Tuesday, 09 April 2024 14:25


Written by  Sophie Preece
Jannine Rickards. Photo Credit: Claire Edwards Jannine Rickards. Photo Credit: Claire Edwards

Wairarapa winemaker Jannine Rickards made a “tiny” batch of her own wine in 2017, on the moonlit edge of her harvest job at Julicher.

Later that year she became winemaker at organic wine company Urlar, and Huntress grew incrementally, as a passion project that poured her personality – including as a hunter and forager, increasingly engaging with te ao Māori – into wines that hark back to nature. Huntress wines, Jannine says, are “wild, pure and honest”, fermented with indigenous yeasts and handled as little as possible, so they can express the soils and environment they come from.

The rich authenticity of the brand captured attention as it grew to a few tonnes, then 4 tonnes in the 2020 Covid-19 harvest, and 13 tonnes last year. Meanwhile, Jannine has harnessed help from family and friends to “navigate” marketing and business plans. “It’s such a community driven thing,” she says of the abundant support she’s received, including from her parents, Ata Rangi Winemaker Helen Masters, winemaker and MBA graduate Francis Hutt, and Claire Edwards, who worked in wine marketing before founding the Tora Collective seafood company in Wairarapa. “I think there are a lot of small businesses who want to see others thrive.”

Wines like the Waikura Rose, named for the red glow in the sky, anchor her brand to its place and personality, as do Jannine’s food matches, like the venison heart and onions she suggests matching with the Waikura, or creamed paua, harvested from the Wairarapa coastline, paired with the Waikoa white blend. Jannine says it’s increasingly important for the storytelling behind a brand to be real, “and maybe that’s one of the beauties of a side hustle – that the winemaker or grower is so connected with every aspect of the brand that it is intrinsically authentic, because they’re right there, hands on”.

That hands-on-ness could be deemed an advantage for an employer, as a moonlighting winemaker or viticulturist gleans a greater understanding of the complexities of running a wine business, Jannine notes. “So, you are a bit more knowledgeable on the reality of running a wine business. I think that is positive for Urlar, that I have more of an understanding to how many costs are involved and some of the logistical challenges around a wine business.”

It’s those same challenges that make Huntress something of a cautionary tale, because anyone considering a side hustle needs to consider the “huge commitment”, she says, reflecting on invoicing at midnight to ensure her day job doesn’t suffer. “Unless your whanau or partner are on the same page and support what you are doing it will put strain on these relationships.” And while the plan might be to stay small, there’s quickly a realisation that without growth there’s little chance of getting a return on the huge investment of time and money. “I think also you get to a point where if you don’t jump off and fully immerse yourself in it, you will never see the full potential of what it might be.”

Jannine is grateful to be able to make her own wines while working full time. But as Huntress has grown, she has become aware of a greater tension between her day job and her side hustle, which is often what people want to talk about. “It is a tricky balance to find.”

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