Alex Muir. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

Winery supports sustainability and mental health

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

Through record-breaking rainfall and severe frosts which decimated local vineyards, Martinborough’s Alex Muir’s love of winemaking has never dimmed.

Three years ago, with his parents and partner Leah Creaven they launched Drummond Farm with sustainability front of mind, which includes the use of recyclable ceramic wine bottles.

“Our initial aim was to grow the best grapes we could and create the best wine we could from them,” Muir said.

“That’s actually still our aim and will always be, among other things.”

Muir’s foray into wine making is an interesting one.

The first wine he ever tried was at a university’s bring your own event.

While that wine wasn’t worth mentioning, a Martinborough red he tried a short time later was enough to change his mind and convince him to take up viticulture and wine making at Lincoln University.

“I come from a farming background, so I was initially attracted to the farming aspect of growing grapes.

“Being able to create a product that directly reflects the quality of the crop, how it’s been treated and the season it’s grown, turned out to be not only a priority but a passion for me.”

The first three years at their family-owned and operated four-hectare vineyard were hard.

“Our first vintage in 2017 had one of the highest rainfalls on record.

“With so much rain and not so much sun, it was a tough year to step into the wine industry as a new business, full of energy and optimism.

“Following this, in 2018, it was one of the most severe frosts Martinborough has seen in years in late October which had a significant effect on shoot growth for that year.

“But we made it out alive and never stopped thanking our frost fan ever since.”

Muir works at a separate winery throughout the vintage each year to help process and make their wine while Creaven works as a textile design artist at Thunderpants in Martinborough.

She also runs her own textile company making woollen rugs and wall art.

The reusable wine bottles are made by Carterton ceramicist Paul Melser and fired in his wood kiln.

The couple have also partnered with Carterton ceramicist Paul Melser to create a reusable wine bottle which can be refilled with more wine or oil and sauces.

“I guess our interest in sustainability grew as the need for transparency within primary production grew,” Muir said.

“Consumers now more than ever are conscious of their own carbon footprint and are expecting businesses to play their part in sustainability too.

“We decided that a way we could play our part and simultaneously challenge ourselves as a business, is to create a reusable wine bottle.”

About 200 bottles have sold out and the couple is preparing for their next batch releases in October and December.

One of their other initiatives relates to mental health.

“Coming from a farming backing, I became aware as I got older of the struggles faced by farmers across the country,” Muir said.

As someone who “finds solace” in the ocean, he is a big supporter of Surfing for Farmers, a social surf training programme for farmers around the country – a portion of their Back Block Pinot Noir six pack sales goes towards the programme.