It has been said on many an occasion that great wine expresses its ‘terroir’ - it reflects its sense of place. The name Nga Waka was chosen to reflect its sense of place. The name is taken from ‘Nga Waka A Kupe’ (The Canoes of Kupe), given to the three hills which lie side by side like upturned canoes, and which form the backdrop to the town of Martinborough and its surrounds.
Roger Parkinson has been described as an “artisan grape grower and winemaker “, and Roger has crafted his 100 percent estate-grown Martinborough wines since 1993. The vineyards were established by the Parkinson family back in 1988, and to this day remain family-owned and operated. Rogers’ parents Gordon and Margaret maintain an active interest in the company along with his wife Carol whom is the financial manager. Roger is a Roseworthy College graduate and prize winner, after four years of overseas study and work experience Roger returned to New Zealand in 1992. Roger is responsible for all aspects of wine production along with being the CEO and has experience in winemaking and viticulture in New Zealand, Australia and France.
Nga Waka vineyards are all accredited to ‘Sustainable Winegrowing NZ’ - reflecting the importance Roger attaches to sustainable management practices and preserving the land for future generations. This attention to detail in all aspects of winemaking is clearly evident in the outstanding complexity of his Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc that he crafts from his 10 hectares of vineyard.
What first attracted you to the wine industry and as a winemaker?
Drinking! Actually, I was lucky enough to gain my first exposure to wine in France and to experience at first hand a wine culture, I was hooked. The modern NZ wine industry was just firing up when I was in my early 20’s and the opportunity to be part of the evolution of a homegrown wine culture was irresistible.
Where and when did you study winemaking?
Roseworthy Agricultural College in South Australia - completed Post-graduate Diploma in Wine in 1989. I received Penfolds Viticultural Scholarship Award.
What is your favourite grape variety(s) to work with and why?
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Pinot Noir because it’s so hands-on and incredible when you get it right and Chardonnay because it’s simply the greatest white variety and also the most versatile.
Which grape variety would you most like to work with in the future and why?
There is an Argentinean white variety, Torrontes, which I reckon would do very well in NZ.
Putting all the other stuff (marketing, admin, etc) to one side and being fully immersed in harvest and winemaking.
To date what has been you most interesting/challenging vintage and why?
1995 and 2004 stick out as particularly challenging vintages due to rain. The wines of those vintages have stood up remarkably well which is very satisfying as we did huge amounts of extra work removing botrytis-damaged grapes and being ruthless about what came in to the winery. Bloody stressful years though.
Which person has influenced you the most as a winemaker and why?
Emile Peynaud, a brilliant wine scientist, taster, author and teacher of winemakers whose interests and understanding encompassed all aspects of wine and its use.
Which person ‘current’ or ‘past’ would you most like to have met or meet and why?
Julius Caesar. Fascinating mix of autocrat, genius, warrior, intellectual, traditionalist, destroyer of traditions. A genuinely great man of his era.
If you were stranded on a desert island and you could take one bottle of wine with you - what would it be and why?
A big one! Probably have to be one of those giant Château d'Yquem bottles, I love the wine, it would keep well once opened and the sugar would be an excellent energy source while waiting for rescue.
If you could make wine anywhere else in the world - where would it be and why?
Alsace. Fantastic people, magical place and I’d love to give Pinot Noir a real go there, watch out Burgundy in the right site.
What advice would you give a young person starting out as a winemaker?
Taste, taste, taste! Irrespective of the type of wine you are going to make you need to understand great wine and the only way to do that is tasting and drinking it.
If you weren’t a winemaker - what would you like to be and why?
A great session guitarist. To be able to work with a multitude of different musical talents would be a dream come true.
In the future, what exciting changes can you see, or would like to see for your wines, wine styles, vineyard or winery?
Well, profitability would be a good start! Seriously though, we are close to re-planting some blocks and I’m excited about the prospect of introducing some different clones of Chardonnay (548) and Pinot Noir (777 and maybe MV6). On a general note I see us consolidating a reputation for growing high quality, authentic Martinborough wine which enhances the enjoyment of food and improves in the bottle.
Nga Waka Wines are available in New Zealand and around the world from quality wine retailers and restaurants. Or visit their website: Nga Waka