In a world increasingly dominated by corporate power it is reassuring a small-run company can be named New Zealand wine producer of the year.
Blenheim winemaker Jules Taylor is low-key about her recognition at last year's International Wine and Spirit Competition in London but agrees a little more publicity cannot hurt business and spares some time to talk about her role in it.
January is one of the slower months for a winemaker and she is savouring the school holiday time with her 8 and 10-year-old sons. Twelve-year-old dog Sydney enjoys some attention, too, and Jules identifies him as her and husband George Elworthy's "first baby".
George is the general manager at Jules Taylor Wines, taking on that position in 2006 when a former job folded and the time seemed right to grow the small wine company so it could support their family.
Its first vintage was in 2001, "Jules Taylor" labels pasted on bottles of riesling and pinot gris wines.
"I loved drinking dry riesling, and pinot gris had just started to get into New Zealanders' wine-drinking radar."
It didn't take too long for Marlborough's signature varietal, sauvignon blanc, to be added to the wine list. It was expected, she says. As a girl from Marlborough you need to have sauvignon blanc in your portfolio.
"And I do love drinking it," she says.
Ask Jules how she got into winemaking and her answer suggests it was almost by mistake. Growing up in Spring Creek, she had watched the Marlborough landscape slowly changing.
As a child, there were always summer visits to orchards to pick ripening peaches, nectaries, apricots and cherries. Then property owners started removing the trees, replacing them with rows of grape vines.
The transformation was happening at the same time Jules was developing a taste for alcoholic beverages, she says. She was studying zoology at university by then and each time she came home for the holidays, more vineyards had been planted and new wineries opened.
Zoology jobs weren't abundant when she graduated and, because friends were continuing their studies at university, Jules changed her career plans and did postgraduate wine and viticulture studies.
"The microbiology side is quite big in winemaking," she says, "and I also did some chemistry at university.
"And [winemaking] is production based. I like making things. When I'm not making wines, I cook; and I sew sometimes. I like something that ends up with quite a different form."
In 2007 and again in 2010 Jules Wines won the Air New Zealand Champion Sauvignon Blanc Trophy.
Last year, as well as being New Zealand Producer of the Year, it received Blue-Gold medals for its 2013 Marlborough pinot gris, 2013 Gisborne rose, 2013 Marlborough gruner veltliner and 2012 Marlborough pinot noir in the Sydney International Wine Competition. A 2013 Cuisine Magazine issued a Gold Sticker to the Jules Taylor Marlborough sauvignon blanc, identifying it as a wine of "outstanding" quality.
Wine quality is non-negotiable, says Jules, who with viticulturist Jeremy Hyland sources grapes from 13 contract growers for Jules Taylor wines. "It represents not just Marlborough but New Zealand wine," she says.
"And New Zealand wine is known for having decent offerings."
- The Marlborough Express
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