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A word from Joel Watson

A word from Joel Watson

A word from Joel Watson

I grew up in Hawkes Bay, not far from Martinborough, and I used to come through this way to go surfing when I was younger, so I knew the area and its wines very well.

I did my schooling in Australia, went to university and studied wine science. I’ve worked all over the world – Australia, the States, France, Italy. The one place I hadn’t worked was New Zealand, but I was reticent to come back to work, except for Martinborough. I’d trained in pinot noir and that was the work I wanted to do.

It took me about three years to find a job because it’s a small place and not a lot of positions come up. I applied for this position and they didn’t get around to interviewing me. Then out of the blue I got a call and they said, “Hey, would you like to come in and talk about the job?” and that was it. I’ve been at Luna for about two-and-a-half years now.

Luna Estate is two vineyards – Eclipse, which is on Puruatanga Road, on the famous Martinborough Terraces in the village, and our Blue Rock vineyard, which is 13 kilometres away on the Dry River Terraces.

Pinot noir is our focus. We’ve undergone a major switch in varietals. We used to produce a lot of sauvignon blanc but we’ve moved through that now. We’ve removed a lot of vines in the last few years and replaced them with pinot noir.

We are now around 85 per cent pinot noir and 15 per cent other. The bulk of what we make and export is pinot noir – that’s what Martinborough is famous for, that’s the flag we want to fly.

When I say 15 per cent other, that includes a very small amount of syrah. We have an exceptional syrah vineyard – north facing, old vines – on which we can ripen syrah year-in, year-out, even in the cool years.

We also have an interesting block of pinot meunier which we use for rosé. We have lovely old-vine pinot gris. We do have a focus on aromatics, it’s just not our primary focus.

Our Eclipse vineyard was under BioGro certification but we’re removing half of that site and replanting it, and replanting under BioGro is quite difficult so we have removed it from BioGro until we finish replanting. Once we’ve finished that project we will then move back into BioGro certification. We will still be using organic farming processes.

I think people are starting to really look at Martinborough, and I think Martinborough has looked at itself, and it’s trying to play more to its strengths, which is pinot noir. I’m seeing a lot of producers focus on top-end and single-vineyard wine, and also try to create “value pinot” wines. It’s a really important category for Martinborough because we’ve always been regarded as the more expensive end of pinot noir, which is true.

We need to start focusing on pinot noir in the more affordable bracket. I’m seeing more come through, and it’s good quality. The most important wine we are going to make year-in and year-out is our Luna Martinborough pinot noir. It’s a blend of both of our sites. We are going to make a really nice, soft, fruit-forward pinot for an affordable price.

Toast Martinborough is on Sunday, November 19. Early bird group tickets are on sale (minimum 10 tickets). General admission tickets on sale from 10am, Tuesday, September 19, $85 plus fees. Visit toastmartinborough.co.nz.

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