We first caught up with Amy in the beautiful Hawkes Bay at the Two Terraces vineyard, where she showed us through the vines and gave us the opportunity to try her 2020 vintages.
Jump forward a few weeks and Amy was up in Auckland. She shot us a message to do a quick tasting out the back of Star Superette, so we figured it would be a great opportunity to chat some shit and have a chat about her history and journey into a career of wine.
Amy! Thanks for catching up with us. Sorry everything is a bit disorganized, we haven’t really figured what we’re doing it so we’re just winging it! So - how’d you first get into wine?
Just my hospo days! I was a criminology student at the time and it was pretty common to serve tables, save your tips for textbooks or stick it towards your student loan – as well putting a bit aside for booze.
I was serving at a little German restaurant of my hometown of Whiterock and my boss Stuli had all these old amazing Rieslings. At the time, like everybody else, I was drinking big, huge Aussie reds, Wolfclass red label kind of stuff, and one time Steuli pulls out a single vineyard, 1971 JJ Prüm Urzinger Wurzgarten - that just changed my life.
That was the bottle – ill never forget it. It just opened up my eyes to this wine world that I didn’t know anything about.
At the restaurant all the male servers were doing all these wine recommendations, selling these 300 dollar wines on the floor. It was a big competition so I jumped in and did all these wine courses to make sure I could do the same.
I then moved to Vancouver and started working in more fine dining restaurants.
What styles were you selling at that time?
It was all big Californian reds, all the classics really.
After a good 8 year stint, I left working in restaurants then jumped into a wine shop. This had a really dramatic effect on me, just being able to taste wine everyday – sometimes tasting 30 times a day, was incredible.
It’s a game changer, aye – it’s actually the same reason I moved from winemaking into hospitality because I wanted to taste just fucking everything.
In my mind it was gonna be a clear path of trying something incredible and then replicating it but I quickly realized that that was impossible because the terrain is so broad. Its constantly shifting and changing - to find that perfect wine and replicate it is pretty much impossible.
The more you learn, the more you realise you don’t know anything about anything. I just couldn’t get enough.
Back in those days my friends and I used to split bottles of the nicer stuff because wanted to try everything but were totally broke. I had a little book and everything; taking notes of each little texture and taste.
In Vancouver I began working for a little wine retailer called Liberty where I had some of the best times of my life; amazing music, incredible crew, dancing around with a price gun all day – so much fun. The people I worked with were just so passionate and so was my boss.
Inventory days were always the best – the boss would always open something super nice cause you were counting bottles all day, as well as the Chinese food at the end of the night!
I then worked for Liquid Art Fine Wine, who were a biodynamic importer/wholesaler that had the biggest biodynamic range in all of British Colombia. They didn’t mean to! But it was just a coincidence, because the wines were so good.
Soooo you never finished your criminality degree?
Oops yeah I definitely glossed over that part
Yeah, it was like beating a dead horse. I started flunking out, had to retake papers and then I started thinking what exactly I was doing it for – for a piece of paper? The decision to not go back was really hard and it was something I carried around with me for over a decade – but I made peace with it.
My family really pushed me towards following my passion - whenever I spoke about wine I came alive. They helped me realise that.
Getting back to Amoise – you made the move to Hawkes bay after working at Felton road?
Ah no – ahh no. I moved there in 2017 after travelling the world for several years. After Felton I did some harvests and a few international vintages, and landed myself in Burgundy and got waylaid there.
I managed to study there and really soak up the culture and techniques. I got to go to the Jura, Di Futê and that’s when I caught the bug.
Then I went through Italy, Australia and then ended back in NZ where I worked at Black Estate for a couple of years, then went to Lincoln. Black Estate were incredible because every Winter they supported me in working the vintages in the North.
Initially I was meant to start a label with a close friend of mine in 2017. But 2017 was a notoriously bad vintage – after seeing the fruit I realized there was no way I could make natural wine with it.
I made the difficult decision not to get involved in the project so in the following year, I found the organic fruit and made three barrels of Gris - Amoise began.
Did you find that working those vintages and harvest drove you to becoming winemaker?
Cause I went through a similar after studying winemaking - after the first semester I went and worked a vintage and found that I learnt so much more in a single week.
Learning about viticulture without stepping into a vineyard is just so absurd
It’s like wanting to be a Chef without stepping in a kitchen – only learning via cookbooks
Yeah it’s the same thing. Once I got in there I immediately I found my groove again – and it really dawned on me that this is what I want to do for a living, and after working in the winery, I realized that this is my path.
Are you still chasing that lightbulb moment wine? What drives you to make the wine.
I just want to capture best what happened during that vintage. With last year’s Gris, everyone who tried it kept telling me how different it was from the last year. For me that’s natural wine - last year was a different year, it was a drought year, so the wine should be different.
I always want to work the parcels I’m harvesting from. I want to get to know everything; the soil, the environment – I want to know the vines and grow with them as they grow. I don’t want to just buy grapes – I want to be able to see the process from start to finish. This way I can learn how it behaves through fermentation, so I can work the vines and really understand everything that goes on.
I want to capture what happened with the terroir, at the site, which is such a typical answer but it’s always about the connection to the land.
A huge thank’s Amy for taking the time to link up with us! We’re looking forward to her 2020 vintages – watch this space!
Keep up to date with Amy via her Instagram @amoise_wines