My book JEM has recently been reviewed by Al Fabet through FlaxFlower Reviews. The review is posted on
Happy reading.
Many thanks
Barry Johns


A Wine Lover’s Tour de France

I am pleased to inform  readers that my revised eBook ‘ A Wine Lover’s Tour de France ‘, Kindle Edition, is now available at

It is based on a true story and rated  ‘ a  definite must read ‘ by Katrina Sardis of Katrina’s Book Review, Sydney, Australia. Excerpts of part of this novella have previously appeared on this site. The Kindle Edition gives you the full story.


BARRY JOHNS ( aka Le Vigneron )


News Art

All the best for 2016.

I present another of my recent paintings – acrylic on canvas 24 inches x 18 inches- titled  Light and Movement

Light & Movement

The first term of art classes for me in 2016 started on 1 February. I am looking forward to working with oils and developing my skills and knowledge.I understand that the painting process with oils is slower than with acrylics due to the longer drying time required between coats. On the other hand, oils lend themselves to using heavier applications of paint; use of a palette knife instead of a brush to create texture and interest, and give more vibrancy of colour than do acrylics. I will embrace the opportunity presented to me.

Another aspect of painting is knowing when the particular work is finished. It is very easy to take it too far and lose it. With writing, the skill is knowing what to leave out. These are the challenges I am learning to confront as I grow both as a painter and a writer.


BARRY JOHNS  ( aka Le Vigneron )


I am currently working on two writing projects: a novel and a piece of non-fiction. Away from my writing, I am now attending art classes and have completed some fifteen works to date – all in acrylic paints. From time to time I will post images of selected works for your viewing and comment. I start with one of my recently completed abstract pieces – canvas size 18 x 18 inches which I have titled ‘Three in One’.


Three in One

As with writing, I find painting to be totally absorbing, challenging, but at the same time stimulating and fulfilling. Both involve focus and application to the task at hand, discipline and the ability to work alone. The rewards are there for the taking.

With painting you begin to see the world around you in a different light. You are more aware of colour, form, light and shade and mood. You are constantly seeking out new subjects to paint and challenging yourself as you seek to develop your own style. I love it!


BARRY JOHNS ( Le Vigneron )


Twelth Excerpt – Winegrower

The 2012 season followed a similar pattern to that of 2011, with the main focus being to maximize the sauvignon blanc and pinot noir crops. Our sauvignon blanc had built up a strong regional following over many years – it was our biggest selling wine. It was known to be the top selling wine annually over a 6- year period for the Nor’ Wester Café, a highly regarded Amberley restaurant. It is interesting to note that our biggest selling wine was the least awarded of all our varieties in New Zealand wine shows. Our pinot noir, too, was a very popular and well regarded variety. Everyone seemed to love our riesling wine – though it was always a hard sell as a variety. Again, some crop was traded with local wineries in return for winemaking services. This strategy was aimed at reducing financial outlay and controlling cash flow requirements. The downside was reduced production for our own label.

For the 2013 season the vineyard was managed by a local winery under a crop sharing arrangement. This enabled us to focus on business issues and to be more actively involved with the agents retained to sell the vineyard. It was essential for the vineyard to be fully managed in keeping with industry best practices throughout this process.

Our latter years on the vineyard saw us adopting the practice of grazing sheep at different times of the year. A group of local farmers were willing to pay for grazing at between 50 cents to 75 cents a head per week. This applied to a number of vineyards around us as well. They would move the stock in and use their own battery charged electric fences to graze parts of the vineyard on a rotational basis. We ensured that there was ample stock water available.  The numbers could be as many as 250-300 sheep grazing in our vineyard on occasions. The times that best suited us were immediately after the completion of harvest, usually May, and up to and including the start of winter pruning in June through to the end of September in each year. Another opportune time was in January when the grapes were still green. The sheep could graze the inter-row ground cover and also enjoy a change of diet by eating the leaves of the vines within the fruit zone, to allow more light into the canopy around the fruit and improve ripening. By February the berries would start to ripen and the sheep would need to be off the property for the next 3-4 months. The sheep were an added source of income, they provided certain nutrients to the soil, and generally improved the ambiance of our rural setting.

In 2012 our appointed rural agents had a 90 day sole agency in which to concentrate their efforts. At the end of that time, and despite a reasonable level of inquiry and even viewings by 3 potential parties, a sale contract could not be achieved. It was left to us to pursue our own strategy which led to serious discussions with another Waipara Valley wine producer. Over many months of meetings and negotiations we were finally able to put together a conditional contract with Dancing Water Ltd. All the time we were under pressure from our bankers to achieve such an outcome. The Bank had certain expectations around a sale that needed to be accommodated, so far as possible. They were supportive and adopted a tolerant position in working through the sale process. I had been working closely with the Bank’s business risk manager in Christchurch over a period of some 2 years to that point. I had monthly meetings with Peter which also involved our accountant and an independent business adviser, assisting on a pro-bono basis. These meetings covered reporting on sales activity, projections, debtors and creditors, and cash flow. From time to time our overdraft facility needed tweeking to relieve some of the cash flow pressure. It was a tough time: we got through it with the Bank’s understanding and support and, more especially, the time and effort put in by our accountant and the independent business adviser fighting the good fight with us. They walked in our shoes and bore the pain with us.


BARRY JOHNS ( aka Le Vigneron )

State of Play – Wine Retail

The New World Wine Awards for 2015 have been judged and the Top 50 wines are now available in all New World stores. I am interested to see where wine prices are heading on an ongoing basis.

I have chosen Sauvignon Blanc as a case study for the purposes of this post. The 2015 Awards list 9 Gold medal wines in the Sauvignon Blanc class. The prices for these wines range from $9.89 per bottle to $14.89 per bottle retail. In other words, all under $15.

The trophy wine and 2 other Gold medal Sauvignon Blanc wines are from the 2015 vintage. The other 6 Gold medal Sauvignon Blanc wines are all from the 2014 vintage. The 2015 vintage saw a reduced harvest from that of 2014, so that there could be a shortage of this particular wine on the domestic market further down the track. Added to that, Bob Campbell MW is waxing lyrical over the  outstanding quality of the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc wines tasted to date.

It has clearly reached a point where even the best wines from top vintages are being regularly down- graded in price to ensure volume sales. A comparison with the 2013 New World Wine Awards shows that only 2  of the Gold medal Sauvignon Blanc wines were under $15 per bottle. The remaining 9 Gold medal Sauvignon Blanc wines ( all from the 2012 or 2013 vintages ) were in the $15 to $20 + price ranges.

It appears that the race to the bottom in wine retail is well and truly on…


BARRY JOHNS ( aka Le Vigneron )

Eleventh Excerpt – Winegrower

Over the years we were fortunate to have a number of our wines selected for Air New Zealand International in-flight Premier Business class service. The wines chosen were our Fiddler’s Green 2001 Riesling, Fiddler’s Green 2004 Pinot Noir, Fiddler’s Green 2006 Chardonnay, and Fiddler’s Green 2006 Pinot Noir. These were always good contracts: the volumes ordered were significant for us, they were treated as export sales and free of excise duty, and the airline always paid promptly direct to our bank account.

Over time the reputation of our Cellar Door grew and we started to receive a regular number of group visits. These were never particularly successful from a business point of view. They could range from 10 people to as many as 35 people, at any one time. With the larger groups you could usually expect that some of their number were along for the ride and not interested in the tasting room. Big groups meant extra work, consumed a greater volume of tasting wine given their numbers, and did not necessarily generate much in the way of sales. They were usually visiting a number of vineyards in the area and booked for lunch at one of the bigger establishments, where wine would be included. They also tended to be noisy affairs, given the limited floor area of our tasting room – which at times deterred others from entering the premises. They were a lot of work for very limited financial return at the time. We eventually declined to receive groups of more than 10-12 people. In terms of our Off-Licence we were not permitted to charge for tastings – they had to be a modest pour and gratuitous.

Even with small groups there could be issues. The worst were women on a ‘hens’ outing. They tended to treat your tasting room as their personal venue, a toilet stop, and a place to have fun amongst themselves. They could be extremely noisy occasions as well. I recall one such group who came equipped with their own plastic drinking straws – long and thin with a bulbous penis head at one end, through which they sucked on their tasting pour. Such groups were not given to buying much wine at the end of their visit. It was all about the outing. In the end, we adopted a policy of vetting group bookings and gradually withdrew from them totally.

For the most part, our Cellar Door visitors were looking for an experience and respected the service and setting we provided. Over the years the majority of visitors would have been from outside Christchurch and even beyond our shores. We kept a Visitors book in which individual names and comments could be recorded. The entries included people from around New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Japan, Europe, Canada, and the USA, in particular. The comments were invariably complimentary both as to the quality of the wines tasted and of the information and service provided by me as the host manager. One particular entry from a young English woman stands out – “ stunning wines and cute mine host “ Nothing more needs to be said.


BARRY JOHNS ( aka Le Vigneron )