While expertly heading up the team at Urlar Estate, it’s with her own label that Jannine Rickards really lets her wild side shine.
Growing up on a farm, Jannine Rickards has always had a strong relationship with the land and its produce. Since taking charge of winemaking at Wairarapa’s Urlar Estate and starting her own Huntress label, this connection, combined with her skilled winemaking, has resulted in wines establishing her as one of the most exciting of a new generation of Aotearoa’s winemakers.
Rickards’ position at the winemaking helm may be fairly recent, but she’s had plenty of experience: six years at Martinborough’s Ata Rangi, time with Waipara’s Pegasus Bay, and a postgraduate diploma in winemaking. She also worked vintages in South Africa, Champagne, Australia, California, Oregon and Burgundy, before returning to the Wairarapa in 2017 to head the organic Urlar Estate.
“My upbringing on a large farm with homegrown food planted the seed for organic- and regenerative-based living,” says Rickards. “It gave me an appreciation for the environment, an understanding of life cycles, and instilled respect for food and where it comes from.” This holistic perspective is echoed in the Māori worldview that acknowledges the interrelationship of all living and non-living things. Rickards – who is of Irish, Scots and Māori descent – has come to respect this in recent years.
At Urlar, which was bought by Japan’s Nishi brewing in 2019, Rickards has thrived in an environment of freedom and focus on quality. She has helped design its new winery, and makes more experimental bottlings for its general manager’s Green Songs label. It’s also where she makes her own Huntress label, launched in 2018. The inaugural 2017 vintage was a classically made pinot noir, and a rosé. These were joined by the Waikoa skin-fermented white blend, and the Waihonga amber, skin-fermented pinot gris and Kuratea pinot noir. Her ethos with Huntress is wild yeasts, minimal handling, older oak, and skin fermentation of varieties from largely organic growers.
“I’m looking to make wines with real texture and structure that are capable of going well with local cuisine,” she explains. “The connection to kai [food] and knowing where it comes from is super important to me and I would like to see the same connection with wine for people.” These associations with food are also behind the label’s name. Rickards is a keen hunter, a passion spurred by a desire to source her own food.
“With Huntress I’m showing that wines can reflect a place, a season, but also a human connection,” she says. “Not having a vineyard of my own, I feel the wines express who I am as a person. They are bold, complex and a little wild.”
Text by Dr Jo Burzynska
Photography courtesy of Huntress.
REGION | Wairarapa
YEARS IN INDUSTRY | 18
STANDOUT WINES | 2019 Huntress Pinot Noir, Martinborough,
2018 Urlar Estate Pinot Noir, Wairarapa