The other week I got a call to say that Fleur McCree from Insight Wines was popping over to Dublin and would I like to meet her. Automatically I said yes, I’d heard such great things so I was eager to meet her and gain an ‘insight’ into how she got into the business and ultimately ended up owning such a successful vineyard with her husband, especially given that they both technically live in London.
Checking out the website gave me a real understanding of the brand, the wines and the philosophy. It was clean, modern, beautiful and sleek. I’d recommend checking it out as unlike many sites it’s all about the wine, from grape to glass for enjoyment with four headings: concept, aroma, taste and enjoyment. Nowhere does it say how great they are and look at what they’ve have won. It is about bringing a true and quality driven wine to the consumer. For me this showed their passion, that they had really spent time and effort understanding wine and what it means. From the moment I met Fleur I was instantly a fan. She is so happy, positive and enchanting you can’t help but feel excited. Her passion and energy is infectious.
It was less of an interview and more of a fascinating journey.
How did you end up owning a winery?
Growing up in the beautiful countryside of New Zealand Fleur spent most of her time outside on the farm, so she knew they would end up doing something rurally based and you could drink all the wine you wanted, so happy days. They wanted to do it right though and knew exactly the role they would play so once they graduated from college they headed off to Europe and America trying everything from pruning to branding. “I always thought I’d be a winemaker but after spending time with them I knew I was better suited to the branding and commercial end.” Her husband, even though he is based in London, is still very involved with production. This couple are so driven and passionate, failure is just not an option. Clearly they are succeeding, winning awards and demand for their wine from all over the world.
Location is obviously important, did it take long to find?
“Yes, my dad wasn’t very well and so we thought if we were ever going to do it, let’s do it now“. They bought a plot in Marlborough, a rectangular plot on the flat that was in a beautiful location next to the main river but ultimately they could really only make one style there, so they sold it and went in search of something that would better suit them. “We went down winding roads over hills and found an old sheep farm. It was an unusual plot with a varied terrain which gave us the scope to plant more than one variety. We felt invigorated by it.” Located in the unique Waihopai Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand, planting commenced in 2003 and finished in 2007.
“Money. We needed to finance the dream.” Having traveled extensively around the wine world and knowing the roles they would play they now needed funding. So her husband went off to work in the financial sector whilst Fleur worked for Amex, gaining vital experience in every facet of marketing. She wanted to learn from one of the most successful brands out there and spent 10 years learning all she could, whist also sending every penny back to New Zealand to make the dream a reality.
“It is also handy right now being based in London as I am in the right time zone for a lot of our customers.”
So where is your biggest market?
It just so happens that Ireland is their biggest and favourite market, they describe the consumers and O’Brien’s as people with just as much love for food and wine as they have. Fleur has been so impressed with both O’Brien’s staff and customers, that they really care and appreciate wine. This excites them, and she loves to see and share that excitement.
How many people are working for Insight?
“Anywhere between 5 and 150 people”. They have a core crew of 5 including herself, her husband, a brother & sister team in the vineyard and their winemaker Eveline Fraiser being one of the key players. When they first started harvesting they sold their grapes to other wineries. One of whom was Cloudy Bay, which is where they met Eveline. Fleur says they are still amazed that they got her on board. She is always out in the vineyards checking the level of sugar in the grapes and when it reaches time to press (they hand harvest some grapes and machine for the hardier varieties like Sauvignon Blanc) Eveline is standing next to the press trying the juice, checking it and as soon as there is any change in the juice she stops the press. “Her attention to detail is extraordinary, over extraction is something that will never occur, it’s all about showing the full potential of the grape“.
So you have a mantra then?
“Yes, that wine is made in the vineyard. I think it’s what sets us apart from others”.
In a few words what would you like people to take away from you?
“See, swirl, sniff, sip & savour” So a multi-sensory experience is to be had. “Yes, I love food and wine, I love to cook and the wines lend themselves to many foods and styles especially pan-Asian & Moroccan“.
Out of your range what is your favourite wine?
“I don’t have a favourite, I’m more of a moody drinker and it also depends on what I’m eating. I will say that our sauvignon blanc is the sunniest and the Riesling is most focused”. She adores all her wines, you can see it the minute she ‘sniffs’ each of the wines on the table. They are versatile wines and have one common thread, their purity and personally I got that immediately.
Where did they name come from?
They thought about it and wanted something that would not be seen as intimidating, a name that would inspire insight into the wine.
I love the label, it’s quite striking. What were you trying to achieve?
“The label is to make the wine even more accessible, apart from it standing out, if you look closely it will tell you the aromas and flavours of the wine. It even matches what foods it will work with“. It gives you insight into the wine.
Which countries have influenced you?
“Many countries, but especially France and in particular Burgundy & Alsace were of inspiration.”
So what’s in store for the future?
“Well we are not certified organic or biodynamic and I don’t know if we will be but I am very interested in biodynamic. We also have a corner that is quiet and we would like to turn it into a sanctuary, we want to give back.”
O’Brien’s Wines stock all Insight wines, a Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and a pinot Noir.
Insight Sauvignon Blanc 2014 €18.49
The palate is more relaxed and creamy with notes of just ripe mango, sweet lemon, leafy nettles, tropical fruits and a hint of coconut water. It most certainly is not your typical NZ sauvignon blanc, it is more refined and balanced.
This wine is great on its own or with shellfish and Thai food. .
Click here for Fluers Recipe Spaghetti with Smoked Mussels
On the nose this wine is delightfully aromatic with aromas of juicy citrus, tropical fruits and honeysuckle as well as touch of beeswax.
The palate is stunning so smooth and elegant with flavours of nectarines, ginger, lemon blossom and chalky tones. It has lovely minerality that balances the fruit with a medium body.
This wine is delicious on its own or with shellfish, sushi, pork and some Asian dishes.
Check our recipe section to see this wine paired with Siucra’s Vietnamese Trout with a Caramel Sauce Recipe.
Insight Pinot Gris 2012 €16.99
The palate is just as delightful with nectarines, hazelnut, dried apricots with a viscus body. A wine with plenty of character and balance.
This wine again can be enjoyed on its own but will pair beautifully with Thai Food.
Insight Gewürztraminer 2013 €16.99
The palate is also quite alluring with with all the aromas of the nose skipping gently onto the palate with the addition of Turkish delight, orange zest & ginger. This wine although flavorful is balanced and quite restrained for a gewürztraminer.
A super wine that can be enjoy with a myriad of dishes like Thai green curry, antipasti and rich cheeses.
Insight Pinot Noir 2012 €20.99
This wine has a light to medium body with all the aromas from the nose popping beautifully on the palate along with blueberries, violets and a light leafy touch.
A classic example of a pinot noir made with great care. It will pair nicely with crispy duck, lamb and pork.
It was a pleasure to meet Fleur and I’m delighted she took the time to meet me. A big thank you to Lynne and Anthony from O’Briens Wines for organizing it.