Mission Estate winemaker Paul Mooney

This year marks Paul Mooney’s 39th year as chief winemaker at Mission Estate in Hawke's Bay, marking him as one of the most experienced winemakers in New Zealand. After working in geophysics for some time he was contemplating further study in the field, but chose to follow his passion and took a turn into winemaking. “I had always been interested in food and wine through the influence of my parents, and I realised the opportunity had greater appeal than pursuing an academic career,” he said.

In his earlier years at Mission Estate, the winery didn’t have the resources required to ensure quality in the vineyard – something which has prepared Mooney for difficult vintages. “At times, I had to make wine from grapes off inferior sites, with poor viticulture practices. This taught me resourcefulness and I had to develop innovative techniques that would ensure we produced high quality wines, no matter what challenges we faced.”

Mooney has said that 2018 could be the best wine vintage the region has ever experienced. “We had an exceptionally warm January, the warmest since we began logging temperatures on our Gimblett Road vineyard in 1998,” he explained. “This warm weather produced ripe, fine phenolics in the fruit very early on. March was a little unsettled but later on we had a warm spell that ripened Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc very well. At this stage the young wines look to be exceptional. They are not necessarily as big as in 2007 or 2009, but I believe it will be an exciting vintage.”

After working for so long, it is the anticipation of a great vintage which keeps Mooney excited. “If it's not great, then making the best given the circumstances that nature has provided us with. The vintage unfolds over the summer and into autumn, so as the harvest period nears, you get a sense for what the final result will be, but you sometimes get a few surprises thrown in!”