Devotus is the first wine venture of Don McConachy and Valerie Worsdale, who upon returning to New Zealand in 2013, purchased the established vineyard with 2 hectares of old Pinot Noir vines; planted originally by Neil McCallum of Dry River. The vineyard is in the heart of the Martinborough Terrace, directly next door to Dry River.
We asked Don what was the main inspiration behind creating Devotus?
For me, growing premium Pinot Noir is a combination of farming and science, and I have a lifelong love of both! Ultimately I wanted to do something better than good, it needed to be something that totally rocks. There was no point in making just another wine, there was no challenge in that. I wanted to create a wine that would actually inspire and make people think.
You won The Vinorium over as we were inspired by your thought provoking wines, and we respect your desire to create something rather special, but why Pinot Noir?
Pinot Noir is a high risk grape. Give it only average attention in the vineyard and you will be totally punished as a winemaker. The wine will be boring and mediocre. It does, however, respond wonderfully to the right treatment. Valerie, my wife, felt the same way, so we decided to go 100% with this grape with a totally all-or-nothing approach in the vineyard. It really is a situation where if you want the most reward, then you have to take the most risk. We could have grown a much easier white grape variety in our vineyard like most other NZ vineyards, yet that would have been a pretty boring, safe and
Your commitment is astounding. It is not easy to go against the flow! Consequently, what do you think is the biggest challenge facing the winemaker today?
Bureaucracy, compliance and red-tape. Hence, one of the main reasons that we have decided to stay small and independent. If we operated on a bigger scale then we would have to sacrifice our freedom to banks (debt) and/or shareholders, employment contracts with teams of people to manage and marketing experts to sell a mountain of wine etc. We have avoided all that by staying small and totally hands on. All the decisions are ours, good or bad.
Barring selling out before the wine is even bottled, what is the most accomplishing thing that rewards all your hard work and efforts?
When other winemakers, that we have great respect for, seek out and buy our wine.
“It really is a situation where if you want the most reward, then you have to take the most risk.”
We were keen to hear, in Don’s own words, what sets Devotus aside from other New Zealand producers?
We are small with only 2 Hectares of vines. We have old vines, some of the earliest planted Pinot Noir vines in NZ. We are family owned and do all the work ourselves. We farm our own vineyard with a desire for perfection and we don’t buy in grapes from other vineyards. We are not distracted with “hospitality” and we don’t have a tasting room, cellar door, or café on our vineyard. We have an obsession with wine quality. We grow only Pinot Noir, nothing else. We don’t irrigate our vines, accepting highly concentrated grapes in preference to bigger yields. We cultivate our vineyard, growing crops of oats, clover, peas, barley and lupin between the vines, which are then ploughed back into the soil to provide organic nutrition for the vines. We teach our young children about the importance of respecting our soil. We have a long term vision.
Do you have any other hobby or passion which is your gateway from the everyday?
To be honest, with our vineyard and raising our 4 year boys (Mac & Zen), I find that Valerie and myself have very little free time left over for anything else!
Finally, why do you believe The Vinorium is best positioned to represent your wines in the UK?
We feel The Vinorium really understands who we are and what we are striving to achieve here. The Vinorium has a fantastic following with wine buyers who are looking to taste and collect great wines. It’s an obvious partnership for us as we can continue to focus on making great wine; whilst The Vinorium can connect us with the people that are looking for great wines.
Memorable story – choosing the right name…
Don: “A few years ago, Valerie and I were in Spain. We had been thinking of a name for our wine for a long time. We needed a name that captured our values and the ethos behind our Pinot Noir. We were travelling to the airport, and had a brilliant brain-storming session during that one hour taxi ride. Finally we went from nothing to absolutely knowing that “Devotus” would be the name for our wine. Devotus is Latin for Devoted. For us it represented being Devoted to Pinot Noir. Valerie and I are devoted to everything that we do, and this name just seemed perfect.”
Devotus Pinot Noir
- 3,157 vines of Dijon and Abel clones, 22 year old
- Winemaker: Alex Craighead of Alana Estate – determined with the minimal intervention approach, he lets the vineyard to speak for itself.Production Levels:
- 2014 = 1,703 bottles (awarded 18/20 Points from Raymond Chan MW)
- 2015 = 882 bottles (awarded 18.5/20 Points from Raymond Chan MW)
• 2016 – 2,600 bottles
Devotus Reserve Pinot Noir
- 731 vines of Pommard clone now 30 years on
- Winemaker: Poppy Hammond of the famous Dry River – remained anonymous for the first vintage release. Poppy brings a wealth of knowledge and skill; creating a complex wine with considerable power and an exquisite balance.
- 2014 = 988 bottles (awarded 18.5+/20 Points from Raymond Chan MW)
- 2015 = 509 bottles (awarded 19/20 Points from Raymond Chan MW)
• 2016 – 1,000 bottles