Courage, passion and entrepreneurial spirit
When young brothers, Theo and Alex Giesen came to New Zealand from Germany to work as stonemasons in the early 1980s they quickly realised there was a great opportunity within New Zealand’s emerging wine industry.
Their story is one of courage, passion and a true entrepreneurial spirit that has been the foundation of Giesen Wines—along with a love of good food, fine wine and generous hospitality.
The Giesen brothers had made hobby wine out the back of their house in Germany but Theo, the oldest brother, dreamed of having his own label and creating something himself.
Initially consulting with South Island farmers involved in the agricultural and horticultural sectors, young Theo and Alex toured the country looking at existing vineyards.Inspired by what they found, the brothers met people who had undertaken work for Lincoln University looking at soil types in the region and their suitability for growing grapes.
Based on those findings, Theo and Alex bought land at Burnham and put a long-distance call to 16-year-old brother Marcel—still in Germany—telling him to stay put, learn to make wine and join them in New Zealand.So at 22, 21 and 16 -Theo, Alex and Marcel jumped into business together and into an industry they had a little bit to do with but nothing commercially.
Enlisting family and friends to help plant the vines, the first Giesen vintage was in 1984, launching themselves and the name Giesen fi rmly into New Zealand wine growing story.
While Giesen vineyards moved from Burnham to Marlborough over the last two decades, the Giesen brothers continue to steer the ship. Giesen Group General Manager Kyle Skene says the brothers have retained their passion for the wine industry and the opportunities that it present.“Giesen has grown into a substantial business.
Deep down from day one the brothers wanted to craft quality wines from New Zealand. That still runs very deeply. “There is always a passion to make better wines, vintage after vintage, and as we have become larger as a business we’ve invested more and more in technology, which has helped us do that.
“We are now making organic wines as well as low and no alcohol wines to meet the emerging demand.”Vertically integrated, Giesen grows its own grapes, produces wines through its own winery and introduces visitors to the flavours and hospitality of Giesen though its cellar door.
All vineyards are now in Marlborough encom-passing 13 different sites across the Wairau Valley covering 283 hectares, with a winery in the River-lands area of Marlborough that has capacity for 20 million litres.
“About 35% of our production comes from our own vineyards with the rest coming from our grower base. We predominantly grow sauvignon blanc as you expect —it’s the majority of what New Zealand exports as a nation.
“On our vineyards we grow a little bit of pinot noir, chardonnay, syrah, riesling and pinot gris and we buy merlot from Hawke’s Bay growers, a little Riesling out of Waipara and other varietals from other growers as well.”
Exporting around 85% of total production, Giesen’s largest market is Australia, followed in no particular order by the US, UK, Canada, the wider Europe and wider Asia.
“New Zealand wines are less than 1% of total global production but 3% of global value. So we have this amazingly highly valued, premium quality product that the world wants. ‘We make a highly awarded Marlborough sauvignon blanc that the world loves.
“Stylistically, no one can make Sauvignon Blanc like New Zealand. As a nation we’re now seen as the most pre-eminent sauvignon blanc producer in the world.”
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…