Enzo Bettio

November 2007
Enzo Bettios family are Italian in origin but lived for several generations in Switzerland. Enzo grew up into the family business, which was largely to do with gourmet shops, importing and exporting fresh produce.

In the 1980s Enzo set up Delmaine in New Zealand importing largely deli bulk goods that werent easily available unless you were plugged into the local ethnic community.

He started small, with caper, olives, tomato paste and olive oil. They had a packing room on the North Shore. He was told hed go broke in 3 months.

Enzo says what helped was the arrival of European chefs in New Zealand working for restaurants and wanting the things he was importing.

By the time he sold the business in 2002 he had been with it for 22 years. It was time to move on and look for something else.

Enzo says hed always wanted to go farming but his philosophy was starting off with what he knew best, first. (ie importing)

The choice of the location, near Clevedon, was to do with the need for Enzos wife Margaret needing to be close enough to the city to enjoy what Auckland had to offer, rather than any particular value from an agricultural point of view.

Margaret is English and met Enzo met during his Delmaine days. She wasnt so keen so he said he started out with a little farm to begin with. She liked the farm so he bought the farm next door as well an olive grove, and deer farm.

Currently the property is 330 acres. Theres around 20,000 trees been planted, a road put in and according to Enzo, around 20 km of fencing.

Enzo runs 300 or so deer, which isnt such a great earner on the commodity market. But Enzo has used his considerable contacts to find a nice little niche for the meat. The animals are killed in Otahuhu and Vin Alto supplies a range of restaurants in the district, including his own. Left over bits are turned into sausages and other types of meat products for the restaurant. The most popular is bresalo which is venison cured with salt and then air dried lightly.

The deer get to chow down on the grape skins at the end of the harvest.

There is mob of South Suffolk ewes that Enzo keeps on the place. They are let loose in the vineyard in winter, do the tidying up and generally look after the vines with a bit of add hock pruning. Semi retired farmer Terry, helps with the deer and sheep.

Enzos interest in wine goes well before he had the idea of growing grapes himself.

Theres a value in international connections that date back to his time in Europe and the days of Delmaine. He started chatting one day to a visiting wine seller from Italy. That guy put him in touch with large Italian wine company called Mazi.

Some of their technical people came out to Enzos farm stayed, did some soil tests and sussed out the general climatic conditions. Apparently Clevedon is very similar to Verona where some famous Italian styles are grown.

He brought in various cuttings and began trialling the best for the area. That sounds simple but it wasnt. MAF and various other agencies take a huge interest in what comes into the country in the way of live plants. The whole process was hugely expensive and time consuming.

In all around 15 different Italian-style grape varieties were tried. Some were no good at all (eg Frescobaldi) but others, such as Montepulcano, Pinot Grigio seem to thrive. It is Pinot Griogio that has turned out to be the real winner since NZ Pinot Gris (Grigio) has been making it big in Europe and Enzos now intent on putting more of it in.

Theres currently about 30 acres in grapes. It is all planted on the steep clay soils of the property, making mechanical harvesting a total impracticality.

The Bettios started making wine in New Zealand 1994 although Enzo claims the family have been making wine in the North of Italy for centuries. Margaret Bettio took herself off to correspondence school and did an Australian wine making degree, just to make sure someone had the skills and qualifications.

They make four or five wines: Ritorno, Barbera, Pinot Grigio, Rondinella and the flagship red Retico.

The Vin Alto restaurant opened in 2004 and is basically only available for lunch. They want the business to complement their lifestyle not take it over. Enzo is very much the front of house man serving, chatting entertaining.

He says this kind of business can be profitable as long as you produce what people want.

Enzo says his focus is on the wine and food grown by the farm and from the area.

We serve venison, make our own salami and sausages I am hands on and I love it.

As well as making wine, Enzo also makes a lemon liqueur that smells divine. His neighbour has lemon trees and he makes a traditional liqueur.

Enzo is no great fan of bulk commodity market preferring to think that New Zealands market edge is in niche products. He says you can buy a lot of what we produce in NZ much cheaper elsewhere. Our market has to be top end clean green.