Hey! You're new.

Fancy a drink?

Press Enter to submit
Packs About
Get Involved
Press Enter to submit

20Q: Duncan Forsyth, Earth’s End

It’s a rare day when you won’t find Central Otago winemaker Duncan Forsyth with a huge smile plastered across his face, glass in hand and proudly sporting his trademark ‘Jesus drank Riesling’ t-shirt – a natural host and brilliant ambassador for NZ food and drink culture, he’s one of the most likeable people in wine.

As the man behind the controls at Central Otago’s Mount Edward, Forsyth continues to craft some of the most highly regarded wines coming out of the region. With our Planet of the Grapes pack in full swing – and featuring some of Forsyth’s handiwork – we recently took five to chat everything from the New Zealand wine industry’s growing sense of pride to the perils of robbing a bank dressed as Rick James…

1. What do you do for a living?

These days, pretending I do a lot of winemaking, but mostly I try and put together the pieces like any small business, only managing to get my hands dirty over vintage.

2. What’s the story behind Earth’s End?

It was a couple of things really. When we bought Mount Edward, we walked into a vintage that didn’t have the depth of complexity I thought we needed for the Mount Edward label. It was super fruit-driven, which is great, however I guess more ‘classic Central Otago’. The wines didn’t fit the style I envisaged for Mount Edward.

We wanted our tiers or levels of wine to be style driven, not all about price points. We were determined to produce something alongside Mount Edward that was great wine but also about fun and enjoyment, and not super serious. So we needed a new label.

We also wanted something representing New Zealand, so whilst a bit cliché to some, the Ka Mate haka is for us something that deserves total respect and represents Kiwis. Given its usage, in a way for me, this haka speaks to a shared cultural understanding/link/way forward between tangata whenua and pākehā (indigenous vs. immigrants).

So we came up with the idea, went and saw the hapu of Te Rauparaha (the direct family descendants of the very person who created the haka) and asked permission, explaining why. They were totally cool, came and saw us, realised we weren’t some corporate trying to appropriate without any sort of moral compass, and said yes to its usage.

The name Earth’s End? Well, we are at the bottom of the world, or so we are told often enough, so it’s a bit of a back-at-you, I guess. Personally, I think we are at the top – the rest of you are just back to front.

3. How did you wind up in Central Otago?

By total chance, came down to ski and see some friends, lived in Wanaka briefly, moved to Queenstown and never looked back

4. Where in the world has wine taken you?

Hah! All over. The usual suspects, I guess, when it comes to winemaking and growing – luckily wine is grown in some pretty cool spots, I think. But I have also long tried to sell wine in places where other interests lie. So I have found Hokkaido and wine work well in deep snow, some Deep Tech in Copenhagen seems to fit, sunshine and diving in Bermuda also do well. Burning Man and the desert less so, but I will keep trying on that one – I am sure it’s a good market…

5. Instagram alerted us to the fact there’s some pretty crazy stuff happening in your garage right now. Tell us about it.

I have totally regressed and actually am a cellar monkey to my partner Lou, also a winemaker, who has started her own project. I am pretty sure she would like to fire me, as I am crap at cleaning up, but as I own half the garage… No care, no responsibility, apparently. Wine-wise, first up Navel Gazing, next Chaotic Sensitivity coming at you all. Essentially, I am in charge of lighting the cellar and doing what I am told, but we do get to do whatever we want style-wise, so it’s exciting whilst super small.

6. Of all the wines you’ve made, which are you most proud of, and why?

To be honest, I have never really thought that I have made any myself, as there are always other people that are just as involved – I consider it a group effort, always. That said, I am super stoked to have had a hand in our first Gamay that is currently in barrel – it was a leap of faith after being seduced by the variety post a trip to Beaujolais, and right now it look eminently smashable like only good Gamay can be. Truth be told, Anna who works with me did most of the winemaking, but hey, call me an ideas person – whatever, it tastes good! Luckily she is a cool person, so doesn’t mind me taking credit for some of it.

7. Tell us about your hood. What makes it special?

We live in Bannockburn in an old farmhouse surrounded by vineyards – a massive place, loads of room, gardens, the river nearby, trees everywhere, an almost park-like property. It’s epic, nothing fancy but a total home – plus close enough to the fun chaos of Queenstown and equally to that of Wanaka where we have lots of friends. There is a neat cadre of people who live beneath the tourist veneer in our area, close to us all, so quite apart from the wine community, who are by and large good eccentric fun. We have an awesome community who love the outdoors, having fun and living well… My good mate Matt Dicey is also just down the road, which is perfect, as my cellar is crap and his is really good.

8. Whose wines should we be checking out?

Rippon, as always, and of all the people around here, I think Francis at Carrick is doing the most interesting wines by far. That said, his wife is a much better winemaker – hah ha ha.

9. What’s so special about the wine scene in New Zealand right now?

I think there is a developing sense of pride that I find really heartening, plus a growing sense of individual style that hasn’t been here before. The organic/BD crew is leading that charge away from traditional dogma and deference – be it growing, making, style, varieties, whatever.

We don’t have the size of industry that has allowed the amazing resurgence I see across the Tasman, and to a great degree has helped drive our own. There are no cheap grapes that allow you to have a go, nor the culture of sommeliers that encourages this, so the development here is slower and more easily confined to those already with skin in the game. BUT it is happening, and that is awesome.

10. The most underrated grape on the planet is…

Likely to be the one you can’t pronounce – try them all.

11. If you could do a vintage anywhere, where would you do it and who would you do it for?

I would like to work for Brian in Tasmania.

12. What’s your ideal way to kill a Sunday?

I love the day after a party. The slow decline post an all-nighter, rinsed out, danced out, with nothing but relaxation and silliness left to offer…

13. You can have one food and wine combo for the rest of time, what is it?

Pizza and Musigny. I mean you can chuck anything on a pizza, so that covers it food-wise (pick out what you want), and if I ever had one of those moments with wine – whatever the f… that is – it was with this vineyard.

14. The biggest myth surrounding wine is…

That you always need to understand it somehow, and this understanding needs to be expert driven.
Whatever… enjoy it first, the rest, if you care, will follow

15. City or country?

Has to be country. We love, love, love going to the ‘city’ – Sydney (sorry) I fricking love, so many good wine friends. Our last holiday was a trip to Sydney, Shanghai, London and San Francisco – food, art, music, fun, fun, fun – but then you get back rural and suddenly you have a mental freedom and relaxation that is unobtainable anywhere but the country.

16. Day or night?

Night. Softer light, which is getting more important, and the best dance parties always seem to be on the darker side of the day. I mean day is great – lots of stuff to do, but night people are more interesting, all the freaks come out to play.

17. Whisky or gin?

Gin. We have just made our first vermouth, so hanging out for some martini action.

18. Rick James or James Brown?

Well, there was a dude recently who held up a bank dressed as Rick James. That, I thought, was pretty funny, but has to be James Brown – I mean, the most sampled musician of all time. Name an artist or a remix, be it DnB, House, Hip Hop, Breaks or whatever, his influence is there – he redefined dance music and his influence during the early years of hip hop was without peer. No question, JB.

• • •

Duncan’s 2014 Earth’s End Pinot Noir is available in all three of the Planet of the Grapes packs, for a limited time only. Pick up a SML, MED or LRG and enjoy!