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28 Mar 2021

Meet the Makers: Bill and Claudia from Small and Small

A man and woman sit next to each other in a field with long grass and trees. The man is pouring wine from a bottle into a wine glass held by the smiling woman. A blue 'Naked Wines' logo is at the bottom corner of the image.
Bill and Claudia Small
The Trust’s Meet the Maker series is proudly sponsored by Naked Wines, where the world’s best independent winemakers make their best wines. Here we meet a husband and wife winemaking team supported by Naked Wines’ Angels.

We are Bill and Claudia Small from Marlborough in New Zealand; Bill is a winemaker and Claudia is a viticulturist (grape grower). Together we have been making our own wine, Small and Small, for coming up to 12 vintages.

We both studied for 4 years at the University of Adelaide in South Australia and met in Claudia’s first week of university (Bill was a year ahead).

Claudia – In my final year at school in Auckland I planned on moving to Dunedin to study arts and law, as I’d always loved history, English and classics through high school. Then a month or so before my final exams I started to worry about life behind a desk. I’d spent my teenage years doing a lot of dinghy sailing, so was simultaneously an outdoor cat and an indoor cat – still am really! I think it was my mother who suggested viticulture. My dad has owned vineyards in Marlborough since the late 1980s, so that was what gave me the idea.

Bill – Growing up on a sheep farm in the fair state of Victoria, I always knew I wanted to do something science-based that would allow me to live in the country, so winemaking was a logical choice. We both worked in various areas around Australia before moving to Marlborough 16 years ago.

A close-up of someone pouring white wine into a wine glass from a dark bottle.

What’s your favourite thing about running your own business?

Ours is a pretty unique wine business. We don’t know anyone else in the industry with such direct feedback from their customers. Every morning we wake up to an inbox full of (mostly) lovely comments from Naked customers. It’s delightful and I can never keep the grin off my face when I’m replying to their posts. When we’re working hard making our wine half a world a way it’s a great way to stay motivated to do our best.

What’s been your proudest moment so far?

Our work is so seasonal – it’s one of the things we really love about this industry and because it’s different every season, you never quite know what mother nature is going to throw at you. So every year when all the grapes are picked, fermented into wine and safely tucked away in their tanks, we feel proud to have completed our jobs for another year. There’s nothing like that feeling!

When did you start working with Naked Wines, and what difference have they made to your journey?

Our very first vintage with Naked Wines was in 2010 and we made two different wines that year – our ‘yellow cap’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and a small amount of our Sylvia Reserve Sauvignon Blanc. We would never have our own wine business if it wasn’t for the incredible support of Naked over the last 12 years. Selling wine through traditional channels is hard and in the past involved a lot of travel, something we’re just not interested in, especially as we have three kids. So having such strong relationships with the staff and customers of Naked has made Small and Small possible. The direct communication between winemaker and wine drinker has allowed us to make some really off-piste wines and enables us to have in-depth and meaningful conversations about these wines. We spent four vintages making more and more alternative styles of sauvignon for the UK market in a project that taught us a lot about what is possible with this variety. These wines didn’t suit everyone, but we hope they were always interesting! The long-term nature of the relationship means there is an enormous level of trust and that’s a win for everyone.

A man and a woman sit on a log in a field of long grass with tall trees behind them. The man is pouring wine from a bottle into a glass held by the woman.

Tell us about your favourite wine

I don’t think either of us could name one particular favourite. We’ve been fortunate to be able to share some memorable bottles over the years, but the best wines are almost always the ones that are enjoyed with family and friends in convivial surroundings.

Tell us about your links to Scotland, and why you think it’s important to support the National Trust for Scotland

Bill – My mum is a Scot. She grew up in a small town called Rhu, near Helensburgh, and emigrated to Australia when she got married to my dad. One of my earliest memories is of sailing on the Gareloch with my grandparents on a trip with my mum in the late 70s.

So I’m quite fortunate to have visited Scotland a number of times, both as a kid and an adult, and have enjoyed visiting different National Trust for Scotland places. The isles of Mull and Iona are particular favourites of mine.

Claudia – Many of my ancestors on my mother’s side came out to New Zealand from Scotland. One branch of the family left Strathglass in the 1780s, spent 80 years in Nova Scotia and then came to New Zealand around 1860. Another branch came out from Kildrummy in the late 1800s. This heritage was held tight by my mother’s people in Northland, NZ, with Highland Games, speech and music competitions and lots of porridge and scones! One of my favourite things about making wines for Naked is the annual summer tour where we are flown over to the UK and drive around doing customer tastings. We always make a little gap in the schedule to visit some of your amazing historical sites – compared to NZ everything is so old! My favourite memory is visiting Edinburgh Castle with a couple of other winemakers on a sparkling blue Scottish day. It was magical.

Do you have any exciting plans for the future?

The thing we’re most involved in at the moment is our hillside Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris vineyard. We bought it a couple of years ago and have so many things that we want to do with it. Soil health is really important to us and working out how to move away from herbicide use is something we have been working on since purchasing the block. Mulching, under-vine planting, improved inter-row diversity, sub-surface irrigation and under-vine mowing are all practices that we’re trying out on a small scale to work out what combination is best for our particular site.

Anything else you’d like to add?

We can’t wait to be able to come back to Scotland and would love to take our kids on a road trip through the country. On our wish list are visits to Glencoe, Culloden and some of the great castles in Aberdeenshire.

Naked Wines is proud to support the National Trust for Scotland’s Meet the Maker series. Enjoy 6 delicious bottles of wine handcrafted by award-winning independent winemakers, including Bill and Claudia Small, for just £49.99 – saving over £55. Even better, Naked Wines will donate 20% of proceeds back to the Trust for every case purchased.

Snap up your exclusive case from our friends at Naked Wines.


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