December 6, 2022In New Releases, News, Winery Spotlight

Domaine Rewa

A Crafty Collision of Clay & Wine

Luckily for fine wine drinkers, Domaine Rewa is the epitome of a Kiwi and French collaboration. Although this is really an “amorous collision” between two diverse individuals from two different worlds they both have a primal connection to the land – to the soil – and to clay. This dynamic duo’s paths crossed through serendipity whilst their bond has thrived thanks to the unique allure of Central Otago terroir.

It is a great honour to welcome Domaine Rewa into the Dhall & Nash Fine Wine family. This small but perfectly formed vineyard and olive grove on the foothills of the Pisa Range near Cromwell had a rather quirky genesis. So, pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass of something special and we’ll tell you all about the charming love story behind the energetically elegant Domaine Rewa wines.

“Domaine Rewa – a small biodynamic vineyard – is turning out some very smart wines.”

Dr Jamie Goode, The Wine Anorak

The Kiwi Connection

Coming from a farming background, Philippa Shepherd, always had one foot planted firmly on the ground. She was born and raised on a sheep and beef farm in Waitahuna in Otago, about 2 hours from Rewa. She always wanted to have a land based business, because in her words, “I always knew I wanted to be an old lady in New Zealand.” And with a deep passion for food and wine her parents were encouraging her to look at buying some land or even a vineyard.

Back in 2010, Philippa Shepherd (now Fourbet, but we’ll get to that later) was working in the Finance sector in London. Although her job was very high-powered, she hadn’t forgotten her kiwi roots. As a child she visited the area, but it was very different then. ‘This was all just rabbit-infested, desolate land, before the dam came in.’ Now it’s very different, and the Cromwell Basin is home to some of New Zealand’s best vineyards.

After Philippa decided she wanted to buy something, she looked around for quite a while. But in 2009 her parents found this vineyard, which had been planted in 1999 by the Lawrence family who founded Aurum wines. The next day, Philippa put an offer in from London, having only seen the property in photographs. Philippa had done her research finding that after the GFC in 2008, no vineyard had changed hands in Central Otago for two years. She said apparently there were 800 vineyards in New Zealand, and 500 of them were for sale! Within 4 days she was the blissfully ignorant and very proud owner of a small Central Otago vineyard.

The French Connection

The French connection is charming Yannick Fourbet who was born and raised in Cameroon, and then moved to France to finish off his education. After a short spell as a marine biologist, he studied for an MBA in marketing, and then started dealing in antiques. He then fell in love with the exquisite French Anduze pots and decided to buy a pottery business called La Chêne Vert, where he passionately immersed himself into learning the ancient craft of pottery.

The planets and stars aligned when one day a Kiwi girl walked into his workshop. This was 2012, and Philippa was looking for pots for her vineyard in New Zealand. She was asking lots of questions and the salesperson didn’t speak much English. They quickly sought out the clay covered Yannick to help translate.

As Yannick recounts, “She fell in love with the pots before the potter, which is fine by me”. After a year of corresponding sporadically, (about his pots of course) in 2013 when he was exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show, he gave Philippa a call to meet for a drink. She was really busy at the time; however, they did manage to squeeze in a drink and had so much fun that the next day they met up again! At this point, Yannick was working in France running his workshop, and Philippa was still tied up with Deutsche Bank, working long hours and travelling a lot. But the sparks of romance flew and so began their relationship. ‘The next thing you know we decided to get married,’ says Yannick.

The Central Otago Connection

There followed a whirlwind of events and moves. They got engaged in 2014 and married in 2015. Shortly thereafter Philippa became pregnant with twins, (Mortimer & Augustin) and they moved to France for 2016/17. By January 2018 the big change to transfer their lives Downunder was set in motion. The majestic landscape of Central Otago and the bucolic beauty of Domaine Rewa became their new home.

Undoubtedly the couple have a tremendous energy to them. Philippa works remotely from Central Otago in global banking business servicing international investors, which involves a couple of days each week travelling, juggling her commitments with family, and supports her husband’s pot business. Always busy but actually, we’d say, living the dream!

“[Philippa is determined to] pursue her dream of producing refined wines inspired by the elegance of Burgundy” 

Bob Campbell MW

Check out the Cool Label

Philippa and Yannick wanted a name that straddled both their lands and cultures – “Rewa” was chosen as it was the given name of Shepherd’s grandmother, who in turn had been named after the native New Zealand honeysuckle, the Rewarewa tree. And Domaine being the French word that means both a small parcel of land under the control of a wine maker/owner and also it has become closely associated with the Burgundy region.

Next step – a cool label. Domaine Rewa’s very edgy, distinctive labels have been designed by Neil Tully of Amphora Design in Bath, UK. Philippa was fortunate enough to “stumble across” his clever design work whilst in London– some say, better born lucky than rich. And he’s a Master of Wine to boot so more than qualified to bring an added artistic and insider understanding to a wine label.

“[Philippa is determined to] pursue her dream of producing refined wines inspired by the elegance of Burgundy” 

Bob Campbell MW

The Hands
Symbolises the collaboration they have and continue to build upon in their own little community at Domaine Rewa (Pete, Kim, Laa, Pip, the Fourbet Family, their distributors, and clients).

The Moon & Highland Cow
The classic cornerstones of biodynamic principals

The Olive Trees
They have an olive grove on the vineyard

The Secateurs
Signifies that all the vineyard work is done by hand

A close up snapshot of a Domaine Rewa Chardonnay

The Beehive & Bee
Denotes a thriving diverse eco system which supports their hives

The Grapes
Depending on what’s in the bottle, each variety is depicted accordingly

The 45th
They are on the southern 45th Parallel

Birdlife, and particularly quail, are prolific on the property

“I am resolutely committed to building an intergenerational business for Domaine Rewa” 

Philippa Fourbet (Domaine Rewa Owner)

The Team that makes the Dream Work

Philippa jokingly quips that her only previous wine experience was drinking it, but never underestimate a seriously smart and highly motivated businesswoman with a ‘big picture’ world view and a dogged belief in the land. Her first move was to seek the sound advice from long term vintners and organic practitioners. One of the first was legendary Michael Seresin, a long-time proponent of organics & biodynamics on his renown Marlborough winery Seresin Estate.

For local Central Otago talent, she was recommended Grant Rolston from Vinewise, and he with his partner Gary Ford helped her navigate the viticultural foundations for the new look Domaine Rewa. Vinewise is a viticultural services company that specialises in organic and biodynamic vineyard management. Vinewise works with a number of respected wine labels, including Quartz Reef and Surveyor Thomson. On Philippa’s instructions Grant set about converting the vineyard over to a biodynamic regime. “It was Philippa’s idea to be biodynamic on the property,” says Grant, “and that’s what we do best here, so we set about converting the site to BD.”

“We don’t question it. We live it” 

Philippa Fourbet on Organics & Biodynamics

Their viticulturist is Kim Logan who has been involved with Domaine Rewa for many years now – initially he worked as part of a team at Vinewise now he works exclusively for Domaine Rewa, with the help of Pip, Bob and Laa. He manages and toils away on the property as though it is his own. And the quality of the grapes rewards his hard work. The work amongst the vines is not for the impatient.
Over these past 5 years of living on-site, Philippa and Yannick have built on their intuitive backgrounds and grown in their understanding of the land – now having an even stronger sensibility towards land stewardship.

Also helpful in settling them in has been the local Central Otago wine community, which is like a big family, sharing equipment, pickers, ideas, and particularly invaluable knowledge from the likes of the Godfathers of Central Otago wine, Rudi Bauer (Quartz Reef) and Alan Brady (Gibbston Valley Wines, Mt Edward, & Wild Irishman Wines). Undoubtedly, this camaraderie is another aspect in helping the Domaine Rewa wines to go from strength to strength.

In The Vineyard

Domaine Rewa is a 12.5 ha piece of land, originally planted over 22 years ago by the Lawrence family of Aurum wines. These first vines are on the 45th Parallel on the Pisa Flats close to Cromwell. The Cromwell basin is surrounded by the Pisa Range, the Dunstan mountains, and the Cairnmuir Range along with the huge Southern Alps to the west, all blocking rain to the valley.

The glacial gravels, sands and silts of the Cromwell Valley are particularly suited to growing grape vines because of their low fertility and high mineral content. About 5.5 ha is planted with pinot noir, Riesling, chardonnay, and pinot gris. The bottom half of the vineyard starts near the roadside, which leads to Wanaka from Cromwell, and goes back up towards a terrace, where the Riesling is planted, on the foothills of Mount Pisa.

The site is fairly flat near the road, where all the pinot and chardonnay are planted on better soils that have been affected by ancient glacial outwashes, typical of Central Otago, which is a mixture of schist and river granite.

Domaine Rewa is right next door to Surveyor Thomson, which is also cared for biodynamically by Vinewise, under the guidance of Su Hoskin, who prepares individual biodynamic regimes for both properties. They both share the Highland cattle dung herd, which are able to roam freely between the two pieces of land, and provide the manure essential for making preparation 500, on each property. Domaine Rewa is certified by BioGro, which adds extra weight to Philippa’s commitment to the land.

“To be successful at biodynamics, you need to be a good farmer, for a start,” explains Grant of VineWise, “and you need to be totally committed to it, and that needs to come from the top, from the owner… and if that’s not there you will struggle. But, if it is, it’s a lot easier to achieve success.”

Making the Magic In the Winery

Like the vineyard management, Philippa hires a contract winemaking facility, VinPro in Cromwell, to turn her biodynamic grapes into top drops. This company offers winemaking, bottling and storage services for those vineyards and their owners who don’t own or have access to a winery of their own.

Highly respected veteran winemaker Pete Bartle is the cornerstone of VinPro. He’s been making the wines for DR since 2011, and numerous others for longer. Pete knew the vineyard from when it was planted some 20 years ago. Over the years since then, he saw it suffering from a lot of disease pressure, but he’s noticed that it’s incredibly improved now, especially in the last couple of years since Kim, Grant and Su have been looking after the place and with the introduction of biodynamics. He’s noticed that there is a consistency of quality to the fruit nowadays, and with good balance.

“Biodynamics has definitely had something to do with the improving health of the [vineyard] site, especially in the chardonnay. It’s just amazing… if you were picking by numbers that vineyard spits them out perfectly” 

Pete Bartle, Winemaker

Pete may come across as a pretty relaxed dude, considering how much he’s involved in, but during the growing season he’s checking in with the viticultural crew and visiting the vineyard to get a hands-on sense of how the vines are behaving. Armed with this deep understanding of the site and fruit, he seems to be one of those winemakers who can tirelessly fine tune, evolve and elevate each wine they work on. Happily, Philippa says he just fills them with confidence!

Philippa believes that having a winemaker like Pete, that they trust and work with over years forges a very special relationship. She said she underestimated this at the beginning but it’s a relationship that they both treasure.

After 10 years of working with Pete Bartle he has recently moved to be Head winemaker for the French group Edmond De Rothschild, who have recently acquired Akarua Winery. Fortunately, Domaine Rewa will continue to use Pete as their winemaker. Seemingly, having a French connection and a sympathetic ethos to EDR Heritage group has ensured this unprecedented move where one of their winemakers can make wine for another vineyard. Philippa and Yannick are honoured, and extremely delighted, that Pete requested this which ensures they hopefully have at least another 10+ years with him at the helm of Domaine Rewa’s winemaking.

“[Domaine Rewa is] a winery to watch” 

Dr Jamie Goode, Wine Anorak

Winemaking with Pete

Although Domaine Rewa is firmly planted in its NZ terroir identity, there lurks quietly an affinity towards the old world – perhaps due to Yannick and Philippa’s penchant for sublimely elegant French wines as a style preference. But winemaker extraordinaire Pete Bartle doesn’t disappoint.

Pete’s aim is to reflect the site in the final wines, but also to try and reduce the presence of power and muscle that many Central Otago pinots, in particular, are usually known for, compared to, say, their Burgundian benchmarks. He likes to make varietal wines with balance, especially with the pinot noir, preferring to head into the feminine end of the spectrum. The DR pinot is poised yet purposeful and definitely not a turbo-charged Central Otago fruit bomb. Amazingly, Pete regards the vineyard’s chardonnay fruit as among the best he has seen from the region, and its numerous awards certainly bear testimony to this claim.

In the winemaking, both the Domaine Rewa pinot and chardonnay are carefully transitioned from grape juice to wine via a wild ferment, to better reveal the vineyard. But Peter still prefers to inoculate the Riesling, for now, because of the vineyard’s past history with excessive botrytis.

As a winemaker, he says the picking decision is one of the most important decisions he makes. The second, especially with the pinot, is deciding when to press off!

“It’s consistently lovely – we’re very proud of it” 

Owner Philippa Fourbet, on the DR Chardonnay

Philippa, again, puts her utmost trust and respect into the work that Peter does with her Domaine Rewa fruit, encouraging him to exercise his own creativity and control over how the wines will ultimately end up. “My directive to Pete is, ‘make what you like’, and that way he will make the best wine he possibly can,” explains Philippa.

Philippa and Domaine Rewa are in good hands, under the stewardship of Kim and Pete. Together with the rest of the crew, they make a dream team that is able to produce some insanely delicious, harmonious, and pure tasting Central Otago wines.

The French Potter and The Magic of Clay

The other “arty-crafty” side to Domaine Rewa is Yannick Fourbet a.k.a The French Potter who has transplanted his business from the south of France to Central Otago. Yannick is an internationally renowned potter whose decorative French Anduze pots have adorned the Palace of Versailles, the house of Christian Dior and have been exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show over many years.

‘After we met, I have always told Philippa that pots will sell wine, and wine will sell pots,’ says Yannick. The terra cotta pot side of things has interested winemakers, like Pete Bartle, Alan Brady and Rudi Bauer who have all asked Yannick whether he can make amphorae for wine as no-one is actually producing the pots here.

He brought with him centuries-old artisanal crafting techniques, and a mind full of plans to start making bespoke horticultural clays pots and amphorae, historically used for the fermentation and maturation of wine. The receptacles Yannick makes will hold about 350 litres. Wine-makers who use traditional clay receptacles claim that their wine is stable by nature, rich in tannins, and doesn’t require chemical preservatives to ensure long life, or fining. Additionally, these fermentation and aging vessels have a neutral imprint on the wines, allowing the place and purity of the site to shine through.

At DR, they looked at this new venture as an exciting opportunity. The concept had simmered away for a while and really was such a natural step for Domaine Rewa and The French Potter. For advice, Pete and Yannick did speak with Andrew Beckham in Oregon who makes amphora and wine. As a ceramicist, Beckham, like Yannick, was inspired to begin creating his own terra-cotta vessels for wine production. He is now the only producer of commercially available amphorae for winemakers and brewers in North America. Remarkably, they are the only winery in the world where the production of the terra cotta vessels for fermenting and aging is on-site and is integrated with the farming and production of the wines. Watch this space! Domaine Rewa and The French Potter could be the next. 🙂

“I think it’s a great concept, especially a New Zealand-based one, it’s the whole provenance and biodynamic story” 

Pete Bartle, Domaine Rewa Winemaker

Finally, the amphorae workshop is now completed. The much-anticipated 2021`The French Potter Pinot Gris’ has been released. And this is a truly unique prototype for Central Otago – locally grown grapes made into wines fermented and aged in clay amphorae hand made on their own doorstep.

Yannick strongly believes that “the amphorae winemaking trend that we are experiencing world-wide, even in Burgundy, is a good way for small vineyards like ours, to differentiate ourselves from bigger production vineyards. It’s a philosophy now. And we’re building a legacy here.”

Yannick hopes to eventually use their own clay perhaps sourced from nearby Bannockburn which could be viewed as the ultimate double whammy of exploring and embracing true terroir in the finished wine. This will be an exciting first for NZ!

With such inspirational winery owners, our Dhall & Nash talented graphic designer Aimee, got super excited to put a few “arty” questions to Philippa and Yannick so we can get to know them better. Enjoy the read!

Accolades for the Domaine Rewa Wines

“I think it’s a great concept, especially a New Zealand-based one, it’s the whole provenance and biodynamic story” 

Pete Bartle, Domaine Rewa Winemaker

Domaine Rewa Chardonnay 2020

Fragrant chardonnay with a seamless, creamy texture and citrus, white peach, vanilla, and spicy oak flavours. Weighty, integrated wine ripe acidity providing a gentle backbone.

94 points – Bob Campbell MW

Bright, pale yellow with a hint of green sheen, even colour throughout. The nose is full, greeted with soft aromas of toasty oak, barrel spice underlying citrus, stonefruit and creamy detail. Full-bodied, aromas of apricot, lemon sherbet and grapefruit formed a fine core, enriched by toasted hazelnut, toast, cinnamon and a touch of cream. The fruit has great flavours and concentration, complimenting the youthful oak details; creamy feature softens the texture, acid tension drives focus to a long, elegant finish. This well-structured, youthful Chardonnay possesses excellent fruit and concentration with oak details and a creamy palate. Match with crispy pork belly and crayfish Thermidor over the next 8+ years. 13.5% alc. Handpicked clone 15 and Mendoza, whole bunch pressed, wild-fermented in French oak barriques to 14.1% alc, and aged for 9 months, 36% new oak. Underwent MLF, mealy lees stirred. Organic certified.

94 points – Candice Chow, Raymond Chow Wine Reviews

Domaine Rewa The French Potter Pinot Gris 2021

Gentle, restrained pinot gris with preserved lemon, vanilla, honeysuckle, and ripe apple flavours that remind me of pinot blanc. An initial suggestion of sweetness is balanced by fine tannins and soft acidity to give a dry-ish finish.

92 points – Bob Campbell MW

Domaine Rewa Riesling 2017

Vibrant, high energy Riesling with lime juice, white wildflowers, and oyster shell/mineral flavours. Sweetness and acidity interweave giving the wine a delicious tension. Impressive purity and a lingering finish.

94 points – Bob Campbell MW

Domaine Rewa Pinot Noir 2020

Moderate, deep ruby-red, lighter on the rim. The nose is gently full, with fragrant aromas of black tea leaf, cherries, and blackberries interweaving dark herbs and savoury elements. Medium-full bodied, blackberries and cherries have an aromatic core melded with black tea leaf, violet, dark herbs unfolding cinnamon and clove. Tight-knitted tannins add a firm grip to the mouthfeel, releasing savoury, earthy, herbaceous elements. Integrated acidity carries spices throughout the palate and balances concentration. This is a rich, black-fruited Pinot Noir with a tightly woven tannin structure packed with herbs and spices on a savoury toned palate. Match with roasted lamb and hare over the next 8-10 years. Organic certified.

18.5+ points – Candice Chow, Raymond Chow Wine Reviews (Mar 2022)