Sam Neill

Decanter - - CELEBRITY VINTNERS -

North­ern Irish-born ac­tor Sam Neill is a New Zealan­der at heart. Since mov­ing there with his par­ents as a young­ster (his fa­ther was sta­tioned in North­ern Ire­land when Sam was born), he has pur­sued a highly suc­cess­ful in­ter­na­tional film act­ing ca­reer. He lives on New Zealand’s South Is­land in Queen­stown and owns a win­ery called Two Pad­docks, made up of a vine­yard at Gibb­ston and two near Alexan­dra, all in the Cen­tral Otago re­gion. He has a brisk at­ti­tude to­wards the con­cept of celebrity. ‘ I am not, nor have I ever been, a “celebrity”,’ he says. ‘ I planted my first vines 25 years ago, not be­cause I was bored, or I had too much money, or be­cause I thought it might look good in a colour magazine, but be­cause I had a long and abid­ing in­ter­est in wine. And be­cause my fam­ily had been in the wine trade for at least 150 years.’

Neill gets as in­volved as he can in the wine­mak­ing process, de­spite the de­mands of his other job. ‘As an ac­tor,’ he says point­edly (ie, not as a celebrity), ‘when I am at home, l like noth­ing bet­ter than to be out in the vine­yards get­ting my hands dirty.’

As to how se­ri­ously he is seen as a wine­maker, it in­fu­ri­ates him that ac­tors can be dis­missed as ‘light­weight’ peo­ple. ‘ It has taken 20 vin­tages now, at least 14 of which were ter­rific, for crit­ics and so on to start re­ally look­ing at our wines se­ri­ously. It has been some­thing of a sur­prise for some of them that we do pro­duce world-class Pinot Noirs.’

Neill gets con­sid­er­able per­sonal plea­sure from mak­ing good wine, but points out that if he were mak­ing in­dif­fer­ent wine, then he ‘would be do­ing some­thing else pretty quickly’.

Sam Neill: ‘not a celebrity’

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