Rockburn Team — Q&A with Malcolm Rees-Francis

Meet our winemaker, Malcolm. He calls a spade a spade, likes a dry, restorative gin and soda and occasionally photographs wild flowers. 

Being born into a South Canterbury sheep-farming family meant Malcolm knew he didn’t want to be a farmer for the rest of his life, so it was off to Otago University to study Microbiology. Four years later Malcolm knew he didn’t want to be a scientist for the rest of his life, but hey winemaking sounds like fun...

After seven years in the wine industry he discovered his Great-Great-Great-Grandfather was from a wine-growing family in the Azores; and his draw to the world of wine suddenly made a lot of sense. We put a couple of questions to Malcolm to find out a little bit more about him. 

Q — When did you know you wanted to work in the world of wine? 

I was in my last year studying Microbiology at Otago, just starting to investigate wine as a potential career; and a wine and food festival took place at the Woodhaugh Gardens, literally at the end of the short street where I was flatting. There I tasted 2 vintages of the Briar Vale Sauvignon Blanc, one being very grassy and herbaceous, the other very ripe and tropical. Enormous vistas of potential opened before me and I very much wanted to explore them.


Q — What is it about Central Otago Pinot Noir that sets it apart from other New Zealand regions?

Intensity and purity of fruit.


Q — What is another wine region outside of New Zealand that you admire and what’s the attraction?

Burgundy is obviously a very special place, soaked in history, and while there I spent as much time investigating the cheese as I did the wines.

Q — When you’re not drinking wine, what is your Go To beverage choice? 

Gin, usually with soda rather than tonic as I prefer it very dry.


Q — What are your favourite things to spend time doing when you’re not making wine.

Watching terrible old movies and photographing wildflowers

Q — What’s your favourite style of restaurant to dine at and why? 

I’m really into Szechuan cuisine at the moment but anywhere that can show me lots of new and exciting things; I prefer a variety of small tasty things rather than a single plate, so tapas and dim sum and sushi bars are totally my jam.

Q — The New Zealand wine industry has changed a lot while you’ve been working within it. What do you think is the next best kept New Zealand wine secret we share with the world? 

I suspect Chardonnay is about to really blow up, grab your well-priced examples while you can.


Q — What are some of the things that you love about living in Central Otago?

The weather, the traffic (or lack of it), the sweeping vistas and lofty hillsides, the fresh fruit and amazing wines.



Image by Whitelaw Photography