A Natural Gem… All the Way From the Bottom of the World.
From his New York office, Richard Genova, recalls his first trip to the southern-most wine region in the world, located on the South Island of New Zealand.
“The first trip I took to Central Otago, I went up one of the mountains to one of the ski resorts and took photos and when I came back and opened them up on my computer, the thought that popped into my head was, ‘they look almost like a prehistoric geography’.”
“It was so beautiful, so unspoiled, so untouched. The pictures conveyed the pristine beauty of the region.”
The President of Vintage Epicure, a company that gives overseas wine producers a sales distribution platform in the US, was immediately enamoured by the location. This showcase of natural beauty – with crystal clear lakes surrounded by snow-capped mountains – lent itself perfectly to a philosophy built on natural winemaking.
And it’s here where Prophet’s Rock’s unique setting – seamlessly blending into the mountainous region – combines with the philosophies of our winemaker Paul Pujol to produce a line-up focused on traditional techniques and embracing the fruits produced by the land.
Having spent years honing his craft in the famed wine regions of Languedoc, Sancerre, Alsace and Burgundy, Pujol’s traditional approach revolves around respectful, patient, vineyard-focussed winemaking that expresses the unique tenor of the site.
You won’t find much of the Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand has become synonymous with here in Central Otago, with mostly Pinot Noir, Riesling and Pinot Gris illustrating the distinctive profile the mountainous setting gives to the grapes.
We carry a commitment to sustainable wine production and that, combined with the ethos of pure produce, is an approach Genova believes will serve us well as we bring our wines to American appreciators.
“We’re in an environment these days where people are becoming more and more concerned about what they put into their bodies – they want them to be more natural, less processed and more true to source.”
Making a connection
With over 30 years’ experience, Genova has made some valuable connections within the industry and it was the inside word from a trusted adviser that put him on to Prophet’s Rock.
“The Prophet’s Rock connection came through a Master of Wine in New Zealand named Simon Nash, who’s an old friend. He thought he had a jewel in knowing Paul and Prophet’s Rock and said the wines were great, I always put a lot of stock in Simon’s tasting profile.
“We took a look at the project and, having been to New Zealand several times and falling truly in love with the Central Otago area, and tasting the wines and looking at the pricing, it looked to be a nice fit for what we do.”
But the “icing on the cake” for Genova was meeting Pujol.
“Being the winemaker and the general manager, he was able to bridge the geeky aspect of making wine with a little bit of the business head of actually what it takes to get it out the door.”
“That, for me, is an important conversation. The way we’ve organised our company here today is we work with people, not companies. The number one criteria we have is that we work with good people that are willing to understand the needs of this market.”
“There are so many wineries in the world making a lot of great wines that are driven by egomaniacs and they’re very difficult to work with.”
“Paul is a very down-to-earth guy but what I’ve really enjoyed about working with him is his near-encyclopaedic knowledge of what he’s done in the past, between Alsace, Burgundy and now New Zealand. He’s able to bring it to the market and articulate it in a fashion that the average consumer can understand as well as a more knowledgeable wine drinker.”
Of course, the final, and most important, aspect of the equation was the wine and Genova was more than impressed with the drop all they way from the bottom of the world.
“All of the wines deliver in the bottle. They’re delicious.”
“The key thing we’ve found that makes wines successful is when a consumer says, ‘that’s cool, that’s for me’, and I think Paul is able to deliver that.”