A native New Zealander, John Belsham never sought to be a winemaker; rather winemaking found him. As a university student, Belsham traveled to Europe with friends in 1977. Eventually finding himself in Bordeaux, he sought out a vintage job at Chateau Saturnin, a small winery in the Medoc. With an aptitude for science and a naturally keen wine sense, he was asked to stay on as a winemaking apprentice. Quickly becoming fluent in French, Belsham spent 5 years as the understudy of Adrian Tramier, a meticulous winemaker who taught him the art and science of the trade.
Returning to New Zealand with a passion for wine, Belsham set out on a clear career path and was appointed assistant winemaker at Nobilo Vintners in 1982. A rising star, he soon became the sole charge winemaker at Matua Valley and arrived on the Marlborough scene in 1987, when he was appointed winemaker at Hunter Wines.
Realising winemaking space was at a premium, Belsham established Rapaura Vintners in 1990; the first dedicated contract winemaking business to be established in New Zealand. With the tanks full in the first year, the client list was an impressive read.
While Rapaura Vintners was in full operation, Belsham founded his own label Foxes Island in 1992 to focus on exquisitely made, regionally expressive wines; exactly what he had learned to do in France. In 2000, Belsham divested his share in Rapaura Vintners to dedicate more time to Foxes Island, his new Awatere vineyard and his expanding consulting practice.
In addition to Foxes Island, Belsham owns the winemaking consulting group, Wine Focus and Marlborough Oak Imports Ltd, the exclusive NZ barrel importer for Dargaud & Jaegle and Marc Grenier.
A highly sought after international wine judge, Belsham is a wine consultant to Air New Zealand and the Wine Panel Chair for Cuisine Magazine's wine reviews.
Belsham is the Chair of the New Zealand Screw Cap Initiative and was a board member of Pinot Noir New Zealand 2010.