This story was originally published in Drinksbiz, October 2018

I have just returned from a three day trip to Fiordland where phone coverage was non existent. Initially I had a strong feeling of discomfort in missing that familiar phone bleep, but once I got over it (about two Rieslings into the trip), the beauty, the untouched wilderness and the cool crisp air seemed to take wine tasting to a new level.

We often talk about the perfect food to go with wine – Pinot Noir and duck (unless you’re vegetarian – then it’s mushrooms) or Sauvignon and seafood or salty flavours, for example. And we talk about music and wine matching as if there is a formula to which we should aspire to enhance the experience of taste, but, when it comes to drinking wine, Fiordland takes taste to a whole new level.

The greenness of the untouched wilderness seems to dial up flavour intensity. One minute a wine tastes very good, the next it seems to taste great. The only difference being the insane greenness of sailing into the hidden Sportsman’s Cove, and Wetjacket Arm, both of which made every wine we drank taste fresher, brighter and better. At least, that was my perception and it’s one that is shared by Greg Hay, who took a small group of us to Fiordland to show his new Wetjacket Wines. He founded the brand in 2016 after leaving Peregrine Wines. Hay is a member of the Fiordland Conservation Trust because wants to make a difference to this remote region, hence, the name Wet Jacket Wines.
The name Wetjacket Fiord was first coined by Captain Cook, who arrived in Dusky Sound for the first time in 1770 and then again in 1773. He and his men shot a southern blue penguin in the Acheron Passage, wrote descriptions of kiwi, tui, kereru (native wood pigeons), kokako, hawks, ducks, gulls, weka, black oystercatchers, petrols, penguins, kakas, cuckoos, shags and albatrosses. They explored the fiords, naming the eery damp beauty of Wetjacket Arm after their experiences there.

Hay sells most of the wines from the Wetjacket Woolshed, an original stone croft built 150 years ago. Its pull in lanes, car parking area and the inclusion of a cheese room built on site to house Whitestone Cheese from Oamaru… well, it’s all made cellar door sales a winning formula. The aim is to remain relatively small in production terms with 2000 to 3000 cases, of which Pinots Noir and Gris make up 60 to 70 per cent of the overall numbers. The rest is split more or less evenly between Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc.

The winning part is that 80 per cent (ish) of the wine is sold at the cellar door, an unusually high percentage but it’s the key to unlocking commercial success for the  lovely new Wetjacket Otago wines.

  • Find out more about Wetjacket Wines online or email general manager Alison Vidoni: alison@wetjacket.co.nz