Marlborough is home to nearly 90 per cent of New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc plantings. It comes as no surprise then that the white variety that made the world sit up and take notice of New Zealand wines back in the 1980s makes up the lion’s share of the fruit processed by contract winemaking company New Zealand Wineries given most of its clients hail from the region.
About 80% of the grapes processed by NZ Wineries each vintage across its two facilities in Marlborough and Wairapa is Sauvignon Blanc, with Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris vying for the title of its second most crushed variety.
The company makes wine for clients from as little as 10 tonnes of fruit to up to 5000t and each vintage processes about 15,000t at its Marlborough site, and another 1500t in Wairapa. The company also crushes about 1000t of grapes for itself which it then on-sells to other producers.
Two client winemakers are employed by NZ Wineries to steer fruit from crush through to finished wine ready to bottle or ship in flexitanks. One of those is Jed Penkman, who has been with the company since the 2014 harvest. Jed currently has seven clients under his stewardship which sees him making wines under two to three labels for each of those clients.
He explained that the degree to which each of NZ Wineries’ clients had a say in the winemaking process varied.
“We’ve got some clients who are very hands on; they live in the district, they’ve been making wine here for 30-40 years and take a lot of pride in having their own personal touch on their wines —they’re really involved in the whole process,” Jed said.
“Then we’ve got clients who are pretty much absentee clients; they live out of the district, and a couple even live in completely different countries. For those clients we obviously have a lot more say in making their wines. They rely on us to give them feedback on what’s happening with the wines and make suggestions on the way forward.
“All the clients have their own philosophy and we try and work with them to ensure that philosophy is expressed in their wines,” he said.
Jed said NZ Wineries’ biggest challenge was satisfying its clients and the various labels and philosophies that they represent.
“Everyone’s got their own unique style. Everyone wants things done slightly differently.”
Jed said that while the team at NZ Wineries focussed on delivering wines that meet the varied expectations of its clients, Vintrace ensured each client was informed each step of the way.
“The information flow on what’s happening with the wines between us and our clients is something we don’t need to worry about because Vintrace does it so well,” Jed said, referring to the ability of contract clients to be given restricted access to Vintrace to enable them to view the progress of their wine at any time. “If we didn’t have that, if we had to do it another way, it would be a lot more difficult.
“In the time that I’ve been with the company, that information is now coming into Vintrace a lot quicker, meaning we don’t have to constantly contact [our clients] to tell them when something is happening.”
Jed explained the ability to enter all laboratory test results into Vintrace where it can be accessed by the NZ Wineries’ team and its clients was another advantage of the software, as was the ability for Vintrace to interface with the temperature control monitoring system on the company’s tanks.
“We use VinWizard to monitor and control the temperature on our tanks which is linked into Vintrace as well, so it automatically sends those temperatures across. This saves us time in having to manually check the temperature of the tanks and advise the clients, giving clients that real time information which they really appreciate,” Jed said.
Jed added all the cellar notes pertaining to each wine made at NZ Wineries were created and stored in Vintrace, while job notes were also issued and signed off on through the software.
“This allows for that information to be kept in one place which the clients can always see and ask any questions they have — it’s quite valuable.”
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