Andreas, you recently become CEO of Elephant Hill. What is your vision for the company?
It is a family business and I want to follow my parents’ vision: become the number one winery in New Zealand for Hawkes Bay wines, especially for syrah and chardonnay. With three distinct vineyards in the coastal Te Awanga region and in the soil-specific Gimblett Gravels and Bridge Pa Triangle, our set-up allows us a unique single-vineyard approach. It also lets us blend the best of our barrels into our premium Icon range. We compare the winemaker with a painter and every vintage with a new canvas – every year we produce as many different colours as possible, so the wines are a perfect representation of the vintage. With the 2017 vintage there are more than 100 simultaneous fermentations in the winery.
Elephant Hill is a rising star of the NZ wine industry. What recent accolades have come your way?
These are always nice to receive – accolades are a prize for a sometimes overlooked team effort that starts with pruning and ends a couple of years later when the juries enjoy a great result. We’re proud that many critics, Masters of Wine, bloggers and wine lovers write fantastic notes about our wines. From the hundreds received since releasing our first wines in 2007, this could be a current snapshot: for our 2013 top-of-the-line “Hieronymus” Bordeaux Blend we received 20/20 points from Raymond Chan; our 2013 Reserve Syrah won The Drinks Business Global Syrah Masters and Bob Campbell’s vote for our 2014 Reserve Syrah, and 2014 Reserve Merlot Malbec Cabernet came in at 96 points.
What developments is Elephant Hill planning in order to enhance its premium experiences for the customer?
We think about the Cellar Door Experience quite a bit –we want our visitors to get more of a wine education and we will have quite a surprise for our visitors in 2018. We will certainly also work on our wines – some surprises will soon hit the market, such as our new skin-fermented white or our future Icon Chardonnay.
What is the story behind the unusual name, Elephant Hill, and the statue outside the premises?
My parents were seeking a striking, unforgettable name for the winery. When travelling through Myanmar, my father woke up one morning and shouted: “I have it! The name of the winery is Elephant Hill.” My mother said, “But there is no elephant, and there is no hill.” My father said, “Exactly, therefore you won’t forget this name!”