Sacred Hill’s winemaker Jack Cornes has grown up around wine. He remembers family dinners where his grandfather would proudly say, “My boy, the best wine for a rib roast is a robust French Claret”, before pouring Cornes a small glass.

After completing formal training at the Eastern Institute of Technology, Cornes fully realised his passion for the wine industry. Seventeen vintages later, and he has never looked back.

Sacred Hill has recently released a new range of Single Vineyard wines including a Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay, a Hawke’s Bay Syrah, and a Marlborough Pinot Noir. For the Single Vineyard wines, a small batch of special parcels of fruit are chosen that show uniqueness in the vineyard and then sing in the winery. These are usually selected for their natural expression of the land, rich texture and unique flavour profile. Cornes said that the citrus aromas, flavour, and juicy texture are all hallmarks of the Chardonnay vineyard.

“The Syrah vineyard is influenced by the roasted river stones of the Gimblett Gravels and delicious liquorice spices of the vineyard,” continued Cornes. “And the Pinot has all the earthy and savoury pinosity of both the variety and vineyard.”

“The subtleties of a single vineyard wine come down to the natural expression, harmony and balance. The art is not to force the wine; you need to have a steely resolve to hold course and be confident in decisions to let the wine speak for itself as much as possible.” Another philosophy that Cornes said is critical is having a harmonious relationship between the vineyard and the environment. He said this would bring the winery quality wine, that would stand the test of time.

Cornes noted that at Sacred Hill they’ve been reverting to older, more traditional techniques of winemaking.

“Minimal input into the juice and wine, the vines are older and showing more character that we want to showcase. Our fantastic vintage staff embrace this and often sing while winemaking, which I’m sure makes the wines sing, as well.”

In particular, Cornes has been enjoying the interesting Syrah that has been coming out of the Hawke’s Bay throughout the winter months but said he is looking forward to more aromatics, like Albariño, as the team progresses into spring and summer.

Winemakers throughout New Zealand’s wine industry are so often said to be collaborative, Cornes agreed; “We help each other to achieve, we problem-solve together, and we work together to help the industry as a whole.”

He also said that it is getting hard to ignore the prevalence of climate change, noting its consistent effect on the growing season and harvest. Something that Cornes hopes to work on for the future is enhancing the resilience of the vineyard so that it may cope with the climatic changes that are coming.

“We always work to be as sustainable as possible, as well,” Cornes highlighted. “We look to decrease water use, decrease plastic waste, and decrease power consumption. In the future, solar technology will be focussed on, too.”

For all his experience, Cornes had a refreshingly simple way to drink wine. “Enjoy it. People don’t need to explain why they enjoy wine, just sit back and love the moment.”