The highly respected New Zealand winemaker John Belsham, formerly of Nobilo and Hunters, founded Foxes Island in 1992 to focus on exquisitely made, regionally expressive wines; exactly what he had learned to do in France. The estate’s name comes from a period, prior to the late 1800’s, when the Wairau and Opawa rivers would occasionally flood the Wairau Plains of Marlborough, New Zealand. Fortunately an island area consistently stood above the raging flood waters, providing explorers, herdsman and travelers a dry respite. The infamous Sir William Fox, a controversial politician, writer and explorer regularly passed over the island to negotiate with the native Maori people. John initially made the wines for Foxes Island from his Rapaura vineyard on the Wairau Plains and produced the very first Fox wine: Chardonnay, vintage 1992. In search of a Pinot Noir site, Belsham identified the overgrown and neglected 20 hectare Awatere property in 1998 and envisaged the Belsham Awatere Estate. With seven distinct terraces and exceptional soil profiles, the land was planted primarily to Pinot Noir along with select blocks dedicated to Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. 20 years on, Belsham’s passion for producing exceptional wines has yet to wane; limited in production and genuinely hand crafted, all the wines hold pride of place at the Fox house.
Marlborough sits at the tip of the South Island is the largest of New Zealands big three wine regions. Situated in a large flat valley floor with deep gravel and silt beds, summers are dry and nights often cool. Sauvignon Blanc is the grape the region is most famous for, though much of what is produced here is sold off in bulk to large commercial producers.