Actor Sam Neill is so crazy about pinot he talks to the vines at his New Zealand winery.
Do you remember your first glass of wine?
Absolutely – I was at home, where wine was always on the table. I also remember trying to impress a girl with a bottle of Blue Nun. It worked! I think girls are more demanding these days…
When did you take a “serious” interest in wine?
I think in London in the '90s. For the first time I had a few bob in my pocket and a good bottleshop up the road. It was a revelation, especially the burgundys.
Why did you choose to plant pinot noir at your vineyard, Two Paddocks, in Central Otago on New Zealand’s South Island?
Pinot noir is my favourite variety and [in 1993] it was apparent that Central would one day produce outstanding pinots. Now it seems most wine critics agree.
Are you involved in the winemaking process?
I’m more involved in the wine-drinking process. I also mow between the vines when my black-faced sheep are busy elsewhere. I talk to the vines on occasion, but whether they talk back I couldn’t say – the mower is very loud.
When did you begin producing pinots commercially?
1997 was our first release. The wine sells out fast, but “commercial” is not a word you’d associate with Two Paddocks. I’ll let you know when we make some money, but don’t hold your breath!
What are your favourite Aussie wines?
I’ve had several pinots that I like very much, including Coldstream Hills and Stonier Reserve. There are other labels I’m always confident about buying – Peter Lehmann, Petaluma, etc. If in doubt, I always say buy anything by Penfolds – their wines are always good value for money. Except for Grange, which to my mind is outrageously overrated and overpriced.
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