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HI RES Vineyard in Autumn, pre-pruningMak­ing wine is not a paint-by-num­bers for­mula that can be repeated each year without thought. The nature of work­ing with nature is that things change, and there are no guar­an­tees. Not all vin­tages will be the same, and not all grapes with­in the same plot or vin­tage will pro­duce the same wine. For Kapiti pro­du­cer Ohau Wines, cel­eb­rat­ing this diversity with wine bottled under dif­fer­ent labels at two price points makes good busi­ness sense.

Whilst some vines and some vin­tages (hoo­ray to 2013!) pro­duce the very best in fruit, not every grape, vine or vin­tage is going to at the same stand­ard each sea­son. This is where sub-brands and second labels come in to com­pete for your dol­lar. You will have seen them. All of a sud­den there is a sub-$15 Sauvign­on Blanc on the super­mar­ket shelf, in great quant­ity, that you’ve nev­er seen before – and per­haps in six months’ time, will nev­er see again. This is often wine made by a known pro­du­cer, who rather than risk­ing brand pos­i­tion­ing by bot­tling a not-quite-up-to-scratch wine, will sell off or label the wine anonym­ously. Those more savvy pro­du­cers will put their own name on that second label.

Bot­tling wine under a premi­um and second label is a prac­tice that stretches back to Bor­deaux in the 1700s. A second wine made from blends or bar­rels not selec­ted for use in the Grand Vin, or first label, enabled pro­du­cers to use a stricter selec­tion (and keep the high price tag) for their Grand Vin. Cap­it­al­ising on their name and dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nels, pro­du­cers also used second labels to hold on to cash, whilst gain­ing new fans who did not have access to the high­er-priced wines.

On-the-edge Kapiti pro­du­cer Ohau Wines fol­lows the same philo­sophy. Bot­tling the very best that the vine­yard pro­duces in the premi­um Ohau Gravels label allows wine­maker Jane Cooper to be painstak­ingly select­ive in the grapes used in this wine. Let­ting the vine­yard “speak to her”, Cooper will choose indi­vidu­al vines from selec­ted rows for the Ohau Gravels brand. The grapes that miss that top label by just a smidgen are bottled as Ohau’s second label, Woven Stone.

The people at Ohau Wines are proud of this. Rather than anonym­ously selling off their second wine, Woven Stone has become a com­pet­it­ive call­ing card, attract­ing new cus­tom­ers to the Ohau brand. As Ohau Wines’ long-time brand developer Donna Riley puts it, “Woven Stone is a super­mar­ket brand, but it’s our super­mar­ket brand, and we are proud of what is inside the bottle.” Both labels offer above-aver­age qual­ity for their price points.

This is the key. Chal­len­ging cir­cum­stances can demon­strate the skill of a wine­maker, and the con­fid­ence a pro­du­cer has in the qual­ity of its product – espe­cially when that pro­du­cer is bold enough to bottle the second wine under its own name. Busi­ness aside, the res­ult is also excel­lent: enjoy­ing wine more.


woven stone pn2012hr


Woven Stone Pinot Noir 2012 by Ohau Wines


This is def­in­itely a light­er wine – but then that’s what Pinot Noir is sup­posed to be. It’s a great accom­pani­ment to my home-made ham­burgers, thanks to its cherry-fruit com­pote fla­vours and kick of spice on the fin­ish. This juicy Pinot Noir sat­is­fies and enchants. Now I have a choice: a bottle of Woven Stone Pinot Noir for a Tues­day night, and a bottle of Ohau Gravels Pinot Noir for show­ing off to my friends.





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