Getting to know... Pen & Nicholas of Black Estate

Getting to know... Pen & Nicholas of Black Estate

Getting to know... A series that aims to shine a light on New Zealand’s outstanding makers, producers, winegrowers and artisans.

A huge thank you to Pen and Nicholas who took time out of their busy schedules between making wine, running a busy restaurant and family time to talk to us.

Black Estate is a renowned winery located in the Waipara Valley, North Canterbury. They're known for their exceptional organic and biodynamic wines and has been passionately run by husband and wife Nicholas Brown and Penelope Naish since 2007.

Pen & Nicholas are committed to sustainable and organic viticulture. They follow biodynamic principles, which involve working in harmony with the natural environment and using natural remedies to maintain soil health and enhance the quality of the grapes and avoid the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides, focusing on nurturing the vineyards through organic practices.

Over the years, Black Estate have received numerous accolades for its wines, both nationally and internationally. Their wines are known for their elegance, balance, and expression of the Waipara Valley's distinctive terroir. Black Estate is at the forefront of sustainable winemaking in New Zealand and this commitment has deservedly been recognised by Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine, who named Nicholas as their New Zealand Winemaker of the year for 2022.


My local is… 

In Christchurch, Gatherings, a small restaurant owned and operated by chef Alex Davies. Alex focuses on sustainable fish and vegetables and has the best international natural wine list. He also throws great events for the community that involve his suppliers!  

Also Brew Boon in Amberley,  down the road from Black Estate.  Original family brewers. Great wood fried pizza, burgers and a welcoming place to see local friends.

My defining moment in the world of wine was… 

At 11.15pm cleaning out the sixth press of the day and a couple to go and having an epiphany! I was experiencing my first ever harvest out of curiosity at Wither-hills with Ben Glover and Brent Marist in 2002.  Cellar master Royden said “this is about the moment when people decide their into winemaking.  I realised I was loving it and decided to start a new career. Enjoying the work. 

My go-to knock off drink is…

A Clemensbusch or  Ansgar Clüsserath Riesling yes please.
(Vincent Couche Champagne will also do said Pen.). 

Favourite story about a vintage at Black Estate? 

March 2020, and we were 3 days into picking and the first lockdown was announced.  Our restaurant  team helped us, working with our vineyard team for the rest of the harvest. They didn’t have to come, but they all turned up for 2 full weeks in glorious golden weather. That was fun.  

Another recent memory was in March 2019, about a week after the terrible Christchurch Mosque attacks. There was a planned 51 seconds of silence throughout  Aotearoa to pay respect to those who had died or been injured.  It was a still, warm sunny day and we were picking Pinot Noir in the top block at Home vineyard, right outside our restaurant.  The doors were open and our pickers and vineyard team joined our restaurant team on the steps.  We turned the restaurant music off and played RNZ with the moment's silence with our international guests, paying our respects and very much together.

In the mornings you’ll find me…

Nicholas - doing primary series of ashtanga (no joke, it’s hard living with a monk, writer’s ed. ). Pen, drinking tea in bed.  LOL. 

My go-to spot for a glass of wine?  

27 Steps on New Regent Street in Christchurch, or their bar downstairs, or Cellar Door in the Arts Centre. Both fantastic NZ wine lists. 

The best kept secret in North Canterbury is… 

Gore Bay for surfing, 1950s beach town vibes and no cell phone range.. The Maori drawings in limestone caves at Waikari, or the Waipara Gorge for dinosaur fossil hunting! 

There is no better value than…


The best BYO in North Canterbury is 

Our house.

What's in the pipeline for Black Estate? What upcoming releases are you most excited about?

Getting a sense of  rhythm back after these last few years feels goooood. The wines from 2023 vintage are exciting whoot…including Viognier and Pinot Gris from Skypunch Vineyard, an organic vineyard we are now leasing next to our Home vineyard. Onwards!