How is the 2008 vintage shaping up in Nelson in terms of quantity?
I can only answer for myself, but it’s a really promising vintage. There is good quantity because we had a great spring with lots of flowering, but I’ve spent the past few months taking grapes off to reduce the crops so that I get high quality rather than loads of grapes. It’s exactly where I’d like it to be in terms of volume.
What about the quality?
There’s a concern that the grapes have lower acidity levels than usual because of the hotter summer we’ve had. That said, they are tasting pretty good and were harvested 10 days to two weeks earlier than usual.
Wouldn’t a warmer-than-usual vintage be good in New Zealand?
It’s not something I’ve experienced. The earliest I’ve ever picked sauvignon blanc was April 1. This year we picked on March 22, which is really early. I have to assume this vintage will be different from any in the past. I don’t know if it will be magnificently better because we’ve had a hot summer, but we can hope it will.
What’s the best wine you’ve ever made?
The Hope Vineyard pinot noirs. They’re a mirror image of each vintage. I have the highest hopes for my 2005 Hope Vineyard Pinot Noir.
What’s the biggest challenging in winemaking?
Marketing. There are so many of us out there making good wines, but it’s not a level playing field because it’s about having the money to market the wines rather than being able to ride on the sheer virtue of quality.
What would you like to see change in the world of wine?
I’d like to see the wine world relax and just accept that it’s a long haul to make great wine. I’d like to see everyone stop using the word “best”, because we use that word far too prematurely. It’s not about best. It’s about relaxing, enjoying and finding what suits you to drink; and if you’re a winemaker, it’s about what suits your winemaking. We need to see wine as part of a long-term continuum.
What are you drinking while on vintage?
Emerson’s organic beer and local Nelson organic beers.
What quality do you most admire in a wine?
Nine times out of 10, I want a wine that’s really drinkable and enjoyable. What I look for in a wine is balance, where nothing shouts out at you. I like a wine with a lovely seamless quality that’s hard to pinpoint, which is what makes the wine interesting.
What wine would you wish to be stranded with on a desert island?
I guess I wouldn’t have a refrigerator on a desert island, would I? So it would have to be a top bottle of red burgundy.