Preserving quality a long-term view
After a surprising grape-growing season thanks to little sun and a couple of cyclones, Clos Henri Vineyard winemaker and general manager Damien Yvon feels such a vintage reminds winegrowers it is vital to take a long-term view when it comes to difficult times.
“Every bottle of wine bears the name Marlborough New Zealand, and we have to be careful,” he says.
“We are the guardians of our land and our reputation. Preserving quality will contribute to the sustainability of our region regardless of what Mother Nature inflicts on us. Some would love to be in our position, living off this great piece of land, so let’s not waste the opportunity.”
He says Marlborough winemakers are making a product that is driving a lot of value behind it, and as such they always need to collectively strive for quality, preserve it, and make sure their products are for the customer.
“Is our goal as growers and entrepreneurs to consistently drive value up? This is a question we’ve always got to be reminded of when we get to work every morning.”
Damien runs Clos Henri Vineyard under the southern foothills of Marlborough’s Wairau Valley for the famous Sancerre, France winegrowing family of Henri Bourgeois.
Henri was an eighth generation winegrower, one of Sancerre’s pioneering winegrowers, and the first in his family to concentrate his efforts into full-time wine production.
Damien says Sancerre is the spiritual home of Sauvignon Blanc and both the region and the Bourgeois family have earned a reputation for premium winegrowing.
In the early 1990s, the Bourgeois family started to explore other areas and spent 10 years travelling the world to find another piece of land where they could do something similar to what they were doing in Sancerre.
“All they were growing was Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, and that was not to change,” Damien says.
“They ended up in New Zealand for the first time in 1999 and fell in love with the place.”
Beside the fact the family was excited by the great winegrowing potential this land offered, they had to deal with the fact they were going into business in a country they didn’t really know, and New Zealand was one place they felt the most secure.
“They saw things were clean here in the way of doing business. It took them 10 years, and they didn’t make the decision lightly to come here.”
Marlborough was an obvious choice for Sauvignon Blanc, and the Bourgeois family felt Pinot Noir was a serious contender for the region as well.
Clos Henri Vineyard was established from scratch, high up in the valley on a 110ha sheep pasture.
Its name, while French, signifies a strong tie to the piece of New Zealand the company is working on.
Clos, from the French for ‘enclosed’, is a walled vineyard which protects grapes from theft as well as climate.
On buying the farm, the Bourgeois family had the idea they would only crop from that piece of land to keep the wine with a strong identity to one single piece of land.
There are now 45ha of organically grown grapes on the farm with the majority of the land in grazing, forestry, and native planting.