Babich Wines is a 100% family-owned, 106-year-old company with a proud history of excellence in vineyard management and winemaking. In 1910, Josip Babich migrated to New Zealand from Croatia with his brothers, determined to find a better life. With a leap of faith, he planted his first vines in 1912 and never looked back. The remarkable land in New Zealand provided him with the vision and foundation for one of the country’s most long-lived successful wine stories. After more than three generations of perseverance and continuous learning, the family still listens to their grandfather’s voice, as every day of every decade brings them new achievements and challenges.
In 2001, David Babich, grandson of Josip, joined the company as General Manager. David enveloped himself in the vineyard as a child, playing in the winery and riding his motorbike about the land. Today he is Chief Executive Officer and brings his experience and knowledge to the forefront of their family business. And, with every gain or mishap the company faces, he is honorable and, with immense respect for the past, he sets his sights on the future.
The family has vineyards in Marlborough, Auckland, and Hawkes Bay; however, the most famous wine exported to the United States, Sauvignon Blanc, comes from Marlborough. With its picturesque landscape, Marlborough encompasses a fruitful valley floor with mountains on all sides. Babich has vineyards in Wairau, the main valley in Marlborough, on each edge of the river, primarily flat and wide. “We aim for flat for two reasons, it’s easier to manage, and for the health and safety of our tractor drivers,” David tells Hoffmann, owner of About Wine.
Sauvignon Blanc is the leading grape for Babich Wines as it is quick to produce, and the demand is high. “We can pick in March and by May can be selling. Our 22′ vintage is well into selling,” said David. There is a range of about ten styles of Sauvignon Blanc from their vineyard; the three most sought-after in the United States are the black label, white label, and organic. In the U.S. market, Babich Wines are available in 40 states in restaurants and stores like Total Wine & More.
Everything is personal at Babich Wines, and there is life about the vineyard in all aspects of how they do things. For instance, the quality of products and family connections enhance their passion for sustainability. They are purposeful in ensuring their resources remain in existence long-term and have been practicing sustainability before there were certifications to do so. Conserving water is one of the many methods of caring for their environment. “To pick an area to really focus on for us, it’s water conservation,” said David. At Babich, they build dams, store water when needed, and recycle and filter water for use in cleaning floors and tanks. Smart Technology like vine monitoring, underground vine irrigation, and rainwater collection are just some other ways they lead the industry in reducing water use.
Additionally, the folks at Babich Wines are big on measuring usage and staff education on overflowing drains and improving conservation. “Our vineyards are our lifeblood, and we need them to be really, really, healthy all the time. Which produces a good crop, which makes good wine,” said David.
What’s more, Babich has been expanding their organic focus and is currently converting acreage that should be complete and ready to supply by 2024. By 2026 they will have increased their organic vineyard area by 50%. However, this transformation comes with dilemmas. For example, weed control in organics can be a huge problem. Weed mats and mulch covers are ways they try to make the weeds struggle to grow. “Then 100-mile winds blow it away, or the mower rips out the cover. Things you find out on your journey of discovery,” David chuckles. Moreover, Babich sees the global response to organic wine as they sell in 60 countries. “Organic is what buyers are wanting,” said David. The U.K. and the U.S. are big markets for New Zealand wines, and Babich stays on top of consumer demand. No doubt, their 100-plus years in business and the value of learning allow Babich Wines to confidently give a nod to their past while always looking ahead.