with the elements to produce outstanding wines year after year.
We asked him a few questions:
What inspired you to become a winemaker?
Wine has always been a significant part of my life. Ever since I was young, at family dinners my grandpa would always proudly say, "My boy, the best wine for a rib roast is a robust French Claret", and he would offer me a small glass. Years later I had the chance to holiday in the south of France in an old medieval village; cobblestone paths, old men playing pétanque, delicious cheese and old ladies drinking rosé. I was captivated by the lifestyle and history, which was the beginning of my winemaking journey.
What do you love most about winemaking?
The process. Seeing the flowers on the vines, the fruit when it comes in from the vineyards before it starts to be blended. All the little parts that have to come together.
Sacred Hill has recently launched a new Single Vineyard range.
Can you tell us what makes a single vineyard wine so special?
The ultimate challenge of winemaking is to craft a single vineyard wine. Often people drink blends. When you've got one particular batch, you have to be creative in your approach. I love the opportunity you get with single vineyard wine to showcase the natural expression of the land; each wine is richly textured with a unique flavour profile which can be traced directly back to the vineyard it came from. We always talk about winegrowing, not winemaking, because so much hard work happens in the vineyards. The viticulturists have a significant role to play, we have to tip the hat to all of the hard work that they do. When they do a good job it comes through in our winemaking process.
Do you have a favourite varietal of wine?
Coming into summer it would have to be chardonnay. Its wide range of expressions make it perfect for lunch, or early evening along with a barbecue.
As a winemaker, what is your favourite time of year?
Oh gosh, my favourite and saddest, would have to be when you say goodbye to the wine and hand it over to be bottled. Your job is done and you're very proud.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Getting out in sunny Hawke's Bay. Paddleboarding, fishing, hiking, it's such an easy place to find something to do every weekend.
What is your favourite meal to cook?
Coming into summer time barbecue food, especially chicken on the barbecue. I love to celebrate the best of the Bay, we have some fantastic local produce.
What is something about you that people might not expect?
I like to dabble in mosaics and making art from beach driftwood. I'm currently working on a birdfeeder made from driftwood. I like to use a range of different materials, ceramics, copper wire, etc.
Have you got any exciting plans coming up this summer?
Taking the kids camping at Mahia over New Year's. We'll take the caravan and do a bit of a road trip.
Where is your favourite place to visit in New Zealand and why?
Lake Taupo. Places like Kinloch and Hatepe, we used to go there as kids. The water is crystal clear, fresh from the mountain. Once the water warms up a bit in summer you can't beat it.
Where is the most memorable place you've ever visited?
Nepal. Tramping in the Himalayas. The mountain passes overlooking the villages are stunning. I'd love to go back!
If you could choose anyone in the world, who would you like to have a glass of wine with?
Billy Connolly. I think that would be really interesting. He's had an interesting childhood in Glasgow, a range of jobs, and he travels continent to continent on his motorbike doing shows. Though, I'd have to convince him to have a wine over whisky ... or maybe he'd convince me to have a whisky!