Drs John and Brigid Forrest are behind Forrest, a boutique wine label run largely from their home vineyards in Marlborough.
Leaving behind careers in molecular biology and medicine, the couple returned to Marlborough in 1988 to establish their first vineyard. Among their products is the Doctor's wine range, with lower alcohol content and varietals that are either twists on classics or brand new, such as sparkling Syrah.
What inspired the career change from medical science to the wine industry?
John: I was getting very frustrated with science as I returned from Australia at a time when all research in New Zealand was under a “user pays” system. My wife told me stop complaining and look at something I would enjoy!
Did you have any previous experience in the wine industry?
Brigid: John's medical research had taken us to California and South Australia and we had really enjoyed getting to learn about wine. John’s research animals were on a farm at the beginning of the Barossa Valley and he was often quite late getting back from days out there!
How has the company grown since its establishment?
Brigid: We had always planned on being a small boutique winery but because we established in the very early days of the NZ wine industry we had opportunities to buy land in exceptional parts of NZ at a good price and were able to experiment with great mentors in the industry. John came from a farming family and his inquisitive scientific mind made a great start for winemaking, he learnt his skills from the cellar floor with time at Grove Mill and Corbans.
Our mottos have always reflected our aspirations - “quality wines at affordable prices”, “hand crafted in the vineyard” Quintessential Marlborough, and The Doctor's range “Innovation and Excellence”. Our wines are definitely “made in the vineyard” with John as senior winemaker spending considerable time with the vineyard manager trying to do things better.
What accomplishments do you like to crow about?
Brigid: Last year, we managed to scoop the coveted award of Best New Zealand Pinot Noir at the London International Wine Competition. The most exciting thing about this was the wines were from our vineyards in the Waitaki Valley, North Otago. In terms of NZ wine regions Waitaki Valley is new and relatively unknown globally. This achievement was a real breakthrough for a wonderful region, putting Waitaki Valley on the world map overnight.
What is the Forrest winemaking philosophy?
Brigid: Quality fruit makes the difference so our philosophy initially is drive in the vineyard, plus we want to give back to the land what we take out and leave our vineyards in a better condition for our family than what we inherited over 25 years ago.