Archived News

Browse all our archived news below, sorted by year.



February 2023

Dear Friends of Bell Hill,

We’d like to wish you and you families all the best for the coming festive season, we hope you are able to spend time with friends and family and that the past year has been good to you. Thank you also for your patience in waiting to hear news from us, it has been a long road to get to this point and we appreciate the queries we have had along the way about when the next vintage may be released…It has been a pressure cooker year with staff changes and shortages all along the way which has combined with uncooperative weather patterns to leave us chasing ourselves in the vineyard from day to day and week to week. This necessary focus on vineyard activities has seen us fall behind in our 2018 vintage release targets but each day brings something achieved as long as we don’t talk about machinery issues! Although Marcel and I have avoided Covid thus far, it feels like Bell Hill has long-Covid symptoms, here’s to a good recovery in the New Year.

There is good news too – the last of the new plantings were completed in the North Arm of Bell Hill, 1,500 Chardonnay vines were planted in the third week of October to complete the Clos Charity block. Our newly planted area of 1.2 ha and 16,200 vines is being shoot thinned now. The individual blocks are all named after areas of Stewart Island/Rakiura – Anchorstone (2020 Chardonnay), Big Glory (2020 & 2021 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), Clos Charity (2021 and 2022 Chardonnay), Dynamite Point (2021 Pinot Noir) and the increase in Chardonnay plantings gets us close to an equal amount of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines in the ground now.

At the vineyard, we are working on a few improvements with a new bottling, labelling and dry goods building to be completed in the New Year, the excavations and building platform was made this past week which looks more like a tennis court right now, it will improve things no-end for us. Getting the bottling line out of a container will be great and that container will give way to a new office building that will get the office out of the winery lab and the vineyard/farm operations office out of the break room. Continued packaging delays and trying to find labelling windows hasn’t helped with our release efforts. As I write this, we have not yet labelled all the wine, but we are working through things and at least the offer is going out to you to consider over the holiday period - I tell myself this.

With the opening of the world’s borders and increased travel options we have had our first groups of overseas backpackers help in the vineyard from late September and look to find some opportunities to travel ourselves next year and visit some key export markets along the way. Our last overseas travel was in 2018 so we have a bit to catch up on and it will be nice to see other parts of the world again.

This letter comes with the 2018 Vintage release information. The first 2018 Single Parcel Shelf Pinot Noir will be held over until the 2019 vintage release. This is a very exciting turn for us and the 2016 Limeworks Chardonnay has been very well received. There are wines to follow from this in the future with Limeworks Chardonnay and Shelf Pinot Noir from 2020, and Shelf Pinot Noir from 2021, we look forward to offering them to you. We are introducing the 2018 wines later than we hoped but the wines have been quietly forming and shaping themselves. There is some reduction in the 2018’s, they need cellaring and decanting. This vintage shows a lot of elegance, obvious flintiness in the Chardonnay that opens to a fine, precise palate with length and mineral purity. The Pinot Noirs need time, they are pretty with delicate tactile presence, not deeply coloured but opening up after decanting to a perfumed wine of elegance and salivating mouthfeel.

For the 2022 vintage behind us, it was a pressured season, the La Nina season was kind to growing grass and weed competition but not for viticulture, the 70mm of rain during the main critical week of flowering set us back in yield significantly and the frequently rain events throughout the growing season saw disease pressure right up to harvest further impact on volume. Nevertheless, we have some Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and sparkling base wines that we are very proud of even if the quantities don’t speak volumes.

Our additional land area has seen us employ a person for the farming and cropping, we have sheep and will add cows next year. We are now able to grow crops, farm animals for food and manure, provide compost for the vineyard and build on our eco diversity through increased wetland and natural habitat areas, and natural water storage. A big space to fill with exciting prospects.

Last year we were been bestowed the honour of Gourmet Traveller NZ Viticulturists of the Year 2021 and this year in 2022 we have seen 25 years at Bell Hill, much done, much to do…thank you for reading our news and being part of our story.

Best wishes from Sherwyn and Marcel and the team at Bell Hill.