Name: Philip Woollaston
Currently: Director of Woollaston
Please, tell us about how you got into wine, the wine industry and how your career developed?
I have been interested in wine all my adult life – at least as a consumer. On our return to New Zealand in the early 1990s from a position with the United Nations, my wife expressed an interest in developing a small vineyard. I naturally helped with this ‘hobby’ and over more than two decades the ‘small vineyard’ has grown from under 2 hectares to about 50 ha and a substantial gravity-fed winery. In 2000 we established the company ‘Woollaston Estates Ltd’ in partnership with the Schaeffer family (then living in the USA). All of our present vineyards and the winery were developed by this company. I retired as managing director and CEO in 2000 but remain a director and my wife and I still hold shares in the company.
What is your philosophy to making wine and viticulture?
Basically my philosophy is to interfere with nature as little as is possible. All our vineyards (and the winery) are now certified as organic and we follow bio-dynamic vineyard practices. The philosophy of ‘benign neglect’ is followed through in the winery, where a four-level gravity flow allows gentle handling of grapes and wine at all stages. As far as possible we do not inoculate our wines, allowing natural ferments with indigenous vineyard yeasts. Our red wines are generally un-fined and unfiltered as well and the gravity flow in the winery allows us to get them from grape to bottle without once being pumped.
The key is knowing when intervention is required and the confidence not to interfere otherwise. We are lucky to have the talent of winemaker Shane Munn, whose experience of organic and bio-dynamic winemaking in several countries and whose philosophical compatibility with our goals are a major asset.
Which cultivar is your favourite to work with and why?
Pinot Noir. It can be difficult, but when you get it right the rewards are fantastic!
How do you see the future of wine production and what are the challenges and the opportunities?
The world market for fine wine continues to grow, at the same time more discerning and demanding consumers world-wide mean continuing pressure on producers to make better wines. The continuing upward pressure on quality is both a challenge and an opportunity. Some ‘bulk wine’ producers (and producing regions) will go out of business or will improve and competition in a global market will continue to intensify, however the emergence of new markets in developing countries will likely be accompanied by new producers in those countries.
Global climate change provides more challenges (particularly for traditional grape growing regions) as well as opportunities. The world wine map will undoubtedly look different in 50 years. However the greater instability of weather patterns accompanying climate change is a challenge with no visible benefit, and will mean more insecurity for producers world-wide, affecting the economic viability of wine production in some places.
Where do you see the global wine market in 2025?
If I had the skill to answer that question I would be a rich man today! However I do think that it will be increasingly competitive, both as to price and quality. New markets (for example in Asia) will continue to grow demand, but will also lead to growth of new wine regions (e.g. in China). So-called ‘new world’ wines will continue to become more mainstream (alongside European wines) and by 2025 we may see ‘third world’ wines starting to appear at the lower price points in western supermarkets.
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – International Sommelier Positions – www.sommelier-jobs.com