Still on cloud nine and nursing celebratory hangovers from winning the Champion Pinot Noir Award, and Best Central Otago Wine Trophy two weeks ago, Sarah-Kate and Dan Dineen are now flying high again after scooping the industry’s highest honour on Saturday night: New Zealand Wine of the Year. That’s a big award for a small Wanaka vineyard and an incredible recognition of the years of hard work the family has put into their grapes.
The NZ Wine of the Year is the official national competition of the New Zealand wine industry, replacing the Air NZ Wine Awards and the Bragato Wine Awards.
“This is an accumulation of years of effort,” said Sarah-Kate Dineen. “Here in Wanaka we ‘make the wine in the vineyard’; it’s a lot of hands-on time, going up and down the vines manually checking the spacing, pruning, leaves, flow… and yes we sing to the grapes sometimes.”
“And sometimes we swear at them too,” added Dan Dineen. “Pinot is a fickle grape with thin skin which is highly susceptible to rot, so we spend a lot of time in the vineyard coaching the grapes along, not just in the winery making the wine.”
“When mum and dad planted Mt Maude in 1994 they were lucky that Rippon had been going for over a decade, so they had set a precedent that wine could grow here,” said Sarah-Kate Dineen. “So my parents could seek out the exact place they wanted to grow the grapes and they had a chance to go to Bannockburn, so we are so glad they didn’t! Our wine is a total expression of our place and it showcases the structure of our big, juicy succulent grapes. But the wine itself isn’t a big or bold explosion; it’s linear and just keeps going in the mouth. It’s like a gift that keeps on giving,” she said.
Chair of Judges, Warren Gibson, said the Maude Pinot Noir 2017 was a very classy example of Pinot Noir in this year’s competition. “A delicious and complex young wine, juicy and light on its feet, showing beautiful refinement, powdery tannins and loads of controlled power,” he said.
Laughing at the suggestion that winning the award will make them rich, Sarah-Kate said, “How do you define rich? We live in Wanaka -- the most beautiful place on earth and we make wine and live our passion. We are surrounded by great people. This is true wealth, so we are already rich by that definition.”
Winning this award was a big thumbs up to Sarah-Kate’s parents’ vision which is now being taken up by the third generation. Nephew, Sam Wilson, who grew up in Wanaka and graduated from Mount Aspiring College, is now assistant winemaker and carrying the family passion into the future.
The award-winning wine, Maude Pinot Noir 2017, had a production of only 4000 cases, one-third of which has already sold. The tasting room is stumbling distance from town and the Dineens would like to invite locals to come along and have a free taste of the award-winning wine - and buy some too.
“We love the support of locals. Half our wine club are local Wanaka people and we really want to share this wine with them.”