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 Australia with Moss Wood, 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 bred an intolerance for 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.
Two vineyards and an olive grove
Our original vineyard, 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, offering great aroma to our wines.
One hectare of this site is dedicated to our Vin de Terroir – Home Block White. There is no easy translation of the French term – this is a wine meant to express the nature of the soil, microclimate and other subtle aspects of its surroundings. A mix of Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Muscat Ottonell, this European style of wine offers something very different to the typical single-variety wine from New Zealand.
On the Home Block we also grow Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc – New Zealand’s signature varieties.
Block Eight, our second vineyard, was planted in 2004. 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. Block Eight produces weightier wines, while the Home Block shows more vibrant aromatics.
Home Block also boasts a small olive grove, where we produce very fine extra virgin olive oil in small quantities.
In 2016 our vineyards became certified Biogro Organic.
Many hands at work
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.