Grant’s name is synonymous with Otago Pinot Noir. He has been crafting wines in the region since 1993 when there were only 20 hectares planted. Established in 1998 and named after his Great-Great Grandfather, Giuseppe Valli, who immigrated to New Zealand from an Italian winemaking background, Grant founded Valli with the aim of creating true representations of Otago’s subregions with unflinching intensity and purity. This was also a first for the region – no one had attempted to capture, let alone master the developing subregional plot that has now begun to unfold as the next exciting chapter in the Otago wine story. As a pioneering winemaker in Otago, Grant has produced the first vintages for many of the region’s finest labels including Bald Hills, Carrick, Felton Road, Hawkshead, Mondillo, Mount Edward, Mt Difficulty, Peregrine, Rockburn, Thyme Hill and Van Asch.
Grant established Valli in 1998 after eighteen years of winemaking experience in the USA, Australia, France, and New Zealand. His philosophy was to highlight the differences between subregions in Otago. Grant’s accomplishments are well known in the wine world and he is credited with winning the Best Pinot Noir Trophy at a major International Wine Competition in London an unprecedented four times – a feat achieved by no other winemaker in the world. Over the past 25 years he has made the first wines for a number of iconic Otago wineries, but now the serious focus is on his own creation. Born in Otago, Grant helped establish Pine Ridge Winery and Domaine Napa in California. He was lured back to Otago in 1993 by the promise of large and plentiful trout, clean air, fewer people and the potential he saw for Otago wines, Grant signed on as winemaker for Gibbston Valley Wines.
Valli’s estate vineyard in Gibbston was the first in the valley to be planted in the true north-to-south direction, it maximises the amount of sunlight hours the vines receive, contributing dramatically to the uniform ripening of fruit, a critical factor in Pinot Noir quality. A key factor in quality Pinot Noir from such a cool area is long hang time, that is, the amount of time the grapes are on the vine; this allows them to develop elegance and complexity of flavour.
The location of Valli’s Bannockburn Vineyard is only 20km from Gibbston in the Cromwell basin but the difference in climate is responsible for creating markedly different wines. The Bannockburn wines reflect this warmer area by displaying darker fruits, by being denser, more powerful and with longevity based more on their tannin structure, as opposed to Gibbston wines which are based more on their acidity.
Valli's Bendigo Pinot Noir is the newest addition to the Valli stable of Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs. A number of years ago, Grant was involved in the largest ever plantings at Bendigo, across 5 different sites, and quickly identified Chinaman's Terrace as his favourite. The higher elevation of this site means slightly cooler temperatures, which is important in these warmer sub regions, and good airflow, helping to prevent rots and mold. The wines from this very warm part of Otago have been described as big friendly beasts. They are dark, rich, lush wines capturing the rock-reflected heat and ripeness of this special site. Having now completed over 40 vintages throughout the greater expanse of Central Otago's superlative sites, Grant looks forward to the next 40. Valli Vineyards are yet to reveal the full bounty of Central Otago’s extraordinary potential.
Valli's Waitaki property is in New Zealand’s newest and most exciting wine growing region, like Burgundy, the soils are limestone based. After only a few commercial vintages, there is already an incredible consistency in the perfume and minerality of the wines. Slightly cooler than Central Otago, the Waitaki Valley should not be cropped as heavily, and therefore Valli’s Waitaki Vineyard is close planted at 5000 vines per hectare with early ripening clones from Dijon and Pommard.