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Julicher to expand with new owners

December 23, 2020 December 2020 No Comments

Julicher Vineyard is set to expand and change brand names under the new ownership of Brad and Warren Butterworth.

The Butterworths are better known for sailing than for wine but both are passionate about wine. Their great great grandfather W. Heathcote Jackman was a pioneering grape grower in New Zealand at Whakapirau in the Kaipara Harbour, Northland, in the late 1800s. That property remains in family hands, minus the vines which died many years ago, due to phylloxera. 

They purchased the Te Muna Road vineyard and winery in 2019, and have since put expansion plans in place by acquiring more land and hiring a new general manager, Nick Hewitt, who has announced plans to grow from 13.9 hectares of vines to about 15 hectares. 

This year he and winemaker Martin Bell oversaw the removal of a block of olives that have borne very little fruit since being planted in 1998 by former owner Wim Julicher. This small site will soon be planted in vines along with most of a new block that the Butterworths have purchased; 8.7 hectares of farmland right next door.

“Te Muna is windier than the rest of Martinborough and has not proven to be very suitable for olives. Wim lost his first potential harvest due to frost and it’s been patchy ever since,” says Hewitt, who moved down from Auckland with his family, in order to manage the expansion and sales of Julicher wines. 

The new ownership also means a change of the overarching brand name. This will see the wines labelled as Butterworth Estate, but the Julicher Vineyard name will appear also on the labels. 

“This retains some of the original brand and makes way for the new owners to put their stamp on the wines,” says Hewitt. 

New plantings have yet to begin while the land is being left fallow in preparation for new vines. 

Winemaker Martin Bell says there will be an increase in both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as more Riesling. It may be one of the toughest wines for many to sell, but Bell says he can’t keep up with market demand for the current small production of dry Riesling that he produces for the Butterworths. This has traditionally been labelled Julicher Estate Dry Riesling and it has  strong market demand. 

“ We both love Riesling so we plan to keep on top of production and grow it,” says Hewitt. The pair are also planning for vintage 2021 with local workers to pick the grapes, due to a predicted shortage of Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers nationwide, due to Covid-19 border restrictions. 

Wine of the month: 2020 Butterworth Dry Riesling $32

The plantings and production of Riesling remain relatively rare in New Zealand, including Martinborough where this delicious dry version comes from. It’s a specialty of Julicher Estate (now Butterworth Estate) on Te Muna Road in Martinborough and rocks a zesty lime and lemongrass vibe, making it an ideal drink chilled on a summer afternoon – and also tasty with fresh seafood and Thai green curry flavours, thanks to its crisp citrusy flavours. 


Joelle Thomson

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