Merekara Wines is extremely boutique; they produce only a few barrels per variety. Their philosophy is that “quality is the highest priority.”
Jaco and Sandra were both born and raised in the Netherlands, with high-level hospitality backgrounds. They met on a wine trip to France in 2009 and got married in the Champagne cellars (30 meters under the ground) of Pol Roger in 2013, the no.1 Champagne of Sir Winston Churchill. They both arrived in New Zealand in 2014 to work on a small vineyard in the Awatere Valley.
With the birth of their daughter Grace in 2020 (a true miracle) they started to fulfill their dream; a small production of quality wines, and the name Merekara which is the Maori word for Miracle. From the moment they met, they knew that The Netherlands wouldn’t be their forever home.
Jaco’s passion for wine started to grow from 15 years of age while he worked in hospitality. Working with different wines from all over the world opened his eyes and he realized he needed more experience under his belt. He did lots of studies, courses, wine trips and joined wineries in France and South-Africa during harvest.
Sandra started to appreciate wine more after she fell in love with Jaco in 2009 during a wine/study trip in France (where he was one of the teachers). She’s learned so much about wine since. While Jaco keeps the quality top notch in the vineyard and makes sure the wine-making goes according to plan, Sandra takes care of social media, marketing and the accounting part.
They had already planned their trip to New Zealand before they got married, just for a year to expand their knowledge about viticulture. After arriving in New Zealand in 2014 and working in the Brêloft vineyard, they fell in love with the beauty of the Awatere Valley and the view of mount Tapuae-o-Uenuku and decided to stay.
Since 2019 they lease a part of this extraordinary vineyard in the Awatere Valley, where Jaco takes care of this vineyard full-time. They also have the opportunity to lock-off certain parts of 3 different blocks planted with Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir.
Jaco said “All the grapes are growing on the mighty Brêloft vineyard situated in the Awatere Valley, which is a stone throw away from the Awatere river. The rows are West-East orientated, which means the bunches facing South are exposed to the morning sun. The bunches facing North are exposed to the hotter afternoon sun which gives us ripe and intense flavours. For us, there’s no standard recipe to follow to create the best environment for all vines. Young vines, older vines, vines who struggle throughout the growing season or vines who are too vigorous; we approach every vine differently to maintain the quality we want. A few examples of vine-to-vine attention would be the way we prune the vines, the way we leaf pluck by hand and how much we drop fruit.”
They achieve the quality they want with vine-to-vine attention. This basically comes down to being there with the vines all the time, because the vines will tell you what’s good for them.
“The hard work we do in the vineyard and the environment the vines are in, echo’s through in our wines. Therefore, we believe in low intervention in the winery with a slow wine-making philosophy.”
Sauvignon Blanc: The grapes come from the River Block; a stone throw away from the Awatere River. Leaf pluck by hand on the cooler morning sun side. Opening the hot afternoon sun side a few weeks prior hand picking the grapes
Chenin Blanc: Rocky soil with a bit of clay. Leaf pluck by hand and turning the bunches to get more intensity in the grapes and more colour on the skins. We only pick the most golden coloured bunches on the North facing side, as we then get most of the amazing flavours of Chenin Blanc.
Pinot Noir: The grapes come from a slightly higher plateau in the Pinot Noir block. De-lateralized in the fruiting zone and also leaf pluck by hand on both sides. One bunch per shoot with shoulders removed for optimum ripeness.