Media articles and press releases from our Nelson family vineyard

World Class Pinot Noir

News Release - for immediate release
11 March 2016
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Daniel and Ursula Schwarzenbach of Nelson's Blackenbrook VineyardBlackenbrook Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2014 has won a Gold medal and Best in Show for New Zealand Red Wine at one of Europe’s leading wine competitions, the Mundus Vini Grand International Wine Awards in Germany.

This is the latest in a series of top-shelf wine industry accolades for the Tasman-based family vineyard.

“Mundus Vini Grand International Wine Awards is now judged twice a year, in February and in August, with nearly 10,000 wines submitted each year,” says Blackenbrook Vineyard co-owner Ursula Schwarzenbach. “Mundus Vini judges are extremely tough and being awarded a gold is a very significant achievement.”

Ursula and Daniel Schwarzenbach are more knowledgeable than most about the rigorous judging process, as Daniel usually chairs a panel at the August tasting. 

Gold and Best in Class from Mundus Vini International Wine AwardWinning gold at Mundus Vini is particularly important for Blackenbrook because Germany is a key export market for its wines. “This accolade will help our German importers to build a premium reputation for our wines,” says Ursula.

It’s particularly satisfying to see a Pinot Noir from Nelson doing so well, she says. “Nelson is producing world-class Pinot Noir but due to its small production only rarely features in the list of gold medal winners for this noble variety.”

“2014 was a fantastic vintage for us. All the factors lined up to produce amazing concentration in our grapes. All our 2014 wines are of exceptional quality, bringing home two trophies (for Gewürtztraminer and Reserve Pinot Noir) and three Gold Medals.

“From the day we picked the grapes for the 2014 Pinot Noir, Daniel was excited with the quality, always maintaining that this would be the best Pinot Noir so far produced at Blackenbrook – it’s great to see his gut feeling was right!”

Daniel Schwarzenbach with grapes for  gold-medal-winning Nelson Pinot Noir 2014

Control from grape to glass

The Nelson Mail, 13 October 2015
by Neil Hodgson

Daniel and Ursula Schwarzenbach at their Nelson vineyardOne of the really exciting things about small, boutique vineyards and wineries is that the owners are generally prepared to try different things.

Daniel and Ursula Schwarzenbach established Blackenbrook Vineyards (Blackenbrook is the English version of the family name) at Tasman at the start of this century.

Their first full vintage was in 2004 and when they planted the first part of the land in vineyards some of the varieties they chose were untested in the area and they just didn’t know whether or not the varieties planted would produce the quality of fruit they needed to allow them to make outstanding examples of these varieties.

The vineyard land is formed from Moutere clay soils, gently sloping north facing and while slightly elevated is reasonably close to the coast so is exposed to cooling mid-afternoon sea breezes. Small quantities of some Gewürztraminer, Montepulciano and Muscat were planted along with the more common Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The focus of the aromatic wines produced by Blackenbrook is on the varieties and style of Alsace in France while the fuller style red variety Montepulciano is one the Schwarzenbachs thought they might be able to get to fully ripen on their site. Time has now told us that the site they chose is exceptional and, combined with intensive viticulture, a winemaking facility that is designed to treat the grapes and resulting wines very gently and masterful winemaking techniques, is now producing some stunning aromatic style wines as well as delicious, flavoursome Montepulciano with a twist of minty freshness that reflects its cool climate location.

In making any wine the real work takes place in the vineyard because without great fruit winemakers can’t weave their magic and turn the fruit into great wine. The Bragato Wine Awards are designed to recognise the work growers put in to producing the great fruit; if the fruit is great then winemakers don’t need to weave too much magic, they can just let the fruit express itself in the finished product.

The effort that goes in to producing beautiful grapes in an environmentally sustainable way shouldn’t be underestimated; at Blackenbrook it all starts with the rain water that is gathered for use in the winery to clean tanks and washing down during production.

In the vineyard, working with a couple of staff, Daniel ensures everything that needs to be done happens with meticulous care and attention to detail to ensure the quality is there from the beginning. Good fruit is where great wine starts. The Schwarzenbach’s say “that without great long-term staff who understand the quality we want we wouldn’t be able to make the wines we do”.

Being in control of everything from the vineyard to the bottle is the reason for the latest step, taking control of the bottling process rather than relying on contract bottlers. They are installing a top-of-the-line bottling line using the latest technology that handles the wine in a very gentle manner. While this is a huge investment that includes construction of a new building at the winery it is one the Schwarzenbachs are confident will help keep them at the front of the pack when it comes to producing wines with pure varietal characters.

Back to the Bragato Wine Awards, it is a remarkable achievement that not only has Blackenbrook Vineyards won a best in class trophy five times in wine competitions but three of these are Bragato Trophies for the aromatic wines it produces providing more proof, if there was any doubt, they have an outstanding vineyard site and the meticulous work the Schwarzenbachs and their staff put into the vineyards results in great wines.

The first Bragato gold medal and trophy combination came in 2007 for their 2007 vintage Sauvignon Blanc (also won a trophy at the New Zealand International Wine Show 2007). The second Bragato trophy came in 2014 for their Pinot Gris 2013 and they followed it up with their third for Gewurztraminer 2014 which was awarded a month ago.

Of course to achieve results like this any small business needs to have the right people with the right attitude and Daniel and Ursula bring both of those attributes to their wine business, they continue to develop their wine making venture with a focus on purity of flavour in all of the wines they produce.

Blackenbrook Family Vineyard scores another impressive industry accolade

News Release - for immediate release
28 August 2015
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Ursula Schwarzenbach bringing Bragato Trophy for best Gewurztraminer home to NelsonMulti-award winning Tasman winemaker Daniel Schwarzenbach of Blackenbrook Vineyard has scored another impressive industry accolade by winning a gold medal and the trophy for Best Gewürztraminer at the prestigious annual Bragato Wine Awards held in Napier on 27 August.

This is the fifth ‘best wine in class’ award at a national competition for the family owned and run vineyard and it cements Blackenbrook’s reputation for producing outstanding aromatic wines.  

Bragato Wine Awards are noteworthy because they recognise the grape grower rather than the vineyard and are awarded by fellow viticulturalists.

“We put our heart and soul into our wines,” said Daniel Schwarzenbach speaking from Germany where he is currently judging wine at the Mundus Vini International Wine Awards.

“Accolades such as the Bragato trophy tell us that we are achieving something really special here. We are humbled by this recognition from our peers.” 

Producing beautiful Gewürztraminer is the realisation of a long-cherished dream for the Schwarzenbachs.  “Before starting our vineyard I worked as a cellar hand for Alsace’s Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, one of the top Gewürztraminer producers worldwide,” said Daniel. “It was a fantastic experience and I couldn’t wait to get home to our patch of Tasman paradise to start planting our own aromatics.”

Ursula Schwarzenbach said that achieving another national award is a very proud moment for a small vineyard in a very competitive industry. “Gewürztraminer is a variety that we have been working really hard on and it’s very exciting to see that our work is paying off in the glass.”

“Blackenbrook is one of the highest-achieving wineries on the Nelson scene with a reputation for aromatic white wines - Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc - that are rich and full of personality.”
- Michael Cooper (renowned wine critic)


Excellent review for our Nelson Muscat 2014

Neil Hodgson's wine recommendation in the Nelson MailFantastic to see Neil Hodgson, wine commentator for the Nelson Mail impressed by the high quality of our Nelson Muscat 2014:  

"The Blackenbrook Muscat 2014 is made in an off-dry style but with plenty of fullness in the palate.  As we have come to expect from Blackenbrook the wines have a purity we don't often see, especially in this variety.  Flavours of spiced lychee and ripe orange citrus with spritz-like zesty acidity in the long finish make it a most attractive wine."

Thank you Neil Hodgson!

The Nelson Mail, 26 May 2015

Blackenbrook celebrates 10 years

Daniel & Ursula Schwarzenbach, owners of Nelson's Blackenbrook VineyardPhillip Reay of Wild Tomato Magazine used his latest wine column for a glowing summary of our first 10 years at Blackenbrook Vineyard: 

Blackenrook Vineyard recently celebrated its 10 birthday.  As vineyards go it is pretty young, not even a teenager yet.  Don't let its youth  confuse you.  Its wines would suggest a much more established vineyard. [...] 

The Sauvignon Blanc is an award winner with wonderful tropical tones, still fresh but without that green griping acidity. [...]  The Muscat is packed with flavour yet refreshing.  [...] 

For me the two white wine stars of this vineyard are the Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer.  Both are made medium-dry, just as aromatics should be, and emulate the Alsace style.  These are wonderful wines with persistent flavour, superb mouth feel - unctuous and delicious.  The Gewurz just goes on and on, and the Pinot Gris is a wine that could turn you into an alcohloic.  It's impossible to put down. 

If you don't know this vineyard then you should.  A botle of Blackenbrook Pinot Gris 2014 and Blackenbrook Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 with Xmas lunch is a good way to start.  

Here is Phillip Reay's article

Blackenbrook celebrates another top award for Pinot Gris

News Release - for immediate release
12 November 2014
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Pure Elite Gold Medal from Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2014A personal passion for Pinot Gris has netted Blackenbrook Vineyard in Tasman near Nelson, its fourth top award within two months! Their 2013 Pinot Gris has just brought home a gold medal from the well-respected Air New Zealand Wine Awards, after also winning a gold medal and the Trophy for best Pinot Gris at the Bragato Wine Awards 2014, held in Blenheim in September.

But it’s not just the 2013 vintage that shines - the 2014 Pinot Gris has already been decorated with gold medals from Bragato Wine Awards 2014 and New Zealand International Wine Show 2014 before its official release in December.

Family owned and run Blackenbrook was one of the first vineyards in the Nelson region to plant Pinot Gris in 2001. Since 2007, owner and winemaker Daniel Schwarzenbach has earned numerous five star ratings and gold medals for his Pinot Gris including a Trophy for Best Pinot Gris at the New Zealand International Wine Show (2008 Reserve Pinot Gris), a Bragato Gold (2008), and five stars (2009 and 2010) from leading wine commentators Michael Cooper and Bob Campbell MW (2007).
Renowned Wine Commentator Michael Cooper says “Blackenbrook is one of the highest-achieving wineries on the Nelson scene, with a reputation for aromatic white wines - Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc - that are rich and full of personality.”

Winemaker Daniel Schwarzenbach with Trophy-winning Pinot GrisDaniel Schwarzenbach says he has always had a desire to produce outstanding Pinot Gris:
“Before starting our own vineyard, I worked as a cellar hand for Domaine Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace, one of the top Pinot Gris producers worldwide. It was a fantastic experience and I couldn’t wait to get home and start planting our own Aromatics.”

Pinot Gris always took centre stage in the Blackenbrook vineyard: the best part of their land was planted with the latest clones. “We hand pick the grapes and they’re processed as gently as possible through our gravity-fed sustainable winery. I believe that has a lot to do with the outcome in the glass,” says Daniel.

“I am delighted to see our Pinot Gris doing well year after year and each accolade spurs me on to keep fine-tuning my vineyard management and winemaking. Every year brings new challenges and there is so much more to be learnt about this wonderful grape variety.”

All Blackenbrook wines are 100% sustainably produced and accredited by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand. Their white and rose wines are vegan, certified by the New Zealand Vegetarian Society. The 2013 and 2014 top-rated Pinot Gris are available for sale directly from the Blackenbrook website.

Blackenbrook Vineyard Celebrates a Decade of Achievement

News Release - for immediate release
26 September 2014
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Daniel & Ursula Schwarzenbach at Blackenbrook's 10-year celebrationAcclaimed family-run winery Blackenbrook Vineyard is celebrating the 10 year anniversary since their first vintage and thanking the local community.

Renowned Wine Commentator Michael Cooper says “Blackenbrook is one of the highest-achieving wineries on the Nelson scene, with a reputation for aromatic white wines - Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc - that are rich and full of personality. Daniel and Ursula are currently celebrating their ten-year anniversary. It’s a major milestone, and as their vineyard matures – to say nothing of the benefits of winemaker age – Blackenbrook’s wines will surely get better and better.”

Winemaker Daniel Schwarzenbach and his wife Ursula built one of the first gravity-fed wineries in the Nelson region and Daniel’s focus on ‘gentle processes’ and depth of flavour has earned them over 15 top awards and 12 Five Star ratings for their wine over the past decade. (See full list of awards under Note 1).

“We are very grateful to those businesses and customers who took the chance to try a new wine all those years ago. This anniversary is a time to look at where we’ve come from and to celebrate with the local community, who are such a big part of our journey” says Ursula Schwarzenbach. 

To mark the anniversary, Blackenbrook held a celebration at one of their first trade customer’s award-winning café, the Jester House. The other initial trade customers were Casa del Vino and Fresh Choice in Nelson alongside The Mooring (now Elevation Café) and Super Liquor in Motueka.

Now they sell to 85 trade customers nationwide and export to Japan, Germany and Switzerland.

Since 2004, when they produced 22452 bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, winemaker Daniel Schwarzenbach and his wife Ursula have more than doubled production to around 50,000 bottles annually, now also including Gewürztraminer, Muscat and Montepulciano.

Winemaker Daniel Schwarzenbach tasting at Mundus Vini in Germany“We have grown in many ways over the past decade both in terms of wine production but also in our knowledge of how to get the best flavours from our terroir,” says Daniel.

“From when we started, we have seen a lot more players enter the Nelson wine scene, some quite small without their own winery facilities. The larger wineries now all employ a good number of staff, including vineyard managers and winemakers. When we arrived in 1998 there was only one employed winemaker in Nelson, and that was Daniel at Seifried Estate. Weren’t we lucky to score that job – otherwise we could not have settled here!“ says Ursula.

The ten year celebrations also mark a change of direction in Blackenbrook’s look with a new logo, website and video.

The new logo (at the top of this page) combines the couples’ Swiss heritage with their deep connection to New Zealand through a stylised bunch of grapes made up of red koru – the red reflecting the couple’s Swiss heritage and the koru, their bond to New Zealand.

The history of their Tasman vineyard goes back to 2000 when they grafted their own vines to plant the first 4 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. “We used to burn the midnight oil as we both still held onto our day jobs,” laughs Ursula.

10-year celebration at the award-winning Jester House in Tasman, NelsonIn 2004 their first wine was produced and the Blackenbrook label launched – the name being an English translation of their surname. Over the years they’ve added Riesling, Gewürztraminer and the Italian red variety Montepulciano. For their third vintage, a modern gravity-fed winery was opened on site and alongside this, the couple also started a family - Thomas, 10 and Isabelle, 6, who have grown up along with the vines.

While the couple are no longer out tending vines with head-torches at night, they’re still extremely hands-on and involved in every aspect of the business – Daniel as vineyard manager and winemaker and Ursula taking charge of marketing and sales.

Vintage 2014 was their largest ever and Daniel is excited about the vibrant new wines: “The 2014 wines have an amazing flavour concentration and balance, reflecting the fantastic conditions we had in the vineyard.”

The passion for winemaking is even stronger now than when they started.

Daniel Schwarzenbach: “We’ve just processed the ninth harvest in our winery and I still love working in there. It’s functional, it’s gentle, it’s clean and it just feels right. “


Note 1: Since 2004: 6 Trophies (Best of class of the entire wine competition), 9 Gold Medals, 12 x 5 Star ratings, mainly Michael Cooper and Bob Campbell MW; 15 x 4 ½ Star ratings, mainly Michael Cooper and Bob Campbell MW; and numerous Silver Medals and 4 Star ratings. Most prestigious awards went to Blackenbrook Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2007 which received 3 Gold and 3 Trophies (Bragato Wine Awards, New Zealand International Wine Show, South African Sauvignon Blanc Competition) – an amazing achievement for a Nelson Sauvignon Blanc, stepping out of Marlborough’s shadow.
Blackenbrook ‘s most recent awards were three gold medals and a Trophy in the last month:
• Gold & Trophy from the Bragato Wine Awards 2014 for Pinot Gris 2013
• Gold from Bragato Wine Awards 2014 for Pinot Gris 2014
• Gold from New Zealand International Wine Show 2014 for Pinot Gris 2014

Note 2: David Letsche Photography produced the new video which will be used to share the Blackenbrook story with customers in New Zealand and overseas.

Thomas’s Treasure Dessert Riesling 2008 ready for release!

News Release - for immediate release
5 December 2013
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It will be an emotional moment for the Schwarzenbach family when a very significant wine is released on the 10th of December.

Daniel and Thomas Schwarzenbach with acacia barrel of dessert RieslingNot only has their Thomas’s Treasure Dessert Riesling 2008 already been awarded five stars by wine consultant Michael Cooper, but the single barrel, limited release wine has a family story that will become part of the Blackenbrook legacy in years to come.

Only 240 small bottles from a total of 309 are being released – the rest will remain as Blackenbrook library stock at their Tasman winery near Nelson.

Michael Cooper says this wine will be highly sought after. “This is a very special wine and unusually rare with only 20 cases available. It is very collectible.”

Michael Cooper’s Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wines 2014 describes Blackenbrook Thomas’s Treasure Nelson Dessert Riesling 2008 as:

“The 2008 vintage (*****) is indeed a ‘treasure’ – one of the most striking sweet wines ever produced in New Zealand. Made from estate-grown, ‘tiny, completely botrytised berries’, harvested at 55 brix, it was matured for three years in a small (120-litre) acacia barrel from Slovenia. Only 309 bottles were produced – but what a wine! The bouquet is immediately arresting, with an exceptional intensity of apricot and honey aromas, showing real complexity.

Thomas with our botrytised Riesling grapesA wine of great beauty, it is oily and sweet, almost syrupy, with honey, apricot and tea flavours, good acid spine and exceptional depth.”

The story of Thomas’s Treasure began when Blackenbrook owner and winemaker Daniel Schwarzenbach visited a cooperage in Slovenia and fell in love with this particular small barrel. When the barrel was being unloaded at the Blackenbrook winery in 2006 – Thomas then aged 3 became firmly attached to it.

“He loved that barrel from the moment he saw it and claimed it as his at once. He’s been a part of this wine right from the start which is why it seemed right to let him name it.”

Two years later Thomas enthusiastically helped picking the grapes that went into his barrel. In 2012, after lengthy family discussions, Thomas aged 8, chose the name Thomas’s Treasure.

Daniel says it’s a perfect wine to keep for Thomas for posterity, as it may have an aging potential of more than 20 years.

“This is a once in a lifetime wine. The conditions were less than perfect in 2008 and ample rain just before harvest caused heavy losses to botrytis. But some of our Riesling developed beautiful “noble rot”, a fungus that dehydrates the berries and thus concentrates sugar and flavour. We carefully hand-picked the tiny bunches with an amazing 55 Brix or 550g natural sugar per litre of juice.”

The outstanding fruit, combined with the uniqueness of the acacia barrel and the hands-off winemaking resulted in a wine that we’re immensely proud of. We let natural yeast take care of the fermentation; there were no mechanical movement or racking, no sulphur or any other additives in the first three years.

“We weren't in any rush to release this wine. It will only get better and it will age gracefully,” says Daniel.

Michael Cooper agrees: “It’s already been cellared for 5 and a half years and as is the case with sweet wines it should age extremely well. But buyers don’t have to cellar this though – it’s drinking really well now.”

Blackenbrook Thomas’s Treasure Nelson Dessert Riesling 2008 is retailing at $55 for a 375ml bottle. It is available directly from Blackenbrook at their website 

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