The story of Bellbird Spring and the Porter family
In 2002 our family, returned to New Zealand after many years overseas. We decided to make our home in the beautiful Waipara Valley in North Canterbury. It is a farming area peppered with vineyards and olive groves. A perfect place to grow vines.
Guy's working career started as a comis de restaurant in France aged 19. He then went on to attend hotel and restaurant school and joined the U.K. wine trade. A fascination with how wine was made led to work in vineyards Australia, and an oenology degree at Roseworthy College, University of Adelaide.
The following years saw an international winemaking career develop through Italy, Spain, California, Australia, and South Africa. It was a chance to absorb culture, language, wine and cuisine. But it also led to disenchantment with large-scale production and a realisation that industrial winemaking had little to offer spiritually.
With the return of the Porter family to New Zealand, the opportunity arose to make wine on a human scale and with respect for the environment. Alongside his father, mother, wife and children Guy brought this vision to life. From the outset there was one goal: to be an ethical, family-orientated, sustainable vineyard crafting food-friendly wines.
A family business
Our original vineyard, Guy's parent's Home Block, was planted in 2002. Sited on a terrace above the Waipara river, the soil - a type known as “Glasnevin Gravel” is light and free draining. It offers great aroma to wines.
Block Eight, our second vineyard, was planted in 2004, and is home to Guy and his family today. This clay slope to the north of the river is composed of stony, sandy “Domett Clay”. Warmer than the Home Block, ripeness comes a little earlier to this site. Here we grow grapes for Block Eight Pinot Noir, Block Eight Sauvignon Blanc, and Block Eight Pinot Gris. This vineyard produces weightier wines.
In 2017 ownership of Bellbird Spring passed to Guy and his wife. A change welcomed by the whole family.
Over a number of years, Bellbird Spring developed a vineyard programme free of synthetic pesticide and herbicide. In 2016 our vineyards became certified organic with Biogro New Zealand.
Winemaking at Bellbird Spring takes its cues from traditional practices. So, as time and nature allow we hand harvest our white varieties, permitting the older technique of whole-bunch pressing to produce our juice. This is briefly settled and fermented with indigenous yeast in old oak casks.
Our Pinot Noir is fermented with indigenous yeast in small lots, worked by hand-plunging. The pressed wine is then aged in old and new oak casks.
Guy Porter at work in the winery.