The Deep South: Winemaking at the end of the world

 Central Otago vineyard

Paul Pujol is something of an enigma. This French-speaking Kiwi winemaker started his winemaking oddysey in 2000 trying to work as many vintages as he could in a year. Starting in the Languedoc, he then worked in Sancerre with Henri Bourgeois. His year-long journey was to end in Alsace as the first non-family winemaker at Maison Kuentz-Bas since the company was founded in 1795. His work at Prophet's Rock has echoes of the best Old World wines: low yielding vines and wine released once mature and ready to drink. He uses Organic practices in order to create wines that are as natural as possible. We caught up with him to find out a little more about his experiences:

Paul Pujol

How did your time in France shape your career?

It was key really - the respect and engagement with the vineyards as the entire focus of the wines production, traditional winemaking methods, producing wines with the structure for serious cellaring.

What made you want to become a winemaker?

It’s my perfect job. Outdoors, physical, intellectual, artistic, social, engages all the senses, completely different every year / every day, travel, living in awesome parts of the world ... free wine

Why are wild yeasts important to Prophet’s Rock?

They are an element of our terroir. They give texture, complexity, [and are] unique to our wines.

How was the most recent vintage?

Great - best spring on record, a mixed summer but followed by great autumn and ideal harvest conditions. Fruit had good flavour, nice acid balance and was in perfect condition.

Why is bottle age important to the Prophet’s Rock wines?

The traditional/'old world' winemaking approach requires time to recover after bottling, and time to evolve to great drinking. We build this into the winemaking program so the wines show well on release.

If you could drink one wine for the rest of your life what would it be.

Tough ! High on the list - Comte Georges de Vogüé Grand Cru Musigny - you could spend a lifetime trying in vain to get to a full understanding, such is the depth and layers.

What do you think of natural wine?

[It’s] too vague as a term or wine movement. A codified movement would be more useful for consumers so they know exactly what it means and what they are getting. Currently it comes across as a bandwagon not a movement or method of production. My Pinot Noir is pretty natural if you ask me (wild yeast, wild malolactic, unfiltered etc) but have no desire to be associated - I've had too many faulty really unpleasant 'natural' wines. The inference that all other wines are somehow 'unnatural' is also false, confusing and unhelpful.


24th June 2014

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