Phil Handford

New Zealand

Driven by a passion for Pinot Noir, this talented New Zealand winemaker aims to be the best in world!

  • With a heap of GOLD medals Phil is making some of the best Pinot Noir we have ever tasted
  • His first ever vintage was awarded 92 points by Robert Parker.  Every single vintages to date has been awarded gold medals, racking up an amazing 18 GOLD MEDALS in total.
  • Phil alternates between mastermind and master of understatement: "Just going for a paddle" - First solo kayak crossing of Foveaux Strait. "Caught the odd deer" -Acclaimed deer trapper in the 80's." Dabbled in shearing"- 300 sheep in a day. When he says he'll make a bit of wine for us, we know to brace for the best wines imaginable.

Map of Phil's vineyard

Phil Handford's Story

Driven by a passion for Pinot Noir, this talented New Zealand winemaker aims to be the best in world!

I came to winemaking through my interest in agriculture. I want to own my own farm, so I went to university to study agriculture and get a good paying job in the agricultural sector.  I chose to work in a bank specialising in lending to the farmers for development and expansion. Here I worked with some of the best farmers in NZ. Along the way I was a sheep shearer, a deer trapper and few other ventures. The biggest insight I gained from working with farmers was that the very best farms were the very best regardless of who was farming them. These farms had the best soils and best local climate for what they were growing and they consistently achieved the best results. When you have a combination of the very best farm and the very best farmer you have a winner. The same principles apply to grape growing. Great sites consistently outperform the lesser sites.

I became a winemaker because I believed that the most rewarding challenge would be to start with a blank sheet of paper and develop a world class winery. It would bring together all our skills and knowledge to create something very special. Of course we didn’t really realise how big a challenge we were taking on or how long it would take. 

In 2001 after a lot of searching and research we found our 10 hectare (25 acre) vineyard site and planted it all in vines in 2003. The first vintage was 2006.

I love it when all the hard work and planning comes together and the end result far exceeds your expectations. I love it when you have confidence in your land to know that every little piece of extra work in the vineyard pays off in the quality of the grapes you pick to then turn in to wine. I love it when customers appreciate the wine and recognise the wine has its own distinct character linking it back to where it was grown.

My Pinot is the quintessential single vineyard wine. We hunted down this site to plant and grown only Pinot noir. We only make one wine from all our grapes. That alone speaks volumes about how good this site is. That is why we believe this is one of the best places in the world to grow Pinot noir.

Pinot Noir produces one of the most beautiful red wines, beautifully perfumed, fine textured and complex. It is a variety which has character coming from where it is grown and it shows this most strongly when grown right on the edge of what is climatically possible. It does not like too much heat and adds complexity when it ripens slowly in cool conditions. It is the most difficult of all varieties to grow and to produce great wine from. Very few places in the world can grow great Pinot noir so to grow it well you have to be passionate to the point of obsession and stay focused.

Winegrowing is a tough game. It is a roller coaster of highs and lows like no other but you tend to focus on the highs and forget the lows. The only regret is we should have started ten years earlier instead we released our first wine just months before the Global Financial Crisis. The overriding joy is seeing a special vineyard and wine evolve into what we think will become not just good but great.

One of the most memorable moments is still when The Wine Advocate rated our very first vintage 92 points although that was probably surpassed when four years later Grasshopper Rock was judged the Champion Wine in NZ at the Air New Zealand wine awards, the most important wine competition in New Zealand.

Without Angel’s money we simply would not be making wine for the UK and USA. It’s a win-win.

Thank you!"

Phil's Archangels

Archangels are our most interactive customers. They know our wines inside out and help us discover new wines for the site!

Sarah Stull

1415 Posts • 994 Likes • 80 Followers

Transplant to Florida here. Newly minted pharmacist, wine enthusiast, photographer, and traveler. I LOVE the Naked Wines experience- getting the opportunity to try wonderful new wines on a regular basis is so exciting and enlightening!

Andrea DeNeen

969 Posts • 614 Likes • 69 Followers

In the past I would have described myself as a lover of reds. Since being involved with Naked Wines and the winemakers and other participants, I've opened my horizons and really embraced all wines and the qualities they have to offer. Knowledge is power.
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