The story of Alice Rule, solo founder of 3sixty2 wines, is one of good vibes, hard work and determination. Talking to her, you can’t help but feel inspired by her down to earth, infectious enthusiasm. We loved meeting this self-sufficient ex Northland farmer who traded cows for grapes.
Being raised on a dairy farm “up North”, Alice grew up knowing that nothing came easy and hard work was not only expected, it was the norm. With a Dad who passionately believed in doing the right thing, sustainability and regenerative farming was always going to be in her DNA. Alice recalls having to help plant thousands of trees and working on projects around the farm that ensured the farm was putting back into the land and not taking away. She talks of the family farm also “embarrassingly” being the site of her school’s outdoor activity days where her Dad humorously turned planting more trees into school fundraisers. This classic outdoor classroom environment well and truly planted the seeds that helped shape this self-described passionate eco warrior.
Having realised at a young age and with the undisputed agreement from teachers, that school was not for her, Alice decided she wanted to be a chef. She found work within a small local restaurant that was part of a winery where she easily fitted into the environment of working within a family business. Morning tea was a daily tradition where everyone, from the owners, the kitchen staff, the vineyard workers to the cleaners, all stopped and came together every day to sit and talk over a cuppa. One day, an off the cuff comment was made about Alice’s background and knowledge being wasted in the kitchen, it soon led to her being pulled into the winery where she found herself once again in the great outdoor classroom, learning about vineyards at a true hands on, grass roots level. This well and truly ignited her passion for wine and cemented her realisation that she didn’t want to be in the kitchen, she wanted and needed to be outside, and she wanted to make wine.
Alice moved to Hawkes Bay and enrolled in EIT, Eastern Institute of Technology to learn how to be a wine maker. There she won Esk Valley top viticulture award and went on to continue her education by doing a diploma of agribusiness management, which she describes as the best and most practical piece of education she’s ever experienced.
“The wine industry is a hard industry to make it in. From the outside-in it looks amazing and a dream style job, when in reality, it’s really hard work and takes a lot to break through the barriers” says Alice. She acknowledges and appreciates the help she has encountered along the way and says she had moments where it was just pure luck and connections that has got her to where she is today. She feels fortunate that she asked the right people who gave her their advice and guidance. From her own experience, it has made her more mindful of looking after young talent within the industry, “it’s really important to nourish it, or we’ll lose it”.
As a solo founder, Alice essentially does everything. From packing orders, updating the website, of course making the wine, to personally selecting the best grapes from contract growers. 3sixty2 have narrowed in on a particular single vineyard Marlborough site that will allow her to have full traceability back to source. It’s something that is really important in her work towards offsetting their carbon emissions. She feels she’s picked a “very special” patch and is excited at what it could bring. There’s pros and cons in not owning any of the infrastructure. On one hand it allows Alice to use contract state-of-the-art processing and manufacturing equipment that would otherwise be cost prohibitive and out of her reach, and on the other, it means that someone can come in and offer more for the grapes and she misses out. It’s a fine line but one she seems to take in her stride and shrugs off when we suggest that it must be really difficult and frustrating when a bigger buyer takes the pick. She says, “that’s the risk” of doing it this way.
3sixty2 currently have 3 varietals in their portfolio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. We love asking the tough questions, so we asked Alice if she has a personal favourite in her selection? She smiles and says she’s “chuffed with all of her wines” and can’t really decide. We joke that it’s a bit of tough question, like asking a parent if they have a favourite child, you can’t pick as they all have their own unique characters.
Having lived and breathed sustainability, Alice’s philosophy is simple - to make great wine, while keeping New Zealand beautiful. Sustainability is always at the forefront of her mind and is an important part of her daily decision making. It’s the foundation for each part of their process, “the environment is our biggest stakeholder, we have to look after this earth and it’s soil”.
The history of the 3sixty2 brand is wonderful tale that was inspired by the famous New Zealand visionary, James Busby, who carefully planted 362 vine cuttings on what became the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. In learning more about this young risk-taker and man of adventure, it’s hard not to see the similarities in this young go-getter who is pushing the boundaries and breaking down barriers.
Little but mighty, Alice is changing the way the wine industry operates – one delicious bottle at a time.