Accolade Wines NZ Ltd has recently celebrated 25 years of service by Waipara Hills’ Vineyard Manager Jean-Luc Dufour.
The team surprised him at the Waipara Hills Cellar Door restaurant for a celebratory dinner on 23rd July. Assistant Vineyard Manager Ben Roiri, who has been Jean-Luc’s right hand man since 2000, spoke fondly of his mentor.
‘My loyalty to Jean-Luc stems from the opportunity he gave me nearly 20 years ago. His support and mentorship over these years has equipped me with the tools I needed to forge a better life. Together we share a deep passion for the land and our mission to produce quality wine grapes.’
Jack Glover, General Manager Accolade Wines NZ said ‘Jean-Luc is the pillar of the Waipara Hills vineyard team, and many of the crew, including Ben, have worked with him for over 10 years. His knowledge of the area is invaluable and his patience and quiet dedication is something we treasure.’
Jean-Luc moved to Waipara in 1994 and still recalls the moment the landscape of the Waipara Valley took his breath away and became his home. He loves the space the region offers, even though at times, the climate is harsh, complete with frosty mornings, inescapable winds and heat. Yet for Jean-Luc, there is one resounding factor that keeps his feet planted firmly in these soils. ‘It’s the love of ‘your place’, and love for those who live here.’
The Home Block vineyard at Waipara Hills was planted by Jean-Luc during his first year in Waipara. It is one of the oldest Pinot Gris blocks in New Zealand and uniquely, is all on its own rootstock.
Since this time Jean-Luc has seen many changes at the home of the vineyards, which started out as Canterbury House and is now Waipara Hills. The site produces rich and spicy aromatic varietals, for which the region is renowned. There have been over 100 Gold and Trophy winning wines produced from the vines managed by Jean-Luc, most recently the Waipara Hills Pinot Noir Rose 2018 with four Trophy wins.
Andrew Brown, Waipara Hills Winemaker said ‘He’s a legend! We can only make quality wine when we have quality grapes and we owe a lot to Jean-Luc and our passionate and committed vineyard team.’
Jean-Luc is a fourth generation grape grower. Beginning in Switzerland, he has also worked in vineyards across Europe and the United States before immigrating to New Zealand. He has been a viticulturist for more than 34 years, and has been with us for 25 of those years.
His grandfather was fond of saying ‘better a good wind than a spray’ and it’s a philosophy that Jean-Luc lives by. Over the years his interest in natural methods of pest and disease management and bio-diversity has grown. He has worked with Lincoln University to identify which New Zealand native plants can add diversity and attract ‘nature’s services’ to assist in the vineyard. Sheep are also a common sight in the vineyards—they are a vital part of the seasonal ground and canopy management.