Meet the Winemaker: Hamish Binns, Leveret Estate

Hamish Binns, winemaker at The Wine Portfolio’s Riverview winery, returned home at the end of 2006 after several years in Europe and landed a cellar-hand position at Riverview for the 2007 vintage. 

“I fell in love with the place and its diverse range of wonderful and talented characters and managed to stay on permanently, working my way up slowly from there to my current position of winemaker.” 

Binns has not always been on the production side of winemaking, despite being in and around the industry for most of his life. 

“There were some dark times when I did a spell in sales in the UK,” he laughed. 

“Having to wear trousers rather than shorts, shave every day and be polite to everyone! I’ve had nothing but the utmost respect for salespeople since then.” 

In fact, Binns was introduced to wine by his maternal grandparents with whom he spent a great deal of his childhood. 

“They were small growers and producers during the infancy of the Hawkes Bay wine industry.

“They were probably the most influential people in leading me into this industry, but of course there have been others who were very encouraging and supportive.”

Riverview winery is situated along the Ngaruroro River, with naturally formed north-facing terraces that step down to the river.

“I think the proximity to the river and the soil structure contribute to producing grapes with strong primary fruit aroma and flavour,” commented Binns. 

“Together with the viticultural team, we work to express the unique character of our vineyard sites in the resultant wine. 

“We try not to intervene more than what is needed, preserving as much varietal and fruit-forward characteristics as possible.”

The Wine Portfolio was established in 1995 with its first brand Morton Estate. In 2014, the Morton brand was sold and the winery rebranded as Leveret Estate Winery and Cellar Door, with the launch of the Leveret Estate and Falconhead ranges. 

Finally, in 2020, The Wine Portfolio welcomed Mills Reef Wines and the winery was once again rebranded as Leveret & Mills Reef Winery. 

The Wine Portfolio participate and are accredited in the SWNZ programme for both its Hawkes Bay and Katikati wineries, and all company vineyards are SWNZ accredited too. 

“We keep sustainability front of mind in our grape growing and winemaking processes. 

“For example, sheep are used to graze our vineyards in the months that vines are dormant as an alternative to conventional tractor mowing.

“Grape skins are recycled as stock feed instead of going to landfill, which equates to around 700 tonnes per year.

“We also take pride in our river frontage, maintaining it and keeping it clean. We plan to plant some flaxes and other native bird and bee-friendly plants in one of our wastewater discharge fields.”

With vineyards in prime locations, The Wine Portfolio combines the finest grapes with the best winemaking techniques, as well as passion from its dedicated winemakers. 

“We have taken the boutique winery approach to winemaking by controlling the entire process - from grafting our own cuttings, developing our own vineyards and viticultural techniques, and investing in the best technology possible.”

The multiple locations and the people are also what Binns enjoys most about his job. 

“Firstly, I enjoy working for a multi-site wine company. We have a great winemaking team across both sites and work collegially to produce wines we are all proud of and enjoy. 

“Vintage is another favourite part of the job, having the opportunity to work with an influx of talented temporary staff and share knowledge with them.”

Binns said there hasn’t been any one stand out mentor for him, but working with accomplished winemaking and viticulture consultants has been a constant source of support and inspiration. 

“I like to think I’ve learnt something from everybody I’ve worked with as well.”

It is this hands-on approach to learning and sharing knowledge that Binns believes sets the New Zealand wine industry apart. 

“I think one of the biggest differences that I see between the New Zealand wine industry and others is the willingness and openness of New Zealand winemakers to share knowledge and ideas with each other.”