Innovative Spirit and a commitment to quality delivers great wines
While the New Zealand wine industry can document nearly two hundred years of existence (dating back to 1836), it is also correct to state that the country’s wine business can be said to be relatively new in subsistence. The country’s first vineyards were planted in the Hawkes Bay region by the Roman Catholic Church, and smatterings of early vineyards and historic wineries have always dotted New Zealand’s historical wine records. Despite these early beginnings, the New Zealand wine industry waited until very recently to emerge as one of the world’s better wine producers.
And, were it not for the British wine trade and its influence on world wine opinion, it is entirely conceivable that New Zealand might not exist as more than a token producer. It is an accepted fact that New Zealand’s wind industry owes its very existence to Great Britain, the country for which practically all of New Zealand’s wine efforts of the late 20th Century were directed.
During the 1980’s, young New Zealand vintners who had trained in Europe and elsewhere began making daring wines that caught the attention of the British wine trade and well respected British critics. A number of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs began winning international medals and the varietal was next declared by several British writers to be the best sauvignon blanc in the world, an axiom that would further propel the growth of the small country’s fledgling wine industry.
In a matter of months, wineries and vineyards began popping up along the fertile growing regions on both the North and South Islands of New Zealand. These plantings were part of ten dedicated wine growing regions, running more than a thousand miles from the Northland Region in the upper northwest corner of North Island to Central Otago much further south near the bottom of South Island. The regions encompassed almost every type of growing environment as well as numerous soils as widespread and varied as any growing regions in the world. As the vineyard plantings expanded, so did the types of varietals being planted and the wide assortment of wines that were made.
International recognition has continued unabated for the small country, and today’s New Zealand wine industry ranks on a par with many of the world’s top wine producing countries. It is almost amazing that the diminutive country has come so far in the relatively short span of less than three decades. While near by Australia tends to dominate its close neighbor in terms of quantity of wines produced, many wine industry observers contend that New Zealand produces many wines of higher caliber than its better known southern hemisphere next door wine ally.
Taking the lead from successful California wineries, a number of New Zealand wineries come complete with hotel accommodations and restaurants. This offers the frequent visitors unique insights as to the wine/food comparison experience that has proven so successful in the United States. Many wine retailers also stock ever growing sections dedicated to New Zealand wineries that have proved to be instant hits with many consumers.
For the first fifteen years of Clearview Estate Winery’s existence, owner Tim Turvey served as its only winemaker. As the winery grew and prospered, Turvey was finally able to add an additional winemaker, Barry Riwai, almost five years ago. Barry came complete with a degree in oenology from the Eastern Institute of Technology in nearby Hawkes Bay.
‘Barry’s addition was an important step for me from a technical standpoint,” recalled Turvey. ‘For I’m a self taught winemaker for the most part. I have some diplomas and the like from courses I’ve attended, but, truthfully, I learned most of what I know by on the job training.” The pair works closely on each and every wine and the results have been ‘awesome” in Turvey’s mind. Numerous gold medal and extremely high international scores have dominated Clearview Estate Winery’s portfolio, with a good many more to come. ‘We are going to do even better in the future, we’re learning more with each vintage we produce,” added Tim Turvey. ‘And, I couldn’t do it without Barry, and that you can print.”
Tim Turvey, Clearview Estate Winery’s co-owner and winemaker
Tim Turvey points to the fact that his grandparents were farmers and it was in the cards for him to also eventually become a farmer. Early stints as a photographer, pro surfer and pineapple farm owner only broke the ground for the personable kiwi who also admits to being 57.
‘In the mid-1980’s, I fell in love with grapes and wine in general,” Turvey recently recounted. ‘The modern New Zealand wine business hadn’t really started expanding as yet, but we planted some vines in the most beautiful place on earth, and hoped for the best.”
Turvey planted his vineyards close to the sea, one only 70 yards from the ocean and another 140 yards from the water’s edge, arguably the closest vineyards to a major water source found anywhere. He chose the acreage in a palace called Te Awanga, near the town of Hastings, in the oldest grape growing area of New Zealand called Hawkes Bay.
‘The conditions here are almost perfect,” Turvey continued. ‘While we are the same latitude as Madrid, Spain, we have almost no humidity to deal with, the sea breezes produce cleaner air and we have few vine problems to deal with. Botrytis is unheard of and the cooling day breezes and warmer nighttimes allow us to have a higher acid base to deal from. Our clusters can hang for a long, long time, a fact that is great for the grapes. Our climate makes us more similar to Bordeaux and Burgundy than anywhere else.”
Tim Turvey produces some 24 different wines at Clearview Estate Winery, and allows that ‘boredom is not an option for us. Depending on what the vineyards actually provide us dictates what we are going to do next. ” Turvey has a co-owner, Helma van den Berg, whose responsibilities include the winery’s attractive restaurant and also the business’ financials. The restaurant (one of the first to be built at a winery in New Zealand) has made Clearview Estate Winery a destination for many New Zealanders and other visitors to the Hawkes Bay area for many years. Tim’s daughter Katie is also associated with the winery and another daughter, Gemma, runs the New Zealand Wine Center. Turvey hopes that one day Gemma will also join the winery’s ranks. ‘We’re already a sort of family,” he smiled, ‘that would make everything complete.”
Turvey is very, very high on his newest harvest, the just completed 2010 crops (remember, the southern hemisphere picks its grapes from mid-March to mid- May in contrast to our September to August picking season in California and Europe). He used the term ‘awesome, in fact among the very best fruit I have ever seen since we began. I will have the finest Chardonnay fruit I have ever had, which should make for some really sensational wines.”