The faces behind our hand-crafted Nelson wines
Meet the owners Daniel and Ursula Schwarzenbach
The chemistry of winemaking has always been in Daniel Schwarzenbach’s blood. Born in Switzerland but growing up in New Zealand from the age of nine, Daniel’s first career was as a medical chemist and microbiologist both here and in the UK. But in the early ’90s he followed his heart, returning home to study viticulture and winemaking at Lincoln University in Canterbury.
With qualifications under his belt, he chose to seek out some of Europe’s finest winemakers to soak up their knowledge and generations of experience. He worked in Austria for respected Riesling producer Weingut Hirsch and Weingut Engelhof in Germany as well as Swiss winemaker Georg Fromm who has a huge reputation for Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir both in Switzerland and in their Marlborough vineyards here in New Zealand.
“One of the biggest influences on my winemaking philosophy has been Olivier Humbrecht, owner and winemaker of the highly successful Domaine Zind-Humbrecht, regarded by many as the best winery in Alsace.” Olivier was the first Master of Wine in France and he is not only a perfectionist, but also a highly respected pioneer in the field of bio-dynamics.
Daniel‘s fascination with Olivier Humbrecht is because he doesn’t follow conventions and always tries to get back to the basic principles of grape-growing and winemaking. “He questions every step of vineyard management and winemaking. If it doesn’t make sense in his view, he’ll find a different solution that’s simpler, gentler, better for the environment and obviously better for the vines and the wines.”
Olivier openly shares his vast knowledge because he believes it’s the terroir that makes his wines so outstanding, unique and unable to be copied.
Bringing that inspiration back home, Daniel worked as chief winemaker at Seifried Estate in Nelson before taking the plunge to start Blackenbrook – the name is an anglicised version of their surname where Schwarz means black and bach is brook or stream.
But Blackenbrook Vineyard is not just about Daniel. He couldn’t do it without his wife Ursula, whom he met in Switzerland in 1996. They carefully selected the land in Tasman, planted the vines together and shared the pride of their first wine release in 2004.
While Daniel’s out in the vines or in the winery she’s juggling caring for their two young children, Thomas and Isabelle and then swapping hats between sales and marketing, administration and being in charge of the finances.
It really is a hands-on family vineyard. “The beauty of our set-up is that we make all the decisions and therefore control the quality. All our choices have to fit with each other – from grafting to marketing. That way our vision for Blackenbrook slowly turns into reality.“
“We’ve still got bare land to expand our production but the aim is to remain reasonably small and true to ourselves. We want to stay physically in control and put our own stamp on every single bottle of Blackenbrook wine.
To be continued…
Our fabulous vineyard-team
Mauricio Lloreda is our dedicated vineyard foreman. Together with his team he cares for our grapes from bud-burst right through to harvest.
One of our employees is usually a European trainee working here for a full growing season. They come from family vineyards just like Blackenbrook and having just finished their basic winemaking training back home, they bring along massive enthusiasm and up-to-date knowledge. “We love having these young people with us. They are eager to learn and the in-depth winemaking conversations and blind tastings are a real inspiration for both sides. They tend to become part of the Blackenbrook Family pretty quickly”.
Daniel did exactly the same after finishing his studies at Lincoln. “Working in different European wine growing regions was a huge experience, shaping me into the winemaker I am today. We try to offer the same opportunity to our trainees and hope to make some impact on their professional career. “
Later on in the season many more hands are needed to bring in the grapes. “Over harvest we’d have up to 20 pickers here, a cheerful team of loyal helpers from the Moutere and travelling young people from all corners of the world. That’s when the demand for freshly baked muffins grows exponentially!“
Want to know more about our family-vineyard?
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