He uses unknown grapes to make uncommonly good (and sustainable) wines with ancient artwork on the labels and modern-with-a-twist flavours in the bottles… Meet Julian Richards and his new(ish) wine brand – Colere.

Richards was born and bred… in the South Island and remains there at his home base in North Canterbury (New Zealand’s most under rated wine region, in my view, but that’s another story).

He has worked everywhere from… the vineyard to the cellar floor of wineries, and his brand Colere is a new opportunity for him to curate, create and cultivate interesting and different wines made from mostly mainstream grape varieties and often from grapes that need to find a home – hence, the word sustainable in the headline of this story. That said, Richard’s is a pretty big fan of Pinot Blanc (a man after my own heart then). Even though there is a scant amount of this interesting French white grape still growing in New Zealand – a mere 29 hectares – he is a big champion of it. So much so that his latest one is a 50/50 blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, which adds strong commercial appeal (since ‘Gris’ is better known), and this wine was then aged for a massive four years in old oak barrels, where it softened, gained savoury flavours and yet retains its varietal stamp of freshness (citrusy flavours) and white fruit (pear).

The word Colere is Latin… and means to farm, cultivate and worship. It’s a complex message that Richards wants to convey in wines that remain, importantly, extremely affordable. It’s incredibly refreshing to see a new wine brand like this one, which champions old artwork on the labels (it’s from the early 1800s and it really is a story for another day, so let’s park that for now).

Inside the bottles, the wines are modern with a twist… These are not orange wines and Richards is not pigeon holing them under any  ‘natural’ banners, either. He came into Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington this week (where I spend a portion of my working week on tastings and education) to taste his new wines with a group of us.

The wines speak come from… vineyards around Marlborough and Martinborough and, as you read this, he is in the process of making a quirky new take on a traditional French blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend from North Canterbury. Quantities will be small and it is from the 2017 vintage. I look forward to trying it as I love the outstanding North Canterbury Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend  from Pegasus Bay. But I digress.

Try these… 

Big beautiful Chardonnay

2011 Colere Kerner Marlborough Chardonnay 

Big, buttery and beautifully crisp – this Chardonnay was made from grapes treated like royalty – they were hand picked, whole bunch pressed, native yeast fermented in barrels for 8 months and then further aged in tanks…

Tastes of… tangy citrus fruit with big buttery and creamy mouth feel; like big fresh crisp Chablis with body to burn.

Silky seductive Pinot Noir 

2014 Colere Pinot Noir Wairarapa 

This new Martinborough Pinot Noir is bright ruby with juicy flavours of red plumd and cherries, with succulent acidity adding a long finish. A big elegant beauty from Te Muna – 9 kms east of Martinborough township.

Check out Colere winemaker Julian Richard’s new website: Colere.co.nz