In a pursuit to grow popular German varietals such as Riesling in New Zealand’s cool climate in the South Island, brothers Alex and Theo Giesen started Giesen Wines back in the early 80’s.
Marcel Giesen joined his brothers in 1983 after completing his winemaking apprenticeship back in Germany and heads up the winemaking team of the popular New Zealand winery until today.
Let’s find out more about Marcel, his wine passion and family venture…
Tell us a bit about your background
In the early 1980s, I undertook a winemaking apprenticeship in Germany. Once I’d completed by viticulture and oenology qualifications, I moved to Christchurch, New Zealand in 1983 to join my brothers Theo and Alex.
The following year I turned 19 and led my first vintage as the winemaker for Giesen Wines. Funny thing was, this was 1984 and New Zealand law meant that while I could make wine and deliver it to the door of the hotels, I couldn’t take the wine inside. This was in the days when you had to be 20 before you were allowed inside licensed hotels.
I returned to study in Germany a couple of years later to complete my Master Trade Certificate as a Cellar Master. I’ve also undertaken research in California, Oregon, Burgundy and other areas in Europe.
My wife, Sherwyn Veldhuizen, and I have created our boutique vineyard called Bell Hill in North Canterbury.
When I’m not working, I regularly take time to hike and fish. I love to cook and there’s nothing better than being in the kitchen with my brothers or cooking for the family.
Not surprisingly, I love to taste wines from around the world and I often travel in search of the finest wines.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
I divide my time between Christchurch and Blenheim. When I’m at home I head to the Giesen office and am usually back at Bell Hill by 3pm to oversee what’s going on there.
I’m regularly in Blenheim doing tastings with the team and entertaining guests at our Marlborough winery. I’ll always visit a few of our vineyards to see how the season is progressing.
When and why did you fall in love with wine?
During my trade apprenticeship and two years later when I went back to finish my Master Trade Certificate. I loved hanging out with wine guys who were constantly pushing the boundaries and focusing on quality. They didn’t get distracted by what everyone else was doing at the time.
Why did you become a winemaker?
When my brothers headed to New Zealand in 1981 and planted their first vineyard, I knew that I wanted to be part of that.
I have a passion to convey the terroir of New Zealand’s pristine environment through wine.
If you were a wine, which one would you be?
Amontilado, now in my fourth Criadera.
What’s your signature wine?
Organic wine from our own vineyards, where the team has worked every day until harvest to capture the signature of the land. If this is followed, you will see more than Pinot or Chardonnay in the glass!
Wine & dine, what’s your favourite match?
I had a fabulous dinner recently where muttonbird and duck were served with kumara dumplings and matched with Pinot Noir.
Share a fact about yourself that only a few know
Always have even numbers of freshly opened oysters.
Things you still want to do – what’s on your bucket list?
The Te Araroa Trail South, but my version of it.
Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
I’d be at a long table with my grandparents, parents and the rest of my close family.