Dom Maxwell: Pinot Personality

30 Jul 2019

North Canterbury’s Waipara region is a wine rebel’s paradise. The birthplace of some of New Zealand’s most ambitious wines, it’s also home to Dom Maxwell, the winemaker at the acclaimed Greystone Wines. An analytical and impressively-awarded wine producer, Dom is the perfect person to ask for tips on the unique colours and flavours of North Canterbury.

GreyStone Wines Vineyard

It’s all about the place

The region is home to a clutch of winemakers forging their own paths and attempting to remain as true to the land they work on as possible.

Greystone is 100% certified organic with BioGro and believes true fine wines are temporal, each vintage a fleeting snapshot of a place in time. They don't seek to manipulate the final product and allow a true interpretation of the soil, vines and season to shine through. 

Greystone also practices vineyard fermentation. “Standard fermentation practices bring the wine into the building and ferment it there. What we started doing in 2012 was fermenting the fruit out in the vineyard. We were wanting to up the ante as far as expressing our site, and how the yeast is fermenting the fruit has got a part to play in that.”

Vineyard fermentation is rare, and the way they are doing it at Greystone may well be one-of-a-kind, but that’s what makes it so special. “Wine is like anything else – it’s increasingly competitive, and projects like these bring people together,” Dom says.


Dom Maxwell infront of a crowd

Truth and ‘elegant power’

Dom loves wine descriptions but loathes ones that don’t speak the truth. “I don’t really mind how people describe an aroma or a flavour, that’s how people are describing their own experience, but anything that’s misleading, I don’t like.”

It’s this commitment to truth and purity that is reflected in Dom’s winemaking practices, which is probably why his own descriptions are vivid – and honest – when talking about his ‘favourite child’, Greystone’s Thomas Brothers Pinot Noir.

“Not every year, but maybe two years out of three, we do a single block Pinot off our highest-elevation spot on the vineyard. It’s where we’ve got our most limestone-dominant area and I just love the sort of elegant power that you get from that block. We make it in a fairly traditional way, but it’s a wine that will age, and I think it’s been surprising how it’s aged. We’re still fairly young, but we’ve enjoyed some bottles that have been tucked away for a few years and they are still bringing a lot of interest and unfolding a lot of different layers as they get older.”

“Wine is like anything else – it’s increasingly competitive, and projects like these bring people together.”

Dom Maxwell, Winemaker, Greystone Wines
Bread on a table at Greystone Wines

The Winemaker's Guide to North Canterbury

So where does a winemaker’s winemaker go to eat, drink and relax in North Canterbury? Dom recommends Pegasus Bay straight off the bat. “They were the first to set up, and they really paved the way.” Next up is Black Estate, another young gun winery doing things a bit differently.

For something different with an element of adventure, Dom suggests a truffle hunt at Limestone Hills, where the truffles can be taken home and enjoyed with a great pasta (and a fantastic glass of wine).

To finish the day? If you’re visiting in warmer weather, cool off with a sunset swim at Amberley Rock – a true local favourite.

Truffles, wine, cool water swims and a fermentation process not seen anywhere else on earth? It seems there are a range of delicious, delightful and downright scientific reasons to visit North Canterbury.

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