With the lightweights all tucked up in bed trying to sleep the gala dinner off, our man in Wellington, Michelin-starred chef, Roger Jones returned to the Opera House to hear some impassioned talks about biodynamic farming, meet Sam Neill and explore the many wonders of Pinot Noir from Marlborough. All of this after Roger’s customary 20k morning run, many hundreds of bench presses and meagre, organic oats breakfast…. ‘natch.
Pinot Noir from Te Whare Ra Wines, Two Rivers, Cloudy Bay, Clos Henri and Churnton are just some of the many, many highlights of Day 3 of Pinot Noir NZ 2017.
The early morning starts have taken their toll on a few delegates, and this morning’s lectures at the fabulous Opera House were not as well supported as last night’s epic dinner where over 500 Pinot enthusiasts partied the night away.
Clearly New Zealand winemakers are strongly influenced by the land and sustainability, and many speak of being temporary guardians of the land for future generations.
Anna’s Te Whare Ra Vineyard has been beautifully restored to give the soil and vines a true biodynamic missive. The rows of vines in their vineyards are planted three metres apart, much wider than the norm. This helps protect from frost damage, as during the day there is more soil content for New Zealand’s strong sun to heat, which in turn works like an electric blanket at night.
The rows are also covered with buckweat, which acts as their pest control.
The buckweat plant has a tall, scented, white flower, the scent is not that attractive to humans but is very attractive to insects such as ladybugs, wasps and hover flies. The insects are great at killing the leaf roller caterpillars.
Both actor Sam Neill and rock star Maynard Keenan brought some fun to the proceedings as well as the more serious wine love that they have, with Maynard championing the barren Arizona wine region in America with Sam firmly established with his Two Paddocks in Central Otago.
Welcome to Marlborough Country…
Having been enthused by Anna Flowerday I decided to spend the afternoon divulging into the Pinots of Marlborough. On my last visit to this area in 2014, although there were some good Pinots, it had not quite become a haven for this grape, however with re-planting, new sub plots and time Marlborough is a shining light for modern Pinot.
The area is renowned for long sunshine hours unlike the blistering monsoon weather of Wellington that has welcomed us this week. Rainfall is small and its proximity to the Pacific Ocean ensures a cooling sea breeze at the peak of the summer.
The Marlborough region is made up of many sub regions and plots each providing different components from complex mixes of gravels, silts, and clay giving perfect Pinot growing locations.
With an open mind it soon became apparent that I had hit a gold mind of fabulous Pinots and sadly cannot include all of them here, but here are some highlights from my highlights!
Damien Yvon came to Marlborough over 10 years ago to help establish the vineyards for Sancerre wine-growing family Henri Bourgeois.
This young winemaker is full of Gaelic charm and the wines are fabulous French-influence.
My notes for the Clos Henri Pinot Noir 2014 enthused “clean, superb, velvety, luscious.”
Named after its original farm in Shropshire, UK, this biodynamic farm run by the Weaver family have 17 distinct plots on their land and produce Pinots of serious quality and finesse.
A glut of superb Pinots were on show from the maverick Mustang 2010, dark and savoury, delicately-perfumed, lingering and seductive to a magnum of 2005 that showed how well these wines can age, with a lovely freshness still on the palate.
Hans Herzog Pinot Noir 2011 – Wonderfully perfumed, fine and bright, enticing, a delicious mouthfeel of tiny bright berries, expressive and classy.
Te Whare Ra Wines
The oldest small winery in the area, was taken over in 2003 by Anna and Jason Flowerday. Today this farmstead is also the home of two sets of twins, just to keep them even more busy. Named New Zealand Winery of the year in 2014 their uncompromising approach is highlighted in its superb wines.
Te Whare Ra Single Vineyard 2013 – Stunningly beautiful, focused with bright, clean, precise fruit, a hint of perfume, long luscious and bright on the palate.
Te Whare Ra SV 5096 Clayvin Vineyard 2016 – Sourced from a new plot that has been regenerated, this totally blew me away; crunchy dark cherries, the Clayvin Vineyard is rich in clay and helps produce berries of great intensity that burst alive on the palate. A truly sensational wine.
This vineyard was new to me, with vines sourced from two microclimates, Wairau and Aware. David Clouston the young winemaker and owner has established a pretty special winery. These wines are textured, layered, complex but above all are elegant.
Two Rivers Triburary Pinot Noir 2015 – There are nuances of spices, but still the berries are precise and clean, the wine evolves on the palate – a seductive cool Pinot. Raspberries, touch of black pepper, cherries, a lovely balance, concentrated but clean.
And so Pinot Noir NZ 2017… That’s a Wrap!
It has become clear over the last four days that there is so much more to New Zealand Pinot Noir, from the individuality of the winemakers to the different styles of the regions and even sub regions.
New Zealand has a bountiful supply of world class Pinot Noir that covers both Old and New World styles, both fresh and seductive, both youthful and ageworthy, both diverse and true to its terroir.
This is an exciting time for New Zealand to continue in its quest to produce ‘great’ Pinot and for us to spread the word, and especially highlight the quality that Marlborough can now produce.
With the Pinot conference now over this morning we head on Air New Zealand’s wine flight, flying at low altitude over the vineyards of Marlborough, Nelson, Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay, tasting wines as we pass each region.
Check out for a post over the weekend – perfect reading over a coffee and croissant.