The results of the New World Wine Awards 2020 are finally live and we’re thrilled to hit publish on today’s Q&A with Catherine Keith, Director at Mount Brown Estates in North Canterbury, who secured the top spot in the Pinot Noir category with their 2019 Pinot Noir. Congratulations!
Let’s find out more about Catherine and the award winner in the following interview…
Tell us about your role at Mount Brown
I’m the boss – but it wasn’t always that way. The business was started by my father in 2002 and for 18 years we worked together. He retired in 2019 aged 75 and I took over the reins, although he remains a great mentor in the background.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
The phrase is a bit overused but no day is the same. This is partly driven by the seasons – so its Spring now and in the vineyard we are frost fighting and in the winery we are bottling our 2020 vintage. And its partly driven by being a small business – with just 11 employees – so there is no payroll team or marketing department (its just me) and also because we’re an end-to-end operation – from growing grapes to bottling – and everything in between.
Come Summer and Christmas sales & marketing becomes my focus and the vineyard is very busy managing the growing vines. Autumn is the exciting part of the year, with a whole years work coming into the winery and busy days for everyone – but then it’s never not busy – even in Winter where pruning is a massive task.
So some days you’ll find me in the winery or working with our vineyard manager and other days on the road with our sales team.
When and why did you fall in love with wine?
It wasn’t wine so much that got me into this business but a love of the land. I lived in London and Singapore for 15 years and at the time we bought the vineyards in 2002 and owning a piece of New Zealand made me feel like I could put down roots in a country I missed. And then in 2013 we moved back to establish the winery and grow our domestic business. From there is has developed into a love of North Canterbury – and the diverse and beautiful wines that are produced here.
If you were a wine, which one would you be?
I’ve been asked loads of wine questions before but never this one before! Well, in my 40s I don’t think I’m quite a mellow old merlot yet – perhaps a 5 year old cool climate Syrah – good intensity without being too overpowering and starting to hit its peak!
Tell us more about your award-winning 2019 Pinot Noir
We knew 2019 was special before we harvested it. Stunning warm and dry summer with low crop yields has produced a wine with great intensity – the colour lets you know you’re in for something special even before you taste it. Aged in French oak barriques (small barrels) with about 18% new oak it was made to drink in its youth, but will keep on improving over the next 3-5 years.
Which regional would you match with the 2019 Pinot Noir
Coming from the heart of North Canterbury I can’t say anything else except lamb. We graze sheep in the vineyard through the winter and from time to time have a spit roast lamb matched of course with our Pinot Noir.
Share a fact about yourself that only a few know
It’s not particularly fashionable or even possible now but I love to travel – started by backpacking through Asia and Europe and then lucky enough to live on those continents for half my adult life. My retirement plan is a small vineyard in Italy (a lot smaller than ours of course) and let the next generation take over the New Zealand operation.
Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
I love having a glass of our wine with the team – there’s always something special about drinking wine with the people behind it and who have the same connection to the land and the wine that I do.
Thanks a lot Catherine!