Joan and Tony Lawrence planted their first grapes at the 45th Parallel Vineyard on the Pisa Flats just 6 km from Cromwell in 1997. Since then they have also developed Te Wairere Vineyard nearby in 2001. By 2004 their son Brook and daughter-in-law Lucie had joined them to work towards making the first vintage in their newly constructed Aurum winery as winemakers in 2006.
Joan’s background is in archaeology and she left her career as an archaeological illustrator at Auckland University to work on the vineyards and now works in the cellar door. Tony is an orthodontist and loves to be involved in every aspect of the wine business.
Their son Brook, trained as a winemaker in South Australia and after working in Australia, New Zealand and France came back with his wife Lucie in 2004. Brook met his future wife while they were both trainees at Domaine de l’Arlot in Nuit St Georges in Burgundy. Lucie is Aurum’s principal winemaker while Brook also looks after the viticultural management of the estate. They have two daughters Mathilde and Madeleine and Aurum’s reserve wines are named for them.
Lucie is a third generation winemaker and trained as an oenologist at Dijon University, working vintages in Burgundy and Alsace. Brook trained in Adelaide and worked in Burgundy, Alsace and Central Otago. They both met working in Domaine de l’Arlot in Burgundy and moved to Central Otago after getting married in Saint Romain, Burgundy.
Brook and Lucie’s winemaking is traditional with the use of wild yeasts naturally present in the winery and minimal intervention whenever possible. Our aim for the wines is to reflect the place and the vintage from which they came.
From its beginnings in 1997 Aurum Wines has been committed to an environmentally aware philosophy. We constantly seek new ways to improve vineyard and winery practices to ensure an environmentally sustainable business. We believe we have a moral obligation to preserve our rural environment. We believe a continued focus on good environmental management is positive not only from a sustainability and good business point of view but will also help us create better wines. We value the soil in which our vines flourish and strive to preserve the environment in and around our vineyard, minimizing environmental impacts wherever possible.
This comes via our Biogro Organic NZ certification. Organics is the defining philosophy of our vineyard management practice. We have adopted organic methods as part of our overall goal of achieving continuous improvements in the sustainability of our vineyard operations.
The glacial gravels, sands and silts of the Cromwell Valley are particularly suited to growing grape vines because of their low fertility and high mineral content. Brook Lawrence, as well as being one of our winemakers, is also the vineyard’s viticulturalist and his canopy management regime includes shoot thinning and positioning, bunch thinning and ultimately hand harvesting. Soil organic matter is increased yearly by the use of mulching and return of composted winery waste. Biodiversity is encouraged in a largely monoculture by growing plants in the vineyard to attract beneficial insects and developing native plantings around the property.
The Cromwell basin is surrounded by mountains; the Pisa Range, the Dunstan mountains and the Cairnmuir Range along with the huge Southern Alps to the west, all block rain to the valley. The annual rainfall is 200 – 400 mls per year.
Aurum Olive Grove
The Cromwell Valley has proved to be an excellent place to grow olives and the oil produced is of exceptional quality. Aurum’s olive groves encompass three blocks planted at different periods and are all grown organically.
The oldest olives were planted in 2006 in the area in front of the tasting room and the newly built Aurum Winery. The varieties are Leccino, Frantoio and Pendolino – all from Tuscany in Italy.
A second grove was planted later behind the tasting room. Although the majority of trees are the Tuscan varieties there are also some Barnea, a variety from Israel and one lovely small tree of Manzanilla from Spain. It is this variety we pickle for home use.
A new grove of the Tuscan olives has been recently planted at Aurum’s new vineyard just over the road from the Te Wairere Vineyard.
The olives are picked in late May, early June and sent to a local press. Our Extra Virgin Olive Oil is pressed using only mechanical means with no heat or chemicals.
Aurum Cottage Gardens and Native borders
The gardens surrounding the Aurum Wines Tasting Room is anchored with an ancient walnut tree and is packed with old fashioned, fragrant roses and perennials. The spring garden features daffodils, tulips and hyacinths followed by a wide range of herbaceous peonies. Its design is exuberant and free-flowering and is characterised by an artfully designed irregularity.
Extensive native borders benefit the native fauna, in particular, our beloved singing native birds.