Firstly, you were studying photography and sociology. What made you want to get into those fields?
People and society have always fascinated me. Understanding human behaviour in groups and what makes them tick has been helpful in the later part of my career as a people manager. Compassion and understanding are other elements of sociology which have come into play as a manager. I’ve always been a creative person and loved art and photography in high school. I started down this path but even though I enjoyed it I couldn’t see myself continuing in photography as a career.
How did the decision to try your hand at winemaking come about?
I was at a crossroads in my life, trying to figure out what career path to take. I worked at a bar where my manager’s girlfriend was part of a winemaking family, and after a casual conversation across the bar I couldn’t believe my ears – people make wine as a career?! I was intrigued so I headed off to Lincoln University to give this winemaking thing a crack.
How did you land your first winemaking role?
After two years of cellar and lab work I was offered a vintage winemaker role in Marlborough. Even though this meant moving out of Auckland, I jumped at the opportunity and secured my first permanent winemaking role. Eight years later I can appreciate how fortunate I was to be given this opportunity.
Since joining Squealing Pig in 2011, what changes have you seen at the company?
Squealing Pig has been on a wild and exciting journey since launching with just one wine the year before I started – a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the expansion to new varietals, multi-country of origin wines, wine in cans and our journey into Gin and Ginsecco. It’s an exciting time in the company where increased creativity, flexibility and innovation mean we can share our products with more people and in different settings around the world.
What’s your favourite thing about the wine industry in New Zealand?
Definitely the people. The New Zealand wine industry is so diverse; people come from all over the world, from so many different backgrounds and different careers. Everyone has a story, and those stories are what makes the industry so enjoyable. There’s a great sense of collaboration as well. We share ideas and advancements, like one big team representing the NZ industry together.
What do you love about winemaking?
I love experiencing the winemaking journey from start to finish. The life cycle of a grape is really special, and as winemakers we end up spending a lot of time with the wines and get to know them over time. I often play favourites with batches and certain tanks…
What grape varieties do you work with, and what’s your current favourite?
In New Zealand I work with Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. I have a soft spot for savvy though – it’s so approachable, the aromas and flavours are easy to identify, and it’s so refreshing!
Given your avid passion for food and flavour, have you experimented in the winery much? If so, how?
I love using wine in cocktails at home – Squealing Pig Sparkling rosé, a dash of Cranberry juice, a fresh cherry and a crushed sprig of basil – perfect on the deck during summer!
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Use sunscreen every day!
What changes to the wine industry have you noticed in your time as part of it?
These days there’s a much greater focus on mental health, wellbeing and looking after each other. It’s great seeing the movement towards a holistic and caring approach to the people in our industry, and acknowledging the importance of mental health alongside physical health.
You’ve been working as a mentor for Women in Wine NZ, what’s that like?
It’s very rewarding and inspiring. Given the talent I’ve seen in our young females, I’m so excited for what the future holds for our industry.
What are achievements are you most proud of?
I’m three months away from completing my MBA, and I can’t wait to finish! I’m proud because this has been such a large part of my life, I’ve sacrificed weekends, dinners and hobbies to get to this point. It’s been incredibly hard but very rewarding, and using what I’m learning is quite satisfying. I’m excited to revive some of my hobbies – Lego building, pottery and volunteering.
How have you been going at Squealing Pig through the pandemic?
We’ve been really fortunate to have been able to continue working during the pandemic in Marlborough, ensuring we can still deliver our wines around the globe.
Have you read anything in the Grapegrower & Winemaker that has inspired you as a winemaker at all?
I enjoyed the recent series on PACKWINE (May 2021). At Squealing Pig we’re always looking to do things differently and make wine more fun and not too serious. Our wine in cans are going gangbusters, so the focus on wine packaging was really interesting to read.