Vigneron's Notes

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

Month: July, 2016

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.