Like many great New Zealand producers, Rob Burley found his place in the wine world after working for a number of great like-minded producers abroad. Though Rob worked vintages in NZ, France and America, it wasn’t until he moved to Australia and started to work for Bill Downie and Patrick Sullivan that the concept for Unkel Wines was born.
I first met Rob at Patrick’s place back in 2016, when he shared his first wine ‘Raz and Friends’ with me. This was a Yarra Valley Shiraz with a splash of Gewürztraminer and Arneis; a totally unconventional blend but a totally delicious one. It caught my attention, sold out in Australia that week and I have been following Rob ever since.
After doing his time working for Bill and Patrick in Australia, Rob and his wife Kate decided to move back to New Zealand and start a family. Eventually they settled on Nelson where they took over an old organic estate and winery just prior to the 2019 vintage.
For Unkel, their biggest goal was always to grow and make their own wines from their own fruit, so for 2020 their dream is now their reality, and the 2020 wines are everything they have set out to do.
The 2020 growing season was an exceptional one for NZ, but especially so for Nelson. It was a long, warm summer with cool nights, with enough rain at the right times (and never at the wrong time), and they basically had that dream scenario of being able to pick exactly when they wanted to - at the optimum window of flavour, ripeness, sugar and acid.
The Unkel vineyard sits on a gentle North-facing slope on the Bronte Peninsula (about 2/3rds of the way from Nelson to Motueka), overlooking the Waimea Inlet which provides year-round, temperature-moderating sea breezes in the afternoons. The soils, ‘Moutere Clays’ are gravel threaded clay formed by an ancient river system flowing into the Tasman Bay. These vineyards have been cared for by Rob and their sole employee Jim Brown for the entire season.
All the wines are organically farmed, dry-farmed (unirrigated), hand harvested, wild fermented, unfiltered and unfined. Minimal sulphites of 15-25mg/L are added at bottling to ensure stability (all suitable for glass pour). All of the 2020 release is in clear glass, bottled under Nomacorc (TCA free) and are hand-dipped in wax (which we promise is not flaky this year!)