Founded in 1992 by John Belsham, Foxes Island Wines was one of the first wine companies to produce single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in New Zealand. Today, the winery is highly regarded for its Icon and Estate wines and has been recognised as one of the top New Zealand wineries. Foxes Island is the only New Zealand winery committed to cellar ageing it's wines prior to release; exemplifying excellence and longevity in every wine.
Committed to sustainable wine production and a light carbon footprint, Foxes Island farms naturally and organically to support a healthy eco-system and bio-diversity. Always with a gentle hand, many of the wines are not fined and are vegan friendly.
It’s been said If ever a film were made about New Zealand wine, John Belsham would be the leading man. He cut his winemaking teeth in Bordeaux before becoming one of New Zealand's most highly-regarded winemakers.
An international winemaker, wine business consultant and critic, John Belsham has over 40 years of wine industry experience that has shaped and guided some of the most successful wine companies today.
Belsham founded Marlborough Oak Imports in 1990, and today exclusively supplies the French oak wine barrels of Dargaud & Jaegle and Vallaurine to New Zealand wine companies.
Believing New Zealand had the ability to produce premium, fine wines, he founded Foxes Island wines in 1992. He was one of the first to produce single vineyard, cellar-aged wines, with a focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Nearly 30 years on, Foxes Island offers the widest selection of cellar-aged wines on release in New Zealand. Belsham's wines are sought by wine lovers the world over.
In 1994, Belsham founded Wine Focus, a consulting practice focused in areas of business strategy, technical winemaking expertise and sensory evaluation. He also designs wineries and water flow systems and has completed projects in Provence, France, Australia, and New Zealand. He holds a number of board positions and advisory roles.
One of Australasia's most experienced and respected wine judges and critics, he was the airline wine consultant to Air New Zealand for 20 years and the lead wine panel chair for 16 years at Cuisine Magazine.
Belsham led the New Zealand Screw Cap Initiative, which shifted 95% of the NZ wine industry from cork to cap closures within an 18 month period between 2000 and 2001. Many international case studies have since been written on the Screw Cap Initiative as a positive disruptor and one that adapted an existing product in new, revolutionary ways.
Fluent in French and English, John speaks on a range of subjects and appears regularly for speaking engagements, television and film commentary.
The Awatere Estate
The Awatere Valley is located in the southern part of Marlborough and is an area with its own geological significance. The Estate with seven distinct terraces carved out during the glacial period sits on the Awatere River which carved a distinct path through the valley.
The soils are approximately 40,000 years old. The top three metres of soil are a silty clay loam that sits on a bed of old river rock and papa limestone. Perfect for pinot noir.
Taming the unruly, overgrown land required a sensitive approach to preserve the natural terracing and diverse soil profiles. After two years of careful planning and minimal soil disturbance, John Belsham planted the first vines in 2000.
Sustainably farmed from the start, the Awatere Estate vineyard has high density plantings of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling; varietals all produced under the Foxes Island label.
The First Foxes Island
Prior to the late 1800’s the Wairau and Opawa rivers would occasionally flood the Wairau Plains of Marlborough. Fortunately an island area consistently stood above the raging flood waters, providing explorers, herdsman and travelers a dry respite. Enter William Fox (1812-1893), an explorer, writer and politician, who regularly passed over the island to meet with the native Māori people. The small piece of land that stood above all others, eventually became known as Foxes Island.
After becoming premier of New Zealand, Sir William Fox, later "lent" his name to Fox Glacier, located in New Zealand's Southern Alps.
William Fox was also well known for his artistic paintings of the New Zealand landscape, including several he painted of the Marlborough region and of the Wairau Plain in January 1848 below.
Wairau Plain By William Fox (1812-1893)
Watercolour (209x1048mm) painted in January 1848
New Zealand Company; Turnbull, Alexander Horsburgh, 1868-1918
New Zealand National Library
An extensive view of the Wairau Plains, with the river meandering across it, hills in the distance (looking north). Four figures are visible on the hill to the left, gazing out across the plain.
On the face of the painting, at the top, is No. 273 (added at a later date), with the N Z Company stamp which is dated 14 July 1848. The title which is prefixed by "No 6" is taken from the verso of the painting. Credit: National Library, NZ