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Discover Church Road

Church Road is the pioneer of the Hawke's Bay wine industry. They were the first to craft exceptional Bordeaux style red wines, holding an incredible 125 years of knowledge and experience.

Established in 1897, Church Road is one of New Zealand's oldest and most awarded wineries. Traditional mixed with innovative winemaking techniques is what makes Church Road continue to grow and produce exceptional wines, vintage after vintage.

Perfecting their range to showcase the highest standards for their wines is what has proven Church Road to make their mark on the international wine stage.

Hawke’s Bay was announced as the 12th Great Wine Capital of the World. Unique soils, the microclimate and the quality grapes that are produced in Hawke's Bay has been proven by its accolades.

Chris Scott

Chief Winemaker at Church Road

Read our interview with Chris

Chris Scott, Church Road's Chief Winemaker since 2005, is also one of New Zealand's most highly acclaimed having been awarded New Zealand Winemaker
of the Year by Winestate Magazine in 2013, 2016, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Chris has worked at Church Road since 1995 working as a vineyard hand. By 2005, Chris was chosen as Church Road’s new head winemaker. Strongly believing in executing traditional techniques,
fruit depth and layers of texture to show the exceptional quality of Hawke’s Bay fruit, stands him apart in creating award-winning wines that are full of character.

Can you tell us a bit about how you came to be a winemaker?

Accounting drove me to it. I was two years through an accounting degree and was slowly developing an interest in wine. A tour of Hawke’s Bay wineries convinced me that making Chardonnay would be much more fun.

In the world of wine, what's your secret weapon for staying calm during harvest seasons?

One thing about winegrowing is you’re very much at the mercy of the weather. What weather teaches you is that there’s no point in worrying about things you can’t change. I think there’s also an adrenaline rush that gets you through harvest. It’s fast and dynamic and while you’re in the thick of it, it’s mostly good fun. It’s exciting rather than stressful.

Do you have any morning rituals before you head out to the vineyard?

Coffee and the wordle in bed.

When it comes to food and wine, what is your guilty pleasure?

I love a good double cheeseburger. Black Betty BBQ or Brave, both in Hastings, produce exceptional examples that are great for all the wrong reasons. They will probably kill me.

Wine wise I’m not sure. I usually look for a bit of finesse and balance in my wines, and I’m not usually a fan of over the top, big styles, but there is something very impressive about a huge, intensely aromatic, oily, rich, sweet Alsace Gewurztraminer, which in some ways is probably not unlike the wine equivalent of a double cheeseburger.

As a winemaker, you must see some interesting things in the vineyards. Can you share a funny or quirky story that has happened in the past?

We used to have an Italian guy who came in every harvest season to bird scare with his shotgun. He had a recipe for ‘thrush on a skewer’ which was eventually published in a book about Church Road. I never tried it but apparently it was delicious.

What's one wine term that you secretly wish would disappear from all wine conversations and why?

No particular vitriol towards any wine terms. I think maybe some terms get misused, for example ‘elegance’ and ‘tension’ can be very positive attributes, but are sometimes used to excuse weak or hard wines. Even wines that are quite big can have a structure that gives them an impression of elegance. It’s all about balance.

‘Natural’ is another term that gets used to excuse all manner of sins. You can make a natural wine without sacrificing good winemaking and there are many great examples. But if it tastes like vinegar and looks like soup, that’s not good wine and I don’t want to drink it.

Also perhaps we need to remember that there are degrees of natural. There’s nothing natural about growing grapes (or any crop) in a field. If it were truly natural you’d be harvesting grapes from the tops of forest canopies in their natural environment. There’s always a degree of human intervention and control.

Has there been any new techniques or innovations that have caught your eye?

Oh all the time, I think we’re always learning and challenging the status quo and what we think we know. The wines have evolved so much over the years.

In the winery at Church Road, we have gone from a very technical, interventionist approach 20 years ago, that I think made very two dimensional wines, to a much more hands off, natural approach that results in so much more interest and complexity.

In the vineyards I think one big challenge will be how we respond to climate change. We’re really seeing huge impacts now with back to back record early seasons. With record drought years and record rain events we’re starting to see much more thought going into responding to the challenges of a particular season rather than simply rolling out a formula.

If grapes had personalities, which grape variety would be the class clown of the vineyard and why?

Malbec. Ridiculous big berries, full of colour and what it lacks in finesse it makes up for in personality.

What's your go to cheeky Friday night wine from the range?

Church Road Grand Reserve Chardonnay is a firm favourite. Complex and flavourful, it’s elegant enough to enjoy as an aperitif but rich and complex enough to flow seamlessly into a delicious meal. Preferably a brined, charcoal roasted chicken with fall off the bone meat, crispy skin and all the accompaniments.

Lastly, is there any upcoming projects or new releases we should keep our eye out for?

We’ve just launched the new prestige collection including our TOM and ‘1’ Single Vineyard wines. Without a doubt the strongest line up to date with reds hailing from the 2020 and 2021 vintages, two of the very best red years I’ve ever worked on. There’s also the Single Vineyard Chardonnay from 22 which is just so beautiful and refined and should age exceptionally well.

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