This father and son team have been influential in the creation and improvement of many top vineyards in Central Otago, proving their skills as first-rate viticulturists.
The father and son partnership of Robin and James Dicey has had a profound influence on Central Otago viticulture. Between them they have consulted to, developed or managed more than half of Central Otago’s vineyards. The 'flow-on effect’ of the technology and techniques they introduced have made a major contribution to the development of the region in its relatively short history.
Robin Dicey grew up on a South African orchard that included a vineyard. He trained in winemaking and viticulture at Stellenbosch University before moving to New Zealand in 1977 to become the first viticulturist for Corbans in Tolaga Bay, north of Gisborne. In 1992, he moved to Cromwell in Central Otago where for four years he taught a wine course at the local polytech. “It was 8,000 years of viticulture in four days, including a field trip,” explained Robin.
He established his own vineyard and was instrumental in starting Mt. Difficulty, now one of the region’s largest wine producers. Robin started developing and managing vineyards for absentee owners and for others new to grape growing. In 1996 he started Grape Vision Ltd to develop and manage vineyards.
In addition to Mt. Difficulty, current clients of Grape Vision Ltd include Ata Mara, Bannock Brae, Folding Hill, Charcoal Gully, Swallows Crossing, Tatty Bogler, Gate 20 Two and Aitken's Folly.
The Tatty Bogler vineyard in Bannockburn is owned by John Forrest of Forrest Estate, a medium-sized family winery in Marlborough. “It’s normally a bit of a challenge to manage a vineyard from long distance, but James and Robin Dicey have been an enormous asset to me for 15 years. They offer a totally professional and high-quality service that has been exemplary in every way. James does the day-to-day management, while Robin keeps a paternal eye on the business.
James Dicey joined the business in 2004 and later purchased it from his father. He qualified as a lawyer and an accountant, worked as an accountant for 10 years then retrained at Lincoln University where he earned a graduate diploma in viticulture and oenology before joining his father in Grape Vision Ltd.
I met Robin and James for coffee in Cromwell and was intrigued by Robin’s vehicle, an Isuzu ute called Tootsie that sports stickers from 25 fairly obscure countries. He explained that he had taken the ute on two intrepid journeys. He drove from Vladivostok through Mongolia to London then shipped the ute to Buenos Aires then drove through Mendoza and Ushuaia (the world’s most southerly road) to Chile. On his second trip he shipped the ute to Bangkok and drove through Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, China, Mongolia, and Russia including Yakutsk (the coldest city in the world). In April he plans to conquer the US and Canada on a 38,000 kilometre trip. Robin is clearly devoting as much effort to retirement as he did to his working career.
Photography by Bob Campbell MW