Winemaker Series: Hayden Penny

Hayden Penny winemaker

Another episode in our series of interviews with New Zealand’s winemaking talent – today we have a Q&A with Hayden Penny, from Hawke’s Bay. We talk about his new label Organised Chaos.

What’s the background to Organised Chaos? Organised Chaos came about after chatting with the guys at Kemp Fine Wines about some gaps in their portfolio that needed filling. They thought at the right price and with the right branding, there was real opportunity for a new player. 6 months later we bottled our first wines!

The name, Organised Chaos, is just a description of life for us. I came up with the brand many years ago and was already using it as my ‘trading name’ for my consulting business. The Kemp guys loved it and the rest is history as they say.

How do you approach selling your brand (and wine) as a new label – how will you get people to try a wine that’s new? Branding is key! When we came up with our labels we wanted to have something that was completely unique and made people want to pick up the bottle. I think we achieved this! We also wanted a name that would capture peoples attention and one that people could relate to. Who’s life (especially at the moment) isn’t organised chaos right?

One of the hardest things about using the name Organised Chaos was, how do we get that across in a 2 dimensional label. We worked with Arch MacDonnell and his awesome team at Inhouse design and they came up with a series of labels that were inspired by Italian visual optical artist Franco Grignani who famously designed the Woolmark logo. It fits the name perfectly, looking chaotic from a distance but up close, the design is just made up of straight lines organised to build the chaos. It was love at first sight!!

Is there anything you feel is special or unique about the wines you’re producing? I think they are extremely good value. I buy grapes from small growers who are extremely passionate about their vines and this shows in the wines. It means I pay more for grapes than most would for wines at this price point, but for me the proof is in the bottle. The Syrah and Chardonnay are not what I would call a ‘typical’ HB style, but I believe they are styles the market wants. A lighter Syrah without the brooding tannins and new oak influence, and a smooth, fresh Chardonnay without being big, buttery, oaky and reductive.

Can you tell us a bit about your winemaking style? Whole bunch? Wild ferments? Natural wines? Sulphur? Oak influences.. I would describe the winemaking as minimal intervention. They are not highly manipulated but they are also not natural wines. We try to show off the fruit character in these wines. Very little oak is used throughout the range. The wines are fresh and vibrant and are made for early release and consumption. Because of this, we can keep out sulphur levels low.

Do you think of winemaking as Scientific or Artistic? Both! There is no doubt it is artistic, especially in good seasons when grapes can be picked once they are ready. In more challenging years, the science comes to the floor more, as winemakers deal with less desirable fruit condition and flavour profiles.

Is there a moment in the winemaking year where you just ‘get a feeling‘ for what’s going on / going to happen? The weather is so random these days I dont allow myself to have these thoughts until the wines are in the winery and doing their thing. By February, you have a fairly good handle on the seasons weather but we have had 3-4 cyclones come through in February before, so you just cant tell until you have harvested.

Do you plan to have your own vineyards? Where do you make your wines? Plans for a Cellar Door? Not at this stage, unless I win lotto I guess! We make our wines under contract at Hawkes Bay Wine Company. They have superb gear, great people and offer a great service, so I am happy there. A cellar door is a possibility but I would lean more towards an urban cellar door as we do not have out own vineyards.

What trends have you noticed – or are predicting? I am hoping that a post covid NZ will include much more support to local growers and wine brands. More purchasing based on quality, not price, would be great. There is no doubt out ‘normal’ has changed and I think its up to us to change with it, or be left behind.

What do think is next for New Zealand wines? Do you have specific plans? We have a few things going on in the background but right now, my wife and I are just concentrating on brand awareness and getting our product out there to be enjoyed in NZ. We both have ‘real’ jobs and have kids, so finding time to explore new avenues is pretty limited. In saying that my brain goes at a million miles an hour all day thinking about new ways to sell wine, so you never know what might pop up.

In what ways do you think the NZ wine industry might be affected by Climate Change? As we are ‘cool climate’ I think we will be somewhat protected, at least for the foreseeable future, from temperature rise. I can see this being a real issue for warmer climates. I think the randomness of the weather will hurt us in some years though. There is no ‘normal’ season anymore, and being well prepared for weather events, whether it be drought, rain or temperature fluctuations is going to be crucial. If people sit back and just do what they have always done, they will find themselves in big trouble.

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