Arabella Waghorn is the Chardonnay baby, although it’s Sauvignon Blanc she loves
A 5-year-old Arabella Waghorn played “winery mice” in the school holidays, scampering across the wooden planks between small Whitehaven wine tanks. “The handheld forklifts were great fun as scooters”, says Astrolabe’s marketing manager, who’s still having fun in the wine industry.
Her parents Simon and Jane Waghorn were young students when they moved to Adelaide to study at Roseworthy in the 1980s. “He had been working at a bottle store and decided wine was a bit more interesting than seaweed, which is what his other love was,” says Arabella.
Her sister Meg Waghorn, born at that time, is the Barossa Baby, while the next daughter, Libby, was the Müller-Thurgau Baby, arriving after the family moved to Te Kauwhata. By the time Arabella was born in 1991, Simon was working at Corbans and had earned a reputation as a Chardonnay specialist. “And so I was the Chardonnay Baby, which is ironic because I don’t love Chardonnay the way I love Sauvignon Blanc.”
When Arabella was 4, the family moved to Marlborough for Simon’s role as foundation winemaker for Whitehaven Wines. Arabella, Meg and Libby learned to scamper boards and skate forklifts, “and there are some great pictures of us crushing grapes in our togs,” Arabella says. “Whitehaven was a big part of us growing up.”
A year later, Jane and Simon established Astrolabe with some university friends, thinking it would be a small side project. But in 2009, Simon gave up his Whitehaven position, and settled into his own brand.
Despite Arabella’s stellar cellar foundations, she chose to study printmaking at Auckland University’s Elam School of Fine Arts, emerging with a degree she imagined would be of scant use on the job market.
Graduation coincided with the opening of a marketing position at Astrolabe, for which a fine arts degree seemed “completely unrelated”. But design and photography has become a major part of her role, including vineyard imagery, a new bottle design for the Durvillea label and a gift box design, which represents the rich biodiversity of insects, weeds and vines at the family’s organic home vineyard, Astrolabe Farm.
Astrolabe is at the “tricky size” of being big enough to need a lot of work, but not big enough to need a large team, which means Arabella sees her role as broad and satisfying, from wine tastings to vintage photography.
The line between her art and work became even more blurred with the launch of Arabella and Jane’s wine label, Print & Press, which reflects a love of art, books and wine. The brand is “tiny”, says Arabella, who will design and handprint the labels for each bottle. “But it’s a nice little project for us.”
It’s wine from the vines she can see from the family home’s kitchen window, their rows surrounded by beehives and fruit trees. “They are very lucky vines,” she says.
Joining the family business initially gave Arabella the jitters, because the New Zealand ethos leans towards people making their own way in life. But she is increasingly conscious that people enjoy meeting Simon and Jane’s daughter when they do business. It also allows her to safeguard the legacy her parents have built. “In a small company you want to protect your family’s work and you know it so well that it is hard to step away.”
This article originally appeared in Winepress Magazine which is owned by Wine Marlborough Ltd and was adaptedfor sharing purposes.