Winemaker Jane De Witt simply loves wine and everything about it. Over the last 20 years she’s crafted many delicious Sips, especially sparkling wines, for some of New Zealand’s major wine brands.
Based in Auckland, she’s currently Lion’s Operations Manager for the North Island, where she gets to work with still and sparkling wines from Auckland, Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne.
When Jane not in the “big smoke” or in the vineyard somewhere around the country, you can find her at her home in Te Arai, 1 ½ hours North of Auckland on a small farm, where the family inspires her, and the ocean provides the much needed calm.
Let’s find out some more this inspiring maker and Wither Hills new Hawke’s Bay reds in the following Q&A.
Occupation – what do you do?
I’m a Winemaker for Lion, looking after the North Island. With Wither Hills expanding its portfolio into Hawke’s Bay for the first time, I took the reins and led the winemaking of the new Syrah and Merlot, sharing blends with the Marlborough-based team as we went.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
I am lucky that my role is very varied, with no one day being the same. I don’t have a typical day aside from having wine present.
As an example, I live North of Auckland so my day may involve heading to Auckland, dropping my children off at school on the way (if they don’t want to get the bus), then heading to the airport, hopping on a plane and heading to either Hawke’s Bay or Gisborne into the wineries, where I will work over the following few days, putting wine blends together, fining and finishing, or possibly innovation.
Later in the week I may be working from home, planning, writing tasting notes, specifications, report writing, or in Auckland putting Sparkling blends together.
During vintage I am walking vineyards, checking grapes, sorting out what’s going where and tasting ferments.
When and why did you fall in love with wine?
The love of wine started at an early age, with wine being ever-present at family dinners and get-togethers. There were also trips to West Auckland where my parents would purchase their wine direct from the winery and I would experience the joys of a tank farm, running around, and shouting into empty tanks.
If you were a wine, what wine would you be?
Wither Hills 2018 Syrah – a spicy, bright, balanced, slightly peppery elegant glass of delicious heart-warming Hawke’s Bay Syrah, not partial to the wind, but loves a bit of toasty oak and the sun.
3 favourite things to do in Hawke’s Bay
Walking up Bluff Hill, coffee in Ahuriri and a glass of wine at the Urban Winery. The view from Te Mata Peak is amazing.
Share a fact about yourself that only a few know
I am half Portuguese.
Things you still want to do – what’s on your bucket list?
I don’t have a bucket list but that doesn’t mean I don’t have dreams and aspirations. COVID-19 has made me realise it’s not the doing or the being somewhere, rather whom you are sharing it with, and being in the moment.
Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
Madame Clicquot was a Champagne Radical and has the same birthday as me, albeit a few years earlier. She was a true innovator, responsible for the first vintage champagne, invented riddling racks and Rose Champagne. Pretty amazing given it was the early 1800s. Imagine the tales she could tell.