Cameron Douglas Review

New Zealand Wine Heroines

Cameron Douglas

"If I had to list my top ten wine producers in New Zealand then Pegasus Bay would easily make the cut. Why? Well uncompromising quality, consistency, complexity and an ‘X’ factor that offers deliciousness in practically every wine style produced. You can’t however make fine wine without good fruit and talent in the winery.
So who are our women wine heroes and why are they so good at wine making?
I wanted to interview Lynnette Hudson first. As one of our leading women in wine she is at the top of her game and one of the key people behind the wines at Pegasus Bay. Her journey into the world of wine and wine making is fascinating and inspiring.
Lynnette was born in Wellington, but did most of her growing years in Auckland finishing high school at Pakuranga College. The decision to further her studies and develop a career in marine biology meant intense study at Otago University gaining a double degree in Botany and Zoology. Scuba diving in the cold waters of the south island became less appealing so she decided to explore diagnostics instead. Her background in biology made this a fairly easy transition.
Like many university students her down time was, in part, used to explore another interest – wine. Lynnette fondly remembers using up about two years of her life drinking lots of Deinhard green label and attending locally run wine tastings where I could sample as many wines as I wanted to for $2.00 a pop. Gosh how times have changed! This combination of wine tasting and wine exploration sparked a curiosity so she decided to explore a little more and completed a wine course at a local polytechnic.
The tipping point for Lynnette and a future career in wine seems to be when she moved to Australia and encountered a chap named Richard Baldwin (Lindeman’s Wines) “who really taught me about wine”. It seems that Richard’s words of wisdom and passion for wine convinced Lynnette to make the firm decision to move into the wine industry full time. This meant more study and in 1992 completed a Post-Graduate Diploma of Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln University in Christchurch passing the best in her class that year.
It was during her study at Lincoln where she met friend and future partner Matt Donaldson. Lynnette’s first two vintages were in Canterbury, the second of which was with Pegasus Bay. If that wasn’t enough she would work nights with Matt at Pegasus Bay and days with Danny Schuster. Lynnette also needed an international perspective so completed vintages in various parts or the world: Isle of White, Romania, Hungary and Burgundy included.
I asked Lynnette if she has any wine heroes “Absolutely” She said. Larry McKenna for his insight, passion and demonstrating that New Zealand is a great place to grow Pinot Noir; Blair Walter at Felton Road; and Pascal Marchand (Domaine Jean Fry, Burgundy) were two others, among many, that she mentioned.
I asked her what skills and attributes are required for wine making. “A great palate, keen sense of smell, perception for wine and being able to make the correct decisions in the winery. Most decisions on a day to day basis are not experiments – technique is everything. There is no absolute right in wine either – unless the wine is really awesome at the end. People who focus on one thing at a time aren’t suited to wine making, there are noises all the time, you have to be aware of your surroundings. Attention to detail is critical.
Speaking of wrong what’s one of the mistakes you made along the way? “My first vintage at Pegasus Bay in 1993 I put the whole bucket of fining agent into a tank of Riesling. I didn’t realize my error until a few days later I was working with another wine maker and became aware it was not meant to go into a fermenting wine. That Riesling turned to S**t by the way I learned and since then I’ve never pumped something into the wrong tank, haven’t had any disasters no great wine mistakes. Double check everything!
What are some of the highs for you working with wine? The challenge and excitement of each new vintage so many conditions need to be in place to make it right and exciting. Each harvest is about reflecting on the season. Sometimes you get it wrong.
What unique dimensions do you feel that women bring to winemaking? None as it comes down to individuals.
What advice would you give to woman thinking about a winemaking career and wanting to make it to the top? Do it if you really love it. It’s hard, dirty work, nothing like the image the consumer sees. The joys are amazing but the pleasures of food and wine are there too. Be enthusiastic. Be a squeaky wheel.
What are your current views in wine in New Zealand? Wine making in New Zealand is a very exciting place to be, it’s amazing how far we have come. I hope New Zealand doesn’t lose its focus by making too much cheap wine. I hope that Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc mentality doesn’t take over the wine industry – focus on the good things, specialisation and diversity.
Lynnette’s favorite tipples outside the Pegasus Bay range include Burgundy that’s her #1 passion (red and white), Riesling, German Grosses Gewachs, Austrian Riesling and Emerson’s Pilsner.
Lynnette Hudson a great Kiwi and a true New Zealand wine hero(ine)."
New Zealand Wine Heroines: Cameron Douglas MS