Vintage Insight 2015 - A new vintage hand at Forrest Wines

A new vintage hand at Forrest Wines …Nikki Jacoby from Laithwaites Wines in the UK joins Forrest Wines for Vintage 2015

So I have joined Forrest Wines as the new vintage hand, well perhaps that’s a bit of an overstatement – a part vintage hand/part observer, when it all gets far too complicated, at Forrest Wines! 

Writers from anywhere aren’t famous for getting their hands dirty, but having written about wine for a number of years, I felt it was way overdue to experience harvest firsthand.


It’s taken a couple of weeks for my hands and feet to lose that dirty black-red-stained look gained from Barossa grapes

Escape from the box of normality
So having cleverly persuaded my work that this was an essential trip and excused myself from family for 10 weeks, I landed first in Australia’s Barossa … just to get a feel of heavy-duty reds and how RedHeads – a very small, hands-on winery – worked.
Arrival at Forrest
Now I've landed at the wonderful Forrest Wines in Marlborough to get an idea of how a predominantly white wine winery in this beautiful part of New Zealand functions.

The Italian Arneis variety is one of the rare grapes Forrest has chosen to champion

And why Forrest?
Where else? And there are many reasons. For one, my company in the UK sells a range of them and, two, I wanted to go to a smaller, handcrafted, family-owned cellar to get properly involved and see lots of different procedures … ideally the process from grape to bottle.

John and Brigid are hugely hospitable and welcoming, and as you’ll know from reading the Forrest website, both are doctors (in molecular biology and medicine), so bring a very analytical, logical approach to winemaking, along with the creative, artistic touch.

And above all …
I thought if a winery produces wines from that many weird and wonderful grape varieties, it’s definitely going to be interesting. Which other cellar grows and vinifies Petit Manseng, Albariño, Gewurztraminer, Chenin Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Arneis, Saint Laurent, Malbec … on top of all the ones you’d expect like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir, the Cabernets, Syrah. And in guises of dry, nobly rotten sweet, sparkling and still.

“Excellence through Innovation” is certainly 100% true of The Doctor.


Forrest Estate grows an impressive number of offbeat varieties – which was a major attraction for me. Here the Albariño was hand-harvested

The Vintage 2015 Team:
What has struck me most about the Forrest vintage winery team is the big smile stuck on everyone’s face. As John F said himself “They must love working for me!”

They are a very happy crew, clear on the job in hand and what needs doing. Here’s a micro-introduction to each of them:

John Forrest: needs no introduction really, but no list would be complete without him at the top. He is chief honcho, the man with a tumult of ideas, an endless flow – I don’t think they can stop accumulating in his sleep either. A molecular biologist by training, he applied this scientific training to winemaking first in 1988. Always at the forefront of innovation, his analytical brain allows him to continue with groundbreaking ideas, most recently being the first to pioneer low-alcohol wine and that really tastes good.


Brigid Forrest: Brigid is another scientist – they met first day at Otago university – and has a great understanding of wine and the marketplace. She is the one behind the scenes, quietly working, and key to the whole place, winery and cellar door, running smoothly. That is, as well as working 3 days a week as a GP/community geriatrician. Luckily both Forrests seem to have boundless energy, but don’t ask Brigid to do early!


Dave Knappstein: Dave’s family has been in wine for generations. His great grandfather, Joseph Knappstein, started the Stanley Wine Company in the Clare Valley, SA in the 1880s, his grandfather ran it until he died and his dad was winemaker for Tatachilla in South Australia, until they moved to New Zealand for his dad’s job with McWilliams. Later, they moved to Auckland where his dad was show director for Air New Zealand Wine Show. Oh, and did I mention his Uncle Ray who is credited with linking a wine’s PH with stability? So, no wonder, Dave went into wine ... eventually, having started off in brewing. He met John Forrest and was flatmate with him at university and has since worked all over New Zealand as a winemaker. He has been with Forrest 15 years and is the steadying influence on John’s enthusiastic innovation.


Beth Forrest: Beth is middle child of John and Brigid and shows strong personality traits of her dad. She first did a double degree at Otago university, in Geography and microbiology, before deciding to go into winemaking. She did her Masters at Adelaide University and has already made wine all over the world ... Spain, France, Australia, Oregon, different parts of New Zealand, including Peregrine, plus Chapel Down in England ... she even contemplated being the viticulturalist for the Queen’s Windsor estate. With plenty of experience under her belt, she is now ready to work with the team as a key winemaker.


Dai: Dai is a lawyer from Japan, always has a huge smile on his face, never walks, always runs, so he’s difficult to catch. Despite his law training, he was so taken with wine when he came over to New Zealand that he’s been immersed in it ever since. As a winemaker, at this time of the year, he concentrates on sorting out the grapes on arrival – getting them through the press, the juice into tank, or destemming and pressing the handpicked batches. He has an air of Action Man about him ... anything that Dai tightens is impossible to loosen by hand. That strong!


Chris: Christchurch born and bred, Chris tends to be on night shift and is more concerned with the wine once it gets into tank or barrel. Where hasn’t he made wine? Mosel and Franken in Germany, Languedoc and Alsace in France, Oregon in US, Australia’s Coonawarra, Kiwi Hawke’s Bay (which is where he met John, working on the Forrest wines from Gimlett Gravels) and Austria, where he works two months every year for harvest. He has an Aussie winemaker wife, so at vintage time, as you can imagine, they barely see each other.


Lindsay: Lindsay did many things before she decided winemaking was just too much fun to miss out on. She studied Performance Art, was a tree surgeon, but as a student liaison officer, she took a group to visit a winery ... and that was it. Now with a winemaking degree under her belt, she is keen to do it all! A most conscientious part of the winemaking team and patient with beginners! When it’s not full-on harvest, she is also part of the cellar door team.


Guillaume: that’s quite a mouthful of a name for Kiwis (!), so the team have come to calling him Gus. Gus/Guillaume is a Frenchman from Alsace, at Forrest just for the vintage. His family are restaurateurs, but over the last seven years, he’s been part studying/ part working, culminating in a two years Masters degree in oenology in France. He has worked within France, in New York State and now New Zealand. Why Forrest Estate for him? He wanted to make wine in a coolish climate, preferably Marlborough, in a smaller cellar, so he could directly to the winemaker and has a bit of a thing for Riesling. A perfect fit then.


Julia: Julia is at Forrest just for the vintage and has just completed her two-year diploma. She is from Indonesia, came to New Zealand for a holiday but would love to stay, so decided to learn how to become a winemaker. You will find her often taking samples, then testing them in the lab.


Johnny-one-shoe: Johnny has been with Forrest since October. Blenheim born and a bit of a boy racer (!), he is mostly found in the vineyards. However, this harvest he’s been brought in to help with vintage and is loving it.


Scott or Skiddy: Skiddy (I haven’t asked!) has been a loyal employee at Forrest for a decade now, working mostly in the vineyard side, with maintenance of machinery. He has also been key in driving the harvesting machine. Firstly the old, less sophisticated one and now the super-duper monster machine, new this year. Having ridden up top with him on this huge giant machine, I am full of admiration. He said first week it was a bit nerve-racking – for him and for John.


Tim: Tim is vineyard manager and brother, too, of Skiddy. He’s on sick leave right now having had a double hip operation, but will hopefully back to full steam ahead shortly. He works closely with John on sustainability in the vineyard, trialling new grape varieties and organic methods.

Trevor: The bird-scarer, handy with his noisy gun as he whizzes around the vines on a quad bike.

Scotty: Scotty is the man in the big truck, ready to receive all the grapes collected by Skiddy in the harvester. Dependable to the last, turning up to pick up those grapes, even with flu!


Frankie: Frankie is the dog and Number One in the family. Nothing is too good for the lovely Frankie ... we are all willing to donate the best pieces of breakfast, lunch, dinner to please the pleading doe-eyed look of Frankie. Frankie is technically Beth’s. She arrived as a puppy, but a little later Beth had a 10-month stint in Spain, so John and Brigid ‘babysat’. Since then they have had ‘joint custody’.


Merlot: Merlot is Frankie’s best friend. A nippy hunter of a cat who snuggles up with Frankie whenever she’s given the opportunity and is very good at catching mice and lizards.

 Equally importantly, in front of house and behind the scenes, Forrest Wines has:

 Dan - the General Manager, Carlos from Chile who is key to IT and web design, Sam Forrest who is project and communications manager, Trevor who is National Sales Manager so is often on the road, Amanda and Mel who keep up all the office logistics and accounting. Then at the Cellardoor, you’ll be greeted either by Katrina, Nicky or Rebekah – visitors from cruise ships, bus tours, cyclists, vintage cellar hands, wine buffs and interested public are all greeted with a smile, great wines and as much information as you want to know.





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