DATE 10th Mar 2020

In every issue of Elevate we showcase a Southern Lakes-based business that’s leading their industry through innovation, creativity and excellence. Here we profile Wet Jacket Wines founder Greg Hay.

Central Otago wine pioneer Greg Hay believes wine is not simply about what’s in the glass but also the stories behind the brand and what they mean to the individual. This philosophy has been key to the success of his latest label, Wet Jacket Wines.

And those stories are not confined to the bottle labels. Instead, customers discover them at the historic Bendemeer Woolshed near Queenstown – a unique take on the cellar door experience.

The Woolshed, and a few restaurants, are the only places Wet Jacket wines are available. The label has been kept purposely small; a boutique, personal, experiential brand.

“It is not so much that we feel we need to stand out above our fellow Central Otago wine producers as there are many and varied offerings in the region,” Greg says. “Instead, part of what we do is not only to have a cellar door to showcase our wines but to showcase a myriad of stories and experiences that are intrinsic to our brand.”

Those stories include the early farming history of the Wakatipu Basin and even Captain Cook’s visit and stay in a rainy Dusky Sound in 1773, which provides the label with its name.

Greg came to Queenstown in 1987 and launched both Gibbston’s Chard Farm with his brother Rob, and nearby Peregrine, before looking for a new challenge in 2015.

His passion for Central Otago and Fiordland helped him chart a new direction, combining history with a celebration of the modern wine industry, and driven by the pursuit of excellence.

“In this industry, if you are lucky enough, you have the opportunity to be involved in perhaps only 35 to 40 vintages" he says, “if you start with the premise that mediocrity isn’t acceptable then the drive to keep on improving and pushing boundaries is the only option.”

The Woolshed opened in May 2016, and a new venue space there is expected to open this year. It also features a cheese maturation/tasting room, as cheese-making is also part of the Otago land use story, and summer sessions outside with local music talent.

“We find that being creative and innovative is at the core of what we do, whilst making sure that it remains fun! Our mantra is ‘work like a captain play like a pirate’ and we try to adhere to that philosophy.”

This story is featured in the Southern Lakes ‘Elevate’ magazine March 2020