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Marlborough wine region
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8 : A touch of Tuscany in Marlborough

IT WOULDN'T BE BUILT THAT WAY, BUT THE ARCHITECT WANTED THE TOWER TO BE HIGHER. The architect, Sir Michael Fowler, was frustrated by the district council's height restrictions. He could only briefly describe the Tuscan-inspired building and its tower over the phone, and he could only fax me a sketch. But if I could make the tower a little higher...

Highfield Estate overlooks the Omaka Valley south of the Wairau River in Marlborough. Founded in 1989, in the early 1990s it was purchased by three businessmen, based in Wellington, Bristol and Tokyo. The new owners planned to take Highfield's wines to an international market, and initially limited the range to just four wines to focus on quality. Planning was also underway for developing the winery itself, with extensive new buildings - to be in a style similar to what you might see in the north of Italy.

In 1994 none of this had been built, but the new winery buildings - to be sited at the top of the knoll, with arched loggias, and a tower providing 360 degree views of the Wairau Plains, presiding over all - was an exciting prospect. This was to be the theme of the new branding.

THE FAX HAS LONG GONE, and my illustration was little more than a thumbnail; a sketch of an old building glimpsed through a grainy dust-laden afternoon. But even in the spectacularly crisp light of Marlborough, Highfield Estate's signature building as it came to be built, isn't far removed from the original sketch.

In tune with the building's design, the label contained references to an idealized Tuscan wine estate, with earthy tones and romantic illustration of a traditional villa. But at the time, with its fresh approach to classic layout and typography, it was unlikely that you'd find a label quite like it in Italy.

Things have moved on, and both Highfield Estate's focus and branding have changed. But the tower continues to be a much admired feature of the local Marlborough landscape.


Thanks to Highfield Estate for source material.
Ref: Michael Cooper, The Wines and Vineyards of New Zealand 1993
Vineyard and buildings image: Kevin Judd.
Bottle images: Lightbox.
Sound track: Audiojungle.
HTML 5 video player: Videojs.