Alice Rule's Marlborough
These days, it’s almost impossible to find a wine list without at least one Marlborough sauvignon blanc. The wine style exploded onto the scene (and out of the glass) thanks to its distinctive, intense and easily recognised aromas. Although it isn’t all sav blanc and skittles these days, Marlborough is unarguably home of some of the best savvies in the world.
The region's intense sunshine and stoney soils and unique valleys and peaks combine to make fresh, vibrant and food-friendly wines that are dangerously drinkable. So dangerous, that Marlborough accounts for almost three quarters of all wine produced in New Zealand. Love it or hate it, Marlborough sauvignon blanc is not going anywhere, except in your glass or the one next to you. It's as important to New Zealand as Barossa is to Australia, Napa to California, and Mendoza to Argentina.
Alice Rule – Founder and Maker of 3sixty2 Wines
Alice Rule has worked at some of the most famous wineries in Hawke's Bay as a viticulturist, wine technician and cellar hand, and even global marketing and social media for tech companies. But in 2018, Alice focussed her diverse skill set and passion for wine into creating her own company, 3sixty2. She's started with Marlborough's drawcard, sauvignon blanc, but her spin is one of depth and character, and expresses all of her conviction and clarity of vision.
We chatted with Alice to get the story behind this up-and-coming Kiwi and what sets her apart from the crowd of wannabe savvy-slingers.
What got you into wine?
I started training as a chef at Marsden Estate in the Bay of Islands when vintner Rod McIvor suggested I get into the vines and winery. I loved it, so much so that it became my passion. I got kicked out of high school, but Rod helped me get into the viticulture course at EIT in Hawke's Bay – I even managed to win the Esk Valley Top Viticulture award at graduation. Then I worked all over the bay. I was in the vines, doing harvest, working in labs. I then went to Lincoln University on special consideration and completed my Viticulture and Oenology degree in two and a half years, working my ass off. Then I worked at Te Mata, Craggy Range and Church Road before starting my own label, 3sixty2. It’s been quite a journey.
Impossible to answer! As a winemaker you’ve got an appreciation for all of them. You have your obvious preferences, mine are sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. Not every wine is your favourite but you appreciate the time that goes into it, regardless.
But, if I did have to choose just one, it would have to be Champagne. Champagne is always a celebration, and we don’t do that enough. Sit down and celebrate the small successes day by day.
What inspired you to start your own wine company?
When you’re in control, everything is your decision and you’re more attached to the wine. When it’s your own baby, you work so much harder, and there is a lot more risk. The best part is to see people happy and drinking your wine, it makes it all worth it.
How do you think your wine expresses its region?
We worked really hard to keep the fruit freshness that the Waihopai Valley is known for in our sauvignon blanc. Partial barrel ferment and the lees stirring, which softens the acidity and highlights the stone fruit and passionfruit flavours. Partial wild ferment enhances its sense of terroir. It's an elegant, fruit-focused, pure wine. I think it's pretty spot on Marlborough sauvignon with a bit of a turn against tradition.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Cashflow. It’s been a big challenge to get on top of the change from an income to making it all on your own. I had issues with labels, which were difficult to overcome and a big learning curve. Branding overall has been difficult - but it's been a good challenge in regards to making the branding better and better. When you’re a start up you don’t know if the people you’re gonna work with are the best, and will be the best for your company's vision. Even the bad experiences offered an opportunity to learn and solidify my vision. I also appreciate the good people you’ve got in business – good friends and mentors have definitely helped in getting my A into G, and keeping me going when it's tough.
What has been the most exciting part?
It’s scary but invigorating, and a bit nerve-wracking! I don’t know if I'd use the word exciting. I’m always excited about the new harvest, and what vintage has to offer, as well as the new branding I'm currently working on. New customers, new markets, new wines – that is always exciting. Mostly though, it's people; the people I've met and the people I will meet, that's probably the most exciting part.
What made you decide on your region?
World renowned! I always wanted to produce the best – and there is no place better in the world to make sauvignon blanc. When I was working here when I was younger, I grew a huge appreciation for the beauty of the surroundings. Snow-capped mountains, the Marlborough Sounds, the rolling hills and the climate. It’s an honour to work with world class fruit, and make world class wines.
There will be a new entry level sauvignon in a more classic style, that will complement the more complex and aged style of 3sixty2 sauvignon. More beautiful packaging and branding, to help it stand out more and get into the glasses of more wine drinkers. I’m working on a getting a chardonnay into the lineup, and then the focus will be exporting, starting to get 3sixty2 into some international markets.
What's the best advice for aspiring winemakers or grape-growers?
Just do it!
There will be a lot of people who try to talk you out of it; who won’t give you advice, and they’ll tell you how hard it is. Be resilient, take the punches one at a time, learn from them, and be better for it. But most of all make yourself proud, that’s all that matters.
What challenges have you faced as a young woman in wine?
I wouldn’t describe myself as a feminist, although I definitely acknowledge it's been a male-dominated industry for a long time. To me, while the women in wine movement is important for creating a more inclusive industry, it shouldn’t just extend to women in wine. There are all sorts of people, regardless of gender, sexuality, age or race who are active in our industry, and offer a diversity of strengths that aren’t celebrated. Any of the challenges I had faced in the past working in vineyards and wineries disappeared as soon as I started my own company, but I never felt held back because I was a woman.
I do think that women have to fight hard to make waves, but these waves have been being made by many women in the industry in New Zealand for years. Pioneers in all regions have crafted great wines in their own right. For me, women in wine is part of the shift towards a more diverse wine industry in general, focusing on all sorts of groups, but elevating none above one another and celebrating all the successes of all the different people that make our industry great.
To follow Alice into the upcoming vintage, and her wine dog Cooper, check out her Instagram. Alice’s journey is just beginning, and it's exciting to see young up-and-coming winemakers making their imprint on the New Zealand wine industry, carving their own course in the competitive world of wine and taking a chance to make great wines that people love to drink.
If you're lucky enough to be one of our Kiwi mofos, be sure to check out Alice's superlative sauvignon blanc, and raise a glass to winemakers rising.
We are committed to ALWAYS having wines available that are made by women. We already support so many women in the industry but we want to make this much more transparent and visible for our mofos. We want to make a real and lasting impact in an industry that is sadly still dominated by men. And this is the first step. Check out our Women in Wine collection here.