Written by Victoria Clark

Co-owner of Blackenbrook Vineyard, Ursula Schwazenbach, believes ‘marketing’ is simply a glorified term for relationships. 

“If you talk with people, thinking of them as new friends rather than potential customers, then it usually works out,” says Ursula with a smile. She is passionate about marketing “because I enjoy dealing with people, and relationships are important to me. They are key in any business.”

Ursula is the ‘woman-in-wine’ half of the duo who founded Blackenbrook Vineyard in the Upper Moutere almost 20 years ago. With her husband Daniel, a wine-maker, she propagated the grapevines which now cover eight hectares surrounding their home and winery at Tasman.

The couple came to the Nelson region from Switzerland in the late 1990s when Daniel took a wine-maker’s position at Seifried Wines. Daniel’s family had immigrated to New Zealand when he was nine years old, and though he was back in Europe, working vintages in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Alsace, when he met Ursula, his dream was to return to New Zealand and establish his own vineyard and winery. He convinced Ursula to join him – in business and in life.

A graduate of a hotel management school in Switzerland, with several years’ experience working in high-end restaurants, Ursula relished the challenge of connecting with potential buyers of Blackenbrook’s wines. 

“I’d always been interested in wine and I’d been to quite a few tastings. It was at a blind-tasting in Switzerland I met Daniel.”

Fifteen years on from producing their first vintage, Ursula says their two children - Thomas, 15, and Isabelle, 11 - have become knowledgeable tour guides when the family opens their winery to the public at Easter (if harvest is not too frantic), Labour Weekend and the weekend before Christmas.

“We set up a tasting area and give people winery tours. It’s very casual, very social.”

As is the norm in many European families, Ursula says, their children have been learning about wine since they were very young, often tasting just a drop on their lips and smelling a glass of wine without seeing the bottle; increasing their knowledge through blind tastings around the dinner table.  

“We have no other family here, so Thomas and Isabelle have always come with us when we’re in the vineyard and the winery. Blackenbrook truly is a family business.”