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Would You Like Some Crayfish With That?

Esses Wine Company, Kaikōura

Aaron & Mel Skinner, Owners

"We named Esses after the multitude of S's that comprises our very existence – stony soils, spectacular skies, snow-capped mountains, sea breezes, along with our name being Skinner of course."


Esses Wine Company is owned and operated by Aaron and Mel Skinner with the help of their gorgeous 2-year-old boy Parker. Their vineyard is not only their business, but also their backyard, so the Skinner's are passionate about doing things as naturally as possible. We chatted to owner Mel Skinner to find out a little bit more of life in Kaikōura.



When you're talking about Kaikōura, winemaking doesn't instantly come to mind. There has to be a story behind the choice of location. What's your story?


We ended up in Kaikōura purely based on passion and love for bubbles (and crayfish). My husband (Aaron) and I love sparkling wines. We were working overseas and decided that we wanted to get into an industry that we loved and were passionate about. Aaron grew up on a grain and cattle property in Queensland and I grew up doing wine marketing and promotions. We also happened to love New Zealand and especially Kaikōura. Back in 2004, we visited and sat on the beach eating crayfish whilst overlooking ocean and mountains and completely fell in love with the place.


Okay, go on and make us envious, what’s the view like from where you are?

Kaikōura is an astonishing place to live with an unbelievable natural environment from the marine Serengeti in the canyon to the far-reaching peak of Tapuae-O-Uenuku at 2885 metres high. We look up at the towering snow-capped, Kaikōura ranges to the north and northwest, with incredible sea views to the east and south.


We have the most amazing sunrises, sunsets and a spectacular night sky, all of which add to the serenity of living on a vineyard. Our vineyard is just 10 minutes to iconic surf beaches and 45 minutes to the ski fields.


In tune with the environment, the vineyard was established to produce high quality, low yielding fruit. The resulting range of wines showcase each season effortlessly, with a complementing microclimate, ideal for growth. Can you tell me more about that?

As passionate sparkling lovers, we searched the world for an amazing location to grow Méthode Traditionnelle and found the perfect spot in Kaikōura. We are 110% committed to producing world class sparkling wine, Esses specialises in late disgorgement vintage Méthode Traditionnelle. Majority of our methode has been on lees for a minimum of 36 months with current release having up to 55 months on lees.


Kaikōura is at the southern-most tip of the Marlborough region and the Esses estate is framed by the spectacular seaward ranges with panoramic landscapes expanding out over stunning sea views. This provides a dual microclimate of continental and oceanic influences. The sea breezes provide cool temperatures that are beneficial to the development of aromas and quality. The sea also provides heat during spring preventing damaging frosts during the early vine growth stages. The influence of the mountains also provides steady rainfall through the growing season, minimising need for irrigation and allowing vines to grow naturally.


The outstanding Méthode is produced from 20-year-old vines on the 1.5 hectare estate at the base of Kaikoura's Mount Fyffe. This vineyard has an exciting microclimate – free-draining stony ground, sea breeze, and extended ripening season provides an ideal growing environment for achieving full flavoured and vibrant fruit.


Kaikōura is the Méthode Traditionnelle and Crayfish capital of New Zealand. Stunning sparkling, grown locally that match Kaikōura's kaimoana. We can’t disagree on a match made in heaven – crayfish and Méthode Traditionnelle! Can life get any better than that?


As you're situated “off the regular winery tour” route, we want wine lovers to make a trip out of it when they visit the region, can you share with us what other exciting adventures can be found around the estate?


Kaikōura is rapidly developing a reputation for some amazing hospitality venues. The choices are endless, from classic kiwi bach stays including fishing, hunting, diving, peninsula walks and a 42km cycle trail (which skims past the vineyard) to luxury lodges and B&Bs with helicopter flights, cooking experiences and fine dining. Of course, not forgetting the famous marine exploration experiences of whale watching, seal and dolphin swimming and plenty more.


  • If you’re looking for luxury packages, accommodation, and private experiences – Esses currently partner with Hapuku Lodge, Treehouses as well as with Skip and Sean at The Factory.

  • For keen foodies who want a little more hands on gourmet experience, Fiona Read, Masterchef finalist and executive directive of Hapuku Kitchen, runs gourmet cooking experiences focused around sustainable, local produce and foraging.

  • For adrenaline seeking adventurers, you can always jump onboard a helicopter with Dan from South Pacific Helicopters and they will fly you to the mountains to enjoy a sparkling whilst overlooking the spectacular Kaikoura peninsula.


Due to earthquake repairs, the vineyard is currently not open to the public. However, if you’re visiting the region and fancy a bottle, give them a call or order online. Esses can provide a chilled wine on arrival with many accommodation providers and holiday homes.


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Editor's Note:

We recommend the 2014 Lady Syme, or the Coeur de Cuvée 2015 Vintage Brut Cuvée, the quality is superb and rivals (even kicks) it's French counterparts out of play. Magnifique!

All images supplied by Esses Wine Company

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