A sense of belonging

We talk to Tony Bish, founding winemaker at Sacred Hill

Known to many as ‘Mr Chardonnay’, Tony Bish fell into wine making more than 30 years ago. After a “long, hot, indolent summer at the beach”, Tony needed to save money to fund a ski trip, and landed a job in the lab at Corbans, Gisborne.

Relishing the lifestyle, Tony enjoyed the “food, wine, good people and a good physical day’s work.”, as well as the chance to indulge his passion of surfing.

So he and his friend and mentor, David Mason, created Sacred Hill,. They have been proving that friendship and business work together ever since.

“Our families are interwoven,” says Tony. “ there are many great memories. Sacred Hill’s success has a lot to do with David’s integrity and tenacity; he is

the rock Sacred Hill has been built on”.

Tony feels each of their vineyards in Hawkes Bay and Marlborough are special.

“Our Rifleman’s Terrace is unique in producing outstanding grape quality but it is also mind-blowingly beautiful, perched high above the Tutaekuri River with majestic cliffs,” says Tony. “In Marlborough, the vineyards are defined by the rivers and the associated alluvial landscapes. Our Hell’s Gate vineyard is next to the Omaka River; it is a stunning location producing world class sauvignon blanc.”

Tony is often asked if he would like to migrate his expertise to other parts of the world, but he is resolute.

‘There is no place I would rather be,” he says. “To make great wine, you need a connection with not only the land but the people and the culture surrounding you.”

Understanding weather patterns and knowledge of local viticulture aren’t the only tools you need.

“A sense of belonging to the place is essential. Its history, its nuances, the passion of knowing that this [New Zealand] is the place to make some of the world’s greatest wines,” says Tony.

“Wine is a sensual pleasure so I work hard on the complexity to stimulate the senses and texture to satisfy the hedonist in us all. Big wine glasses, laughter, the warmth of the setting sun’ chardonnay and kai moana, what could be better?”

Tony blogs at www.tonybishchardonnay.com

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