NAUTILUS is a winery in the Marlborough region on the South Island of New Zealand. It was founded in 1985.

OWNER | Robert Hill Smith, a fifth-generation vigneron. The Hill-Smith family has been at the forefront of Australian wine since the establishment of Yalumba in the Barossa Valley in 1849 by Robert Hill-Smith’s great-great grandfather.

THE NAUTILUS SHELL | The mathematically perfect spiral of the Nautilus shell has been admired since ancient Greek times. This shape is found throughout nature: in the growth of seeds on a sunflower head, in the air movement of a cyclone, or in the spiral through which a hawk flies towards its prey. ‘This natural balance and proportion is something we seek to express in our wines,’ say the owners.

WINEMAKER | Clive Jones (we met in 2015 at the estate, looked at some vines, tasted some Pinot Noir wines from barrel and others from bottle). Clive Jones joined Nautilus Estate as Winemaker in August 1998, and the 2011 season was his 20th vintage making wines from the Marlborough region. Prior to joining Nautilus, Clive worked as an industrial chemist. Deciding the wine industry was perhaps a tastier career choice, he completed a degree in wine science by correspondence from Charles Sturt University. He then spent six years absorbing New Zealand’s Dalmatian wine heritage at Selaks Wines in Auckland before making the change to Marlborough.

Clive has overseen the development of the Nautilus Pinot Noir programme, including the design and operation of our specialised Pinot Noir Winery. As part of this, Clive made a pilgrimage to Burgundy in 2004 to work a vintage at renowned producer Domaine Dujac. With a consistent pedigree going back to Clive’s first year at the estate, Nautilus Pinot Noir is today considered a Marlborough benchmark. Clive is equally passionate about the other varietals he produces at Nautilus and designed the Nautilus White Wine Cellar in 2006 with Marlborough’s flagship white varietal, sauvignon blanc, firmly in mind. He more recently worked to refine the Nautilus Chardonnay style through low yields, wild ferments and minimal malolactic fermentation, which has resulted in a more complex and elegant style.

Clive is a respected member of the local winemaking community, recently joining the board of Wine Marlborough. He also represents the region on various panels and debates both locally and overseas.

VINEYARDS | Early Marlborough plantings in the late 1990s were on the alluvial flood plains of the Wairau River focussed around the Rapaura area. Nautulus also saw potential in the Awatere Valley, drawing fruit from there in the early 1990s which led to the purchase of the estate’s Awatere River Vineyard in 1998. Later developments have encompassed sites on the northern and southern sides of the Wairau Valley, and into the adjacent Awatere Valley. Meso-climatic differences brought about by altitude, aspect and topography combine with diverse soils produce diverse growing conditions.





GRUNER VELTLINER, NAUTILUS | 2012 The second vintage of this wine. 


SAUVIGNON BLANC, NAUTILUS | 2014 The estate says ‘a mild spring and warm and settled December resulted in a good fruit set and higher than average cropping levels. Considerable fruit thinning was carried out to ensure the vines were balanced. We began our Sauvignon Blanc harvest on 24th March, finishing 9th of April. A brief rainfall the night before was to signal what was to come – almost 2 weeks with some rain every day. We missed out on our shortest Sauvignon harvest record by 1 day. Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc is blended from grapes sourced from our Opawa and Kaituna Vineyards and from selected quality growers. The fruit was machine harvested at night or in the cool of the morning, gently crushed and pressed then fermented with a variety of aromatic yeast strains in stainless steel tanks. Forty percent of the juice fermentations were started with a non-saccharomyces yeast and 2% of the blend was barrel fermented. After fermentation, the wine was kept in contact with the lees for three months. This classic technique enhances creaminess and integrates flavours.’



Nautilus have specialized in Pinot and in 2000 they opened a new, dedicated gravity flow winery for this variety. Nautilus is unusual in effectively having two wineries side by side. The first was built in 2000 and is dedicated to Pinot Noir. Its gravity flow construction was quite radical in Marlborough at the time and the owners believe it was the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The harvested fruit passes through a destemmer mounted on rails directly into the tanks. This avoids using a must pump which can bruise the fruit and release bitter phenolic compounds. When one tank is filled the destemmer is positioned over the next. Some whole bunches are retained from some Pinot noir parcels to add extra structure to the final wine. All 16 open-top fermenting tanks, each able to hold eight tonnes of grapes, can be heated or cooled. The grapes can cold soak for five to seven days at 10-12°C for aroma and colpour before alcoholic fermentation begins.A three-head pneumatic plunger inspired by the revolutionary engineering at Willakenzie Estate in Oregon gently plunges and rolls the cap during the cold soak and fermentation, allowing total control over the extraction of the wine. After fermentation, gravity is used to drain the young wines off the skins and transfer them to French barriques where they typically remain undisturbed in barrel until blending and bottling the following year.


PINOT NOIR, NAUTILUS2013 The winery says ‘a cool spring but warm, dry summer made for ideal conditions during the 2013 growing season. Harvest started at a normal time but became quite rushed towards the end as a lot of fruit ripened at the same time. The wine comes from two hillside vineyard sites in the Southern Valleys sub-region of Marlborough. To make this wine, fruit from Pinot Noir clones 114, 115, 5, 667, 777 and Abel was hand harvested and de-stemmed without crushing to allow a portion of whole berries in the ferment. A small amount of whole bunch fruit was also included in some ferments. The grapes were fermented with indigenous yeast in open top fermenters after a 6-8 day ‘cold soak’. Careful cap management, using our pneumatic punch down device, has resulted in extraction of only the soft ripe tannins. After pressing the wine was racked directly to a mixture of new and older French oak barrels, where it remained undisturbed until ltration and bottling in March 2014’.



Nautilus Estate, 12 Rapaura Road, Renwick. Marlborough, New Zealand 7243 /


Oz Clarke, Oz Clarke Wine A-Z (Pavilion, 2015), p186.