Peter Robertson - Winemaker Series:
Founded in 1937, Brookfields is Hawke's Bay's Oldest Boutique Winery. Peter Robertson bought Brookfields Vineyards in 1977. Peter creates classic wines with grape varietals grown only in specific vineyard sites and to his strict growing policy - expressing essence of place.
As Peter had said throughout his career - "It is my strong belief that superior wine comes from superior fruit; great wines are made in the vineyard”. At Brookfields, Peter lets each vintage speak for itself, giving each parcel of fruit individual attention, so as to best express each vineyard site, grape variety and the age of the vines. Peter is often referred to as 'a quiet achiever', diligently going about his business, shunning the spotlight, letting his wines speak for themselves. And for over thirty years, those wines have certainly been telling a fascinating story.
Peter’s quiet confidence becomes much more vocal when he's talking about his wines, as it should, for they are uniformly brilliant, invariably showing the meticulous attention to detail that characterises the man himself. It is the depth, excellence and it is this brilliance across all varieties that remind you of his talent. One of many memorable accolades - was in 2004, when his 2002 'Hillside' Syrah won both the Best Syrah/Shiraz & Best Red Wine Trophies at the Sydney International Wine Show.
I have known Peter and his family for more years than we both can now count, as I have run out of fingers and toes - (we are into our fourth decade). During these years I have had the pleasure and honour to be involved with many aspects of the Brookfields wine business. The direction of the wines produced for both the local and the international wine markets - plus we have shared and enjoyed many a good wine or three along the way.
The following is some background, influences, thoughts and insights during an incredible pioneering, hands-on and influential winemaking career - here are some of his brief comments.
• What first attracted you to the wine industry and as a winemaker?
"After finishing a science degree at Otago I worked for Barkers Fruit Wines in Geraldine - I then did a Post Graduate year at Lincoln College..."
• When and where did you study winemaking?
"While at Lincoln College I worked on a Dissertation with Danny Schuster for a year, and then worked at McWilliams Wines in Napier for three years, starting in 1974..."
• Which person has influenced you the most as a winemaker and why?
"While I only worked for Tom McDonald for two years, he was most generous with his wines and knowledge. While sharing an aged Burgundy one Sunday morning he mentioned Brookfields Vineyards was for sale and that I should take a look - as they, the rest is history..."
• What is your favourite grape varietal(s) to work with and why?
"I enjoy working with red grape varieties due to their longevity, however white winemaking also has its challenges..."
• Which grape varietal in your opinion has a great future in Hawke's Bay and why?
"I would like to see a great deal more work with new clones of Cabernet Sauvignon and possibly Syrah. I think we can make distinctive wines from these varietals here in the Bay."
• With each new vintage what do you most look forward to?
"Hopefully fine weather. It’s a cliché now, but every vintage is different, and I look forward to seeing everything in the tank at the end of harvest and taste the wine we have made. It’s difficult in the rush of vintage to sit back and see what you have. I like the evaluation part at the end..."
• To date what has been your most interesting / challenging vintage and why?
"1988 with Cyclone Bola brought 4 inches of rain with it. The white varieties struggled, but there was at least a three week break in the weather before harvesting the reds and they were surprisingly OK."
• Which person ‘past’ or ‘present’ would you most like to meet and why?
"Romeo Bragato tops my list. He is the foundation to the New Zealand wine industry..."
• For your next birthday dinner - if you could open and enjoy any bottle of wine in the world ever-made - what would it be and why?
"He replies with a broad smile: An aged Bordeaux rates highly - a First Growth from a good year would fit nicely e.g. Château Lafite Rothschild..."
• If you could make wine anywhere else in the world - where would it be and why?
"Having spent considerable time in France, I would enjoy being there..."
• What advice would you give a young person starting out as a winemaker?
"Passion and more passion... - to work in the wine industry you must be a born optimist."
• If you weren’t a winemaker - what would you like to be and why?
With another smile - "If I hadn’t been a winemaker I would have trained race horses. Both are industries which demand passion and commitment…"
• In the future, what exciting changes can you see, or would like to see for your wines, vineyards or winery?
"I am really looking forward to seeing the results of possible new red varietal clones in our vineyards sites around Hawke's Bay. I would like Brookfields to grow slightly, but not too big...we are Hawke's Bays oldest boutique winery for a reason..."
Where can you find Brookfields Wines:
Brookfields Vineyards 'Hawke's Bays oldest boutique winery' - there wines are available in New Zealand and around the world from quality wine retailers, restaurants / wine bars and hotels. Or visit the Brookfields Vineyards website - CLICK HERE.