Jason Flowerday tends some of the oldest vines in the Marlborough region. A figurehead among organic viticulturists in New Zealand, he is a deserving recipient of this award.
After the judges had chosen Jason Flowerday as Viticulturist of the Year, I began scouring for background information on him and discovered that Raymond Chan had voted Te Whare Ra Winery of the Year in 2014. Chan was a judge for Gourmet Traveller WINE’s NZ Winemaker of the Year Awards, but sadly passed away in 2019. I like to think we got his vote for Flowerday in absentia.
Husband and wife Jason and Anna Flowerday are a formidable winemaking team, but it’s Jason who looks after the vineyard while Anna does the paperwork and the lion’s share of marketing. Jason hates paperwork but loves to escort visitors around his beloved vines. He’s happy to leave the public speaking to Anna.
Jason grew up in Marlborough on the family farm, where the Flowerdays had been since the ’80s. His father developed and ran many vineyards in the area and Jason worked in the family contracting business, and is known as a hands-on kind of guy with a strong work ethic.
He worked for Merlen Wines in 1996, then Selaks, and then Nobilo before moving to its parent company BRL Hardy in McLaren Vale, where he met Anna. Jason worked for other South Australian producers while managing his and Anna’s eight-hectare biodynamic vineyard in Watervale, Clare Valley.
A thoughtful, intelligent man, he’s never happy with the status quo, believing there is always room for improvement. Jason doesn’t have a viticultural qualification, preferring instead to learn by talking to other viticulturists or by feeding his insatiable thirst with books on the subject. His enthusiasm for grapevines has helped build an impressive storehouse of knowledge, which he’s happy to share with others.
Jason and Anna purchased the 24-hectare vineyard and winery Te Whare Ra in Marlborough in 2003 and are now proud owners of some of the oldest vines in the region – most of them planted in 1979.
They moved to biodynamic and organic principles in 2007, gaining full BioGro certification in 2012. The vineyard is a manageable size that allows the couple, both self-confessed control freaks, to run their business with a small team and stay in touch with every stage of the winemaking process from vineyard to cellar door counter.
Jason uses organic techniques to improve soil health and structure by encouraging biological activity, believing that healthy vines produce good grapes. He consults with a number of Marlborough wine producers and growers as well as a couple of clients outside the region.
Te Whare Ra won the Marlborough District Council Environmental award in 2014 and was runner-up in the Association of Biological Farming’s Gaia Award for its contribution to ecological farming. Jason helps convene all the viticultural workshops for MANA Winegrowers, a collective of organic farmers who live, work and play in Marlborough.
Photography courtesy of Te Whare Ra Wines.