Jo Gear

Winemaker for Hawkesbridge Estate

“I love making good wine. What's good wine? It’s good for the grower, good for the winery, true to the brand and good to drink!”

- Jo Gear

How did you get into winemaking?

A combination of things.  My Dad made wine in our basement when we were kids and we lived on an orchard so I learned pretty early on that you could make alcohol from a whole range of fruits and veges, and sometimes it was even drinkable. Later on I was working for Corbans in Trade Marketing and had the opportunity to work at the Longridge winery in Napier helping out (or perhaps hindering) over harvest and fell in love with winemaking.  The excitement of harvest, the boots’n’all attitude, and the precision of chemistry all while working with a seasonal crop is very intoxicating as well as hugely challenging and very, very rewarding.  So I went to Lincoln and studied Viti and Oenology.

What do you love most about being a winemaker?

Blending.  It’s the coolest thing out.

What do you love about wine?

The joy it brings to people.  It’s such an accessible luxury where, for a relatively small amount of money you can be whisked away to a cool forest floor or an Alpine meadow all from the comfort of your family dinner table.

What's your favourite food and wine pairing, and why?

Well when your golden rule is to drink what you love with the food you like to eat then it can sometimes go askew however I do love Pinot with salmon and a weighty Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with a creamy blue cheese.  Don’t knock it till you try it.

What are your thoughts about Chardonnay being on the upswing again - and why should we try NZ Chardonnay?

Chardonnay is such a clever thing. It loves to be challenged, whether it's natural ferment or solids, stirring or slow ferments, heat or oak, or just fruitfruifruit and it rises to the occasion to embrace the good. She is also generously and heartwarmingly forgiving so we winemakers love her unconditionally.

I think it’s her versatility that has brought Chardonnay back in to the limelight. It means that there is a Chardonnay out there for everyone, from fruit-focused to peaches and cream, bold toasted oak to none at all, so if you haven’t found your perfect Chardonnay yet then just keep looking.

What’s your winemaking philosophy?

I like wine to express where it’s from, who grew it and how it was made. It should be varietally pure but with “somewhereness”, so that it gives you a sense of place and time.

It’s also important to be sustainable so that everyone throughout the supply chain from the pruner and grower to the forklift driver and retailer can share in the work and the reward, both now and for future generations.

What’s your favourite wine moment?

For winemaking, it’s that first run through of the new vintage Sauvignon Blancs in tank, fresh off ferment and desperate to impress. And we’re lucky enough to get to repeat it every year. Wine drinking, it’s ice-cold champagne with fish’n’chips on an East Coast beach on a balmy Feb evening. Priceless.

How would you describe the wines that can be found in the Hawkesbridge range?

Delicious!  They’re all true, pure varietal expressions but also true to Marlborough and its amazing climate, dedicated growers and intense flavour.

What’s great about the Marlborough region? We all know Sauv Blanc, but what other wines should we try from here?

Marlborough is a terrific region for so many things. There is a wonderful sense of community; the people are hard-working and resourceful; the land is bountiful and the climate generous; and it’s the home of the best pies in NZ (Burleigh Pie Shop).

The long autumn and the big diurnal shift (temperature change between the warmth of the day and the cool of the night) produce beautifully ripe fruit with vibrant acidity. That means Riesling is amazing here, as is Chardonnay, sparkling wines and the twin Pinots – Noir and Gris.

Future of wine: What varieties do you think we will be seeing more of?

It’s hard to go past Rosé.  The modern styles we’re making here in NZ now are so much drier that they go the distance as a serious drink as well as lending themselves exceptionally well to food. It’s a legitimate addition to our long-term drinking portfolio, not a fad.

Click on the images below to read about the following women in wine:

Winemaker at Nobody's Hero

Winemaker at Ten Rocks

Winemaker at Mount Base

Winemaker at Tash

Winemaker at Ata Mara

Winemaker at Dunnolly