Winemaker’s Comment – Autumn Newsletter 2011

It was with much pleasure that we hosted many of our Block mail order and trade customers at the winery over the Easter weekend to help us celebrate our 15th vintage. With the early 2011 vintage, combined with the late Easter, we took the opportunity to invite our long-standing friends to share our viticultural and winemaking stories. We opened dozens of wines across every vintage and, pleasingly, the feedback on the wines was very positive with people surprised, sometimes amazed at how impressively the wines have been developing. It was nice to see many who had attended our 10th vintage celebration return and also to meet a lot of new faces. Our vintage chef Gilles kept people’s palates tantalised with delicious creations from our hills: Highland beef burgers, rabbit satay, seared goat loin… rib of hare with beetroot chutney was my favourite. I really do have the best job in the world: growing and making wines in a beautiful place like Bannockburn and then sharing our wines and stories with such wonderful people. Many of the guests have been purchasing our wines since our very first vintage; we are truly blessed to have such loyal and dedicated customers, so to open our doors and bottles is one small way we can say “thank you”. It’s hard to say when our next celebration will be but we’ll be sure to give you plenty of warning and we do hope you can make the journey to celebrate with us.

The reward for the cold nights of vintage is always the diverse places that I get to present our wines. It’ll take a while before I get to beat a series of tastings I did earlier this year mid-Tasman on the luxury cruise liner Silver Spirit, on its inaugural world cruise. After joining the cruise in Port Chalmers, we visited Stewart Island, Doubtful and Milford Sounds before setting sail for Hobart. Fortunately the tastings were completed by the time we hit (as to be expected) rather heavy weather several hours out from Tasmania.

Nigel did an unusual disappearing act on us during vintage this year to attend a prestigious tasting event in Singapore entitled “Burghound in Asia” featuring Burgundy guru Allen Meadows. Our Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs were presented in tastings and dinners, and by all accounts and blogs, performed admirably alongside a peer-group of many of the very finest wines of the world.

So worried about the possible ill effects from a malnourished vintage team on the 2011 vintage, Nigel organised Gilles Thebault (previously Chef at Christchurch’s Grand Chancellor) to fill the gap. He was obviously out of a job, so it was a treat to have Gilles and his family join us for harvest.  While I’ve mentioned previously that Nigel is pretty handy in the kitchen, Gilles’ experience in famous London kitchens like Tom Aikens and Gordon Ramsay’s Boxwood Café has worryingly lifted the bar somewhat for Nigel!

Vintage 2011 is now all safely tucked away after a very unusual growing season. The spring was the warmest and most stable to date, leading into a warm and early summer. We were relieved to see things cool down in January, which set the pattern for a cool and wetter mid-season. The description “wetter” must be read with respect to our normal very low rainfall, so still not a lot of rain and we saw a flawless and warm Indian summer for harvest. As our wines are always more complex in cooler and more challenging growing seasons we have our fingers crossed that early positive impressions of 2011 are accurate.

The 2010 wines we are releasing now are also a product of a cooler, more challenging season, though here we can already see the favourable outcome. Interestingly, 2010 and 2009 are the most similar back-to-back vintages we have seen to date; this is a good thing as we regard 2009 the finest we have seen, with 2010 only just a smidge behind. The 2010 wines don’t have quite the perfect harmony of aromatic and flavour profiles of the 2009’s, but make up for that with a beautiful vivaciousness and energy, more a multifaceted expression of complexity than the singularity of the 2009’s. We will watch and learn as both settle into their young personalities. Time will teach us.

We hope you enjoy the wines!