Three Willows cold climate wines a winner with tourists

philip pares 3 willows winery


Three Willows cold climate wines a winner with tourists


“PINOT NOIR loves cold nights and we can provide that in Red Hills,” says fervent wine maker Philip Parés.

He and partner Lyn Prove had been keen to match New Zealand’s central Otago’s reputation as the best Pinot Noir region in the southern hemisphere.

Believing they could do that in Red Hills, they moved into Three Willows Vineyard, a 16-acre property in 2001, and began planting 4 acres of vines in 2003.

Organic methods are used, including choosing ground covers that encourage deep-rooted vines, and special teas.

“I compost the previous years’ grape skins and make up a tea with that,  some willow stems, horse manure and seaweed from the north coast. It ferments and, after about a month, is teaming with wild yeast which I include in my fungal sulphur sprays. And it’s now 3 years since I’ve had any powdery  mildew,” shares Philip.

“[The willow stems] certainly make plants more hardy and resistant to disease,” he adds.

Fruit quality rather than an organic crop is his priority, as pursuing  certification is not on his radar screen. He explains, “You can see some pretty terrible organic fruit. It isn’t a guarantee of quality.”

Philip manages the vines himself and employs backpackers to harvest. A neighbour helps with netting.

Once picked, the grapes are put through a crusher-destemmer.

White wine grapes then go straight into the basket press to separate skins from juice.

The press, cranked by hand, enables the operator to tell when the pressure is right and so eases off. This stops seeds from splitting, preventing harsh tannins being released.

This smaller scale wine making draws a lot of equipment from Italy. The basket press is Italian made and can be loaded up with only half a ton of grapes at a time.

Red varieties are left to sit in their skins for twenty-one days before  pressing, to allow flavour and colour to permeate the juice.

Yeast is added to assist in converting sugar in the grapes to alcohol, with carbon dioxide as a by-product. At this stage, the wine is stirred four times per day to further maximise colour and flavour.

Once pressed, the wine is stored in vats with oak staves. “For light bodied pinot noir, an oak barrel would just swamp it with oak flavour,” explains Philip.

“Patience is required,” he adds, as sixteen months later the wine is bottled and left to mature for a further twelve months.

Last year Three Willows produced 3,200 bottles and that is slightly over half of what they can make at full production.

Their wine is sold through the cellar door and at Red Feather Inn, Mole Creek Hotel and Deloraine Deli, with a small quantity by mail order from people that have visited before.

The winery is, thus, gaining a reputation for its handmade wines. Yet, business has still been affected by a recent Jetstar policy.

“Up till December we were growing 20% month on month. But with the Jetstar crackdown on hand luggage weight, things are going in the other direction at the moment. It’s had a big effect,” says Philip.

Fortunately, Three Willows is on the Cradle Coast Tasting Trail, and that has brought in many new customers from Burnie and Devonport.

“I would say they are the biggest growing section of my market. They are not restricted by flights so they can purchase as many as they want,” adds Philip.

Three Willows also sells a wine from the Tasmanian winery, Waterton at Batman Bridge. Its Botrytis Riesling is a sweet desert wine that Philip thinks is world class.

He says, “This is the only wine you can mix with blue cheese without getting a metallic aftertaste.”

You can read more about the wines made and sold at Three Willows Vineyard at or visit the cellar door at 46 Montana Road, Red Hills

 Mike Moores