Christmas in New Zealand
Christmas Q&A with Don and Valerie from Devotus
How do you your wife, Valerie and two sons propose to spend Christmas this year?
Our boys are now 4 and 5 years old so they are more aware of Christmas than before. The thing they love most is choosing a tree and decorating it so every year we all go to a local farm and choose the biggest one we can get on the trailer, then we make a garland from corks together to hang on it... it’s become our special ritual to start off the celebrations. Christmas day itself, is a wonderful excuse to shut the gate on the world and have a relaxed day with the children, playing and enjoying whatever the weather throws at us. With Valerie's family all in Europe and mine further away in New Zealand, we like to stay here, try and see through the work and just enjoy the vineyard for what it truly is, a beautiful and spectacular place. Later we may visit friends or the coast but nothing is planned, the day just evolves at a very slow pace with no commitments or places we have to be.
Is there a Christmas tradition in Martinborough which you like to follow?
Martinborough is a small town of less than 2,000 people but with a strong community... we have a thriving tourist industry from overseas and local visitors as we are only an hour from Wellington and for some events, as many as 10,000 visitors can descend on this little rural place. Summer is busy for everyone living here but we all try and stop for the Christmas Parade, which signifies a time for family and celebration amidst the craziness of summer.
Does the local winemaking community come together to celebrate Christmas over some treasured bottles?
Throughout the year we are lucky to be invited to many spontaneous tastings and get-togethers. Sharing wine growing knowledge and experiences is very much the way we work here, and our neighbours are very generous with sharing that knowledge (as well as the precious offerings from their cellars!). It is not unusual to call upon a few close neighbours for an impromptu tasting of Pinot Noir in our tractor shed, usually to taste something from the barrel, and to compare with something that has been aging in the cellar.
You are clearly devoted to Pinot Noir – Will you be enjoying your own wine on the big day or tucking into something entirely different? Perhaps a Burgundy?
Every year Valerie's family in France sends us a surprise bottle. They have made an annual pilgrimage to Burgundy for well over a decade, often waiting years to be allowed to purchase from a particular vigneron. We are lucky enough to also benefit from that trip! At the moment we have something packaged away in our cellar with no idea what it is until Christmas day. Last year we opened a 2005 Clos Vougeot and the year before a Bonnes Mares from the same vintage. It’s a real treat to experience such great wines, and somehow it brings all the family, that are so far away in miles, closer together in our minds. I can’t help myself, as usually our own Devotus wine is also open, as I love to taste and compare. At the end of the night we usually indulge in a small Christmas pudding.
Money no object – Which wine(s) would you love to serve on the day?
For us the most important thing about Christmas day is appreciating our time with the children and tasting great food together. As it is so hot, we usually avoid large traditional roast dinners and have a day where we are constantly tasting and trying new things with them...it’s like a 24 hour degustation! In our family we have avid divers and fishermen, so we always have a crayfish caught locally often with paua or oysters. So a Montrachet would be perfect with that.
Would you consider putting-in a Santa request to retire your classic 1944 Farmall McCormick red tractor for something a tad more modern?
I think Valerie would prefer that as I would look more respectable when clients visit, not covered in oil and dust. It would also be quieter for her and the neighbours at 6am when I (literally) crank the tractor into life. But no chance... with a modern tractor, sitting in an air conditioned cab and listening to music, I would be in a completely different environment, less connected to the vineyard!
Tell us a little about your plans for 2018 and how is the 2017 vintage looking?
2018 will be another busy year, so far it’s turning out to be a particularly hot and dry vintage, so picking may come forward from April to March in 2018 if this keeps going. Time will tell. The 2017’s are looking amazing in barrel, it’s always a waiting game until they completely reveal themselves. All the barrels are almost through the 2nd (malolactic) fermentation now as the summer temperatures have kicked in and helped to increase the temperature in the winery, and hence push malo through to completion.
“Also, I would like to put out a special invitation to any Vinorium clients that may be making a visit to New Zealand at some time in the future. We don’t have a fancy tasting room or “cellar door” facility here, we’re not set up for “hospitality events”, yet we do have a vineyard that receives a lot of love, and I really enjoy showing our wine growing approach to fellow Pinot Noir enthusiasts. Please come and see us if you get the chance. Merry Christmas and all the best for 2018”.