Ben Glover - Winemaker Series:
Ben Glover is a born and breed Kiwi, growing up in Grovetown - Blenheim with his parents Owen & Wendy and 3 other siblings on the 4th generation family dairy farm. In 1985 the dairy herd was sold and in 1988 the family planted and started growing grapes for local winemakers. And it is these vineyards that are now at the heart of the Zephyr label.
When it comes to professional wine people in New Zealand - Ben is in the top division of winemakers. Starting his career in 1995 and landing in 1998 the assistant winemaker role at Wither Hills, where he eventually took over as chief winemaker. During this time he was also in charge of internationally acclaimed wine brands such as Lindauer, Huntaway and Corbans. Most recently Ben was Group Winemaker for Accolade Wines New Zealand, sourcing fruit for the Mud House and Waipara Hills brands.
During this time in the background, Ben developed and launched his own family label into the UK with his first vintage in 2007. But it wasn’t until 2016 that he made the decision to ‘go live’ and to continue to grow the family the Zephyr brand full time.
Ben was an inaugural Len Evans scholar in 2001 and has over 20 years of experience as a national and international wine judge, testimony to his dedication to quality wine - both as a winemaker and as an appreciative wine drinker.
Ben is passionate about championing personality and constantly innovating positive elements in his wines while championing the Dillons Point sub-region of Marlborough. He is comfortable, where others are not to question the way things have been done in the wine industry - always looking to lift quality in all that he does.
This year from the Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine - Ben received the NZ wine Industry ‘Leadership’ Award for 2021. A public recognition to his positive and valued involvement in a diverse array of areas in the local wine industry. What Ben does not know about the New Zealand wine industry hasn’t happened yet.
On occasion you might see Ben wearing a crash helmet and sporting ski goggles while driving a green 1965 Mark III Zephyr classic car (made by Ford) - around the streets and backroads of Marlborough. Not quite the Bat-mobile, but his utility belt is more than capable of fighting any crime of bad wines in your local community.
Ben has a comprehensive understanding of the potential of Sauvignon Blanc, along with aromatics such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer, along with crafting excellent Chardonnay for more than 22 years. The Glover family brand zephyr, for which Ben is janitor and winemaker, is now his primary focus, but he also finds time to contribute to a few other dynamic wine projects for the betterment of the Marlborough region.
• The following is some background, influences, thoughts, experiences and insights Ben has gathered during his flavour-focused winemaking career - here are some of his brief comments.
• What attracted you to the wine industry and to be a winemaker?
"The great unknown really - it was probably a subconscious pull after being surrounded by the plantings of grapes in Marlborough as our farm converted from Dairy farming to grape growing in 1988. And after failing in every professional vocation at Canterbury University and then heading to Lincoln Uni in 1994 and getting stuck in with a Post Grad Diploma in Oenology. I think I am quite unique having completed and graduating with a Post Grad Dip before completing my Under Grad B.Com Marketing".
• Which person has influenced you the most as a winemaker and why?
"There are many, the obligatory 1st vintage at Villa Maria with Michelle Richardson, then with the Duke - Gary at Hunters. Being picked up as a scrawny 27yr old in 1998 by Brent Marris and the Wither Hills story which continued right through those extraordinary growth years as an industry in the late 90’s to the early 2000’s. I think now after 20 odd years you look beyond grape vines in some respects to continue to be influenced as well as your peers guiding you in the bike peloton. People such as James Milton, The Dineen Team, Duncan Forsyth, Rhyan Wardman, Liam Steevenson MW, Adi Badenhorst, as well as quite simply your immediate family - Susie, George, Molly, Hazel and Eliza".
• What is your favourite grape varietal(s) to work with and why?
"This is like picking your children and you certainly have favourites - but this is directly correlated as to their behaviour at the time. And with 4 being a party we have a brilliant time nurturing Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and then the natural field blend of these 3 off our organic vineyard - called Agent. It is an intriguing road of unshackling your learnings and teachings over the past 20 years with the winemaker’s guide written by Bryce Rankine and being more bare foot, provocative, heart not head, expressions from the land you grow these vines on".
• Which grape variety would you most like to work with in the future and why?
"Other intriguing varieties to add to the quiver would be the Gallic red variety Mencía, a twist of Petite Syrah and Cabernet Franc from the red spectrum and whites looking at non-aromatic old vine whites - Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc etc".
• With each new vintage what do you most look forward too?
"The mix of vintage staff and their enthusiasm their keenness, interest and willingness to soak up what is on offer - this rubs off on us old farts and keeps the fun and enjoyment. This combined with Marcia Chang-Hong’s most amazing cooking and vintage meals - what more could you ask for".
• To date what has been your most interesting & challenging vintage(s) and why?
1995 - my 1st vintage - the °brix were 16 and so was the acidity.
1998 - very hot - it was hard to keep the bright, pungent green notes in Sauvignon Blanc.
2012 - coldest Marlborough vintage in 50 years.
2017 - wet, botty and mushy - just crap.
The most enjoyable pretty much was 2020 - superb fruit and due to lock down we were able to just get on and 100% focus on the fruit and winemaking.
• For your next birthday - if you could enjoy any bottle of wine ever-made, what would it be?
"I am running a cheeky single down to fine leg to cross for my maiden 50 in June - so there will be a few wines from '71, '81, '91 & 2001, and if I can get it in the bottle in time a 2021.
There is a Sauterne lined up, with a few (red and white) Burgundies (including probably a Roumier) and just like in the movie ‘Sideways’ a Bordeaux - probably a Cos' will be on show. Starting though with 2000 (wedding anniversary) champers".
• If you could make wine anywhere else in the world - where would it be and why?
"The team in Swartland (Western Cape Province - South Africa) they are just killing it. Old vines, heritage vineyards - and enthusiasm. Pioneering winemaking and making a difference".
• What advice would you give a young person starting out as a winemaker?
"Just work hard, with a smile - and the best initial form of communication is observation. Oh and know how to make a good coffee".
• When you are ‘not’ making wine - what is one of your favourite things to do to relax?
"Sleeping, reading and yelling at my kids - *(not always in that order)".
• In the near future, what exciting challenges / changes can you see for your wines, in the vineyard or the winery?
"I have already embarked on this - 2020 was the first vintage the Zephyr wines were certified organic - so the journey has just started with understanding the importance of soil health, sustainability, and in the end mindful consumption. So with 14ha under ‘organics’ the learning has only just started".
"The other project is The Coterie - an organic custom crush winemaking facility with the aim to show off what Marlborough is all about through enthusiastic wine brands and people all wanting a collective yet individual expression of Marlborough - not just Sauvignon Blanc as we have come to know - go to www.coterie.nz. All likeminded and mature enough to share all their ideas and secrets. Innovative, Collaborative, Marlborough".
• In 12 words or less - express the essence, personality and character of zephyr wines.
Where can you find Zephyr Wines:
Zephyr Wines 'character filled aromatic wines' are available in New Zealand and around the world from quality wine retailers, restaurants and wine bars. Or visit the Zephyr website - CLICK HERE.