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Peter Gough and Alwyn Corban survey the vineyard (left). Gary Glazebrook (far left); Ngatarawa Wines Collection (left)
We were always buying fruit in. But we never developed relationships with growers because in the back of our mind was that, well, we are going to be estate grown. It wasn’t really till ’94 that we made the decision that we would always have some fruit we hadn’t grown ourselves, and we should be developing better relationships with growers instead of buying it on the spot market, or whatever. And since then there’s been a lot of growth in the winery and that’s all been through outside fruit, contract growers, which is the reverse of the industry trend really.
The company’s critical decision was to purchase a proportion of their grapes on a regular basis. To do this they had to strengthen their relationships with their ten growers and influence their viticulture to ensure they received grapes with the qualities they required:
If it was reds, we wanted them to use Scott-Henry [trellising] as a training system so that they’d open up the canopy, get that fruit exposure and then also do some thinning at veraison. Not specifically to reduce the crop but so that we evened up the crop and its maturity, so when we harvested it we’re not getting a range of flavours from green through very ripe.
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To help achieve such developments, Peter Gough was employed to manage the vineyards as well as participate in the winemaking. When the Glazebrooks decided to sell their shareholding in 1999, Brian Corban bought their 50 per cent, ensuring that the Corban name quietly lives on.
Alan Limmer had been captured by wine while doing isotope chemistry using a mass spectrometer for his PhD on soil nitrogen at Waikato University. He shared the same lab and similar techniques with John Dunbar who, when he established ways of detecting water in wine in the early 1980s, helped eliminate ‘the black snake’. Being students of chemistry, they also had to try their hand at making wine at the Te Kauwhata Viticultural Research Station. It often sparkled. After doing a holiday vintage with Kim Salonius in 1983, Alan returned to Te Kauwhata in 1984 to do a vintage there with Rainer Eschenbruch and Tom van Dam as preparation for making wine from his own vineyard. While at Te Kauwhata, he helped Richard Smart assess the national varietal collection and took cuttings from the Syrah vines in a virus trial initiated by government plant scientist Wayne Thomas. He bulked them up on his own property. These later became the basis of Stonecroft’s very successful Syrah production in the late 1980s.
Alan Limmer, like Chris Pask a pioneer of Gimblett Gravels, planted his first vines in Mere Road in 1983, although he continued to run a soil consultancy business until 1990.