New Zealand Wine’s Sacred Soils with Left Field’s Richard Painter



How does the unique geography and climate of Hawke’s Bay and Gimlet Gravels in New Zealand create wines unlike any others? How does New Zealand Syrah differ from those from other regions? Why do many winemakers seem to have a special love for Chardonnay?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Richard Painter, Winemaker for Te Awa Single Estate and Left Field wines.

You can find the wines we discussed here.



  • How does the geography of Gimblett Gravels impact the wines you get from Te Awa Wines?
  • Which foods would make a good match for you to pair with the lighter style of Left Field Chardonnay?
  • What prominent notes will you experience with Left Field Chardonnay?
  • Which delicious pairings should you try with Left Field Sauvignon Blanc?
  • What’s the fascinating story behind the unique illustrations you’ll find on Left Field wine labels?
  • How does Chardonnay lend itself to the wide stylistic variations available to you?
  • What particular style can you expect from Left Field Chardonnay versus Te Awa Estate Chardonnay?
  • Why are goat cheese and Sauvignon Blanc a pairing a perfect pairing you should try?
  • What unique characteristics will you find in Left Field Rosé?
  • Should you cellar your Rosé?
  • What differences will you taste between a New Zealand versus Australian Syrah?
  • What can you expect from a Left Field Pinot Noir and Left Field Merlot?
  • Why would you find that wine is a natural progression after studying geography?


Key Takeaways

  • I admire Richard’s love of geography and soil: it’s so fundamental to understanding and loving wine.
  • This week, I’m trying his suggested pairing of fried snapper with lemon and a zesty cool-climate Chardonnay.
  • He observed that Chardonnay is often considered a winemaker’s wine since it can express so many staples and variations depending on the winemaker’s decisions, and of course, the terroir.


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About Richard Painter

Richard studied a Bachelor of Science majoring in Geography at Otago. Whilst living in Dunedin, he spent four years managing the legendary Bath St. Nightclub. During this stint in hospitality, Richard began attending wine clubs and tastings. He soon realized that not only did he really enjoy drinking wine but also that the process of making wine was intrinsically linked to soil science and climatology and therefore appeared to be a practical application of what he studied in Physical Geography. This burgeoning interest in wine took him to Lincoln University in 2006, to complete a Graduate Diploma in Winemaking and Viticulture.

Richard started off his career in the wine industry working in vineyards in Central Otago, Canterbury and Nelson. During a year working at Neudorf Vineyard’s in Nelson, he discovered an interest in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and wanted to learn more about these wines. This led him to travel to Oregon to work for Owen Roe Winery and as fate would have it, ended up working in their facility in Washington State.

Again his curiosity with different varietals was piqued and he fell in love with making (and naturally drinking) bold red wines, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot blends and Syrah. This love of red wine is what brought Richard to Hawkes Bay as he wanted to work with fruit from the famous Gimblett Gravels sub-region.



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Natalie MacLean 0:39
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations? That’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean.

Natalie MacLean 1:09
And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please and let’s get started!

Welcome to Episode 112. How does the unique geography and climate of Hawke’s Bay and Gimblett Gravels in New Zealand create wines unlike any others? How does New Zealand Syrah differ from those from other regions? And why do many winemakers seem to have a special love for Chardonnay? That’s exactly what you’ll discover on this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk  podcast. I’m chatting with New Zealand winemaker Richard Painter, who is with Te Awa and LeftField wines. He has some great stories and wines to share.

This conversation took place on my Facebook Live video show several years ago, so please keep that in mind for the context for Richards comments. He mentions the New Zealand wine fair, which is happening this year, but online, due to COVID. In the show notes, you’ll find links to the wines we tasted, the video version of this chat and a full transcript, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class, and where you can find me live on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube video every second Wednesday at 7pm. Eastern. That’s all in the show notes at

I’m hosting virtual wine and chocolate pairing classes for several corporate groups and other organisations as it’s a great tie in with Valentine’s Day. And attendees can participate at home with their loved ones. I’ll also be hosting wine and cheese tastings. If you’re interested in my doing this for your group, please email me at You’ll also find my contact in the show notes.

Now on a personal note, before we dive into the show. I’m not sure why; but I love tracking packages that are being delivered to me, from the time I place an online order for anything to the time it’s delivered. I leave my browser tab open and I refresh it every morning and every night to see where that package is. I get a little dopamine hit with every email update notification. In fact, that almost makes me want to order something from the other side of the world; say like a wine from New Zealand. Almost. Is this just vicarious travel in the time of COVID? I actually don’t think so, because I did this before COVID. Perhaps it’s just the joy of anticipation, the way I look forward to going out for a dinner.

What about you? Is the anticipation of something a big part of the actual something? I’d love to hear from you about this. Tag me on social media @nataliemaclean on Facebook or Twitter or on Instagram @nataliemacleanwine. Okay, on with the show.

We are talking with Richard Painter from New Zealand. He is actually logging in from New Zealand. We’re going to talk about the different wines you make. LeftFieldwinery; these amazing labels. We’ve got the New Zealand wine fair coming to Canada. So we’ve got lots to talk about, first of all, welcome, Richard and we’re so glad you could join us.

Richard Painter 4:48
Thanks for having me. It’s a real pleasure.

Natalie MacLean 4:51
Excellent, excellent. I know that you started off with a science degree but why don’t you fill in the gaps. How did you come to winemaking? Was winemaking in your family, or how did you get here?

Richard Painter 5:02
Winemaking wasn’t necessarily in my family. But I did grow up in a household where wine was always on the table. My parents used to visit vineyards and wineries. And I’d get dragged along and taught as a child. So I guess it was always around, even as a teenager, I got to enjoy the odd glass of wine at dinner. But at university, I studied geography as a Bachelor of Science. And then after studying geography, I was actually in hospitality, managing a bar. And the owner and I used to go to a lot of wine tastings. And it was then when I sort of found that I had a real affinity for wine and realised that the whole process of making wine actually tied in quite well to geography, and it was all about soils and climates and that sort of thing. So from there, it’s a natural progression really, I studied winemaking as a post graduate diploma.

Natalie MacLean 5:55
Wow, well, I love that you come at it from geography because that’s the big thing in wine of course. It’s all about terroir, which is the term we hear all the time thrown around. Fancy pants term for climate and soil and local weather and a variety of factors, even including the winemakers decisions; I don’t want to be too technical right off the bat. But rather than talk about terroir, what impact does geography play for you in the wines that you make now because I know you’re in the Hawke’s Bay area of New Zealand and this little tiny region of Gimblett Gravels, if I’m saying it correctly, what makes this patch of Earth really special, Richard?

Richard Painter 6:35
Yeah, Te Awa winery is located right on the Gimblett Gravels. It is actually unique in that it sits on the edge of Gimblett Gravels so we straddle two different sub regions. One is the Gimblett Gravels which is just a very gravelly soil and the other is the Bridge Pa Triangle, which is still gravelly, but has silt over the top. So that’s what makes Te Awa really unique. But I think the Gimblett Gravels, in particular, is very unique. It’s a finite area of 800 hectares, and that’s an old riverbed. And only as recently as 150 years ago, that river moved about two kilometres to the north after a big flood event. So it left a very pure, fresh young soil that is all stones with a little bit of sand and silt mixed in. It’s very infertile soil, which is not great for farming. The story is that you can only grow one sheep per hectare on this land, which in farming terms is not very much. As you know, New Zealand is the land of sheep so that is how we measure things.  the land of sheep, so people thought it was wasteland. And then in the 80s, a group of local wine growers saw the potential of this land for growing fine wine grapes; in particular with grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. They started planting it and, and infertile soil combined with a really warm local microclimate; the area is actually slightly warmer than the rest of Hawke’s Bay as well. So that combination of warmth and very infertile soil means that it goes very lovely red wines, particularly those Bordeaux varieties and Syrah.

Natalie MacLean 8:13
Wow, that’s quite an array. Now you mentioned you love Chardonnay. I’ve got the LeftField Chardonnay. So what would be your favourite food pairing with that one, Richard?

Richard Painter 8:25
The LeftField Chardonnay; it’s a lighter style of Chardonnay. So it’s what I call a lightly oaked Chardonnay. It’s fermented in a mix of stainless steel and oak barrels so it’s not a big heavy wine; its what I’m getting at. I think that style of wine is lovely with seafood. In New Zealand one of our most common white fish is called snapper. I’m not sure if you know it. And it’s a lovely sort of firm fleshed white fish and sort of small enough that you can pan fry a whole one and I just love nothing more than a big whole pan fried snapper, with just a little bit of lemon for flavouring. And that just goes really well with that LeftField Chardonnay.

Natalie MacLean 9:04
Oh, you’re making my mouth water which is really excellent. And how would you describe this Chardonnay, in particular this LeftField Chardonnay?

Richard Painter 9:14
So as I said the LeftField Chardonnay, it’s a lighter style of Chardonnay, you get a little glimpse of that French oak flavour of it but it has lovely citrus, particularly lemon flavours and in Hawke’s Bay, you also get some lovely stone fruit flavours, so slight peach and nectarine flavours come through, and then although Hawke’s Bay is a warm part of New Zealand, the wines retain a lovely acidity. So the wine has a lovely fresh acidity to it

Natalie MacLean 9:41
And so you say it’s a warm area yet it has freshness. Is that because the nights are cool in the Hawke’s Bay?

Richard Painter 9:47
Yes, I think New Zealand as a whole is a cool climate wine growing country. So even though we’re in the probably the warmest wine growing area of New Zealand, that’s still coolish, and we’re not so far from the coast. So we do get coolish air coming in from the sea. That just keeps the climate temperate; it never gets too hot. And you’re right, the nights get quite cool, particularly later in autumn as the grapes get ready to be harvested.

Natalie MacLean 10:12
Yeah. And your autumn is now, right? You’re southern hemisphere. So you’re into harvest right now, correct?

Richard Painter 10:19
On this harvest actually Natalie, it’s been the earliest finish we’ve had that I can remember. It’s been amazing. So I’ve actually had a couple of weekends off, which is good.

Natalie MacLean 10:28
Wow, they must get you on a plane to a trade show somewhere; a winemaker with a few weekends off unheard of. Okay, tonight Lucy is having lobster. So what would be your suggested pairing for that, Richard?

Richard Painter 10:43
For Sauvignon Blanc, I just love shellfish. In New Zealand we farm a lot of green lipped mussels, particularly around the Marlborough region, which is sort of one of the homes of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. So you know a big bowl of fresh mussels, maybe just with a lemon broth, something like that would go really nicely with Sauvignon Blanc. And those lovely fresh herbaceous flavours and firm acidity in New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc really accentuate some of those lovely shellfish flavours. If you can’t get mussels, then you know, a bowl of clams  or even scallops, although scallops are better with Chardonnay. With fresh shellfish, she can’t do better.

Natalie MacLean 11:21
Oh, that sounds fantastic. Now, Richard, of course, I’m really intrigued by all of the labels from your wine. So I try not as a person who writes about wine to be drawn in by the labels, but these are irresistible. So what’s going on with all of these really iconic, almost crazy dream illustrations on your labels? Let’s talk about the one on this Chardonnay. Where is this coming from? Who did this and what’s the backstory?

Richard Painter 11:49
Yeah, fantastic. To just delve into the backstory a little bit, how I just explained on the vineyard and yeah, we have two very different soil types. So the genesis of LeftField was really 10 or 12 years ago. The winemaker at the time, took grapes from the more silty Bridge Pa Triangle side of the vineyard and made a different range of wines called LeftField wines, because the thing with Gimblett Gravels is that it’s basically an appellation and a trademark. So for a wine to be labelled Gimblett Gravels, that has to be 95% from the Gimblett Gravels area. So we had half of our vineyard that wasn’t Gimblett Gravels and we needed to release wines from that half of the vineyard. And at the time, they always called it the left field of the vineyard. So it was really a physical reference to a part of the vineyard. And then about three or four years ago, we took LeftField and we decided that it had such a strong brand name, and we decided to play on that; of something being on the left field, something being a little left of centre, you know, a little bit quirky, so to speak. So we went to a local designer Aaron Pollock. And we asked him to design a label and some illustrations. And his design brief was basically” Can you come up with something from the left field?” and he came up with these amazing illustrations. So they’re actually taken out of an old biology textbook, like a 100 year old biology textbook. So if you look at them, they really look like you know, old  hand drawings, like an old biology textbook, and he’s taken several different creatures and blended them together to come up with mythical creations. And so on the Chardonnay, it’s called the lizard fish. And then what’s really interesting, I don’t know if you can see, there’s a little picture of a windmill drawn into all of the pictures, every wine has a different label. And the windmill was really the icon of Te Awa. We’ve got this beautiful old windmill at our front gate which used to be used to draw water up from the aquifer below us when the property was a farm. So each of the labels does have elements of that windmill drawing. Very quirky

Natalie MacLean 13:59
They are and I’ve even got the Pinot Gris, and you can see the little windmills coming out of this crustacean on the side of it. So does the windmill help at all with, you know, in some wineries, it’s taking the warm air and flushing it down to the vines to keep the vines warm in colder periods?

Richard Painter 14:17
Yes, we’ve got plenty of those scattered around our vineyard, so they’re for frost fighting and obviously being a cool climate viticulture we do get late spring frost. So I quite like the fact that a windmill is the symbol of Te Awa because we’ve got this beautiful old windmill by our  gate which used to be used for drawing water up to be used for the farm. And now we have these modern windmills or wooden machines scattered around the vineyards. So it’s sort of a modern incarnation of the old windmill. Its quite cool.

Natalie MacLean 14:47
That’s awesome. So I’m curious because Chardonnay has “Well, you know, it’s been through the thing ABC anything but Chardonnay” but you’re calling it a winemakers wine. So tell me what your fascination is, perhaps love is, of Chardonnay. So a lot of people like to bash Chardonnay. But why do you like it?

Richard Painter 15:08
I think a lot of winemakers will like Chardonnay because it is a  wine you can really have a bit of stylistic imprint on it. There are  so many different styles of Chardonnay from very  sort of lean, minerally Chablis like Chardonnays to  a sort of very fat, rich, okay, Chardonnays. So there is a real breadth of flavours you can have in Chardonnays,  you can really bring a bit of your own influence to it. Whereas a lot of other wines, aromatic white wines in particular, you know, they’re very sort of plain and very transparent of where the wines grow and things like that. So, I think winemakers like Chardonnay because they can put a bit of their own personality into the wine, have a bit of fun,

Natalie MacLean 15:49
Right? And what do you try to achieve with Chardonnay? Is there a signature? Is there a way you would describe your Chardonnay, especially from LeftField?

Richard Painter 15:57
I think the idea, we make Chardonnays  here at Te Awa, so the LeftField wine has a lighter style. The first LeftField was actually an unoaked Chardonnay produced in 2006. So over the years, we’ve introduced more barrels purely because I think it makes it a better wine, oaked Chardonnays. We’ve kept it in that lighter easy to drink drink style, with lovely citrus and stone fruit flavours, but we also try and give the wine a little bit of generosity through malolactic fermentation. And then we make an estate Chardonnay. The Te Awa single estate Chardonnay. And that’s a step up, in terms of it’s a bit richer, fuller bodied. And it also has a bit more flinty complexity from natural ferment. So they are two quite distinct ones.

Natalie MacLean 16:44
Yeah, so Te Awa is the winery, would you call LeftField, like a sub label, or is it its own winery? How do you separate the two or do you?

Richard Painter 16:54
Yeah. LeftField. We call our wines the Te Awa collection. So LeftField sits in the Te Awa collection. The big difference with LeftField is we take grapes from around the country. So from different vineyard sites around the country, and also different vineyard sites around Hawke’s Bay to make those wines, and our Te Awa a single estate wines are all made from grapes grown on the Te Awa. So they’re two quite separate labels in that sense, but they’re all made here at the Te Awa winery.

Natalie MacLean 17:23
Okay. Jason says I agree with Richard about the white fish and shellfish pairing with Sauvignon Blanc, but the high acidity in Sauvignon Blanc also makes it a great pairing with zesty, citrusy, summer salads, especially those with vinaigrette dressings. Any comments there Richard?

Richard Painter 17:41
Couldn’t agree more. And actually, I’ll tell you one thing I would add to that salad is a nice goats cheese,  because I tell you what, Sauvignon Blanc and goats cheese were made to go together.

Natalie MacLean 17:51
They were and you know, if we go back to old world, it’s Chèvre, which is goats cheese, and Sancerre from the Loire Valley, which is Sauvignon Blanc. So it actually also works very nicely. I guess it’s that grassiness of the fresh meadowy note in both the cheese and the wine, but what do you think brings them together?

Richard Painter 18:10
Yeah, I’m not so sure. I think maybe you know, goats cheese does have a nice little tartness. And obviously Sauvignon Blanc has a crisp acidity, but also that slight creaminess of the cheese. It’s nice to have something fresh and acidic just to cut through that. But yeah, I haven’t thought about that grassiness. But I think that’s a really good description.

Natalie MacLean 18:28
We’ll go with that. Okay, so I’m curious. I’m going to go back to a picture I have of you, Richard. I’m going show it on screen now. Your dog? What’s his name? And what’s his connection with the vineyard?

Richard Painter 18:42
My dog’s name is Sam. But he is an interesting mix of Labrador and New Zealand sheep dog. So he’s a big black, hairy dog breed, as I call it. So Sam comes to work with me each day. He much prefers running around the vineyard, to sitting in the lab or wandering around the winery. So he looks forward to his end of day walk around the vineyard.

Natalie MacLean 19:07
He’s not an analytical dog. He’s more of an out there in the field dog.

Richard Painter 19:11
He is.

Natalie MacLean 19:12
That’s great. And how long has he been around the vineyard?

Richard Painter 19:16
He must be about six now. So yeah, I’ve been working at Te Awa since 2013. So he’s been running around here for about the last 4 years.

Natalie MacLean 19:24
Oh, that’s so sweet. All right. So I’ve got a pile of your wines. I’ve got lost in the conversation as I usually do. So let’s make sure we get through some of these wines. We’ve talked about the Chardonnay, we’ve talked about the Sauvignon Blanc. Let me bring up some others. I have the Rosé which is super fresh. I opened and tasted these wines just before our conversation, but maybe tell us a little bit about the Rosé, the grape base and the kind of the style you’re going for? That sort of thing.

Richard Painter 19:53
Yeah, so the Rosé; it’s quite uniquely LeftField. That’s probably the most LeftField of all the wines we make. So it’s a blend of several different grape varieties. So we use some Pinotage, which is grown here on the Te Awa vineyard. It is usually South Africa and it’s pretty rare in New Zealand now, Pinotage, but I think it makes a lovely Rosé wine. You know, it’s half Pinot Noir and half Cinsault and both those grapes individually make lovely Rosé, so, you know, Pinotage for me is the perfect Rosé grape. I also usually use some Arneis, it’s an Italian white variety and very fresh and floral: we also grow some of that here at Te Awa. So I actually take the two grapes and blend them together. So it’s almost a bit of a blush style Rosé. I always use that as the base for my Rosé and then depending on what volume I  need, I often top that with some Merlot, that makes a good Rosé and also some Pinot Gris. I don’t get hung up on what grapes I use to make Rosé, I just use different wines to blend together to try and make the perfect Rosé. Well I try and make a light, just off dry style. So it’s a bit  about five to six grams/litre of sugar, so just a handful of sweetness to balance that a natural acidity. And I’ll try and go for a lovely pale salmon colour.

Natalie MacLean 21:15
I think you’ve done your job Richard. This doesn’t come off with any sort of sweetness. Oh, yes, sort of fresh, tiny “strawberry fields forever” kind of summery note. There’s no residual sugar, heaviness, nothing. It’s dry and crisp. It’s lovely. It’s so light. So chilled as an aperitif or companion to, I don’t know, planked salmon or even lighter fare maybe?

Richard Painter 21:44
Yeah, I think we even say pair it with salmon on the label. But yeah, Rosé to me is the perfect lunchtime wine as well, which is part of the reason we keep it nice and fresh. Light and fresh and crisp; should only have 12 or 12 and a half percent alcohol. But for me it’s, lunchtime or as an aperitif. It’s just perfect.

Natalie MacLean 22:02
I love that you talk about lunchtime. Excellent. This is 12.5%. That’s lovely. And it is just so fresh. Just even in the glass. And then of course with Rosé, do you suggest generally, particularly with your Rosé that you enjoy them young? The vintage they’re made or maybe two years after max?

Richard Painter 22:26
Yes, I think so. For me, Rosé is not a wine you cellar. You drink it young while it’s lovely and fresh. But certainly after two years, they still taste very good. But I recommend drinking them young.

Natalie MacLean 22:38
Okay, good. All right, let’s motor through here. We’ve done the Chardonnay. And we’ve done the Te Awa. Can you help me pronounce that again? Te Awa?

Richard Painter 22:47
It’s Maori, the indigenous people of  New Zealand and Te Awa means the river.

Natalie MacLean 22:56
The river, okay, yes, because I’ve seen the TE as a sort of prefix on some other wine labels in terms out of New Zealand. So it’s good to know,

Richard Painter 23:07
Te basically means the

Natalie MacLean 23:10
Okay, that makes sense. Okay, that totally makes sense. Let me just see if I have any other whites here. I have: maybe we should clarify what we can get here in Ontario. Of course, we have people clocking in and watching us from around the world. So in New Zealand,  lucky people, you can probably get most of these. But here in Ontario, or generally across Canada, I believe it’s Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir or something like that. Maybe you can remind us of what’s here right now or coming up soon.

Richard Painter 23:42
Sauvignon Blanc is the only one that’s been released officially. And they were hoping to get rest of the range in shortly.

Natalie MacLean 23:48
Sure. Is that one, that flying fish, with an onion at the base? That’s very interesting. Okay, so but I was trying the Pinot Gris. And I thought that was really, superbly fresh and often I find Pinot Gris  can be kind of what I call beige wines, really boring, like choosing white for your walls in your house. But why is this one so fresh and aromatic? What have you done here?

Richard Painter 24:20
We grow our Pinot Gris  here in Hawke’s Bay, and most New Zealand Pinot Gris tend to be grown in some of the cooler parts of New Zealand, so your Marlborough,  Central Otago, Martinborough, places where they typically grow Pinot Noir. So what we do is we grow it in Hawke’s Bay because I love the wood gives extra rich fruit flavour and what it means is they get a lot of flavour packed into the bread so you don’t need to leave as much residual sugar in the wine to get a flavour. I certainly agree with you that often Pinot Gris can be a little bit beige. What we do is we grow the Pinot Gris in a cooler inland belly of Hawke’s Bay. So whilst it’s warmer, it is cooler than where we are here on Gimblett Gravels. So that helps retain natural acidity and freshness to the wine. But other than that, it’s not too many tricks. Firstly just fermented in stainless steel tanks using nice aromatic yeasts for some of those flavours. Some interesting thing about Pinot Gris is that when it’s fermenting it’s the most flavorful and aromatic wine you’ve ever tasted and then when its finished it seems to just drop off . We try to lock in those flavours somehow.

Natalie MacLean 25:29
Yeah, like childhood, lots of ballet training and then just flops on the recital. But yours doesn’t. So that’s okay. All right. Let me see what else I’ve got here because I think I’ve gone through all the whites. Let’s dive into the reds. Let’s start with the Syrah. And here is the windmill again, on top a flying boat or something. Flying boatship. Oh, yeah, that’s cool. So talk about Syrah because I’m a big fan of cool climate Syrah from New Zealand, especially that nice peppery, but what’s happening with Syrah in a cool climate such as yours.

Richard Painter 26:11
Yes. So Syrah is becoming a very exciting variety for us here in Hawke’s Bay, and the Gimblett Gravels in particular, and historically, it has been a real focus on Merlot and Cabernet style blends, but lately Syrah is becoming the real darling of Hawke’s Bay red wines. It’s a very distinctive style, like you say, quite peppery and spicy, but you also get those lovely black fruits, dark berries, and they retain a lovely fresh acidity as well, which makes them stay fresh, but they also age really well. So very distinctive and very different from an Australian Shiraz which is quite a big rich, almost jammy wine. New Zealand Syrah is almost closer to Pinot Noir and that it’s quite fresh and aromatic and a little spice so Syrah is  rather exciting and I think for Hawke’s Bay the future of red wine probably lies more in the Syrah than the traditional blends.

Natalie MacLean 27:09
That’s really interesting because I get that pepper and the darkness and but still, it’s bright at the core. It’s not heavy. It’s really an exciting wine with a lot of potential. I love Syrah in the Rhone Valley of course, perhaps that could be considered its home or starting place but as an example in New Zealand, I think this is fantastic. It’s got the the best of both with the balance of richness and yet that lifted vibrancy at the core. Yeah, that’s fantastic. Okay

Richard Painter 27:42
The New Zealand Syrah model was very much that northern Rhone style where they are more elegant and aromatic and fresh rather than, say Southern Oregon, which seemed to be a bit riper and full of body.

Natalie MacLean 27:54
That’s true. Let me see what else do we have here because I’ve got more. I love this Pinot Noir. So of course New Zealand is trending Pinot Noir these days. What are you doing with your Pinot Noir from LeftField?

Richard Painter 28:11
So our Pinot Noir is from the Marlborough region, so top of the South Island, so we do tend to think Hawke’s Bay is about one third Pinot. We head south; historically, we have made it on the Nelson region, which is on West-Northwestern part of the South Island, but we’ve recently moved it to Marlborough, which is probably New Zealand’s most famous wine region on the back of the Sauvignon Blanc that comes from there. So typically Marlborough Pinot Noirs have lovely red fruit flavours; so red cherry, strawberry. They also have lovely spice, like I always think of a bit of of raspberries and cherries with a bit of cinnamon on top. That’s Marlborough Pinot Noir. So the idea with our LeftField Pinot Noir, is it’s a lighter style, very easy to drink and we make it an affordable style, so it’s made on old oak barrels to help keep the cost down and it’s really a sort of drink young to medium age type wine so it’s a very easy drinking Pinot. That’s one to enjoy.

Natalie MacLean 29:12
Oh yeah, selfishly I hope this one comes next after the Sauvignon Blanc. I’m a huge fan of New Zealand Pinot because I just think the balance is there and yet we’re not paying Burgundy prices. So that’s interesting. What have we got going on here? Not a stork. What is that? Pink flamingos on a windmill. So, again, it looks like someone had a bad dream and put it on a label but in an artistic way. Oh, and he’s got, you know what I, like figure two. It’s like it’s out of a biology textbook. That is so cool. And we have another one here. We have got your Merlot and this is somehow a deer hatching out of an egg.

Richard Painter 29:59
The hatchling deer. So that’s one of my favourite labels actually. I think nothing like a deer head, when you’re drinking a nice rich red wine, think of sitting next to the fire and a hunting lodge.

Natalie MacLean 30:11
Sure we think of that but not coming out of an egg . Why is it coming out of the egg?

Richard Painter 30:17
Yeah, it’s pretty LeftField

Natalie MacLean 30:19
Okay, all right. So that could be the default explanation. It’s LeftField. Okay. So describe this one then. Merlot

Richard Painter 30:27
Yes, Merlot. It’s the most widely planted red grape here in Hawke’s Bay. So this one is grown on the Te Awa estate. That;s the 2015 I think you have there. That wine actually has a good lashing of Cabernet Franc and a little bit of Cabernet Sauvignon in it as well. So it’s about 88% Merlot, so it’s actually a bit more of a Merlot blend. For me, it’s a really classical Bordeaux style blend. It’s quite young, but the LeftField wines are all made that can be drunk young, aged in French oak barrels. So you get those lovely sort of flat black, Doris plum notes that you get with good Merlot and the little dose of Cabernet Franc adds some lovely perfume and floral notes to the aroma. So I think that’s a very sort of elegant version of a Merlot blend.

Natalie MacLean 31:16
What kind of plum did you say? Doris plum?

Richard Painter 31:19
Black Doris plum. It is the type of plum we get that’s quite often used in baking and cooking and things like that. I’m not sure if you have it. It’s quite a dark plum with red flesh,

Natalie MacLean 31:31
like Doris and as in a woman’s name, D-O-R-I-S

Richard Painter 31:35

Natalie MacLean 31:36
I’m putting that in a tasting note. Black Doris plum. That sounds like Doris on a bad day, but rooting or whatever, dark and fleshy and I love the plummy flavours that come through on that. So let me just grab these two over here, because we have the Syrah and I have the Merlot Cabernet. And it’s nice to taste the range.

Richard Painter 32:01
So there’s actually a great YouTube video of the LeftField pictures that we’ve made. So if you put LeftField wines into YouTube, you’d find it.

Natalie MacLean 32:11
So Richard, is there anything that we haven’t covered that you would like to mention about

Richard Painter 32:18
No, I think we’ve covered them quite well. But I do urge people if they can, try and find the bottles or have a look online, because they don’t  just have quirky labels, each creation actually has its own backstory on the label, which is celebrating that LeftField style, design style. And so some of those backstories are quite quirky, if you think the pictures are quirky, wait until you read the backstory. And also we’ve used a bit of imaginative layout in the tasting notes and things like that. So they are made in quite a whimsical sort of imaginative style, design goes into the whole brand, the pictures, the tasting notes, the descriptors, the wines themselves. You know that it’s very consumer friendly wines, very easy to drink, good quality. And we’re also doing a few interesting things. I don’t think you have a sample there, but one of the wines we’re really championing is Albariño.

Natalie MacLean 33:12
It’s not here tonight, but I did try a sample about two weeks ago. It was fantastic.

Richard Painter 33:18
Oh, right. Oh, that’s good to hear that. So we’re making an Albariño from Gisborne. And that’s something we’re really excited about. We think it’s got great potential. We’ve been making them for about three years now. And we export most of it to the UK and Europe. But maybe one day, we can get some over to Canada you know, it’s very lovely, fresh, aromatic wine, a lot of those qualities that make New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, just so appealing to people, that freshness and purity and aromatic intensity, we’re achieving the same results with Albariño. So that’s something really exciting, we’re done, and hopefully something we can get across to Canada soon also

Natalie MacLean 33:58

That would be good, sooner rather than later Richard. But Albariño, of course, we associate with northern Portugal fresh, clean, crisp, white grape in that family with Grüner Veltliner and some others, of course, Sauvignon Blanc, but these are fantastic. You know, I must say, even though there’s a strong branding component going on here, and a fascinating backstory with labels, the wines really stand alone. Even if they had horrendous labels, they really taste fantastic. I do encourage people to try them. Of course, you can only get the Sauvignon Blanc, so far here in Canada, but who knows what the availability is in your region, wherever you’re tuning in from. So look out for them. We will put all of the tasting notes in the blog post. Richard, thank you so much for joining us. It was a great conversation. I really appreciate you taking the time to join us.

Richard Painter 34:50
Oh, thank you. Thank you for having me. And thank you everyone out there for joining us. Do seek out those LeftField wines. Hopefully we’ll get some more available for you soon.

Natalie MacLean 35:00
Absolutely, maybe this will encourage the wine choosing gods. But anyway, so you’re done your harvest. I don’t know what you’re going to do. But anyway, you relax and we will talk with you again soon, Richard.

Richard Painter 35:10

Thanks Natalie

Natalie MacLean 35:14
Okay, cheers.

Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Richard Painter. Here my takeaways. Number one, I admire Richard’s love of geography and soil. It’s so fundamental to understanding and loving wine.

Two, this week, I am definitely trying his suggested pairing of fried snapper with lemon and a zesty cool climate Chardonnay. Yum.

Three, he observed that Chardonnay is often considered a winemakers wine since it can express so many styles and variations depending on the winemakers decisions, and of course, the terroir.

In the show notes, you’ll find links to the wines we tasted, the video version of this chat, and a full transcript, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class, and where you can find me on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube Live video every second Wednesday at 7pm. That’s all in the show notes at

If you’re interested in my hosting a wine and cheese or wine and chocolate tasting for your group, please email me at You’ll also find my contact in the show notes. You won’t want to miss next week when I’ll be chatting with Rudi Rabl who owns a family run winery in Austria that makes incredibly zesty white wines like Grüner Veltliner that are a terrific match with seafood, shellfish, vegetarian dishes and a whole lot more. In the meantime, if you missed episode nine, go back and take a listen. I chat with Ezra Cipes of British Columbia’s Summerhill Winery about vegan and vegetarian wines. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Unknown Speaker 37:06
Our vineyard in Kelowna is certified by Demeter as a Biodynamic vineyard. It has extra rules above and beyond Organic. So organic is sort of the baseline, which means that there’s no synthetics being used basically. And then there’s guidance on things they want to see about soil preservation and biodiversity and things like that. But biodynamics really codifies that you have to have at least 10% of your farm given over to nature habitat. And we have I think about 20 or 25% of our farms that’s wetland, we have a dry land, we have Meadow habitat, and then you really view the farm as an ecosystem. You integrate animals and animal manures and you really focus on making your own fertilisers from things you grow on the farm. We make a horsetail tea for mildew control, we make large amounts of compost and we add these herbal preparations to the compost to aid processes of decomposition. We spray basically a bacterial broth all over the farm that aids the life force, if you will, in the soil, but basically the soil food web.

Natalie MacLean 38:10
If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone who would be interested in the tips that Richard shared. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps a zesty Sauvignon Blanc

You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at, maybe here next week. Cheers