|Ben: There's a mystique about pinot that's almost tied up with sex -- I bet you're wondering where this is going -- in the way it is described as sexy, raunchy, voluptuous...
Sam: ...seductive. A lot of female metaphors. It's curious that you don't get them attached to other wines. There is something elusive about it that you can't ever quite nail down...like women.
Ben: To be tenderly nurtured like a woman?
Sam: Mmmmm...if that's what one does with a woman. It's the differences in women which make them interesting. If women were like blokes, they wouldn't be interesting at all. A shiraz is a blokes' wine, predictable and muscular. I think you're absolutely right to identify pinot as feminine; it is more about subtlety and nuance.
Ben: Have you noticed that pinot is becoming more connected with lifestyle and fashion?
Sam: I'm deeply suspicious of anything that's fashionable or has lifestyle attached to it. God forbid that pinot should ever become fashionable. It's too much of a classic variety to ever be anything as whimsical as the dictates of fashion...I think...I hope.
Ben: You were involved in a New Zealand wine-growing operation prior to having your own vineyard.
Sam: I pulled out of that after two or three years because all they wanted to do was make champenoise and I don't drink Champagne, I'm not interested in Champagne. I thought, why make something you don't want to drink?
Ben: So you bought your own land and starting planting pinot almost 10 years ago. What sort of vintages have you had?
Sam: Ninety-seven was a bad year to start because it was tough for everybody. Nevertheless, we produced a wine which quite surprised us how good it was. Ninety-eight, our second vintage, was the first one we were actively pleased with. Ninety-nine is in another league altogether and we seem to be going from strength to strength. Having said that, the 2000 is down from 800 cases to about 200 because it was a much harder year with a cold spring and very small fruit set. It's like any sort of farming, swings and roundabouts. Wonderful highs and nail-biting lows.
Ben: What's the character of the Two Paddocks pinot?
Sam: It shares a lot in common with other Central Otago pinots, with lots of delicious fruit and with toasty, sometimes smokey, herby overtones.
I try to hold onto my pinot a little longer. I was at the Queenstown Wine and Food Festival and tasted some 2000 pinots. I said to the winemakers, "Why have you released these now?" And they replied that they had mortgages and had to pay the bank, but luckily I don't have to worry about that too much. At the bare minimum, my wines will be two years in the bottle before they come out.
Ben: Do you ever chill your pinot?
Sam: No. I think you lose some of the aromatics. I had a couple of English wine writers here who opened a bottle in Cromwell, then came up here with it rolling around on the floor of the car and getting all warm. They said it was twice as good at the other end of the journey. Oxygen and a bit of a slosh around brings out a lot of things in the wine that weren't there before.
Ben: Let's talk about your film work. You seem to make a deliberate effort to skip between high-profile studio movies to material that's a bit more offbeat.
Sam: I think it would be terribly dull if you just did the same shit.