Q&A with Natalie Christensen, Senior Winemaker at Yealands Estate

Natalie Christensen | Photo by MiNDFOODNatalie Christensen | Photo by MiNDFOOD

Natalie Christensen likes a bit of colour and variety in her life which she’s certainly not short of as Senior Winemaker at Yealands Estate in beautiful Marlborough wine country. Previous wineries in her vinous career include St Clair Family Estate, Matahiwi Estate and various roles in Spain, France and the US.

Her bright lipstick regularly catches our eye when scrolling through the Instagram feed which made us curious and keen to find out more about Nat.

Enough from us … let’s get into the Q&A!

What do you do?
I make fun juice! Aka wine. I am the Senior Winemaker at Yealands Estate based in the Awatere Valley in Marlborough.

What does a typical working day look like for you?
Hmm who knows?? That is one of the things I love about my job. It varies greatly depending on the time of the year. Over the harvest period I’m usually out in the vineyard checking for ripeness and getting a sore tummy from eating too many grapes or bent over a ferment seeing how the new babies are coming along.

Today I have just been filmed talking about one of our wines for an offshore customer and now I am about to head to a goodbye morning tea of sausage rolls (The Country Kai Café in Seddon does a great one!) for one of our Engineers Cody.

I’ve got a trade group coming in for a tasting, and then I need to suss out getting a visa for Russia. I’m heading there, to Denmark and to the UK later on this year. I guess I had better get my warm clothes and vodka drinking capacity sorted too!

When and why did you fall in love with wine?
I think I really fell in love with wine when I did my first vintage. I loved the whole excitement around it, all the people, all the challenges, the hard work and long hours. It was more than just a beverage, it was like a snap shot of a period of time with so many interesting individuals contributing to creating the final product.

I also love that it is a global language and what feels like a very small and connected global community – I really enjoy travelling to other regions, tasting wines and learning about the land and the people behind the wines.

If you were a wine, what wine would you be?
This is a tricky one – I guess I am bubbly and a bit sparkly at times (Champagne)…but I am also a bit weird and can be unpredictable (Pet Nat)…sometimes I get deep and thoughtful (Pinot Noir) and sometimes I just want to dance around in my favourite floral Gorman jumpsuit (Gewurztraminer)…. So maybe that makes me the slops bucket???

Natalie Christensen

Why did you choose to become a winemaker? 
I think it chose me…It snuck up on me…Lots of things I had been doing in my life were actually little winemaker in training activities but I just didn’t get the hint at the time. During my uni days when I was studying towards a Music degree and Master of Science, I was a volunteer firefighter in Lyttelton – so felt very at home with pumps and hoses and steel capped gummies.

I also worked in a wine bar and belonged to a wine club. I did my first vintage in 2006 when I had a quarter life crisis and was planning on saving money for an OE. I loved everything about the wine industry and felt incredibly excited and lucky that I had discovered it. I’ve never looked back and still love it 12 years on.

Wine & dine, what’s your favourite match?
Wine and food in any sort of configuration is all good with me…as long as it is accompanied with fun chat and good friends;  but if I was on a desert island on my lonesome…I would sit cross legged on my woven flax mat tucking into some rare beef and a cracking Barolo if it is overcast…but if it was stinking hot…I would be eating ceviche and sipping on Sancerre.

Share a fact about yourself that only a few know.
I have a very serious and fatal addiction to colour – my wardrobe and house look like an exploded rainbow.

What’s on your bucket list?
I would love to go to the Azores (a small group of Islands off the coast of Portugal), they make wine on Pico Island and I would really like to check that out.

Also I would love to walk the Camino de Santiago. I lived in Galicia for a while, making Albariño in Rias Baixas and met lots of people who had done it.

Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
I would love to have a wine with Lagertha from the Vikings series! I have Danish heritage and am fascinated by the history. She would be a straight talker (and probably a very good drinker!) and have some pretty awesome stories to share.

Find out more about Natalie and Yealands Estate here and make sure you follow them on Facebook | Instagram & Twitter.