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An Interview with a Winemaker

Meet Nick Entwistle, Chief Winemaker at Rose Family Estate. Nick studied winemaking at Lincoln University then spent a few years as a travelling winemaker, working vintages in the USA, Canada, France, Denmark and New Zealand.  This experience has defined his winemaking philosophy and style with 2024 marking his 25th vintage and 14th for Wairau River.   Joining the team as Technical Winemaker in 2010, and now Chief Winemaker, Nick’s influence has been key in building the team and culture here.  Nick, Sam Rose & the winemaking team share a huge work ethic and devotion to quality. Sam and Nick have built a great friendship over their years working together – only one of them can ride a unicycle though! 

We managed to catch a few minutes with Nick for some insights into his winemaking style and what makes our Wairau River Reserve wines so special.

Do you have a favourite wine to make?
Definitely Pinot Noir, which is a challenging variety both in the vineyard and the winery. We put a lot of time an energy into optimising the fruit that comes into the winery through yield control, targeted deficit irrigation, and various canopy adjustments in an effort to get consistent high quality fruit from year to year. We only use hand picking to ensure the fruit is kept in pristine condition, and we’re aiming to keep as many whole berries as possible during processing to retain the vibrancy and elegance our Pinot Noir is known for, whilst also incorporating whole bunches which bring a more complex savoury element. It’s this spectrum of flavours and textures that Pinot Noir is capable of which makes it so exciting to work with, and provides a real opportunity to showcase both the unique terroir we have in Rapaura, and also the style of wines we love to enjoy ourselves.

What is particularly special about the 2022 Reserve Pinot Noir?
Similarly to the Reserve Syrah, the cooler slower growing season meant that the fruit required extended hangtime to reach physiological ripeness, and the normal drop in acidity late in the ripening season we would normally see wasn’t an issue. This resulted in Pinot Noir ferments with great tension and poise, destined for elegance and length if given enough time to age in bottle.

Tell us about the 2022 Reserve Syrah and the latest Syrah harvest?
We don’t make a Reserve Syrah every vintage, so for it make the cut into the Reserve range says something about the quality of fruit from 2022. It was a cooler year than vintages previously, which meant we needed to hang the Syrah out longer in order for it to reach physiological ripeness, which in turn meant we had some intensely concentrated and flavoursome fruit that still held good acidity. The tight focussed nature of the resulting wine meant that we were able to give it an extended period of ageing in barrel (18 months as opposed to the normal 15 months) which allowed for additional softening of the tannins and an overall increase in texture and complexity.

How would you describe your winemaking style?
Detailed and particular. Not to say that every minute detail has to be managed and controlled, rather that focus is given to observing and understanding the fruit in the vineyard throughout the growing season and how this can be translated in the winery. Over the years I’ve become more confident in knowing when not to intervene, and only make additions or adjustments to the wines if they are totally necessary, which has led to more complex and better expressions of the sites and varieties we grow.  

What do you enjoy about the culture here?
Rose Family Estate truly is just one big family, it’s something special to have everyone involved and so engaged with what we’re trying to achieve as a team.  

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