Visit a restaurant in Auckland, San Francisco, London or Warsaw and you are quite likely to find a Jules Taylor sauvignon blanc on the wine list – this unassuming leading lady of New Zealand wine has a significant reach, but a penchant for keeping that under her hat.
Having studied zoology, “knowing full well it was never going to get me a job”, Taylor changed tack. She had grown up in Marlborough “and quite liking the odd bottle of wine, I thought it would be quite nice to retrain in that”. So she took a postgraduate course in winemaking and viticulture at Lincoln University.
The rest is history: she returned to her home province in late 1993 and has been in the industry ever since, starting at a contract winemaking facility called Vintech before spending years travelling the world working vintage after vintage.
“It’s full-on. Vintage is crazy, as you have fruit coming into the winery 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is your one shot each year. It is exhilarating.”
In 2000, Taylor got her big break working for Marlborough Valley Cellars, a contract company that made wine for Saint Clair, Kim Crawford and Cairnbrae. As she puts it, “The following year they said, nicely: ‘You only know how to make wine. You have no idea about the rest of the process, how about we fund you into doing your own thing?’
“I thought: ‘Ooh, that sounds like fun,’ never ever, ever imagining that making my own wine would end up being able to feed a family.” But that it did.
Jules Taylor Wines stayed quite small until 2006 when Taylor’s husband, George Elworthy, joined the business and they decided to go it alone. In late 2008, Taylor began focusing on her own brand full-time.
“We are still a ma and pa outfit – we certainly aren’t dominating the world.” They employ just three people.
Recently Taylor started flexing her winemaking muscles, launching a range of single vineyard, wild-fermented sauvignon blanc and pinot noir. Taylor calls it OTQ or the “On The Quiet” – it is an apt name for a woman who deserves to be shouted about.