Q&A with Ben Glover of Mud House29th January, 2014 by Lucy Shaw
Ben Glover is group winemaker for New Zealand Vineyard Estates, which includes the Mud House and Waipara brands. Pinot Noir is his greatest passion. He lives in Marlborough with his wife Suzie and four children.
What factors in your view makes a Pinot Noir great?
A sense of place and belonging – we call it “turangawaeawae” the French call it terroir. Pinot Noir is a wine that belongs to someone from somewhere, and is shared, savoured and enjoyed by those lucky enough to get a look in.
What regions of the world, other than your own, have the potential to produce high quality Pinot Noir?
The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Niagara, Marlborough and the Waipara Valley. Burgundy and Oregon have already shown their potential and distinctiveness.
How has your own approach to getting the best from Pinot Noir changed over the years?
Patience is a virtue, keeping your hands off it is another. Humans tend to like fiddling with stuff – I find Pinot likes to be nurtured then left alone, so to me learning how to be hands-off, throwing away the rule book and watching the Pinot vines and wines age and individually develop is the key.
What sort of evolution in the style and popularity of Pinot Noir are you currently seeing in Central Otago?
Experience and understanding is key, along with vine age and individual site expression. There is currently more work on finesse and bright fruit, whole bunch fermentation being a big player, along with a relaxing in new oak regimes allowing natural tannin and acidity to provide structure and layers.
What is it about Pinot Noir that means it has such global appeal?
It’s an expressive grape that only grows comfortably in a few places around the world. These Pinot spots also tend to be small, physically stunning, and geologically unique – so you already have a sense of specialness, of farming, of pioneering, of expression. All Pinot is different, so you need to be an intelligent imbiber (not a snob) with global awareness and a willingness to experiment with your senses.
Is there a winemaker or wine whose expression of Pinot Noir inspires you?
These people and their wines challenge me and encourage me to “keep calm and carry on”: James Healy of Dog Point, Sarah-Kate and Dan Dineen of Maude, the mercurial Duncan Forsyth of Mount Edward Wines and Peter Dredge of Bay of Fires.
I met Christophe Roumier once – his Bonne Mares has always been a cracker, while Jean-Pierre De Smet of Domaine Arlot’s 1996 Clos des Forets Saint Georges personifies ethereal elegance. Finally, the “Pinot dominatrix” – wine consultant Lynette Hudson – always an inspiration on the dance floor.