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The Specialist Winegrowers of New Zealand
by
Terry Sullivan

New Zealand wines have worldwide recognition especially for Sauvignon Blanc. Consumers in the United States can venture into wine shops and find New Zealand wines at affordable prices. However, how does one promote wine to the fine wine market? In the case of six passionate New Zealand producers, it was to establish a marketing alliance. The Specialist Winegrowers of New Zealand, TSWNZ, was launched in 2010 to promote fine wines created by a group of ultra premium artisan winemakers.

Consumers, worldwide, can experience single vineyard wines produced by the members that specialize in crafting a single variety or style of wine. Concentrating on a single variety or style of wine is unusual. In our travels to hundreds of winery and vineyard tasting rooms, it is customary to have a portfolio of wines. Often it is common to find several varietal wines in the portfolio. The different wines made by producers often range between 10 and 30. We did discover fewer, about five wines in the collection, while traveling through Tuscany. For a producer to craft a single variety or style is unique and risk taking.

The Specialist Winegrowers of New ZealandThe Specialist Winegrowers Members

The six members of The Specialist Winegrowers of New Zealand include Destiny Bay, The Hay Paddock, Fairbourne Estate, No 1 Family Estate, Vinoptima and Wooing Tree. The early members of the TSWNZ found each other through shared admiration of their wines. Each of the group members has a passion bordering on an obsession to create a world-class fine wine from a single variety or style of wine. Their wines are costly to produce and carry an expensive price tag. People seem to respect that the price is a reflection of the higher production costs.

What can cost the final price of a wine to be high? Many factors go into the costs of producing wine. Mike Spratt of Destiny Bay on Waiheke Island explained that his grapes are all cared for by hand. The vineyards are on rolling hills some have very steep slopes. Twelve months of vineyard management is done by hand, thus increasing the cost of growing the grapes. The winery facility is almost central to the vineyards and the grapes arrive at the winery shortly after harvest. The grapes are sorted several times before destemming and after destemming. This extra task adds to the cost of the finished wine. There is no rush to create a wine and release it to consumers. The wines are aged, Bordeaux blends are made and receive additional ageing. Once bottled, the wines are cellared again. Consumers can buy a wine that has already been aged a few years and enjoy it immediately or continue to age it for more than a decade. The additional time cellaring a wine at the winery adds to the cost.

The Specialist Winegrowers of New ZealandDestiny Bay focuses on crafting a Cabernet blend on Waiheke Island. Their vineyards and winery are sustainable. The Hay Paddock, also on Waiheke Island, concentrates on producing Syrah. They follow a vineyard regime that has a biodynamic influence.

Fairbourne Estate, in Marlborough, makes a world-class Sauvignon Blanc. Wines made from grapes grown in their vineyards in the Wairau Valley represent the terroir of the new world home of Sauvignon Blanc. Also in Marlborough, No 1 Family Estate concentrates on creating a sparkling wine in the Methode Traditionelle style. This family owned and operated winery has vineyards in the Wairau Valley planted with the traditional Champagne grapes.

The Specialist Winegrowers of New ZealandVinoptima, in Ormond near Gisborne, focuses on creating the world’s best Gewürztraminer. The wine is cellared for three years prior to release and can improve with additional careful home cellaring. The sixth member, Wooing Tree, specializes in Pinot Noir planted in Central Otago. In the middle of their vineyard is a wooing tree, a local landmark where locals woo their lovers. This family owned and operated winery and vineyard seeks to create the best Pinot Noir possible.

Membership in the The Specialist Winegrowers of New Zealand is limited to criteria that eliminate most producers. The first criterion is that they must be an expert in crafting a single variety or style of wine. The second criteria is that the member must be critically recognized and have a premium price point.

The Hay Paddock on Waiheke Island will open a Cellar Door (tasting room) during December 2010. Wine enthusiasts can taste Hay Paddocks’s wines and the wines from the other members of The Specialist Winegrowers of New Zealand. One wonders about competition. However each of the members focuses on a different variety or style and there is no duplication in the portfolio of wine offered. If your travels take you to the Auckland area of New Zealand, take the ferry to Waiheke Island and visit The Hay Paddock Cellar Door. Discover some of the finest wines New Zealand has to offer.


 

 

                                      

 


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