5 minutes with biodynamic winemaker Mike Weersing

Credit: NZ Herald 16 Jun, 2011

Originally from the United States, Mike Weersing and his partner Claudia planted the first grapes on their Pyramid Valley vineyard in North Canterbury in 2000. Drawing on his studies of oencology and viticulture in Burgundy and work in vineyards and cellar doors across Europe, in Australia and in Oregon, Weesering has ensured the vineyard has been biodynamically managed from day one.

How did you get into winemaking?
I fell in love with the alchemical mystery of wine – how fermented grape juice could morph and transform, naturally, into something so complex, so fine, and especially in such a distillation of time and place.

Why did you come to New Zealand?
I’ve loved the idea of New Zealand my entire life, long before my career in wine. I first visited in 1995 and two weeks in a campervan was all that was required to assure me I had to return. I was very lucky the next year to be offered a job with Tim and Judy Finn at Neudorf Vineyards.

Why North Canterbury?
My wife Claudia and I looked for many years, all over the world, for a place that might combine all the characteristics likely to sponsor the sort of pinot noir and chardonnay we dreamed of making – elegant, ethereal but intensely flavoured, true to site and season.

Explain your winemaking philosophy?
Wine should ideally be the product of grapes, wild yeasts from the vineyard in which the grapes were grown, and time – and very little else. We make our wines naturally, with no artificial additives – no tartaric acid, settling or fining agents, no commercial yeasts or enzymes or bacteria – except the occasional minute dose of sulphur – and this only at bottling and only when absolutely necessary. It grieves me that wine has become so technological a commodity, even from many small, elite producers.

What makes your wines unique?
Pinot noir fascinates me because it occupies a sort of no-man’s-land between red and white wine. It is also supremely gifted at showing nuances of soil, site and season. Chardonnay, if handled delicately, can also provide an opulence of texture, while retaining urgency and transparency.

You are teaming up next month with top Sydney chef Mark Best for a one-off dinner at Matakauri Lodge in Queenstown. How does it feel to work with a man who admits to being “an idealist who likes to work with people of the same mind”?
I’m thrilled to work with Mark. What draws me to his work is the way it offers purity without plainness, intellect without ego, technique without trickery.

Tell us about your approach to matching the wines with his dishes for the Matakauri event?
I’d like Mark to design his ideal menu, according to what’s seasonal and best. We’ll then choose wines to match.

What do you do when you’re not working?
Enjoy the beauty of this place, and of the people and animals I share it with. I also love to cook.