I was a relative late starter in the wine industry. Never having done anything by halves until that point, I first completed a certificate course in Winemaking and Viticulture in Hawkes Bay and a vintage in Auckland. That was to decide if a complete career change was not a ridiculous proposition. I went on to complete a Batchelor of Applied Science (Wine) from Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, NSW and began to turn what had been a fun but expensive hobby, into a very much more expensive profession.
I love being very hands-on: and have been involved in everything from driving posts and running wires and planting vines, through budburst to pruning. It's never dull: Not one vintage has been the same. After over 15 years of learning from my own mistakes and successes, I'm beginning to get a read on the subtleties and challenges of our site. I've also managed to stubbornly resist bringing in grapes from other sources, even in lighter vintages. Keeping our teroir unadulterated is very important to me, but this has come at a cost.
Every year I spend most of my time in the vineyard, looking after my soils, and also finetuning the canopy and crop levels, aiming each year to produce a more uniformly ripe and concentrated Pinot crop. Soil is, for me, the foundation stone of terroir. Soils nuked by inorganic pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are technically dead, and inhibit vines from accessing the natural soil nutrients. It is therefore impossible for them to express terroir over and above varietal typicite. My overarching goal is to restore tired old sheep pasture to living forest floor dominated by natural beneficial soil funghi and bacteria. To achieve this I took the unusual step of never disturbing the soil after planting. Today this is called Regenerative Agriculture. We explored Biodynamics for our first 6 years before rejecting it in favour of a more scientifically sound, biologically based system. Following a no-till strategy to restoring soils has made more work for me but we believe this is why our wines are already beginning to reveal their unique and authentic expression of terroir.
While the taste of terroir (or gout de terroir) is hard to define, Fancrest is remarkably consistent in producing very earthy savoury Pinot Noir with a seam of minerality running through it. In better years it expresses floral notes which remind me of good Volnay. The tannins can be chewey in their youth but inevitably they soften to reveal a more feminine elegant side. Colour is seldom an issue. My foray into natural winemaking was progressive with our first fully natural vintage in 2014. Organic winegrowing, hand harvesting, indigenous ferments, basket pressing, high quality oak (most of it 5 year air dried from 14th century sustainably managed forests in Burgundy called Dom Laurent Magic casks), and since 2010 bottling without fining or filtration has become our way of not imposing my stamp as winemaker over the Terroir. Over time I have tired of the strong oakiness imparted by new oak and have actively worked to minimise this distraction.
I hope you will love our wines as much as I do.