Vigneron's Notes

A family wine estate from New Zealand. We craft traditional wine styles that emphasise texture, mouthfeel and persistence of flavour.

Winter update from Bellbird Spring

Wiltshire sheep 2016

Dear friends,

As middle-aged parents with two young children, my wife and I have boundless energy and too much spare time. So recently it seemed only natural to add to our collection of ducks, quails and chickens with the purchase of four Wiltshire sheep, three of whom are hopefully in lamb.  I know from bitter experience that if you have an only rudimentary grasp of animal husbandry (as we do) that unless it will eat from your hand you must not buy it.  Four fairly tame animals arrived a week or so ago.  Sadly, this was before we had bought and erected the fence around our house.  Still they are well enclosed now and no doubt the shrubs will recover.  My wife tells me that science has shown that early contact with domestic animals and pets strengthens the immune systems of children; although stress in life can also weaken it.

Winter is a time to bottle last year’s white wines, travel to overseas markets and also prune our vines.  Our organic certified wines, the 2016’s, are being released this winter.  The first of the line will be The Pruner’s Reward 2016 – a full ripe Sauvignon Blanc – partly barrel fermented for added texture.  Our Pinot Noir Rose 2016 will come out next  – dry and rounded, with good persistence. Last of all we will release the 2015 Bellbird Spring Pinot Noirs, in late-winter early spring.  I will travel to Canada, the U.K. and Hong Kong this year.  Maintaining relationships and spreading the good word is vital to our family business. So raise a glass of Bellbird Spring to me this July as I sleep fitfully on long haul flights in economy class.

Best regards,


Sustainability stories – Animals


Animals are an important and integrated part of vineyard life at Bellbird Spring. On Block Eight we have chickens, ducks, quail, (and seasonally graze sheep). On the Home Block we fatten Dexter beef for our own consumption. Raising these animals provides a personal connection with our land.

The sheep graze the vineyard once the nets are off, and again when the spring growth begins. They do an excellent job of tidying up the grass and weeds. This is no effort for us and also saves fuel use and the risk of soil compaction that we would otherwise face if using the tractor. As the sheep move about they also return valuable nutrients back to the vineyard in the form of their excrement. Similarly poultry kept in our orchard cycle nutrients that provide our family with fruit.

From a lifestyle point of view having animals at home is also important in ensuring that as a family we eat healthily and responsibly. Living rurally means we would otherwise have to travel some distance to purchase meat. We have the space to raise the animals so we do, thus ensuring we have quality, homegrown food for the table without having to venture to far from our back door.

Sustainability Stories – Grape marc compost

sheep 3

At the end of vintage we are left with a rather large pile of grape marc (stems, skins, seeds). What could be seen as winery waste is in fact burgundy coloured gold for us at Bellbird Spring.

The marc, along with old bales is layered up into a big, vegetative lasagne which quickly becomes a hotspot for hungry microorganisms. These bacteria, fungi, and actinomycetes consume what they can and obtain energy by oxidising organic material. The oxidation process heats up the compost pile within days. A steaming and spectacular sight on cold winters morning. The heap is turned and monitored so that come spring, we are left with dark, rich finished compost that is then spread back onto the vineyard to raise the organic matter in the soil.

This may seem like a convenient way to use winery waste but in terms of sustainability within the vineyard, our grape marc is invaluable. With each growing season the vines obtain their growing potential from the soil in which their roots lie, by returning this energy in the form of compost we are ensuring the longevity and productivity of our vineyard sites. As a multi generational vineyard family preserving and nurturing the land is of the upmost importance to us.

Winefolk Long Lunch

In May we enjoyed a long lunch just down the road at Glenmark Station. The event was styled and organised by Winefolk and the food was prepared by Alex Davies.

It was a wonderful afternoon and the food and wine matches were superb. Most of the food was locally grown and Bellbird Spring’s own poultry featured on the menu too. It was a pleasure to meet a lot of new faces and to work alongside a talented bunch of Canterbury suppliers.
A big thank you to Weka Pass RailwayWinefolkAlex Davies ChefTaken by Charlie Rose and Cakes By Anna for hosting, putting together and capturing an Autumnal slice of North Canterbury dining.

Forage North Canterbury

We’re a bit delayed in sharing our participation in this event that happened earlier this year but we thoroughly enjoyed being involved and felt it important to digitally document.

30 invitees from around the world were invited to North Canterbury where they were paired into groups with winery staff and family members. Each group was assigned a task such as shoreline, river or game hunting and given 24 hours to forage, gather and hunt an edible bounty. This was then collected and presented at Pegasus Bay Winery where a group of NZ’s best chefs prepared dishes paired alongside our North Canterbury wines.

North Canterbury is a little Eden when it comes to foraging. One could live entirely off the land 12 months a year if they had the time to do so! It brings great joy for us as winegrowers to share our backyard, our food and our wine with visitors from across the globe.

For a visitors point of view read Ryan Woodhouse’s excellent blog about the day.



Bellbird Spring has joined a burgeoning list of New Zealand vineyards making the change to organic, wine production.

The, family-owned vineyard has announced it has been certified as organic by BioGro, New Zealand’s leading organic certification agency.

They are one of seven certified organic vineyards in the Waipara Valley.

It is a labour of love for Guy Porter, the vineyard’s owner, grower and winemaker, who has long practiced organic viticulture as a way of promoting sustainability.

“I think certification will give customers the assurance that comes with an independently certified endorsement,” Mr Porter says.

“We are really excited to be recognised as a sustainable and environmentally-friendly vineyard.”

Bellbird Spring is just the latest in a steady stream making a change towards sustainable practices.

New Zealand has jumped from having just six certified organic wine growers in 1999, to boasting 165 certified organic vineyards, 69 certified organic wineries and 104 companies as of 2015.

Organic wineries now account for almost 10 per cent of all wine production.

While sustainable practices had been a way of life for years, Mr Porter sees the value in gaining official certification.

“We realised it wasn’t enough to have organic practices,” Mr Porter says.

“We needed to be seen to have them, and that required accreditation.”

Because Bellbird Spring was already practicing organic viticulture and using organic-registered inputs, BioGro granted the vineyard some retrospective accreditation so they did not have to wait the standard three-year conversion period.

The first Bellbird Spring organic wines were expected to be on the shelves within the next 12 months. However, Mr Porter says the taste of his much-loved wine would remain the same.

“Our wine styles are very traditional. We use relatively few inputs, and those we do use are appropriate for organic production.”

While Marlborough is the biggest wine-producing region in New Zealand, it actually only produces about 5 per cent of the domestic market’s share.

BioGro spokeswoman Elissa Jordan says many wineries were making the shift to organic production.

“There is increasing and ongoing interest in conversion,” she says.

“While many newcomers will try for a couple of years and then withdraw, once a vineyard has been certified for more than 3 years it is likely to stay certified for the long term.”

Jonathan Hamlet, chair of Organic Winegrowers New Zealand, says it is a positive shift for the wine industry.

“One of the biggest advantages is sustainability and looking after your land for the long-term and not having the negative effects of the synthetic input on your vineyard,” Mr Hamlet says.

“It’s about giving value to your product and showing you have a really big commitment to that sustainability.”

Mr Hamlet hoped other vineyards would follow suit in becoming organically certified.

“We think it’s a really positive move for the New Zealand wine industry as a whole.

“New Zealand is a very clean-green country to be producing wine and we think that being as sustainable as possible is key to us holding value to our product and giving it integrity when taking it to the world.”

What is organic wine?

Organic wine and grape producers rely on working with ecological processes and naturally derived products. The use of synthetic chemical fertilisers, pesticides, or herbicides are not permitted in organic wine production. Organic wine producers often rely on cultivating and nurturing rich soil and insect life.

About Bellbird Spring:

Bellbird Spring is a small, family-run vineyard located in the Waipara Valley.

New Zealander Guy Porter has worked in the U.K. wine trade, studied winemaking at the University of Adelaide’s , Roseworthy Campus, and worked internationally as a winemaker. In 2002 he returned with his family to North Canterbury, where they planted their original vineyard, Home Block.  Block Eight, their second vineyard, was planted in 2004.

Bellbird Spring uses traditional practices such as oxidative handling of juice, indigenous fermentations and the use of old oak barrels to form characterful wines for food.

Pinot Noir grapes are fermented with indigenous yeast in small lots, worked by hand-plunging.

Family is important to Bellbird Spring, with three generations living on the vineyards.


Delving Into The Soil of Waipara

Late last year Lincoln University held a Vineyard Soils Day at Black Estate in Waipara, where they unveiled an in-depth report into the soils of the Waipara wine region.

This welcome work allows current producers to gain even more understanding about their surroundings. And it may well help with future plantings, siting vineyards in the best spots and planting the appropriate varieties. More generally it can only do good in further establishing our credentials as a world-class wine region.



Photo credit: Lincoln University.

Our two vineyards are located in two different zones of the region, The Home Block (and the River Terrace) is on Glasnevin gravels next to the Waipara River, whereas Block Eight is on Pahau Clay soils. These are very different in characteristics and help to give us clear stylistic variety in our finished wines.

To see our locations – shown as vineyards 1a and 1b – see this map of the region courtesy of

For more information on the new study see Lincoln University’s press release on Scoop and a report from And for an excellent general introduction to our region by Jamie Goode of, click here.


The Latest Addition to Our Range: Aqua Vitae

The Bellbird Spring lineup contains wines that are made to be drunk with a wide range of food. Even our recent Sous Voile proved adaptable – and was delicious with Japanese twice cooked pork. Our new product is perhaps more focused for after the meal, to be drunk as a digestif, though the first time I encountered such a product was when the vineyard workers in Soave in Italy used to pour some into their morning coffee to warm up!


Naming our latest arrival took some thought. The Bellbird Spring Aqua Vitae is a pot-still distillate of Pinot Noir wine. Therefore it is not a grappa which is distilled from grape skins. Eau-de-Vie meanwhile tends to get associated with fruit schnapps. So I settled on the archaic Aqua Vitae, though you could also think of it as a ‘white brandy’. Whilst you do not get grape flavour in any true sense, using Pinot Noir rather than white wine has given it an extra roundness and fullness of texture.

The Aqua Vitae is available from our online shop. Quantities produced are, you will not be surprised to learn, microscopic.

For information on distillates, courtesy of wikipedia click here.

Ray Isle’s Tour of Waipara for Food & Wine Magazine

F & W mag Dec 2015F & W mag Dec 2015 1F & W mag Dec 2015 2F & W mag Dec 2015 3

Sous Voile Review by Raymond Chan

Our Sous Voile wine has received another very positive review (scoring 18/20 or 4*), this time from Raymond Chan at 

The very detailed tasting note runs as follows:

“Bright, light golden-orange colour with some depth, lighter on rim. The bouquet is elegantly concentrated and deep with pungent yeasty, flor-based aromas along with lifted yellow florals and stonefruit notes, some volatility, and nutty, subtly oxidative elements. The fruit has freshness and exudes a delicate, exotic richness. Dry to taste and medium-bodied in presentation, this has elegantly concentrated flavours of fresh, lively yellow stonefruits melded with pungent yeastiness and fine, nutty elements. The fruit is lifted and luscious, the richness balanced by very refined, drying textures and subtle, lacy acidity. The palate line has poise and tension and carries to a long, lingering, dry finish with nutty and oxidative nuances. This is an elegantly fresh and gently luscious flor-influenced wine with subtle nutty and oxidative complexities. Serve with tapas and antipasto over the next 5 years. The wine was fermented to dryness in old oak barriques, topped and stored a year. Then followed two years aging in barrel with ullage under a veil of flor yeast, and a further year with the flor dying off. At the end of this period, the wine was topped, but not protein stabilised, given one brightening filtration and bottled without fortification at a natural 15.5% alc. (500 ml) 18.0-/20 Sep 2015 RRP $40.00”


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