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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Friday, September 11, 2015

Tuscany Comes to North Auckland

 When Tuscan winemaker Stefano Guidi dropped in to Matakana’s Herons Flight winery for the first time he wasn't looking for a job, he was just there to sample their Italian varietal wines and chat with the winemaker.  Owners David Hoskins and Mary Evans weren't really looking for a winemaker either, but since that first amiable meeting in Matakana in 2013, Stefano Guidi took a keen interest in Heron’s Flight’s sustainable winegrowing approach to Sangiovese and Dolcetto.

Over the next two years, Stefano supervised the winemaking, albeit from a distance, while still working full time in Tuscany. He had previously gained an engineering degree at the University of Milan, followed by a PhD in winemaking and studying oenology and viticulture in Bordeaux. His first winemaking job was in the Chianti Classico region, in Tuscany, where he worked mainly with Sangiovese - the dominant variety at Heron’s Flight.

Grapes were first planted at Heron's Flight Vineyard and Winery in 1987 by David Hoskins, a chemist and philosopher turned winemaker, and Mary Evans, a scholar and teacher. David (ex-Philadelphia USA) started off with plantings of Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot. Then in 1994 his infatuation with Italian wines led him to plant the Sangiovese. Since then, all the other vines have been pulled out and replaced with either Sangiovese or the northern Italian grape Dolcetto.  Heron’s Flight produces around 1500 cases of wine per annum, mostly sold domestically, but with some exports to UK, Hong Kong and China.

On return to Italy, Stefano met the love of his life, Napier-born lyric soprano opera singer Anna Leese, and in January 2015 the newlyweds moved permanently to Warkworth where Stefano took over as chief winemaker at Heron’s Flight. As part of the inventory from Italy, Stefano imported a 500 litre terracotta amphora in his shipping container along with his household goods. The amphora was made by a very tiny producer in Impruneta, close to Florence. Stefano’s amphora is now being used to make Heron’s Flight’s flagship premium 2015 Sangiovese. Indigenous yeasts are used in a wild ferment and there is no use of sulphites. His technique involves removing around a third of the skins post fermentation, and then leaving the wine in contact with the remaining skins for four to six months. He explains that the remaining skins prevent any oxidation by constantly releasing tannins and polyphenols which are extremely strong antioxidants.

The wine will eventually be bottled after spending no time in barrel: “With barrel ageing, there is a marriage of the tannins of the oak and the tannins of the wine. The amphora is different – the tannins in the wine are one hundred percent from the grape. After six months I take out all the skins from the amphora and then we bottle the wine.”

Stefano’s other pet projects at Heron’s Flight are making rosé, a Champagne style and a passito style sweet wine also from Sangiovese and Dolcetto (only about 50 litres) after drying the fruit on a mobile wooden rack that is put away at night.
“These are the old tricks that we use in the Mediterranean,” he chuckles.

Phil Parker runs wine tours in Auckland region.
Phil's e-book NZ Wine Regions - A Visitor's Guide is available on Amazon kindle.


  1. Great to have this heritage and knowledge in new zealand!

  2. Can't wait to taste these wines at my cousin's winery.

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