Five minutes with Nick Mills
MiNDFOOD: What is your daily mantra?
Let’s get into it.
What are your favourite elements of the family vineyard?
It’s a wonderful place with a lovely energy. It’s close to the South Island’s Main Divide, which we can see from the property, and the vineyard is next to a large body of fresh water, Lake Wanaka.
Both these factors make it more temperate than other parts of Central Otago, as they moderate the climate here, meaning we don’t have extreme changes of temperature.
What’s the most difficult thing about making wine in Wanaka?
Trying not to be smug.
Well, I was being flippant, but it’s an extremely special place that delivers some of the most amazing grapes I’ve ever seen. Because of this and the work we do with biodynamics – and the resulting balance of flavour in our grapes – we don’t have to add anything to or take anything away from the wine we make, “anything” being acid, tannins or filtering and fining agents.
Are you 100 per cent biodynamic?
Absolutely. There’s no such thing as 50 per cent biodynamic. Biodynamics is not a doctrine or a set of rules one must follow. It’s a word to describe a way of working with and relating to the land. There are no standards in New Zealand for biodynamic wine production. There are vineyards in transition but as yet there is no certification specific to viniculture, and that’s something we’re working to achieve.
Why did you go biodynamic?
Commonsense prevailed. I saw biodynamics working in many vineyards in Burgundy, which is an incredibly parcellated place. It’s divided into tiny parcels of land and it’s easy to see how well or not each winegrower is working. I saw that the biodynamically run vineyards were healthier and more balanced.
Their soils were softer, there was a greater diversity of companion plants and insects and, quite simply, the grapes tasted better. The wines had better clarity and definition in the way they reflected their site, and the people seemed to be enjoying their work, so it made sense to work that way at home.
What’s the most difficult thing you’ve endured?
Waking up after a random freestyle skiing accident, in Grenoble’s Intensive Care Unit, with my kidney split in half and 2.5 litres of blood and urine in my belly, then being told by my French nurses that we’d just lost the 1999 Rugby World Cup semifinal to the French.