Valli - In our own words.

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My love affair with the Waitaki Valley - North Otago region is no secret, I have never tried to hide it.

It started naturally enough for me with the wines, having access to grapes and making wines there ever since the first commercial vintage 20 years way back in 2004. Man does time go by fast.

It was the transparency, vibrancy, energy, length of flavour and the pure expression of place that grabbed my attention. Grabbed it with both hands covered in superglue and stuck forever. It only took a couple of years working with this fruit and I knew I wanted wines from the Waitaki to be a permanent part of the Valli Portfolio, so a number of years ago we purchased our own land, an existing vineyard that had been my favourite source of grapes.That was a commitment to the region, but a modest one compared to what we have just done. About a year ago, Nicole and I purchased a gorgeous Oamaru stone building in the heart of Kurow. Built in 1934, it was originally the Kurow Post Office. Now it is the Valli Wine Bar. We have spent the last 6 months restoring it to its...

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I have never been great at acting or anything musical, although not for lack of trying. So, I didn’t think I had a clue what a veteran theatre actor feels like right before going on stage, particularly on the opening night of a new production. I’d imagine that the years of experience and countless rehearsals do not fend off the “jitters”, the fear, and the excitement; knowing that once the curtain rises, everyone in the theatre is waiting to be transported, to be entertained, to sit at the edge of their seat. As I write these words, I realise I am actually describing how a Winemaker feels (well, at least this Winemaker) when a new vintage is about to be released. No matter how many vintages I have under my belt, I feel the same nerves, the same exhilaration, and some hesitancy each time a new one is released.

The team at Valli likes to release our four Pinot Noirs from the same vintage at the same time, so all these emotions are amplified. We often say in wine, we have one shot each season to get it right. I prefer to say “to make it real” as we aren’t seeking...


I have the privilege of introducing you to a special wine - the Levi Pinot Noir 2022 – just in time for the festive season.

I am often asked if I have a “favourite” when I show our Gibbston, Bannockburn, Bendigo and Waitaki Pinots together. I always say emphatically “no!” The questioner usually stares at me quizzically and doesn’t seem to believe me.

Whilst it’s true one might sing out to me more soulfully at any given time, I am fond of them all in different ways.

However, as I prepared to write this newsletter, I realised I actually do have a favourite and it is the series of Valli dog charity wines.We started this wine in vintage 2019 as a one-off tribute to my beloved Missy, and it has since grown into a special annual release. Each new vintage has a different canine on the label as depicted by the talented NZ artist, Charles Hannah.

In the winery, these limited edition wines offer the opportunity to experiment in order to create something...

Valli Pinot Noir

New Zealand’s Valli Wine is one of those producers you may be reluctant to recommend – for fear of losing an allocation or sending the prices skywards. In a very short space of time Valli has started making Pinot Noir that rivals some of the very best sites in Burgundy, and wine that has earned winemaker Jen Parr the New Zealand Winemaker of the Year Award. On an early Monday morning tasting in London, with the room full of the sweet smell of Pinot, Peter Dean met up with Parr and masterclass chair Matthew Jukes to discover how Valli’s wines flips the New World/ Old World paradigm on its head.

“At last year’s massive New Zealand Wine tasting, Matthew Jukes’ top two ranked wines, out of the many hundreds on show, were both Valli Pinots,” writes Dean.

Matthew Jukes, who chaired the Valli Wine Pinot Noir Masterclass with winemaker Jen Parr, made an interesting point that the 12 Pinots on show “flipped the New World and Old World on their heads.” It wasn’t until that evening when I popped a bottle of 2019 Beaune 1er Cru (from a top...


May is a passionate letter between two lovers parting.

The weather its signature and the energy, the perfume.

Warm autumn mixes and plays with the start of winter like flower petals - will it, wont it commit. Now by the end of May the ground is damp with tears of autumn's final goodbye and so lights up Coronet Peak in the early hours of a snowy mount.

This time of transition ushers out the busy winds of a growing season, a social season, a 'needs must' period of hyper-productivity and movement, all which settle into a spacious, time-rich field of quiet stillness.

May gives space now to slow down, reconnect, recollect, finish, put down and lay down.

The last crisp days are the exhale after the kiss.



The Valley Is Taking Off.

It is 5am and the wind machines and a lone helicopter somewhere up the back are generating the low oscillating hum of season prolongment. There have been handful of nights that have approached freezing and the valley night life has whrirrred from 11pm. A night watch, vigilant.

This is the sound of frost being politely escorted off the property.

Hovering around zero, the temperatures are none such that they affect the quality of the grapes. Generally, the fans are run this time of year to protect the leaves and thus extending the growing window. Over the season, they have hardened off becoming tough and strong adult leaves that don’t scare easily. The fans move the air around enough so that the temperatures stay above the point where the leaves get the clear message to shut down. When leaf shut down occurs a number of chemical processes ensue. The leaves signal the nutrients…….

More on phrases: the term ‘frost fighting’ is peculiar one to me. Aggressively addressing the inevitable. A seemingly dramatic phrase...

Central Otago Vineyard painting

March Marching Marched.

Otago in March was, as the old saying doesn’t go: 'In like a pangolin and out like a polar bear’.

We were off to a roaring March start with a continued lazy heat wave, long nights of outdoor entertaining, vigilant watering with G&Ts in hand. Late in the month found us driven inside next to the fire enjoying a Bendigo pinot noir with wind, rain and/or frost prevailing outside. Such a contrast to Otago’s famed long, sunny, dry autumn.

In the garden the zucchinis succumbed to the early frosts late in the month and ceased production. Despite us and all the neighbors drowning in marrows, no one felt they could see the end of. Thus overnight, the courgette story ended. An autumn bean crop fell at the first hurdle and now stand as little brown sprouts that almost were. Radishes and some of the lettuce varieties are a bit braver and less tender, though I can tell you that the name accompanying the freshness and crunch of an ‘iceberg lettuce’ reminiscent of an iceberg, is not named for its winter hardiness.

Out in the vineyard...




The colour of royalty, authority and prosperity.

It is also the visual representation of spirituality and the sacred colour of many religions.

Here on the vineyard, purple is the sacred colour of our winemaking religion. Nature’s Deities have blessed us with a warm dry season and have sprinkled love and appreciation in the form of mauve, maroon and indigo amongst the vines seemingly overnight. As these dark bunches hang from strong canopies, we see the wink telling us that it is time to bottle the wine, dust off the tanks, and sharpen the snips.

Logistically, we have some tricky times afoot. For some tractor jobs in the vineyard we rely on the skill and equipment of local contractors. With all the tumultuous changes of last year’s Tiger year, many drivers have retired or opted out of the industry to less demanding careers…. which leaves contractors in a sticky situation. We are in the queue for netting. While this is singularly the most costly job of the entire year, it would be even more costly if it were not done. Early in the...


As the weather warms up (be that a lowball of an understatement!), I almost feel the atomic energy in things speed up. I am busier, everyone I speak to is too busy, and a Christchurch woman at the Queenstown airport stated to her friend that she was looking forward to getting back to the city where things are calmer. If I didn’t live here, I wouldn’t have believed my ears. What exactly is it about the Lakes District? Why are we so motivated? We Whakatipians take on project after project, climb a higher peak, jump again at dawn into a hypothermic lake, squeeze in another party, saying Yes forgetting that No is an option (it is, isn’t it?). What invisible decibel do we vibrate at during the summer months that causes all this energy and movement? Physicists, please write in.

The grapes thrive in this heat. All the sunshine and warmth benefit the growth and advancement of these little hard green grape bunches. Right now the stage they are in is known as cell division. Slowly, cell by cell, day by day, they are getting bigger and bigger. The slow march is on to expand. The...

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Sensing change in the air, mid-December ushers in flowering grapevines. Another important event in the growing year that determines the crop. We hope for a week or two of clear dry weather. The trouble with rain during flowering is that it prevents the caps on the yet-to-form flowers from coming off. When the caps stick, the flowers cannot form and be pollinated which results in a no berry situation. No berry, No wine. There will always be a small percentage that do not reach berryhood, but when most of the rakis (the stem of the bunch) suffers from minimal flowering, it will be a low yield year on the vineyard. This year, however, things are looking good. The scent in the air informs me that flowering is on track and initiates mental digression…

Grape flowers with their distinctive aroma: If you are not familiar with this pervasive odiferous occurrence, I encourage you to amble over to your nearest Bath and Body Works shop and take a deep inhale of their ‘Cucumber Melon’ line.

It seems that the noses that create perfume names have either a.) never stepped into a...


People love photographs because they tell a story. Oftentimes they feature people visiting places, doing things, capturing hilarity just as its happening. Those that have always interested me most are those with ambiguous narratives. Something just happened but I’m not sure what. Setting the tone to an untold story. A breath held, a glance, a question mark.

Diane Arbus had a knack for it. Marty Mueller also.

When I am able to capture it, I am quite happy to discard the other 299 pics I snapped and have that single moment represent everything.

What does that have to do with Champagne? Well, Everything and Nothing.

So many great stories start with Champagne and this is one of them:

One hot summer weekend, in January, in Otago, four friends decided to have a spontaneous seaside getaway. They packed their cars with tents, firewood, chilly bins, warm clothes and sandfly spray with the intention of camping out, under the stars and the...


This is a short story of a friendship that was forged through the love of wine and Valli was the match-maker. I have a friend who loves wines from Champagne above all others. A few years ago she started a tradition of sending me a special bottle of grower Champagne every year around Christmas and there was even one that arrived after I won a special award in 2020.

“Grower ” Champagne is special as it is made in small production by the people who grow the grapes (vs big Champagne houses). Each gift is a new discovery for me and a symbol of the generosity of “wine folk” and how the love of wine connects people who otherwise wouldn’t have had the occasion to meet.


  • Questions, Questions, Questions.
  • If only I had a bottle of Champagne for every time, I was asked the question “When Is Valli producing a Champagne?”. Easy answer: Never, as we aren’t in Champagne.
  • So to the next more and more valid question, “When is Valli going to produce a sparkling wine?”. I would also like a bottle of sparkling wine for every time I heard that one. The last person who asked (just yesterday in fact) was a wine reviewer. Her exact question was “Why don’t you make a sparkling wine?” My answer: “It’s a story that needs a little more time than we have at the moment. I‘ll put it on paper and it can also serve as the Christmas blog Hollis has been asking for”.
  • A long time ago, in a winery far, far away (1981 in Napa Valley to be exact), after a very successful first vintage in 1980, the winery owner agreed to let me produce a sparkling wine, though with some provisions. It was to be an experimental rather than a large commercial production and had very strict budget...

With less than a month until Christmas I wouldn’t normally be sitting here writing, however at the moment inside is the only place to be. We are having one of the wettest Novembers I remember. There are no complaints from me though: Not only is it good weather for writing, it is also very good weather for grapes. They are a lot happier going into the summer with high levels of soil moisture. Soon enough they will face our hot, dry summers and don’t need to be pushed into it too early.

This warm wet spring also keeps our most adverse weather event - frost - away. This has been the first season in many we haven’t had to fire up our wind machines. When it’s raining, we have no frost.

The most common question I get asked this time of year is “How 2023 shaping up?" If that question is on your mind, the answer is so far, so very good.

Perhaps you didn’t come here for a weather report, so to its main purpose: to offer two new releases, both suitable for holiday drinking and the cellar.



November: Explosive. Profuse. Verdant. Changeable.

Mother Nature has thrown down her cards: November is a month of Aces and Spades. Mostly spades, what with the homegrown seedlings being rehomed to the glasshouse, compost turned and utilized. Roses from the garden center are hastily dug into the beds so as not to be noticed on their trip from the car, especially with the last threat having quickly faded… “No More Plants!”

I think of how ‘art imitates life’ as I walk through the lazy drift of poplar fluff. Having experienced it, one then understands the root of inspiration in the atmospheric realm of ‘Stranger Things’. It is more casual than snow and more ethereal than ash, this fluff cannot be mistaken. These poor seeds in the wind are giving young people the horrors the world over!

Oystercatchers have been flitting about overhead for weeks and keeping an eye on the vineyard from between rows. Contemplating this bird that I had not spent much time thinking about, (‘There’s no oysters in Gibbston!’), I wondered what this bird was all about? Well! After some juicy...

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I am as excited as I am honoured to write to you about the release of our Valli “Zeffer” Bendigo Pinot Noir 2021, the third of our “dog” charity wines. This vintage we are donating proceeds to K9 Medical Detection, an Otago charity that raises and trains dogs for the early detection of cancer.

Zeffer, the Spanador was trained from 10 weeks old by my husband, Callum, to be an NZ LandSAR Avalanche Search Dog; gaining skills that could save human lives. The puppy also arrived with a gift for singing Opera which has provided endless entertainment. He is now 11 years old and enjoying his retirement role as a winery dog after 10 years of NZ LandSAR service.

Now a bit about the wine - this is the first 100% whole cluster fermentation Pinot Noir we have ever bottled and it is a highly structured wine, celebrating the life of a “big” dog. The perfume from the stems included in the fermentation is exquisite and the tannins are voluminous yet fine and give endless opportunities for the wine to evolve in the glass, or in the...


I will be spending the next 12 months recording the goings on at our Gibbston Vineyard and property with pen, pencil, and camera. Micro and Macro, look through the lens of the observer to get the inside scoop of all the beauty and beasts inside the 1 kilometre of rabbit fencing. "Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles" ……This blog will have it all! I hope you’ll join me.


This is the month where days visibly make a serious commitment to spring. September just wasn’t sure. No flowers, no warm days. Only the willows put their hand up saying ‘That is quite enough of that business’ and start weaving their sleepy fibers and sprouting their strands of golden green. It reminds me of my favorite Robert Frost poem, but after too many days of fog and mud, I am way too optimistic to recite it today.

Another sign of assured spring, if not in the vines, is the absence of the sole paced and patient pruner, working vine by vine, row by row, day...

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My love affair with the Waitaki Valley and its wines is no secret, and what I would like everyone to know is that this is not just a one season stand. With every vintage and every new wine, I become even more smitten, more enamoured. Although it started as a harmless little Pinot Noir flirtation in 2004, it's the region’s Chardonnays that have me hooked for eternity.

From a wine quality and purely scientific point of view, it can be put down to the combination of the region’s cool climate and the superfine chalk and limestone influence on the soils.

The Chardonnays from the Waitaki are quite unique in NZ: They are truly an expression of place. Their acidity, freshness, minerality, length of flavour, precision, transparency, and pure energy are unrivalled.

I must confess as well to an emotional attachment, I was born in the Waitaki Valley, in the Kurow maternity hospital. That hospital still exists today however it has been repurposed into a home for the care of old people at the other end of life. I am not sure if ending life at the same point you...


Hello. It's been a little while. We promised a recap after the 2022 wines were set to rest in barrel. They are slumbering sweetly in the winery while the rest of us shake the cobwebs off our suitcases and explore the world again, reuniting with family and friends after a long few years apart. I hope you are managing to do the same in 2022. While the reunions have been wonderful, they haven't allowed for much computer time, hence no vintage recap. YET. This isn't that vintage recap. While we've been busy racking up air miles, our wines have been busy racking up the accolades. So much so that we needed to reach out and let you know that they are available before they run out! Yes, to quote the Beatles, this vintage is a case of "Hello, Goodbye."

With the 2019 Pinot Noir vintage, it was our Gibbston Pinot Noir who stole the show with multiple trophies and Top 10 Wine lists. With the 2020, it seems our Bannockburn Pinot Noir is the overachiever. Mind you, we didn't submit Gibbston to competitions due to having such limited availability... I digress. Back to the...

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It is said “The Key to Success is Intention”.

My intention when launching Valli Vineyards back in 1998 was to share with everyone interested what I was consistently seeing in the winery: the intriguing differences in the wines from Otago’s separate subregions. As we are still here sharing that same story almost 25 years later, I think it’s safe to say we’ve successfully satisfied those intentions.

Along the way there have some unplanned consequences of this path, one of which has been the very sound commercial benefit of having grapes from different growing regions. After all, it is also said “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” If the season gives us poor quality grapes from one subregion, we still have wines from the other regions that did perform well to offer the market so are not forced to bottle something inferior for cash flow reasons. If we aren’t happy with the wine produced, we won’t bottle and sell it as Valli, rather it will be put on the bulk market and appear under someone else’s label. This ensures anything which has...


I recently read a quote from an unnamed Winemaker that said “making Pinot Gris is like painting a picture using only white paint.” Well, I have come to the conclusion that the Winemaker in question must be colourblind! The colours of the Pinot Gris grape-skins alone are beautiful and vary so much, ranging from onion skin to pale pink and light purple. Maybe this winemaker never actually looked at the grapes?!

In New Zealand, we use the French names for this family of grapes: Pinot Gris (grey), Pinot Blanc (white) and Pinot Noir (black). They are all mutations of the same grape and the pigment in the skins of the grapes is how they were named. Different regions in Europe call a wine made from Pinot Gris different things: Tokay (Alsace), Pinot Beurot (Burgundy), and Malvoisie (Loire), while in Germany it’s Grauburgunder or Grauer Burgunder (“Grey Burgundy”). I am often asked, “What is Pinot Grigio?” The answer is - Italian Pinot Gris.

Plantings of Pinot Gris in NZ mostly come from clones imported from Switzerland, Germany and...


We can thank Jen Parr for the “Thiefy” wine. You may well remember the “one off” wine to immortalise her beloved dog Missy. In Jens exact words:

“Grant you know I have never wanted to make my own wines as I consider what we make at Valli to be mine as much as yours, BUT I would love to bottle a small amount of something special to remind me of Missy”.

That request came with a PLEASE, spoken in capitals along with the statement that it would be a one off. How could I say no?

A little over a year later, this time it was an offer, not a request.

“Grant we have a couple of barrels of stunning, classic Waitaki Pinot Noir that if you wanted we could label in honour of your new dog Thiefy as she came from the Waitaki”?

Unlike the previous years “request” there wasn’t a moment of hesitation before saying yes. Trying to understand why that “yes” came out so fast, a couple of reasons presented themselves:

First, the very satisfying feeling of handing over a cheque for a significant portion of the profits to Pound Paws Animal...

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Another lockdown, another extension of lockdown, a lowering of lockdown to level 3, a lowering to level 2 for some of us. It's all been a bit unsettling, and much more than a "bit" for those of you in Auckland. If I have ever needed a drink, it is now… although 10 am? It’s a little early. The antidote perhaps, another blog post?

These last couple of months have been frustrating. There were mountains with the best snow on for ages that we couldn’t ski on, there were rivers full of whitebait we couldn’t catch, so you probably have time to read, I had time to write, especially now as the vineyards are fully pruned a full month ahead of our usual finishing date.

The good news - and there is always good news - is that this lockdown coincides with our 2019 Waitaki Chardonnay release and with that release is a moderately technical wine education, if you'll humour me. I'd like to discuss crystals in wine. The best place to start with that is an article from the latest Decanter magazine:


Tartrate crystals in wine

Have you ever opened a...

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We had planned to launch the 6th vintage of our collaboration with much fanfare, including public events, tastings, food matchings etc. However, that planning has all been in vain as New Zealand's response to Covid has prohibited all such things.

However, the wines are ready to be released and aren’t going to be stopped by a virus. They want to be seen, tasted, and appreciated. 2019 in Otago was a truly excellent vintage with our Gibbston Vineyard Pinot Noir being pronounced one of the world’s top 10 wines at the 2021 IWC.

If there ever was a year to compare two producers from the same site, it is with the 2019s...especially as there won’t be the chance to do so again for a while. There was no collaboration in 2020, a victim of the first round of Covid.

While right now there is much that we can’t do, we can ship wine and you can receive it. We can enjoy a tasting together, albeit by screen.

  • VALLI X Burn Cottage Virtual Tasting
  • WHO:...

After 12 months in bottle, the 2019 Pinot Noirs are tasting amazing, so it’s time to release them, and of course every new release deserves a post. In brief, 2019 was one of those “Goldilocks” years - it was just right. To give some context in relation to recent (and consequently fresher in the memory) years, the 2019s have the concentration of the cool, very low-cropping 2017s with the ripeness of the wines from one of our warmest years ever, 2018.

The absolute quality of a wine is only half the Valli story. The other half is the wine's ability to tell which sub-region it is from, the story of its home. At a pre-release tasting last weekend we poured the 2018 and 2019 Valli Pinot Noirs blind to a group of over 30 tasters, asking them to put the wines in pairs based on where they thought the grapes were from.

It was very gratifying to see the number of tasters who were able to pair the wines up correctly based on place. It told us three things: our viticulture is precise, our winemaking is respectful of the fruit and of course our tasters have excellent...


“Now for something completely different."

Those much loved lines at the start of every Monty Python show couldn’t apply more to any Valli wine than our Vendemmia Tardiva Pinot Gris from the Waitaki Valley. The style of our other whites: our Waitaki Riesling, Gibbston Pinot Gris and Waitaki Chardonnay is based around freshness. They are white wines with bright acidity and length of flavour. They are linear wines with a vibrant and austere, yet exciting energy.

Vendemmia Tardiva is the opposite: it is rich, broad and opulent. While the others are sitting bolt upright in their hard backed chairs paying attention to every tiny detail, the VT is lounging in its lazy-boy, feet up and if you listen carefully you can hear it snoring.

Why is he making such a wine you may be asking yourselves? Well for a start it’s an interest in what my Northern Italy ancestors made a couple of hundred years ago. Vendemmia Tardiva translates literally to Late Harvest. These wines are produced by leaving grapes on the vine as long as...

Limestone Soils

I was recently asked to co-host a webinar put on by New Zealand Winegrowers as part of their inaugural virtual New Zealand Wine Week. You can view the webinar on YouTube here.

The panel was led by New Zealand's only Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas MS. The rest of the panel was comprised of an all-star cast of New Zealand winemakers:

  • Helen Masters - Ata Rangi, Martinborough
  • Dom Maxwell - Greystone, North Canterbury
  • Natalie Christensen - Yealands, Marlborough

The discussion was deeply informative on the soil and geography in New Zealand and how that pertains to winegrowing. For those of you who are so inclined, I am paraphrasing the topics below, with regard to VALLI's winegrowing area.

Greywacke (a sedimentary soil) is the base layer of New Zealand. It metamorphosises into schist from the pressure and heat from tectonic movements. On the whole, New Zealand soils are viewed to be 42 million years old - which is considered youthful. However the...


As 2020 rounds to an end, we find ourselves popping plenty of bubbles to celebrate the end of a tumultuous year for so many. A fun conversation topic is comparing “Champagne Moments”: moments in your life that may have been fancy, may have been rustic, may have been serendipitous, but where champagne was a central part of the memory. Champagne, perhaps even more so than its still wine counterparts, has the ability to capture those moments in time, preserving them like a photograph. Here are a few of ours.

Jen Parr, Winemaker:

At the turn of the century, I was living in London and my best mate (also a colleague) was Canadian and we loved discovering new bars, restaurants and wines together. We were both in software sales for different divisions of the same company and decided to make a bet on the last quarter of the sales season. (Quotas were all the rage at the time). In essence, whoever sold the most software that quarter had to shout dinner at a restaurant of the other person’s choosing. I ended up winning, or so I thought! I didn’t know much...


It is October: pruning has just finished and we begin to think of the upcoming harvest, 2021. Will we glide through spring frost-free? Will we have settled weather over flowering giving us the desired quantity of fruit? Will the summer be warm and autumn dry giving us the desired quality of fruit?

At the same time the mind looks forward, it can’t help but look back at the last vintage as a reference. So, the other question is: Will we have to harvest again under government restrictions around a virus?

A look at the 2020 Growing Season and Grape Harvest

2020 will be one of those more easily remembered vintages, not just because of the nervousness surrounding Covid-19 but also because of the nervousness over summer. The growing season was cooler than average in Otago and by late March we were wondering if our fruit would ever reach desired ripeness levels before the season ended.

Then came April and May. It would be impossible to dream of a better autumn for...


2020: The Covid Harvest, in the words of our winemakers.

Jen Parr, Valli Winemaker

I understand the world will regard this vintage as the “Covid Harvest,” and it will be remembered for the global pandemic that enveloped us as we were about to hit “go” with picking grapes here in Central Otago.

The day before the first fruit descended upon the Valli winery, I responded to a query from the New Zealand Editor for the American Publication Wine Spectator with these sentiments: “Our minds are on things other than grapes as we commence harvest. Our minds are on our families, many of whom live regions, if not oceans away. They are on each other and keeping each other safe. Now more than ever, we must have a bond of trust. No hugs or handshakes but a solidarity that is bound by the love we have for our profession."

"Our hearts are with our nation as we unite in an unprecedented way. We think about the world, the planet, about people we have never thought about before, feeling a connection to them. I approach this harvest...


2020 aka The Covid Vintage.

As good as the wines from 2020 are, the vintage will probably be remembered more for Covid-19 as much for wine quality.

We had a couple of very, very nervous days at the beginning, unsure if harvest was even going to go ahead. Vintage is stressful enough in its own right, we definitely didn’t need that. To have spent the whole year - all your effort, energy and money - riding the emotional rollercoaster of the weather that every farmer rides, only to be told at the last moment it was all in vain would have been truly heartbreaking.

Fortunately, the wine industry was deemed an essential service, and rightly so: the New Zealand wine industry brings in close to $2 billion in export income per year. As a small island nation normally reliant on tourism to maintain a robust economy, we will need that money now more than ever.

We were able to continue, albeit under extremely strict protocols. Everyone in the industry took the responsibility seriously. I guess the proof is in the fact that were...

Grape Harvest in the Waitaki Valley

Q. Where do you get your picking crews from?

A. It is a trade secret! Unsuspecting, well-intentioned victims!

On picking days we take on whoever is willing to give up a warm sunny autumn day and break their back with manual labor, all for a higher cause. Grant’s first Valli vintages were made up of mostly family and a few close friends, many who have smartened up and have not set foot on the vineyard again. We still have family come from near and far: from the Catlins to Hong Kong. Friends come from Christchurch, Napier, Auckland, Invercargill and even Australia just to pick grapes! The hefty makeup of the crew comes from the best and brightest of the hospitality industry in Queenstown and surrounds. This sort can work hard, play hard and are always looking to expand their knowledge of wine, vintage and vineyard. Picking days are perfect for that!

Q. Why do you organise picking yourselves and not just hire a contract crew, which would certainly be easier?

A. If we did that, I would be out of a job!...

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We spend so much time thinking about our wines that they almost feel like part of the family. Although our family isn’t quite this famous, I use analogies of universal figures in history to describe our wines. If we threw up a photo of Aunty Alice the majority of you wouldn't know what we were talking about.

Our Gibbston Vineyard Pinot Noir is like Audrey Hepburn – timeless, complex, generous and full of grace.

Theatre, film, musicals, fashion - Audrey was a master of the arts and was admired by all who knew her. However she was also innately shy, suffered from depression since childhood, and longed for the simple domestic life which was at odds with her fame. She loved animals and believed laughter could cure a multitude of ills, and above all and she was known to have an incredible desire to love and a passionate need to give it.

She spent the last chapter of her life as a special Ambassador for UNICEF, helping children that suffered from hunger and the...

GDD 2018.jpg

The time has come to release the 2018 Valli Pinot Noirs. The first question always asked about now is: “What was the vintage like?" Well, the 2018 vintage is best summed up by the graph included here. The graph shows growing degree days from the last five vintages as compared with the the longterm average (depicted by the grey dashed line). Growing degree days (or GDD) calculate the amount of warmth available for plant growth during a given growing season. GDD counts the total number of degrees each day above a base temperature. Temperatures below the base temperature would be too cold for growth and the plant would remain dormant until the temperature increased.

Looking at the graph, it is easy to see that 2018 was considerably warmer than average, or even the next-warmest vintage, being 2016. It was the warmest vintage I have seen in 25 vintages of winemaking in Central Otago. The vines loved it almost as much as the winemakers. Across all regions we produced fully ripe grapes and with healthy crop levels of between 5-6 tonnes per hectare (2-2.4 tonnes per acre), even...

Grant Taylor and Claire Mulholland

Our Collaboration with Burn Cottage Vineyard: How a penchant for pioneering led to two limited-edition Pinot Noirs.

As we release our fifth collaboration wine with Burn Cottage Vineyard, I'd like to share with you how "The Great Grape Swap" came to be. Burn Cottage Winemaker Claire Mulholland and I made wine together at Gibbston Valley Wines through the late '90s, where we not only made wines for Gibbston Valley with grapes grown around the winery, but also for a number of the region's new wineries just starting up with grapes from their vineyards spread all across Central Otago.

Discovering the Central Otago subregions & characteristics

We were the first to see wines from these new sites within new subregions and I don’t think you necessarily have to be a winemaker to understand how much pleasure we got from being the very first people ever to see how these various places expressed themselves through Pinot Noir. The idea that Central Otago is a number of different subregions...