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Snooth User: NZWinemaker

Hi, I'm a New Zealand vineyard owner & have just joined Snooth...........

Posted by NZWinemaker, Jun 12, 2010.

I'm interested to hear what viewers on Snooth would like to hear about regarding wine in the antipodes? We have a blog (, which tracks our vineyard adventures, but I'd also like to interarct with like-minded folk on Snooth too. Want to discuss New World vs Old World wines, Martinborough vs Otago Pinot Noir or the furure of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc? Or anything else? Just let me know. Looking forward to linking up with a few folk!


Reply by dmcker, Jun 12, 2010.

Welcome to Snooth!. Besides hearing about your wines and how you make them, I'd be particularly interested in:

  • your take on the various sauvignon blanc out of the various regions of N.Z., and those you think are doing a better job. I have a serious problem with almost all Kiwi SB, and have a hard time taking them seriously. I like Dog Point better than Cloudy Bay, but that's just relative. I thing the SBs from the Loire or blends from Graves are light years ahead of anything I've yet had from either of your islands. What can you tell us about trends, issues, etc.?
  • your view on how pinot noir is evolving, particularly on the South Island. I don't have the problems with N.Z. pinots that I do with the SBs, but I still find most of them a few years away from clear focus on how their terroir and styles should mesh. I do like several of the Pyramid Valleys, though, very much.
  • anything else you'd care to share with us on how it is to operate a winery in N.Z. compared to Oz or North America or anywhere else....
Reply by penguinoid, Jun 12, 2010.


I'm quite a fan of a number of New Zealand wine styles. Hawke's Bay seems to be producing some interesting wines at the moment, especially Syrah and Bordeaux-style blends.

I haven't had many NZ Sauvignon Blancs lately. I do have a slight preference for the Loire styles here, but NZ is certainly producing some interesting ones too (as well, sadly, as some less interesting ones). Certainly, they are quite a bit better than most Australian Sauvignon Blanc that I've tried.

I'm hoping to try Craggy Range's Sauvignon Blancs at some point, but I don't often see them in the shops. I'd also like to try Cloudy Bay's barrel-fermented Te Koko, but that seems to be out of my price range :-(

I've also enjoyed the NZ Pinot Noirs I've got to try -- again, they do seem to be slightly ahead of Australia here (though Australia is catching up -- I've tried some good Australian Pinot Noirs recently too). Both Martinborough and Otago seem to be producing some interesting Pinot Noirs at the moment.

I agree that the terroir of NZ hasn't been worked out completely yet, but that does seem to require lots of time, and lots of thought. It'll happen, and it does seem like NZ is on the right path to working this out, but it will take time. After all, to make the comparison, the level of detailed knowledge of terroir in a place such as Burgundy has taken hundreds of years to develop. It doesn't happen overnight.

Reply by penguinoid, Jun 13, 2010.

Also, I forgot to put in the important bit, which is

Welcome to Snooth!

I'll certainly look forward to reading what you've got to say about grape growing and winemaking in NZ too.

Reply by Andrew46, Jun 13, 2010.

Wellcome from a fellow newbie and winery member. 

I often find I enjoy the aromas in NZ SB, but not always the balance.  Is there a particular yeast which has been favored for aroma production?  Also, at what temp. is it customary there to run your fermenations?  Lastly, do you think we get a poor sample of NZ SB here is the US?  Do only the big ones get shipped?

Reply by zufrieden, Jun 13, 2010.

I have high hopes for Kiwi wines - particularly Chardonnay (no, not Sauvignon Blanc) and Pinot Noir.  Welcome.

Most of what I'd like to hear has been well covered off in an earlier post, so your take on the pros and cons of NZ wine when compared to the European motherland would be most interesting.

Also - though I have just breezed by your blog - is it yet possible to find your wines outside Oceania, what varietals are you growing/vinifying and how old is your operation?


Reply by cigarman168, Jun 13, 2010.

Welcome. Newzealand is known for the white wines especially SB and I like those Riesling and Pinot Gris most. it is also famous for their aroma and please share the techniques to make the aromatic wines.

Reply by NZWinemaker, Jun 14, 2010.

Hi Guys, thanks for all the interesting questions! Quite a big post to answer them all, but hopefully of interest. Then if you have other questions, feel free to explore further.

About us? We are a small family vineyard, with a focus on Pinot Noir, Syrah and Pinot Gris. Also make Cabernet Franc, Sav Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay. My son is now the winemakers - lots of info on if you are intested in more detail. We started in 1986, and are based in Martinborough.

My thoughts in SB? In recent years, I have developed two concerns. First that some wines are becoming simple and undefined. This may reflect overcropping. Then at the other end of the spectrum other wines are increasingly herbacious and acidic. Now that may sound overly critical coming from a Kiwi, but I actually think the future is very bright. The last two years have been really tough for wineries, with the global economic crisis; prices down, exports impacted by unfavourable exchange rates and rapid increases in production without well defined markets to sell into. While that sounds grim, it has encouraged a lot of wineries to think deeply about their wine styles and I believe that will become more evident in the near future. Some of the new release wines are very exciting. One problem for consumers though is often the most interesting wines are not exported, as export markets are often dominated by the big guys. Even with them though, it is worth is moving up from their base wines to some of their special releases - the extra spend is often very worthwhile. And check SB beyond Marlborough; Nelson, Hawkes Bay and Martinborough  all make excellent (and differentiated) wines.Some I have liked recently are Alpha Domus (Hawkes Bay), Waimea (Nelson), Clos Henri (Marlborough) and Big Sky (Martinborough). And as for the Murdoch James SB? Textured and less herbacious, with a long mineral finish - rewards 1 or 2 years in bottle too.

Where to with Pinot Noir? Terrific wines with great potential to improve further in the future too. My thoughts are probably best expressed as follows - I was recently asked by a visitor to the winery "Wow, you have been doing Pinot for over 25 years. You must know all there is to know about it!". My response was "We are not even out of kindergarten yet, there is still a lot to learn". While that was a comment about Murdoch James Estate, I think it is true of NZ to some extent too. Many vineyards are still relatively young, and as the vines age, so the contribution of the fruit will grow. And as NZ winemakers learn more about this fickle grape, so their approaches will alter (one way we at MJE have done the latter is with exchanges of winemakers at vintage. This year we have a young guy from France working with us. Last year was a talented young woman from Oregan). Finally, our wines will continue to evolve as we develop a better understanding of terroir in each on the many NZ Pinot regions. For the consumer that means a bright future and interesting, differentiated wines. Again I recommend experimenting with wines from the cooler regions on NZ, and with regard to Australia, I have really enjoyed some Tasmanian wines recently

I'll leave the winemaking questions from Andrew for Carl to answer in the next day or so. I think better on the technical stuff to have our winemakers inputs.

So to my last few thoughts - the pro's on con's of having a vineyard in NZ, versus Europe or USA? Pro's are great lifestyle, no restrictions on where to grow what (other than common sense!), a supportive and sharing industry, government support and encouragement, and my bond with the vineyard. We developed it from the very first vine that went into the ground, we pioneered Syrah in Martinborough, and we have been able to bring our produce alive for customers at Cellar Door, in our restaurant or in our vineyard tours. I love it still, and the 25 years passing by have gone in a flash! I have to be honest and say there are few cons though, compounded by the recent recession. Foremost is getting wines to market. NZ is a long way away from big population centres, and the cost of travel and support is significant - and hard to fund for a small winery. We have done brilliantly in Australia (over 80% of our exports go there), but UK and USA is more difficult. Access to market is another factor as big importers are not much interested in small producers, yet they often dominate the distribution channels. Price has become a major consideration too, and scale weighs against small producers in that context too. What all this means is that small guys like us, have to concentrate on making ever better quality wines and getting closer to consumers to communicate this to them. I am convinced the internet (Face Book, Snooth, Twitter, Blogs, Website, etc, etc) are all very important aspects of that, and we have made a big commitment to this. What I now hope to do is close the loop and address those importer challenges in USA and UK - one particular channel we need to make more of is on-line sales to our customers and I am looking for innovative on line wine marketers in both those markets. In Europe, we need to work harder to find quality importers too. So much to do and so little time!! Regards, Roger

PS: Shot of vineyard below!

Reply by dmcker, Jun 14, 2010.

Thanks, Roger, for the very comprehensive response. Are those your grapes in the foreground? What other crops are being farmed in the neighborhood?

And any plans to market in Japan (I curently live in Tokyo)?

Reply by NZWinemaker, Jun 14, 2010.

Yep, those are our grapes. We are a little out the village (on the banks of the Dry River), so a great combination of gravels and marine deposits. The grapes love it. Most of the land around us is used to raise beef and lambs, but is gradually going into vines - that's quite an old photo now. Sell a little in Japan through Pony Inc (2 of our Pinot Noirs), but I'm there early July to meet with them and do some trade promotion, so hope to get them to carry more of our wines after that. FYI, there is a NZ Wine Fair in Tokyo on Tue 6 July. Were you aware of that?

Reply by GhostLemur, Jun 14, 2010.

Welcome aboard Roger from a fellow Kiwi. Totally agree with all your comments.


Reply by Carly Wray, Jun 15, 2010.

Hi and welcome to Snooth; it's always a great pleasure to have winemakers in the forums. Thanks for adding your perspective. We've been spending lots of time with New Zealand pinots in the office in the last few months -- but I can't think of any I've had from Tasmania. Thanks for the suggestions ... I'll be looking that way asap.

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