Wilco Lam, winemaker at cult NZ producer Dry River, on sustainable wine making in New Zealand

By Tobias Webb

In early June 2019 I sat down in the wine library at 67 Pall Mall in London with Wilco. We talked about how he ended up in New Zealand, the wines he makes at Dry River, reductiveness in wine making, low oxygenation and phenolic compounds, his views on what sustainability means in the vineyard and winery, and on New Zealand and sustainability in wine, in general. Enjoy. 

Wilco said something I’ve heard many other winemakers say with regard to certification. Essentially about half those I interview say they don’t like being given a prescriptive system to adhere to, as they know their land better than anyone, and the other half like having a certification scheme they can use and talk about. Horses for courses for each of us I suppose.

We had a vertical tasting of his Syrah from 2003 to 2013. The weather-dependent evolution of the wine is clear in that period, with the 2003 in its drinking window and the others needing a lot more time.

My notes said: “restrained, perfectly made, some tertiary notes coming through on the 2003, others need much more time. World-class Syrah and in many ways pretty unique. Much classier than those from further north in NZ I’ve tasted”.

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About the author

Tobias Webb

Toby Webb is co-founder of Sustainable Wine. He is also founder of Innovation Forum, a leading platform for change in sustainable supply chains. He has spent 20+ years working in business and sustainability and has spent ten years teaching the subject at various London universities. He advises a number of companies large and small on sustainability. Businesses he has worked with include Patagonia, Interface, Bayer, SOK Group, Boots/Walgreens, Metro, Unilever, Nestle, Reckitt Benckiser, Sainsbury’s, and many others. He co-authored the UK’s national CSR strategy for David Cameron from 2006-10. He has been organising events, advising, teaching writing, blogging and podcasting on sustainable business since 2001. His (non-wine) blog is at www.sustainablesmartbusiness.com