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New Zealand's Winemaker Eva Pemper On Winemaking and Running A Wine Business

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11/01/2023 I am a winemaker and also a business owner, so I also do finance, social media, logistics, planning, marketing, and overall admin work, Eva Pemper, Founder and Winemaker, Eva Pemper Wines..

Tell us a little about your background and journey into winemaking.

My name is Eva Pemper, and I am the Founder and Winemaker at Eva Pemper Wines. I come from a winemaking family in Croatia, so I didn’t have to go far for my inspiration to be a part of something as wonderful as the world of wine. I came to New Zealand in 2012 following my dream to travel, meet people and make wine around the world. I absolutely fell in love with New Zealand and New Zealand wines, people, and places. I hold a master’s degree in winemaking from Agriculture University in Zagreb, Croatia, and a Graduate Diploma in Oenology from EIT, Hawke’s Bay. This has given me a deep understanding of winemaking practices from very different parts of the world that I draw on in my winemaking. 

My parents started making wine in a garage with nothing but a strong belief and deep faith that this is what they should be doing. It was hard during the period of war in Croatia, but my family didn’t give up. As a family, we are all proud of what we achieved in those extremely difficult times, making wine in a war zone is no easy thing! Due to a few sad things that happened there was no business for me to continue when I finished my study so now, here I am on the other side of the world, committed to continuing my family’s legacy and sharing our story. I worked for a few other wineries in Marlborough until 2019 when I had an opportunity to follow my dream of continuing my family tradition of making great wines and starting my own wine label. I started Eva Pemper Wines together with my business partner who owns vineyards in Marlborough. This means that we have our own secure supply of high-quality grapes which is such an essential resource that ensures our ability to produce exceptional wine year after year.

Eva Pemper with Wines

Image: Eva Pemper; Source: Eva Pemper Wines

Your current role and what does your day look like?

My current role consists of a lot of hats in my own wine business. Not only a winemaker but also a business owner doing a lot of behind the scene things on a daily basis like lots of finance, social media, logistics, planning, marketing, and overall admin work. There is a big social side of it all attending events, doing promotions, and wine tastings which is the part that I absolutely love where I can connect with the end consumer and enjoy my wines together and tell the stories. In the future I definitely want my day to be more winemaking and wine tasting and less admin.

What inspired you to become a winemaker?

My parents inspired me to become a winemaker. They are very talented and passionate winemakers. Their love for crafting wine immersed me, on a daily basis, in something that sparked a passion in me and led me to the path I am on now.
I think it is a beautiful calling in life that brings all the wonderful things together, nature, science, and people. 

How do you think a winemaker can help in driving marketing and sales personally?

I think in this post-Covid world customers have changed their behavior and now they want to know more about what is behind the label, they want to know more about the person that has created the wine and about the story behind the label. I think winemakers can really contribute to driving sales and promoting the wines by telling the story of how the wine was created, where it comes from, and who are the people who helped it all come together. 

Eva Pemper

Image: Eva Pemper; Source: Instagram

Define a good winemaker

A good winemaker is a passionate, creative multitasker who is ready for any challenges and also someone who believes in themselves and trusts their pallet. A good winemaker stands behind the wine and understands why the wine is as is and what led to certain expressions. A good winemaker can capture that moment in time in the vineyard and can relate to and reflect on it in the years to come.

What is the hardest part of a winemaker's job?

The hardest part of a winemaker's job I reckon is the expectations, especially when you need to deliver a certain style and it might not be possible to deliver that in each and every wine every year. I guess then it is time to get those creative juices flowing :). 
Another thing is the ability to capture the essence of that moment in time, great winemakers can do it. 

What do you do when you are not working/making wine?

When I am not making wine and working in and on the business I am outdoors enjoying the beautiful scenery of New Zealand, traveling, etc., and also spending time with family and friends and tasting wines with lovely people all around. 

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What are the current challenges winemakers are facing according to you?

One of the current challenges I think that the winemakers are facing are all the climate changes happening and global warming, unusual weather patterns, and how that is affecting vineyards and grapes in certain regions while you are still expected to create a wine that is true to its terror, style, and variety. Also, a big challenge is this fast-moving world and technology and how to follow that in winemaking. Keeping up with all the innovations while staying true to history is a big challenge winemakers have to face.

What skill or topic you are learning currently in wine and why?

Currently, I am learning more about the sustainability of winemaking, viticulture, and overall how my business can be more sustainable and reduce its carbon footprint. 
The reason I am delving more into this and trying to do as much as I can on my part is that if we all don't do something there will be some serious issues we will be all facing soon and the ones we won't be able to fix. Now is the time to act for a better future. 

Eva Pemper

Image: Eva Pemper; Source: Instagram

What is your idea of a good life?

My idea of a good life is to do what you love and to pursue your passion and dreams. Life with no regrets is what I am trying to achieve. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people and sharing and enjoying a good life with family and friends is the most important in order to achieve your goals and make your dream a reality, without that support it is almost impossible. 

Who are your top 3 sommeliers whose work you admire?

Cameron Douglas
Jancis Robinson 
Madeline Triffon 

Your favourite 2-3 wine books?

The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil
The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson 

Header Image: Eva Pemper; Source: Instagram

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