As Puketapu viticulturist and assistant winemaker Neal Cave put it on his Alchemy Wines website – ‘we have yet to master the mythical ability to change lead into gold’.
However, his efforts and those of winemaker Ant McKenzie turned a very small volume of grapes into a gold medal-winning wine at the recent New Zealand International Wine Show 2014.
“We’re only one of the small guys,” was how he described Alchemy Wines, which specialises only in chardonnay and which, so far, has produced only two vintages.
The first was in 2010 and the second, the 2013, hit the mark with the judges.
It was the only wine they submitted for the prestigious competition.
Mr Cave has two vineyard sites in the Dartmoor Valley with 95 per cent of his crop going to other wineries.
But he keeps a small amount for his own efforts – the Alchemy.
“The 2011 and 2012 vintages were too average so we didn’t use them – but the 2013 was exceptional so we said ‘let’s go for it.”
He said the only unfortunate side to it was that he committed a lot of the grapes from that vintage to be sold so didn’t have quite as much as he would have liked for his own wine.
“We are extremely passionate about good quality chardonnay wine,” Mr Cave said, adding the approach was one of creating hand-crafted “elixir”.
He praised the skills of Mr McKenzie and said the finished creation was made at Askerne Winery.
“We’ve been working with them for a couple of years.”
The latest gold-medal winning chardonnay saw only 5000 bottles produced and was released in mid-July.
Despite no cellar door and no supermarket sales more than 30 per cent had been sold.
“We’ve built up a strong following, particularly here in Hawke’s Bay and in Auckland.”
Both he and Mr McKenzie were “pretty excited” at getting the golden nod as it was the first competition they had entered.
Mr Cave moved to Hawke’s Bay from Wellington seven years ago and “loves it”.
He is effectively a jack of all trades – the viticulturist, the assistant winemaker, the sales person and he looks after administration including the website.
With the 2014 vintage also having emerged as exceptional he is putting aside double the volume for the next Alchemy Chardonnay and there were no plans to expand into other varieties.
“We are good at chardonnay so we are concentrating solely on that, although we may do two levels this time – a standard one and a top one.”
And yes, he will again put it forward in another tilt for gold.