11 Dec 2015

Vines and Wines

From Country Life, 9:17 pm on 11 December 2015
Guy Porter at the block 8 vineyard in the Waipara Valley

Guy Porter Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Winemaking at Bellbird Spring takes its cues from traditional practices.  

Guy Porter, the owner and vigneron at the North Canterbury vineyard believes that a good wine is meant to express the nature of the soil, microclimate and other subtle aspects of its surroundings. The French term for this is Vin de Terroir. "It's great to be able to draw out character from your site, it gives you a palette of colours to start with" he says.

Since 2002 Guy has been growing a mixture of pinot gris, gewürztraminer, riesling, muscat ottonell, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc grapes on a 14 hectare gravel terrace above the Waipara River and on a 6 hectare clay slope a few kilometres further north.

Both vineyards are now managed to comply with the organic requirements of BioGro New Zealand and Guy is hoping to archive full organic status early next year. "We had some fairly strong feedback from distributors who said....'it's great Guy that you take care of your land but we need the stamp!'"

The last five years have been tough for the small vineyard because the local economy has been sluggish and a strong dollar has chipped into export returns.  Guy says he's had to be commercially flexible to ensure the vineyard remains viable. "In the past twelve months for instance we've had some people who've bought grapes from us, some people have bought bulk wine from us and some of our wine is bottled under our own labels, so I think you've got to be really adaptable in the current climate".

Being a self-confessed gourmet, Guy likes his wines to be food-friendly and this year he's even distilled a batch of Aqua Vitae, an Italian style wine brandy that's designed to cap off an agreeable evening. "You'd have it traditionally as a digestif at the end of a meal with a strong coffee' he says of the clear spirit that packs a punch at 42 percent.

Young grapes at a North Canterbury vineyard

Young grapes at a North Canterbury vineyard Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes