Actor Sam Neill is best known for the characters he depicts in movies such as dinosaur classic, Jurassic Park. After an extensive career on screen, the New Zealander decided to return home and focus on making use of some of his country’s best assets; viticulture. Neill created his vineyard, Two Paddocks, in the cool-climate wine region of Central Otago; the most southerly wine producing region in the world. Known best for its Pinot Noir, Neill set about creating a wine that captured the essence of great Pinot Noir using the Central Otago terroir. Read an interview with Sam Neill here.
AP: Asian Palate SN: Sam Neill
AP: What inspired you to go into the wine industry? Any memorable wine experiences you can share with us?
SN: I have had many memorable wine experiences over the years; in fact I’m quite alarmed to report that most of my significant experiences seem to have involved wine one way or another. Most happy memories, and one or two best forgotten! Not the least of my experiences has, of course, been becoming a producer of wine myself. This was probably not too well thought out – we started out very small and humble; only after a few years did we become a little ambitious. And also we got a little bigger. In world terms of course, we are tiny – about 5 or 6 thousand cases a year. We are very proud of our wine.
AP: Were you trying to emulate a Burgundian style Pinot Noir when you set about creating your wine?
SN: We naturally admire Burgundy, but we don’t want to be Burgundy. We of course are the new kids on the block, and that combined with our particular terroir, means that our wines, although unmistakably Pinot , have some significant differences. Our Pinots tend to be more fruit based than tannic, less rustic, probably more exuberant and vibrant.
AP: What’s been happening in Two Paddocks over the last few years? Many learning curves?
SN: I would say that with every year we learn more about our grapes, our vines , our soils , our vineyards , our climate and our wines . We are greener and more sustainable now. For instance, with an enormous amount of effort involving organic fertilizers and compost, our vines are flourishing . In the winery, we are making what I would term a ‘stronger Pinot’ , with more density and extraction – this is a result of vine age . But in general, we follow the classic route in both vineyard and winery.
AP: How involved do you get in the winemaking or changes in the vineyard?
SN: As much as my day job allows. I have to say that wherever I am and whatever I’m working on, I am a conscientious Two Paddocks drinker.
AP: Besides Two Paddocks, what other Pinot Noir producers from NZ would you recommend?
SN: You might like to try Ata Rangi, Escarpment , Quartz Reef and Ripon . I like all of those, and more!
AP: Any experiences with pairings with your wines and Asian food?
SN: Well, Peking Duck and Two Paddocks Pinot would be hard to turn down. San Choy Bow and Two Paddocks Riesling is a great pair. I also love many Thai and Vietnamese dishes with our Riesling. And our Pinot works well with Japanese winter foods.