Vigneron's Notes

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

RSE Workers at Bellbird Spring


Owning and operating a vineyard is farming with a rather glamorous end product, it’s easy to forget what your imbibing has had hundreds of man hours poured into it first. Vineyard work is physical, repetitive and often means being exposed to all sorts of weather extremities. At Bellbird Spring we are a small family team and there is no limit to what we may turn our hand to but we can’t keep on top everything alone. To keep the vineyard in shape we employ the services of Hortus and their RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employees) workers.

The RSE scheme was fist initiated in Central Otago in 2006 as an opportunity to initiate revolving aid between NZ and the Pacific Islands. The first enrolment saw 50 men & women from Vanuatu brought to NZ for seasonal work. Now, around 9,000 Pacific Island RSE workers may be working within NZ at the height of seasonal orchard and vineyard work.

To help finish off the pruning this month Jason from Hortus came to Bellbird Spring with 9 guys from Vanuatu. For some of them this will be their 7th seasonal stint in NZ and with the income they are able to build homes, pay for school fees and help their villages. As an organic and sustainable vineyard, this employment embodies true economic sustainability and we look forward to having the Hortus crew at Bellbird Spring. We can’t grow wine alone and these small Pacific communities cannot thrive without reciprocal support from NZ.

Rosé 2016 Food Match Recipe

Blackened Salmon with Citrus Salad (serves 2)


A delicate yet detailed Rosé. Quenching, with notes of ripe citrus and sweet spice. The palate has well balanced acid with orange and cranberry fruit characters.


2 x salmon fillets

2 x orange

1 x meyer lemon (best to use meyer as the flesh is tasty and not too tart)

2 x mandarin

2 x mint tips

1 x good sized sprig of flat leaf parsley

olive oil

For the Seasoning:

½ tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp oregano (dried)

1 tsp thyme (dried or fresh)

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp dill (dried)

1 tsp garlic salt

1 tsp vege salt

1 tsp salt

A few grinds of black pepper

Mix the seasoning all together in a bowl.

Cut/peel the skin off your citrus and remove as much pith as possible. Keep the mandarin segments whole but cut the orange and lemon into small pieces. Put into a bowl with roughly chopped parsley and mint, mix together with a splash of olive oil and pinch of salt.

Heat a skillet or heavy bottomed frying pan with a dash of oil. Coat your salmon fillets with olive oil then cover the entire fillet with seasoning. Fry off in pan until completely black on all sides. Be sure to have the windows open and the extractor on! Depending on the size of the fillet and how well done you like your salmon you may wish to finish it off for 5-10 minutes in a hot oven.

Plate up and enjoy with Bellbird Spring Pinot Noir Rosé 2016



Spring Update from Bellbird Spring


Dear Friends,

With the first day of Spring tomorrow it’s time for another update. It has been a busy few months for Bellbird Spring with travel to Canada, the UK and Hong Kong.  I visited distributors, retailers, restaurants and spoke with customers.  Making these contacts, renewing business relationships and rekindling friendships is vital to us.

In mid August we held an Affinity lunch at Roots Restaurant in Lytttelton (see below for blog post). This was an intimate affair and similarly an opportunity to meet new friends. Those at the lunch had a first tasting of the limited production Pinot Noir Rosé 2016.  This will be listed on our web site for a short time only.

I have been spending time on under vine weeding and the focus of the next few weeks will be finishing off the last of the winter jobs in preparation for Spring growth. You will hear from us again once we’re on the other side (we hope!) of frost fighting season.

Best regards,

Guy Porter

Roots Affinity Lunch

Affinity (noun) – a liking or sympathy for someone or something, especially because of shared characteristics.


On August 20th Guy hosted an affinity lunch at the highly acclaimed Roots Restaurant in Lyttelton. This was an opportunity to meet new friends and to relish Canterbury produce with Canterbury wine.

A convivial group ate, drank, chatted and laughed over a wonderful lunch.  We got to see why wines with texture and complexity suit fine food so well, but more than that we enjoyed good food, good wine and good company together.

Photos from the day can be see on our Facebook page.

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.