Q&A with Sir George Fistonich

Auckland Philharmonia’s Lucy Harris chatted with Sir George Fistonich, Kiwi wine pioneer and founder of our new wine partner, Čuvar Winery, about the exciting next step he’s taken in his viticulture career and the parallels between the art of winemaking and music-making.

Can you please tell us about Čuvar and why this venture was your next step in such a successful viticulture career?
Čuvar means 'Guardian' in Croatian and is the name of my new winery. It honours my family heritage and that of my fellow countrymen, who have contributed so much to establishing the New Zealand wine story. The home of Čuvar Winery is in Hawke's Bay, beside the terraced vines I planted three decades ago, formerly known as Esk Valley Winery. I launched Čuvar Winery as the flagship brand of Fistonich Family Vineyards. It is a continuation of my life’s work and passion to discover exceptional vineyards, craft benchmark New Zealand wines, and develop world-class brands.

Do you see any parallels between winemaking and music making?
In winemaking, like in music, there is a composition involved. Just as a musician carefully selects notes and rhythms to create a harmonious piece, a winemaker selects grape varieties, fermentation methods, and ageing processes to craft a balanced and flavourful wine. Both pursuits involve a keen sense of timing, knowing when to intervene and when to let nature take its course.

The parallels between winemaking and music-making can be striking, and those who excel in one often find appreciation and understanding in the other.

Who’s your favourite composer? And do you take inspiration from them in your winemaking?
Ludwig van Beethoven, what an amazing story, he overcame many obstacles and composed the most outstanding pieces. Beethoven’s Symphony No.5 is one of the most frequently performed symphonies and is one of the best-known compositions in classical music, to this day. Yes of course, great music inspires great wines, we like great music in the winery when we are making wine !

What do you enjoy about live orchestral performances?
I always enjoy the live performances that are held at the Holy Trinity Cathedral , specially Celebrate Christmas . I can walk to and from the Cathedral, it makes for the perfect evening .

Which Auckland Philharmonia concerts or guest artists are you most looking forward to seeing this year?
The Ché-Fu & The Kratez , I met Ché -Fu and the band when they performed at Villa Maria a few years ago, they are excellent.

Can you please tell us about your wines that are now available from the D Bar at Auckland Philharmonia mainstage concerts in the Auckland Town Hall?
I have made two wine ranges Čuvar and Obliix wines, the D Bar (Town Hall bar) is serving the Obliix wines, they tend to diverge from the straight and narrow, and are perfect to drink now. The three wines they are serving now are the Obliix Hawkes Bay Chardonnay, Obliix  Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and Obliix Gimblett Gravels Cabernet/Merlot. What is interesting is that they are in half bottles ( 375mls), everyone should try them and you can share a bottle.

Which of these wines do you think pairs best with each of our upcoming May mainstage concerts?
I think the rich full bodied Obliix Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot will be perfect for the Bach & Bruckner concert with it's powerful sounds and the French Pianist David Fray. I recommend Totally Trumpet with Tine Thing Helseth be matched with a Obliix Hawkes Bay Chardonnay which is lighter and brighter to match with the brass. 

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