Hans Herzog Estate is a true artisan wine estate where a holistic approach to farming is not just a phrase but a way of life. Absolutely everything is done by Hans himself with the help of equally passionate people including his wife, confidante and collaborator Therese, who supports him in his relentless drive for quality and perfection. Hans himself holds 500 years of wine making lineage, selling up the family estate in Switzerland to move to Marlborough. Of course, you don’t offload 500 years of winegrowing history to do something by halves and absolutely everything what Hans does is of 'über' quality.
In 1994, Hans identified a piece of land a long way from home in Marlborough, one of the sunniest and driest climates in New Zealand. The arid sandy and gravelly soils on the right bank of the Wairau River reminded him of the Médoc region in Bordeaux with its late ripening Cabernet, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. This river creates a special microclimate and the free draining soils make it one of the warmest and most valuable blocks in Marlborough.
The exceptional sunshine hours, lengthy dry and mild autumns together with Hans’ rigorous vineyard management and extremely low yields allow even late ripening varieties to achieve perfect physiological ripeness. The significant diurnal temperature range with cool nights, typically more than 10ºC cooler than the sunny days, preserve the natural acidity in the grapes and give rise to the extraordinarily intense varietal character. The vibrant succulent ripe fruit flavours making it not only one of the world’s best wine regions but providing all the elements to continue Hans’ tradition of leading the way with new grape varieties.
Transported by the neighbouring Wairau River, eroded minerals from the rocks of its catchment were deposited as exceptional free-draining layers of mostly stony alluvial soils. Deep layers of shingle and low clay content together with stony and sandy loam top soil retain and reflect the sun’s heat. The deposits vary enormously, not even consistent within a row of vines thus allowing us to match each grape variety to its ideal soil type in the vineyard.
During the ripening period of the grapes, the stones and gravel in the mostly dry riverbed soak up the sun’s heat, which the hot prevailing north-westerly wind already pushes directly onto the vineyard. This warms up not only the grapes, but the stones in the vineyard, which slowly radiates heat onto the vines during the cool nights. This extra heat helps to achieve the perfect physiological ripeness, even for our late ripening grape varieties. In spring, the higher water levels warm the air around the vineyard and naturally protect from frost. Our remarkable location and the nearby geographical phenomena contributes to our unique microclimate perfect for growing grapes.
From hand-pruning to hand-picking and all the hard yards in between, tasks are done according to the astrological calendar. Together with extremely low yields, the reward is exceptionally concentrated, healthy and vibrant fruit. The result is some of New Zealand’s most age-worthy wines expressing the unique terroir and climate of our beautiful Marlborough.
Along with the more traditional Pinot noir and Bordeaux varieties, Hans successfully planted Pinot gris, Viognier and Montepulciano, varieties rarely witnessed in New Zealand in 1994. With the overwhelming success of the very late ripening Montepulciano, Hans holds the ‘green card’ to plant nearly any variety, as he has done.