Interview With A Winemaker – Jennifer Muir
29th September 2023
Wine isn’t just made, it’s crafted by the unwavering expertise of a Winemaker, sometimes old traditions are passed down by generations and on other occasions, new people venture into the industry, introducing us to new creations, this series of Winemaker Interviews will help you uncover the vast world and skills of how the artists passionate about wine make the world a bubbly place.
In this feature we speak with Jennifer Muir, an amazing Winemaker from Marlborough, New Zealand, let’s discover a little about her time in New Zealand’s Wine Industry.
Tell Us About Yourself
“I was born and raised in Marlborough NZ. I am lucky that I grew up with the Marl Sounds on my doorstep. I spent most of my upbringing outdoors enjoying nature and finding any chance to get outside and go camping, fishing or play sport. I have spent a large part of my life in the wine industry, having worked in viticulture for the better part of 15 years and 8 years in the winery. I firmly believe that “great wine is made from a combination of integrated processes from soil to bottle”.
What Inspired You To Become A Winemaker?
“I started working in viticulture at a very young age where I would go out with both my parents in vineyards as much as I could. That led to a real passion for the industry.
After college, I spent a few years working in the vineyards in Marlborough before traveling around the world. I grafted vineyard plants in New Zealand, pruned & harvested grapes in Margaret River, Australia and even sold family grapes in Thailand. Eventually, I moved back to New Zealand where I worked my first vintage as a cellar hand and got hooked. I took the opportunity to sink my teeth into winery work for the next 4 years to learn the ropes as a cellar hand and moving into a cellar supervisor role This then led me to pursue my Degree in Winemaking & Viticulture.
Wanting to learn more about the whole industry, I completed my Diploma in Marketing and Sales and went on to a new career at Villa Maria in Marlborough. I spent two years as the Winemaking & Viticulture Graduate before moving into the full time Assistant Winemaker role. During this time, I was lucky enough to spend 6 months of the year in viticulture helping and learning the technical side of the industry, focusing on pest and disease, phenology of the vine and research projects. The other 6 months of the year I spent in winemaking, taking on assistant winemaking duties, focusing on wine quality and helping with Lab work. Now having just completed my 8th vintage I aim to expand my knowledge by completing my wine Sommelier certificate.”
As A Winemaker, What Has Been Your Hardest Obstacle To Overcome In Producing Wine?
“To pinpoint a single obstacle is difficult in this industry, we are so reliant on several influencing factors out of our control, like climate for example. We as winemakers constantly solve problems and overcome obstacles in order to produce the best wine we can each year. Whether it is equipment issues, unwanted rain or even Covid, we are constantly having to think and adapt to situations.”
How Do You Determine When Your Wine Is Ready To Drink?
“To determine when a bottle of wine is ready to drink, there are a number of different factors to take into consideration. Different varieties and winemaking techniques can influence how well a wine will age. Take Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc for example. It is known for its crisp, fresh acid, greener style that is perfect for drinking young when it’s vibrant and youthful, however, there are also a lot of Sauvignon Blancs that shine with age. Whether it is barrel aging, lees contact or even skin contact, these winemaking processes can improve a wine’s ageability. Some of the longest-lived wines tend to be sweet wines, particularly made in a botrytis style, such as Sauternes or German Riesling. Generally speaking, wines with a bolder tannin structure, higher acids and higher sugar tend to age better.”
What Part Of The Wine Making Process Do You Enjoy The Most?
“Like a lot of others, I find harvest to be one the most enjoyable and rewarding times when it comes to winemaking. It takes an army to make a fine wine and harvest is where this shows. The collaboration between so many with the same vision “To make an outstanding wine” is such a great place to be. We talk a lot about the wine showing a sense of place, but you also find a sense of belonging in the harvest. Working together to achieve a common goal, whether it is in the vines or in the winery, this time of year is where friendships and great wine is made.”
Where’s The Most Memorable Place You’ve Enjoyed A Glass of Bubbly?
“I would have to describe my most memorable glass of bubbly as a time more than a specific place. It was a bottle of Dom Pérignon and some beautiful bluff oysters, sitting around the kitchen table with a group of friends I had not seen in quite some time.”
Thank you Jennifer, for sharing your words, knowledge and experience with us and we at Glass of Bubbly wish you the very best for the future!
Images belong to Jennifer Muir. Glass of Bubbly was granted permission to use them.
Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.