10 Sep 2021

View from the Vines - Cheers!

From Country Life, 9:23 pm on 10 September 2021

It's been two years since Country Life started following Te Hera vineyard's John Douglas through a vintage.

2020 turned out to be an interesting one, with harvest occurring during the pandemic lockdown and other disruptions caused by Covid-19.

The Pinot Noir is about to be released so it was time to head back for a final visit to find out how it turned out.

John Douglas with his 2020 Te Hera Pinot Noir

John Douglas with his 2020 Te Hera Pinot Noir Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

The complete series of View from the Vines can be found here.

With his overseas markets shut and stiff competition locally, boutique winemaker John Douglas says he's going to have to work harder and more inventively to sell his soon-to-be-released 2020 vintage.

His distributors have either stopped trading or been forced to stay home due to Covid-19.  

Country Life followed John as he pruned, picked and pressed over a tricky season which straddled the pandemic and two years on Covid-19 is still dealing all the cards.

"It was a crazy season because of Covid," he said.

Keeping workers apart, picking some grapes early because of lockdown, not being able to socialise and taste wine with other local winemakers had been just some of 2020's peculiarities.

"You're always a little bit nervous in case the wine sucks ... but generally speaking I'm quite happy with how the wines have turned out."

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Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

It's been more than two years since the vintage was first underway, starting with the pruning of the vines in 2019.

Half of the wine normally goes to Australia, Singapore, the UK and Hong Kong via distributors to bars, restaurants and hotels.

"So it's a bit grim really ... I just have to work harder at selling in New Zealand but then so is everybody else."

With Auckland bars and restaurants closed, he's lost weeks of trade.

"I'll sell it. It's just not going to be easy. I'm pleased I only have 1000 cases rather than 100,000."

"You don't make any money until you sell the last quarter of your wine.

"It's a long time before you get a return, but it's a joyous thing."