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Luc Desbonnets - Winemaker & Owner

Luc has an objective to match the world’s greatest red wines to prove New Zealand can do it and more poignantly Waiheke Island can. Luc aims to create wines that are far better value than their European counterparts to be enjoyed by kiwis and wine lovers globally.

Blending New Zealand culture with France by developing “Terroir’s” Fifth Tenet.

The four energies that go into creating the French concept known as Terroir are earth, climate, vine and human. For Luc however there is a fifth, less generally appreciated tenet – that of spirituality of site or Whenua, as he refers to it. In his words, "When you invest in a site you are often unaware of the history. Over time you start to get an almost spiritual understanding of the land you are working on. The French are very strong on terroir, the combination of the four key energies. I think spirituality that comes from understanding the history of the land is an integral part of that combination of energies. As a winemaker, viticulturist and landowner it has given me a lot of motivation to honour the past and the present and look to the future as well."

Further to this, Whenua is a concept which includes the spiritual energies conferred to the land or specific site. It results from a belief that the Wairua continue to guard (kaitiaki) their land. 
Luc is acknowledged by local Tangata Whenua as a Kaitiaki or Rangatira of the sites in his care and as such, has received precious taonga to further acknowledge this.

But the real FHE is the team

Ben Brookes - Operations Manger

Ben manages and cares for the vineyard at Frenchmans Hill Estate. Ben has more than 15 years experience in viticulture and has worked in several wineries across the North Island. He studied viticulture and winemaking at EIT in Hawke's Bay and then stayed on to work in the region at the highly regarded Alpha Domus Estate. Following that he made the move north to manage vineyards in the Matakana area, and then on to Waiheke Island where he joined Frenchmans Hill.

Ben enjoys all aspects of vineyard management, including machinery operation and meticulous hand labour. “We take a fairly hands-on approach at Frenchmans. I love it - just being in the vines, working with them, whether it is pruning or fruit thinning, I enjoy every task. It gets in your blood eventually. Things become instinctive, knowing what to do, and when to do it. And the Frenchmans Hill vineyard is exceptional; the site is very special. It's in balance, the vines just seem to do the right thing, which makes our job a lot easier.”

John Gifford - Cellar Master

John has been involved in the wine sector for over 30 years and tasted many wines from throughout New Zealand and from many of the famous wine making regions of the world. In 1994, John completed Bob Campbell's (from the “The Wine Gallery”) Diploma of Wine which really got him going on his wine journey.

John established Wine to Cellar to assist vineyards and clients to start and enjoy a wine cellar and to share the pleasure of having cellared wines. Wine to Cellar has now been in operation since 2000 and has assisted a broad range of wine consumers to take their interest in the wines they drink to the next level and to start a wine cellar.

John is the Cellar master for the Rotorua Winetasters Club and has organised over 200 different tastings which have included some of the world's most renowned wines - this accumulated knowledge and experience now assists clients to get the most from their wines.

Frenchman’s Hill Estate started cellaring wines at Wine to Cellar in 2015. Wine to Cellar was selected as the ideal location to cellar our wines due to the cellar conditions, high quality service and knowledge of wine.


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