• Five minutes with Marcus

    Marcus Wright




    Marcus is our Chief Winemaker. Usually in, on or under the water when not in the winery, he coaches underwater hockey and loves to fish and dive.




    Tea or coffee? Silly question
    Cereal or toast? Toast
    Fish or meat? Seafood of all kinds. Preferably harvested myself
    Veg or fruit? Both
    Burgundy or Bordeaux? Both, but if I had to choose it’s got to be Burgundy, both white and red
    Read or listen? OMG Both!
    Vinyl or CD? Vinyl
    Spontaneous or planned? Meticulously planned or very last minute depending.
    Late nights or early mornings? Pretty much both!
    Run or bike? I’m my happiest in the water so UWH/swimming/freediving

  • Five minutes with Bec

    Rebecca Wiffen




    Bec is our Assistant Winemaker and when she isn’t in the winery, she’s running around after her two young children or looking after things on her farm. She’s a busy lady with a passion for watching sport and organising the local Wine Options competition!



    Tea or coffee? Coffee in the morning, tea any time after 3pm – I like my sleep!
    Cats or dogs? Cats and dogs, I have two of each. My cats are both mixtures and my dogs are a Kelpie (with a, hopefully, mended snapped achilles) and a Beardy sheep dog – old and retired!
    Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc? Chardonnay!!!
    Shorts or pants? Shorts! Pants are for July, I say!
    Cake or muffins? Cake, the more chocolate the better
    Vegemite or Marmite? Vegemite (but I prefer boysenberry or raspberry jam!)
    Beef or lamb? Both, yum, home killed straight off the farm
    Gin or vodka? GIN!
    TV or Netflix? Happy to watch either but I do like a good series on Netflix. I seem to have lost the patience to wait for anything to be on TV!
    Book or a magazine? Magazine… The trashier the better!

  • Our response to responsible drinking

    Right now in New Zealand, we’re enjoying the perfect storm. The quality of NZ wine continues to improve, craft beers are on the rise, as are boutique spirits, so the industry is constantly in the media announcing the newest, latest and greatest alcoholic drinks. We’ve also emerged from a year of lockdowns in which many of us indulged more than usual and with increased availability through retail outlets and restaurants, and spending on luxuries to make up for not going overseas, are we at risk of enjoying too much of a good thing?

    At Lawson’s Dry Hills, as much as we’d love you to enjoy more of our handiwork, we’re staunch advocates of responsible drinking. The idea of drinking less but better quality, is one that we totally support, not least because we feel that it’s all about the experience. Enjoying something special using some really nice glasses can make for a far more memorable moment than chugging cheap stuff just for the sake of it. We’ve started using #enjoyinmoderation, in our social media as we believe responsible drinking is the right response, although it could be said ‘responsible’ is subjective.

    So, what exactly are the stipulated levels of responsible drinking today?

    The New Zealand Ministry of Health recommends no more than two standard drinks a day for women and three for men (that’s not sexist, it’s based on body mass index (BMI) differences and women tend to have less body mass than men). Those limits are debated around the world, with some countries suggesting up to 20 drinks a week are okay, however ten drinks a week is a widely regarded limit for most western countries. The Ministry also recommends having at least two alcohol-free days a week and to totally avoid alcohol when pregnant.

    A standard drink is 10ml of alcohol, but what exactly does that mean? If you look at the back label of a 750ml bottle of wine with around 13% alcohol, that means approximately 7.5 standard drinks. A 375 ml stubby of beer is around 1.5 standard drinks, while a 1-litre bottle of spirits contains around 37 standard drinks.

    And there is endless debate on even these ‘safe’ limits. A study released in 2018, in the highly respected medical journal ‘The Lancet’, showed the safe limit to be much lower. A survey across 19 countries showed less than 100 grams of alcohol, or ten standard drinks per week, to be the recommended safe limit.

    Then there’s the European view on responsible drinking given how much the French and Italians love their wine. The French diet has often been labeled ‘The French Paradox’ – being high in saturated fats, yet they usually enjoy a glass (or two) of wine, often red, with dinner. Numerous studies have shown that drinking a moderate amount of red wine is good for your health due to the antioxidants and ‘polyphenols’ which can help lower the risk of heart disease, especially from a diet high in saturated fats.

    Which brings us to another fundamental of responsible drinking – food and water. It’s a good idea to enjoy that glass of wine with food, not on an empty stomach. Alcohol is hard on the body and enjoying food at the same time not only lessens the likelihood of feeling drunk, but also helps the body to process the alcohol. And as alcohol dehydrates you, drinking plenty of water is also recommended. Bars and other places that serve alcohol are required by law to offer ready access to free water. And as we mentioned above, if you feel you would like to drink less, choose quality over quantity, and if you’re concerned about your waistline – it’s worth considering that one serve of alcohol is 150 calories (as a rough guide, that’s about 10% of the recommended daily calories for women, and about 8% for men).

    When it comes to driving or working, of course, no alcohol is the smart choice. Even a single glass of wine can impair your judgment, which is why alcohol should be avoided whenever you are going to be driving, heading to work, or undertaking anything that requires you to be on top of your game.

    So please, enjoy our wines and if you drink responsibly, perhaps even mindfully, you will enjoy the experience even more.

  • Five Things You should Know About Sauvignon Blanc

    • The world loves Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand – its big, powerful expression with passionfruit, citrus and fresh herb aromas and flavours make it unmissable!
    • France has two areas famous for Sauvignon Blanc – the Loire Valley with flinty, dry Sancerre and Pouilly Fume as well as some lesser known wines from Touraine, and Bordeaux in the south-west. Here it makes crisp, dry wines and yet it is also a component of Sauternes and Barsac – the great sweet wines (also made with Semillon and Muscadelle).
    • Sauvignon Blanc is great with seafood, but be careful not to overwhelm the gentle flavours of a fish dish with a big, fruity wine. Instead look for a more subtle style. The bigger, more fruit-driven styles are great with more flavoursome cuisine such as Thai green curry. Sauvignon Blanc is also great with sushi and goat’s cheese (among other things!)
    • Sauvignon Blanc has a number of styles – from fresh, dry and steely to highly aromatic and juicy. It is sometimes made using oak barrels too which give a richness and complexity to the wines.
    • Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon.


  • Why We Love Wine

    We do. Love wine, I mean. And this is why.

    • We can use a really nice glass to drink it from. Doesn’t have to be expensive – just nice. Preferably quite thin, with or without a stem, tapered toward the top and no chunky rim. And large (only fill to 1/3).
    • We can enjoy it with some yummy food. Might be just a platter of antipasti, a chunk of good cheese or a full-blown degustation dinner – regardless, wine and food were made for each other.
    • We can talk about it if we want to. If you really like it – you might want to say so – if you really don’t you might want to say so too, but perhaps not if you weren’t the one who brought/chose it.
    • We can buy into the whole experience of enjoying wine. If we want to. Pour a glass a third full, swirl it round, stick our noses in and take a good sniff or two, then a sip/mouthful and savour it for a moment, letting it reach all parts of your mouth. Even suck in a bit of air like the professionals, if you feel like it and if you’re not wearing white.
    • We can experience the wine changing in the glass, or from one glass to the next (steady). As white wine warms up, having come from the depths of the chiller or ice-bucket, it reveals more aromas and more flavours. Red wine tends to soften as it gently absorbs more air once released from the bottle.
  • Five minutes with Sion

    Sion Barnsley



    Sion is our General Manager and he’s also a shareholder. His name is a Welsh form of the given name John, pronounced in English identically to the Irish name Seán.

    When not in his office, Sion likes to be at his bach in the Sounds, or even better, out on his boat (or somebody else’s!)



    Summer or winter? Summer
    Mornings or evenings? Mornings
    Rice or pasta? Rice
    Sparkling or still? Still
    Fiction or non-fiction? Non-ficton
    Cook or clean up? Cook
    Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling? Sauvignon Blanc
    Cheese or dessert? Dessert
    Beanie or cap? Cap
    Soccer or rugby? Soccer

  • The evolution of wine writing

    Can you drink everything you read?

    The move to online media has seen an evolution – some would say a decimation – of quality writing. As print circulations fall and the internet is populated by opinion and exaggeration, we’re becoming ever more skeptical about what we read and wine is not immune from the changes.

    For today’s writers, the internet seemingly offers free reign for anyone to express their opinions unhindered by editors, lawyers or publisher’s reputations. So when it comes to wine reviews, who can you trust? The fact is, advertising funds publishing, whatever the media, and advertising spend is moving from print and television to online. Without that income stream, many credentialed writers have been laid off from leading publications, while others have risen from the shadows as the weband  social media offer them a platform.

    Yet wine writing and reviews are more important than ever in the online era. We’re not popping down to our favourite wine store for a chat and a recommendation as much and choosing wine has become more challenging as we’re faced by even more wines from more vineyards. And let’s not forget that wine can be intimidating, with many feeling they need to be knowledgeable when sharing a bottle with friends. So writing must help us make informed purchases and empower us to keep exploring beyond our comfort zones.

    One local source of wine writing knowledge is the Wine Writers of New Zealand (WWNZ) , an organization with  members comprising writers, reviewers and  bloggers. Its mission is, “to encourage excellence and integrity in wine writing.” WWNZ writers sign a Declaration of Independence, which guarantees no outside influences or conflicts of interest influence their opinions or reviews.

    As you browse the list of talents in their ranks, most write for highly respected publications – or have created entities of their own. Cameron Douglas MS writes for ‘The Shout’, Michael Cooper has written too many books to mention (okay, 37 and counting), while Joelle Thomson and Jane Skilton MW have their own ‘Independent Wine Monthly’. It should also be noted that Jane Skilton is the leading provider of WSET courses – the UK’s Wine & Spirit Education Trust internationally recognised wine qualifications.

    Beyond directories like NZWW, who can we trust? Some may have a qualification or degree to underline their credibility. A ‘Master of Wine’ (MW) is our industry’s benchmark, yet there are precious few in the whole country let alone the wine writing community.

    Then there’s the question of objectivity. Many reviewers rely on wine sales to fund their newsletters -and with that funding comes bias. Writers are regularly offered dinners, accommodation and air fares to visit wineries, often to deepen their understanding of the brand, however as they say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, Integrity does prevail, as Jancis Robinson wrote about in her article ‘The Ethics of Wine Writing’ stating that she has no commercial links with wine companies or any producers.

    Blogger Jamie Goode wrote about the ill health of wine writing, saying “The big problem is the continued flight of advertising money away from professionally generated content.”In his ‘wineanorak.com’ blog he explains”The content that attracts advertisers online isn’t professionally produced, it’s user-generated tweets and Facebook posts. The traditional wine writer … making money by actually writing alone, is now very rare.”  Noted writer and broadcaster Oz Clarke observed “…in Britain most of the broadsheet newspapers are saying we don’t need a wine column anymore.” Or are they actually saying, we can’t afford one anymore?

    In this digital age, communication has undergone a seismic shift. Text messages are riddled with emojis and anacronyms, Facebook posts are defined by short sentences with hyperlinks to longer articles, tweets must be 140 words or less and internet text is often peppered with key words to attract search engines. How would an assessment like, “This wine offers a complex array of aromatics ranging from dark, berry fruits through to savoury forest floor characters” perform in a Google search? (Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Pinot Noir, incidentally).

    And everywhere we look, there’s this obsession with numbers. “The best 25 chardonnays under $25.” “The top 3 things a winemaker once told me.” Wine evaluation has fallen victim to scores and statisticsever since Robert Parker’s 100-point scoring system rewrote the rules.

    When consumers are primarily choosing a bottle of wine for their Saturday night, wouldn’t they rather read “…lots of juicy citrus fruit character, a zingy acidity and great concentration. Some old oak barrel fermentation has contributed to the texture.” (our Reserve Sauvignon Blanc) rather than a simple 94/100?

    Looking ahead, what can we expect? As wine sales continue to move from specialist stores to supermarkets, and therefore wine advice at retail becomes harder to find, we need reviewers more than ever, especially those who are knowledgeable, credible and gifted by a turn of phrase and an analytical palate. There are many good reviewers are out there. Keep reading.

  • Anniversary Day in the city of sails and sauvignon

    As our gaze turns to the harbour during a sunny summer in Auckland, one standout fixture is the Ports of Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta and Lawson’s Dry Hills is proud to be a sponsor of this historic event. The regatta dates back to 1840 and sees some of the country’s finest classic yachts, launches, skiffs, sailing dinghies, canoes, dragon boats and tugboats take to the water as the city of sails opens its heart and provides the perfect backdrop to these magnificent craft.

    At a time when America’s Cup racing propels Auckland’s iconic harbour onto the world stage, yachting will be top of mind for not only New Zealanders but billions of fans around the world. In a country which boasts more boats per capita than anywhere else, boating is part of our DNA, and the Anniversary Day Regatta is a celebration our passion for the water.

    The event sees over a century of classic vessels competing, from timber sailing yachts like the 1897 classic ‘Thelma’ and the 1895 cutter ‘Ida’, while multiple winner ‘Ariki’ will be pushing hard to defend her winning heritage dating back to 1905. There will be restored work boats brought back to life, classic motor launches owned by business magnates and even one owned by an actor who once played James Bond. Then dotted around the city’s bays and shorelines, tomorrow’s generation of sailors will be competing in skiffs and sailing dinghies. Over 600 participating boats on one, memorable day.

    Lawson’s Dry Hills will be right alongside the spectacle aboard the HMNZS Manawanui, one of the newest additions to the Royal New Zealand Navy’s fleet. Every year a navy ship is selected as the guard ship for the regatta providing provide a lofty vantage point for VIPs, naval hierarchy and other dignitaries to view the action on the water. To complement the experience, Lawson’s Dry Hills will be served on board. Guests will be able to enjoy four gold medal-winning wines – 2020 PINK Pinot, 2020 Sauvignon Blanc, 2019 Reserve Chardonnay and the 2017 Reserve Pinot Noir as summer breezes whisk centuries of sailing history across Auckland Harbour and beyond to the Hauraki Gulf.

    Of course, this isn’t the only way Lawson’s Dry Hills supports yachting. For some time now, Lawson’s Dry Hills has been a proud sponsor of Yachting New Zealand – the organisation established to ‘help New Zealanders access, enjoy and succeed on the water, for life.’ As well as supporting the national body, Lawson’s Dry Hills offers YNZ members 20% off and free delivery across the range of award-winning wines.

    The passion and dedication of the yachting community aligns perfectly with the values of Lawson’s Dry Hills and the close-knit team who work together to crafting their range of wines. And there’s no better way to celebrate a great day on the water than with a glass of great wine! Be sure to experience the Ports of Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta on February 1st, from whatever vantage point you can, and choose your favourite Lawson’s Dry Hills wine to add to the occasion.

  • Visiting us here in Marlborough?

    Visiting us here in Marlborough? Here’s a few other things we recommend!


    For luxury and peace, The Marlborough Lodge is a beautifully converted convent on Rapaura Road, abut ten minutes from the town of Blenheim. Marlborough Vintners Hotel is set in the vines between Renwick and Blenheim and is also lovely. A great location for visiting wineries, biking and exploring, and about 15 minutes from town. There is a Café and little gift shops opposite. Chateau Marlborough, is right in town, has lovely rooms, a pool and has a very good Chef. This one right in town too, more boutique style https://www.hoteldurville.co.nz/ And this one is brand new https://www.facebook.com/staymarlborough/. No bar or food but plenty of options just metres away. Totally stunning rooms.


    Come and see us of course – but all the wineries for visiting are on here. Wairau River is brilliant for lunch, No.1 Family Estate make lovely Methode Traditionnelle and all the Nautilus wines are terrific. These three are all close to each other at the western end of Rapaura Road.

    Just past Renwick on State HW63 towards the west, there is Clos Henri – a tiny wee church that was relocated there many years ago. French owned, lovely wines and lovely people. Also Te Whare Ra in Renwick, very small producer, delicious wines. Hans Herzog (tiny, boutique) and Saint Clair Cafe are both off Rapaura Rd and great for food (and wine – Hans Herzog is especially interesting).

    Other things

    Go to Picton and jump on the mailboat or one of the other cruises. Brilliant on a lovely day and good chance of seeing dolphins (have had orcas too!) https://www.beachcombercruises.co.nz/ Paddle boarding is fun here and definitely do a day or a half day out at Lochmara Lodge which also has accommodation. And there are other Sounds resorts such as Bay of Many Coves, Furneaux Lodge, Awaroa Lodge… lots of them.

    Yum strawberries and fresh ice cream from https://www.hedgerows.co.nz/ on Old Renwick Road just outside town and if you’re here on a Sunday, make sure you visit the Marlborough Farmer’s Market at the A&P Showgrounds.

    Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre is amazing – a ‘must see’ with Sir Peter Jackson’s ‘Knights of the Sky’ WW1 personal collection and dioramas, and next door is Omaka Classic Cars with Australian and English built vehicles from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

    Lots of tramping in the Richmond Ranges and mountain biking or walking in the Wither Hills – both stunning. The Richmond Ranges are bush-clad with streams and waterfalls, while the Withers are in complete contrast.

    Havelock is nice for a walk around the marina and lunch at the Captain’s Daughter. Great walks in the bush at Pelorus – some of Lord of the Tings was filmed here.


    The best one locally is Arbour, which offers fine dining but in a relaxed atmosphere. Brilliant food and very attentive service. It is just before you get to Renwick from town, turn left into Godfrey’s Road. Bookings recommended.

    In town, Scotch is great for wine, craft beer and delicious, contemporary food. It can get a bit noisy as the acoustics aren’t great – but it has a good atmosphere when busy. There’s a good Indian – the Village India, and Thai – Eat Thai, and Mollies at Hotel d’Urville which is quite new.

    Good for breakfast are Herb & Olive, or for a vintage vibe, Ritual and we love Karaka for any time of day!

    This website has everything on it and might help with everything we’ve forgotten to mention! https://marlboroughnz.com/visit

  • Wine Show Successess

    NZ’s latest wine shows were pure gold

    Spring is not only the time of year when we see the beginnings of the new vintage, it’s also a time when winemakers see the fruits of their labours from previous vintages as the nation’s leading wine shows reveal their top wines. With the results of the New Zealand International Wine Show, Marlborough Wine Show and New World Wine Awards announced recently, wine lovers will be better informed than ever when making their selections from the shelves of New Zealand wines.

    In late September, New World published its medal winners gleaned from more than 1,000 offerings from the country’s wineries. The New World Wine Awards prides itself on being New Zealand’s most ‘consumer friendly’ competition handing out accolades to wines under $25. Lawson’s Dry Hills received two gold medals – the perennial favourite, Gewurztraminer (2017 vintage) and the stunning Reserve Chardonnay 2019.
    Meanwhile, the results of the NZ International Wine Show – NZ ‘s largest wine competition – have just been announced. The judging panels were headed by Chief Judge Bob Campbell MW and included many of the country’s most experienced wine judges and several Masters of Wine (MWs) all of whom sniffed swirled, sipped (and spat!) their way through over two thousand wines. With the majority of entries from the excellent 2019 and 2020 vintages, judges reported the wines to be the best varietal line-up they had ever encountered in the history of the event, resulting in a record number of 1423 medals – 304 gold, 387 silver and 732 bronze.

    Amid such esteemed company, the quality of Lawson’s Dry Hills’ wines shone, winning 17 medals making them the second most awarded of the 150 wineries based in Marlborough. Even more appealing is the fact that eleven of these medal winners are priced at $20 or less, allowing many wine shoppers to enjoy medal-winning quality every day. Lawson’s Dry Hills collected four gold medals: three for Sauvignon Blanc and one for the delicious PINK pinot.

    Gold Medals:
    – Blind River Sauvignon Blanc 2020
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2020
    – Inviniti Sauvignon Blanc 2020
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Pink 2020

    Silver Medals
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Chardonnay 2019
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Gewürztraminer 2018
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Riesling 2018
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Pink 2019
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2017
    -The Sisters Pinot Rose 2020
    -The Sisters Sauvignon Blanc 2020

    Hot off the press, the country’s largest regional competition, the Marlborough Wine Show has just announced its winners. From a total of 549 entries, which chief judge Ben Glover stated were, “Of outstanding quality”, the panel of 17 judges awarded 49 gold and 130 silver medals. Lawson’s Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2020 receiving one of the nine gold medal awarded to the 2020 vintage of this varietal, while wines from all three Lawson’s Dry Hills brands featured amongst the silver medals:

    Gold: – Lawson’s Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2020
    Silver – Blind River Sauvignon Blanc 2020
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Gewürztraminer 2018
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Chardonnay 2019
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2017
    -The Sisters Pinot Rose 2020

    Yet for chief winemaker, Marcus Wright and the team, what truly matters is enjoyment of the wines. “There are no medals that quite compare with the enthusiasm when friends meet up around a bottle of our wine and the conversation flows. Moments like these are pure gold.”

  • Online shopping increases here to stay

    An unexpected side effect Covid-19 has been the way the virus has changed our shopping habits. As most traditional retailers were forced to close for a period, it opened the way for us to seek out efficient, contact-less ways to spend our money. Even the supermarkets that remained open had long queues outside, so many shoppers chose to go online rather than stand in line.  And even when the liquor retailers were able to open – many still chose to shop from the comfort and safety of home.

    This hasn’t just happened here in New Zealand but is a global phenomenon. We may not have been hit as hard by the pandemic as many other countries, but since Kiwis are typically early adopters of new technologies, we have been quite comfortable clicking our way from store to store.

    A recent report by Chris Wilkinson, Managing Director of First Retail Group and released by Westpac, highlighted how Covid-19 has introduced a whole new wave of digital consumers to online shopping. Wine sales reflect a similar story with Winesearcher observing how online alcohol sales in the U.S. rose an estimated 40 – 60% for the week ending March 21 – right at the beginning of the lockdown.

    Yet not all products responded the same way. A study by eommerce solutions provider ‘Big Commerce’ reported that while food and beverage sales were up 7.2% during the pandemic, categories like cameras and equipment, for instance, fell by 64%. The question is, with traditional stores now reopen, will we simply revert to our traditional shopping habits? Beverage Analyst Bourcard Nesin at Rabobank believes the shift to online sales is a lasting one. UK Business magazine The Economist predicts that the pandemic will energise our adoption of new technologies and businesses will escalate their transformation into the digital economy.

    Ecommerce experts worldwide are predicting that grocery shopping will continue to grow online. We have been steadily going that way for years and Covid-19 has simply accelerating the change. Of course, many businesses will always need physical contact, from hairdressers to physiotherapists, but even doctor’s appointments are now being conducted online, so who knows how many more ‘traditional’ retailers could soon change.

    While traditional shopping is a case of what you see is what you get, the dynamics are different for online sales. Brands are more important than ever so that people can trust products they cannot see or try. Fortunately, customers have easy access to product information and customer reviews to help guide their decisions. In the case of wine purchases, you can quickly access reviews with a few clicks.

    Does that mean tasting events are in jeopardy in this digital world?  If the enterprising efforts by certain wineries is any indication, maybe not. Lawson’s Dry Hills conducted a wine tasting online in early May over the radio as Mike Graham of the UK’s Talk Radio spoke to Master of Wine, Nick Adams. An online tasting by another winery recently gave customers the chance to purchase the wines online for delivery before the event, then join the winemaker’s webinar on Zoom. Such events allow us to still enjoy tastings without having to resort to a taxi ride home.

    Along with webinars and virtual business meetings – virtual tastings and online brand experiences are continuing to grow and attract large numbers. Look out for the next tasting coming to a screen near you!

  • Better by the dozen

    Gaining a greater voice on the world stage for premium New Zealand wine is an ever-increasing challenge. Smaller wineries are often drowned out by powerful multinationals with their vast budgets and sophisticated marketing tools. Yet there are those who believe quality speaks volumes; that several voices singing the praises of New Zealand’s wine in harmony will be more effective than one voice singing alone.

    So back in 2004, twelve of the country’s most prestigious and enduring artisanal wineries decided to join forces from a marketing and education perspective and ‘The Family of Twelve’ was created. Judy Finn of Neudorf remembers what first brought them together.”We were all friends and we decided we were doing too much travelling, had a huge carbon footprint and were all export-focused companies. So we decided to see if we could share the international travel workload and promote New Zealand and other premium products from New Zealand at the same time.”

    The Family of Twelve is an alliance of family-owned wineries across the length and breadth of New Zealand located in eight of the county’s top growing regions. Family members represent a who’s who of what makes New Zealand wine so special today and include Villa Maria, Kumeu River, Millton Vineyard, Craggy Range, Palliser Estate, Ata Rangi, Neudorf, Fromm Winery, Lawson’s Dry Hills, Nautilus Estate, Pegasus Bay and Felton Road.

    Reducing air miles may have been the initial catalyst but increasing interaction between winemakers and viticulturists has been one of the positive results. Wineries which, day-to-day are competitive, get to be collaborative through a once a year get-together they call ‘Vini Viti’. During these two-day events, the winemakers and viticulturists meet up for highly focussed workshops and tastings. It’s an opportunity to discuss what works and what doesn’t, and perhaps share information about trials they may have been running. Every year Vini Viti is held at a different winery which chooses a major topic for the workshops and is given a budget to purchase wines for a tasting where family members’ wines are tasted alongside their peers. As Marcus Wright, chief winemaker at Lawson’s Dry Hills explained, “It’s awesome to discuss the technical side of viticulture and winemaking. From a geek’s point of view, it’s great to have the opportunity to examine and drink some of the country’s best wines.”

    This collaborative philosophy is echoed in the Family of Twelve’s ‘Critical Comment’ – a document that serves as a roadmap for where the family is going and what drives it. The document describes how the family is “bound by a common love of their craft and a desire to share their knowledge to a wider audience”. For in this family, brothers and sisters help each other to achieve greatness, while each pursuing their own lofty ambitions.

    They meet several times a year for board meetings when members plan various educational and marketing initiatives. The Family Chair rotates every two years and right now Paul Donaldson of Pegasus Bay is at the helm. Right from the outset, there were a few simple house rules: to be a part of the Family, each winery had to be family-owned, you had to make great wine, and importantly, you had to be able to make decisions within 24 hours.

    When it comes to being heard in the world market, the alliance allows wineries to speak with a louder voice. Or as the website expresses it, “We are a family of twelve siblings with one voice and one purpose.”

    The export market is The Family of Twelve’s main focus and joining forces for international trade initiatives provides economies of scale by combining resources for events like workshops or the wine trade. A pre-requisite for participation is that the winery’s owner or perhaps the senior winemaker must be present to promote their products – and to assist in promoting their siblings’ wines.

    Together they’ve staged tastings and masterclasses in cities like New York, San Francisco, London and Amsterdam, while also hosting inbound visitors to New Zealand including the wine media, key sommeliers, retailers and wine buyers. Endeavours like these are what helps The Family of Twelve not only pioneer new opportunities, but fulfill its vision of “nurturing long term relationships with an emphasis on education at home and in key export markets” .There have been events where family members’ wines were tasted blind alongside some of the world’s best. Also important is education about the differences – and distinctions – between the various regions in New Zealand, with a leaning very much to the premium end of the member wineries’ portfolios.

    Education doesn’t stop there. In 2017 they established ‘The Family of Twelve Wine Tutorial’, a two-day residential tutorial for twelve wine professionals comprising a series of workshops, dinners and guest speakers. Its purpose was to impart first-hand knowledge to the wine industry’s next generation of leaders, representatives and communicators. The program has been so successful they’re now planning the 3rd event.

    Looking to the future, this family is very much focussed on building an enduring legacy for New Zealand wines. Certainly, the 16 years that the group has been in operation confirms The Family of Twelve is here for the long haul and the wider New Zealand wine industry will be the long-term beneficiary.

    For more information, please visit http://familyoftwelve.co.nz/

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