An interview with Ant Moore: revealing the future of wine and why he’s a bit of a maverick

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Ant Moore. He’s Aussie, but makes wine throughout the Antipodes, specializing in the Marlborough region of New Zealand.  His wines are highly sought after by savvy imbibers the world over.  These aren’t just any wines either.  They sing of origin. They frame their place. They are elegant, styled, and full of grace.  What follows is an interview I conducted with Ant via e-mail. 

CL:  What is your guiding philosophy on vines and wines?

AM: On wine, minimal intervention, rely on fruit, and natural process. So low sulfur, none or minimal fining, use of lees and time etc.  For vines, I guess its all about location., and timing of picking. For Sauvignon I pick at a variety of ripeness levels and blend for complexity. For Pinot Noir in NZ, I tend to hang it out as long as I can, high sugar is not usually a problem, and as long as too much shrivel does not creep in.

CL: Tell me about fruit bombs and why your wines aren't? Have heard boisterous wines are due to the heat of the regions. True or is a stylistic choice?

AM: I think its more a choice…. How you manage your canopy, and how long you leave the fruit on the vine, not to mention extraction and time on skins etc etc…I tend to prefer balance, and for me balance means no one character dominates. So its not just a big mouthful of fruit. If there is one dominant character, its really quite simple… im trying to get layers and different flavours and characters, so the wine needs to have a finesse to allow this to happen. Particularly with sauvignon blanc this can be hard as its such an "in your face" variety when grown in Marlborough.

CL: Are you a "maverick"? 

AM: I guess I’m a bit different…. Hahahha.. I tend to do my own thing, I planted my vineyards in out of the way locations that others overlooked, I have always taken an experimental approach to my winemaking, relying very little on technical analysis and so on, and more on trying techniques and adapting year on year. Can become a bit hard when you look back and have a few years to consider.

CL: You make wines in both Australia and NZ.  Do you have a preference for either or do you enjoy being able to work with fruit from the two countries?  Do you have a favourite? miage from shutterstock

AM: I like working in different locations, it broadens your scope and you see new ideas and ways that things get done. I prefer the cool climate winemaking in NZ, I love the adrenalin rush that we get each vintage, most seasons you have to gamble and decide to leave the fruit on with the weather threatening, in order to get greater ripeness, or go hell for leather and beat an upcoming frost or storm…. Its action packed…. And you have so much variation. I”d love to play with fruit from other countries, I’ve worked in Oregon, but would love to make wine in Italy.

CL: Your thoughts why Natural Wine isn't just a momentary blip on the wine marketing radar...or is it? What about the phrase, "minimal intervention"?  Thoughts?

AM: I think the rise of big wine companies and the dominance of supermarkets have led a lot of wine to become somewhat generic. Everyone has studied the same science and driven by a desire for consistency and following styles that are deemed "successful".  Some wines have become boring. So I think its natural progression, that there will be a shift back, that little guys like me will go back to experimenting, and introducing uncertainty into their winemaking. A bit of serendipity can be a good thing. A lot of the intervention that takes place is to speed things up, or take short cuts, which really aren’t necessary. Example, using good clean lees can reduce phenolics and harshness as opposed to just throwing in some quick fix chemical additive. I guess it’s just how you want to make your wines, and for me, I find greater satisfaction in leaving it natural, and hopefully that translates to wines that show more character.

CL: The future of wine is...???

AM: Uncertain…. Wine should be growing in popularity and style and should be an artisanal product, the big problem is the dominance of large supermarkets and so on, who are happy to re badge wine under their own BOBs and serve up the standard boring booze that is too prevalent today. Its really market specific, but if you have good small retail and wine bars and so on, then the little producers can survive and there will be greater variety available to consumers.image from shutterstock

CL: The future of Australian wine is...???

AM: Hard to contemplate….. Gives me a head ache thinking about it…

CL: The future of NZ wine is...???

AM: NZ should see good growth, and I think the small size of NZ as a producer bodes well for small to medium wine companies.

CL: The future of Marlborough and McLaren Vale wines are...???

AM: Marlborough and McLaren Vale are great and unqiue regions, they will continue to grow in popularity, and more new styles and approaches should emerge over the next 5 years or so.

CL: The future of your wine is...???

AM: Hopefully, to become more widely available, and keep being one of the leaders in terms of stylistically where Marlborough wine is going in the future.