Within 30 years, Nautilus Estate has grown from an ambitious idea to a world-renowned premium wine brand.
Last week, the Renwick wine company officially celebrated its 30th vintage since releasing its first sauvignon blanc wine in 1985.
Nautilus Estate proprietor Robert Hill Smith, whose family started Australia's oldest family-owned winery, Yalumba, was in Marlborough to crack open some bubbles and celebrate the team's hard work and the brand's success. Nautilus wines, and its associated labels Opawa Wines and Twin Islands, have won countless awards in New Zealand and overseas.
Nautilus Estate winemaker and winery manager Clive Jones, who started with the company in August 1998, said Nautilus had evolved greatly from its humble beginnings.
"Like a lot of wine companies these days, it starts with an idea and a brand, you make a bit of wine, see how it goes, get success and then start building on that.
"We started building on vineyards, so that was first in 1992 in Renwick and we now own six vineyards."
In 2000, the pinot noir cellar was built and six years later a white-wine setup followed.
"We've got a modern winery, but the key thing now is we've got a lot of vineyards that are 15-plus years old. So we've been dealing with the same sites for a long time and are really getting a good feel for what those particular sites deliver and what they contribute to our wine cellar."
An influx of staff joined the Nautilus Estate team from 2006.
"We've got quite a good, stable group of people who are working for the business and I think it's a nice good vibrant team and we enjoy each other's company and we enjoy making the wine."
Belinda Frazerhurst, stock and shipping co-ordinator at Nautilus, was this year acknowledged for 21 years with the company.
"When someone works for 21 years with our greater organisation, Yalumba, they get a VSOP - a Very Special Old Person."
Jones has watched the Nautilus brand gain worldwide recognition during his 16 years with the company.
"The 1985 vintage was all sold in Australia and now, 30 vintages later, we are exporting to over 30 countries.
"We broadened the range. We started with sauvignon blanc and we've now got cuvee, chardonnay, pinot gris, pinot noir and this year we made our first albarino (a Spanish variety) and we've been making the gruner veltliner for a couple of years now, which is another new variety for us."
Their success would not be possible without the essential ingredient - grapes - and for that Nautilus Estate credits its growers.
"There are some growers we have had a long association with and they have always been a part of our story," Jones said.
"Back when we started it was very difficult to get grapes, in fact the focus in Marlborough didn't start until 1989 . . . [and] there were only a tiny amount of vines growing so we encouraged a couple of growers to plant vineyards for us.
"That's sort of how we got the ball rolling."
Marlborough grapegrowers Willie Crosse, Murray and Vicky Gane, Jim and Debbie Greer, and Ivan and Margaret Sutherland are considered part of the "family".
"We've now had an association with those four families for either close to or just over 20 years and that's been a big part of Nautilus. We've always had a strong loyal grower base. It's nice to think that 20 years later they are still supplying us."
This year's vintage was one of their best yet, said Jones.
"We've had our most successful year ever, the year ending 30th June. They were record sales for us so we feel very positive about where the industry is now and look forward to the next 30 years."
Yalumba is celebrating 165 years this year. "We've got a bit of catching up to do, but it's nice to have a similar milestone over here with his [Hill Smith's] Marlborough-based Nautilus business."
- The Marlborough Express
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