Meet the Makers: Catherine Keith, Mount Brown Vineyard NZ

Meet Catherine Keith, the MD and founder of the amazing Mount Brown Vineyard in North Canterbury (South Island) New Zealand. Catherine and her dad, Tony, founded the vineyard in 2003. They make brilliant wines, especially those NZ classics, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.

5 minutes read

Meet the Makers: Catherine Keith, Mount Brown Vineyard NZ

Introduce yourself!

Catherine Keith, late 40s, Managing Director, born in Wellington but I grew up in North Canterbury.

What is a typical day for you?

One of the great things about my job is the variety.  This last week has been spent mainly on sales – travelling domestically and meeting buyers.  But next week I’ll be helping in the winery with bottling, doing a tasting one evening with a local wine club and also doing some vintage planning – we’re not far away from harvest.

How did you become a winemaker?

I’m not!  But have worked in the winery through vintage and bottling for many years.  My background is marketing (in the finance sector) and actually I worked in London for about 5 years – and lived there for 12. 

What do you like most and least about the work?

The least is probably paperwork … much more fun to be outside in the vineyard, winery or talking to people about our wine.  I think what I love most about my business is the land – I didn’t get into the industry due to a love of wine (although of course I do like wine!) but because of my love of the land.

What advice would you give to other aspiring winemakers?

Be prepared for long hours and meeting some great people.

What is the most sexist event that you can remember while working in wine?

Gosh, fortunately nothing springs to mind – except I do get tired of people asking if I work full time (I run three vineyards, a winery and a domestic sales team, plus we export wine (of course!)  – so it’s a bit more than full time).  I don’t think men ever get asked that question – except perhaps when they are 77 like my Dad.

Do you have a favourite grape?

My favourite grape is Chardonnay – and our 2020 is awesome!  It’s still in the barrel but about to be bottled.  I love it aged in oak and with full malolactic fermentation.  My go to wine at home is currently our Rosé – because its summer.

Where is your favourite place for wine tourism?

Outside NZ I would say Tuscany - to sit on the hills at dusk, look out over vineyards and drink those big earthy reds and eat local food is heavenly.  Right now I have to content myself with locally produced cool climate Syrah.

What is your favourite wine that we stock?

I think Pinot Gris is so well suited to North Canterbury – and it’s a style that’s really worth exploring.  Don’t think sharp acidic Pinot Grigio from Italy or sweet Alsace style Pinot Gris – but in between and beautiful!  It’s a great winter time white – quite full-bodied and I drink at room temperature all your round.  Plus it pairs well with lots of food – from pork to fish.  I think sometimes Sauvignon Blanc can overpower food – but that intense flavour means when its well chilled there still loads of flavour – perfect aperitif in the summer  – which I know you’ll all be looking forward to – for lots of reasons this year.