Meet Jules Taylor, the winemaker behind the award-winning Marlborough boutique label named after her
Meet Jules Taylor, the winemaker behind the eponymous award-winning boutique label
Jules Taylor was born in 1973, the year the first commercial vines were planted in Marlborough, New Zealand. She studied zoology in college, but the call of the vines proved irresistible. She took her first job in Vintech, one of Marlborough’s original custom wineries and never looked back.
In 2001, Taylor took the plunge to launch her eponymous label after some encouragement from her mentors— Kim Crawford, Simon Waghorn and Matt Thompson, three of New Zealand’s most respected winemakers. By then, she had honed her skills at top wineries around the world, including some of the country’s best such as Kim Crawford and Cloudy Bay. Still, her first release was a very modest 200 cases of Riesling and Pinot Grigio. But fast forward several years, and Jules Taylor has become an established name on the New Zealand wine scene, with well-deserved accolades for its crisp, racy Sauvignon Blancs and elegant, perfumed Pinot Noirs.
The best thing about making wines under my own label is that I can make what I want, how I want. Stylistically, there are so many variables, and I love being able to set the style for each of the wines. Also, I am fully accountable to our loyal customers.
Working at Kim Crawford taught me many things… At Kim Crawford, fruit came from many different sub-regions in Marlborough (and other regions) and was fermented separately, which gave us great insights into the diversity of flavour profiles in each variety, depending on where it was grown. This definitely helped shape the wines at Jules Taylor in terms of where we wanted to be sourcing fruit (and where not to).
We source fruit from around 14 different contract growers. There is no way we could ever own all these little pockets of vineyards all over the region...The lottery wouldn’t even do it! We have chosen sites that give us fruit with flavour profiles we like. Our Sauvignon Blanc, for example, would not have as many layers of flavour if it came from one site only.
If I have to pick a favourite varietal, Sauvignon Blanc is the one for me. I love it because it is so versatile. We make three different styles. I love The Classic because it really screams Marlborough and has so many flavours. The OTQ Sauvignon Blanc—OTQ stands for ‘On The Quiet— is more of a ‘sexy’ take on Sauvignon Blanc. It is not as acidic as the Classic; it has more tropical notes and a much different texture. Chardonnay lovers and people who find the classic Marlborough Sauvignon too acidic and sour always love the OTQ.
Finally, we also have the botrytised style—our Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, which is incredibly viscous and sweet. It tastes like liquid gold and passion fruit and is a dream with vanilla bean ice cream!
Our OTQ wines are born of an indulgence. And we all need our indulgences! It is an incredibly seductive wine and extremely limited, hence the ‘hush hush’ element. Sometimes, we see incredible parcels of fruit in certain
vineyards. We call them the ‘golden pick’. We cannot bring ourselves to blend these special bunches away in larger blends, so I hide them away and do something extra special with them, which is to make the OTQ wines.
These are single vineyard wines that express their place and vintage perfectly. If you get your hands on one of these gorgeous wines… hold on to it and open for a special occasion!
In the years since I have been making wines, the winemaking scene in New Zealand has evolved. The first thing that comes to mind is the scale of the industry here. Since my very first in 1994, many more hectares have been planted and newer areas expanded. We have seen many new brands pop up along with varieties that hadn’t been planted here before.
I am excited by the changing landscape of Sauvignon Blanc .... the alternative styles are becoming more widely made and accepted.
I am excited too by the reach of our wines and the success we have on the world stage even though we are a small wine producing nation.
Jules Taylor sits nicely in the New Zealand scene. I think we make wines that deliver good value for money at their price point, speak of their place and variety. For a small family-owned winery, with only five staff (including my husband George and I!) we are becoming relatively well known. I think this is down to the fact that we are quite individual in the way we do things here—we are small, boutique, we have fun, and we do things our way. I think people resonate with that.