The 101 on wine from winemaker Brett Bermingham

The 101 on wine from winemaker Brett Bermingham

After growing up in the Marlborough region, winemaker Brett Bermingham says he spent the majority of his youth gallivanting around the world, before eventually returning home to New Zealand with “no real life plans”.

To earn some cash he scored a job on the bottling line at Highfield Estate in Marlborough, and before he knew it he was “totally addicted” to the wine industry.

“Since humble beginnings, I’ve been lucky enough to work in several wine regions and wineries in Australia and New Zealand, including Victoria’s Yarra Valley and New Zealand’s Marlborough and Oregon,” Brett said.

“Nowadays you will find me working as winemaker at Opawa.”

Pinosity met with Brett to get the lowdown on Opawa, why you should be drinking their Pinot Noir, what he loves about the great variety, and how to make your next wine experience 10/10.

Why is the Opawa vineyard a textbook perfect location to grow grapes?

Our vineyard is located on the historic riverbed of the old Opawa River.

The Opawa River was once fed from the Wairau River until the Wairau plains were developed for agriculture, and flood protection measures were put in place. This changed the course of the river, leaving part of the old riverbed dry.

Now the stony soils are ideally suited for grape vines, but not much else. Water drains freely, which grape vines love, while heat is absorbed from the bright Marlborough sunshine during the day and is then radiated back onto the grapes at night.

What can we expect from the wines?

The vineyard is a warm, frost-free site where the grapes ripen early in the season and produce an intensely fruit driven and fragrant style of wine with a soft, juicy texture and a great overall balance.

We like to make wines that are smooth and approachable on the palate, yet very expressive aromatically.

Our Pinot Noir is a medium bodied and beautifully balanced drop. You can expect ripe plums and wild blackberries on the nose, coupled with savoury spices and a hint of toasty oak. There are also hints of liquorice accompanied by soft, fine tannins.

Why are you hooked on Pinot Noir?

There’s not much to not like about Pinot Noir – it’s an alluring variety. Due to the challenges involved in making Pinot, it’s also really rewarding.

I love trying Pinot Noirs from different countries as they really express how and where they have been grown. There are so many styles of Pinot Noir to try these days that it’s a very exciting category to explore.

What’s the best bottle of Pinot Noir you have ever had?

Domaine Dujac 2000 Grand Cru Echezeaux… epic in every way!

What is the best Pinot Noir food experience you have ever had?

Smoked venison backstrap on sweet potato mash with Pinot Noir jus, served with a 2014 Nautilus Estate Awatere Single Vineyard Pinot. A simple meal, but just a cracking match.

What’s the most surprising characteristic of Pinot Noir?

The subtle power the wines can have. Sometimes the colour of Pinot Noir does not give away what the palate is about to experience.

What’s the first thing you do when arriving at the winery?

Crank up the coffee machine then poke my head into the winery to see that all is well with our children (the wines).

What is your bucket-list wine and food experience?

Twelve months in Burgundy immersing myself in all its fantastic food and wine.

If you could no longer drink wine, what would be your drink of choice?

I’m loving the craft beer scene at the moment – there’s so much choice!


The biggest wine mistake people make is…
Buying purely on price. There are some expensive wines that are not always up to scratch!

What’s the most important question to ask at the cellar door?
Ask what the staff are drinking at the moment, it’s usually the wine that’s showing the best.

Always go to a winery and….
Have an open mind! Tell people what you like and let them try to help you out.

Always open a bottle of wine and…
Appreciate the journey the wine has taken to be in your glass. Every wine has its own story.

The best hangover cure is…
Like searching for a unicorn, please let me know if you find either.