Daniel Brennan's Decibel Wines among new generation of wineries
It's something of an irony that youthful ideas and energy built the modern wine industry, but now young people find it hard to get a look in.
Those days of hell-for-leather growth driven by youthful adventurers have been replaced by a surfeit of corporate blandness. Smaller wineries are being swallowed by big players, resulting in fewer jobs.
The high prices of vineyard land makes it harder for those without fat bank accounts to do their own thing.
And yet some are finding a way. They operate in the shadows of the labels created by the preceding generation, doing it tough but at the same time doing very good, exciting things.
Members of this new breed of young winemaker typically don't own any vineyards themselves. They act as negociants – buying fruit from others then vinifying it and bottling it themselves. You'll see their wines on some restaurant lists in specialist wine stores. Much of what they make is often sold via market channels they've set up themselves.
Decibel Wines is such a label.
Decibel was created by Daniel Brennan, inner city Philadelphia born and bred, who fell for New Zealand wines nearly a decade ago. Already well-travelled (he'd spent seven years as the manager of a touring rock band), he thought nothing of decamping to New Zealand to become a wine producer. Decibel's first wine was a malbec from the 2009 vintage.
He now makes a range of varietals under the Decibel brand, most from Hawke's Bay-grown fruit.
From the start, Brennan focused successfully on developing a market he knew well – his hometown.
Decibel Wines is far better known in the Philadelphia restaurant scene than it is anywhere in New Zealand.
New Jersey, South Carolina and Manhattan are now also in the Decibel orbit.
In 2016 he will produce just under 4000 cases of wine. A little over 5 per cent of that will be sold in New Zealand, although that figure is steadily moving upwards.
The wines are as interesting and singular as the man who makes them. The malbec remains a line-up regular and a personal favourite of Brennan's.
The current release, the Decibel Malbec 2015 ($28) is fragrant and dense, with tannins writ large, an unabashedly bold yet balanced mouthful.
He shows a gentler side with the Decibel Martinborough Pinot Noir 2015 ($38). Not as high octane as the malbec, it shows respect for the variety with red and dark fruit notes, a hint of tar and a deft, fine line to tannin and acidity.
Of the white, I was particularly taken with the Decibel Single Vineyard Viognier 2014 ($22) with its enticing aromatics and textural resistance.
For more information, see decibelwines.com.
- Your Weekend