Winemaker’s Comment – Autumn Newsletter 2012

The cover of this newsletter features “Reva”: our native southern falcon (Karearea), guarding over the ripening Chardonnay in Block 8. Reva is officially the first southern falcon to be hatched in captivity.  Her nest was discovered in a location where she had little chance of survival so DOC made the hard decision to remove the egg and she was carefully incubated at Wingspan in Rotorua until she was eight weeks old.  Reva was flown courtesy of Air New Zealand’s sponsorship (in her own seat!) and returned to her southern home. So far, with Gareth’s guardianship, she has settled in nicely to her surroundings and we welcome Reva as part of our diverse team and hope she becomes a long-term member.

Speaking of our team and long-termers, it’s with mixed emotions that we will soon farewell my assistant Todd Stevens as he departs northwards to become the winemaker for our friends at Neudorf Vineyards in Nelson. Todd has been helping me in the winery since the 2008 vintage and while sad to see him go, we’re very pleased to see him leave for such an esteemed winery. Even though my title is winemaker, it really is Todd who does the hard yards in the winery and he is equally deserving of the title. His input to the quality of our wines over the last five vintages, not to mention his wry sense of humour, steadfast efficiency and meticulous attention to detail has been much appreciated. We wish him well and look forward to following his wines at Neudorf.

Another change to our team is the addition of Nigel’s daughter Nicola. Nicola has been managing our UK distribution and will continue to look after this from her new home in Wanaka. The opportunity to move to New Zealand from London with her young family and be more directly involved with the winery, was one she couldn’t pass up.  However, the change will be something of a shock for a big city girl! Hopefully her baking skills will be a welcome addition to morning coffee breaks and if we’re lucky, she’ll turn out the odd lunch when her Dad’s away on a trip!

The 2012 wines are now all safely tucked away for the winter. We feel really blessed with the excellent growing season we experienced in Central Otago and the potential for the wines to be some of the finest we have made. We were set up well in the early part of the growing season with very warm, sunny and stable weather through the early and mid-part of summer. (Our summers are often measured by the number of days spent swimming in the lake or water-skiing on those 30 °C plus days and this past summer would have been a record.)  Fortunately it cooled off (we don’t like it too hot and dry as the grapes ripen too quickly without developing aroma and flavour diversity and complexity), but it also became wetter though February and into March, which caused some concern. Then, with perfect timing, the last few weeks of ripening and through the harvest period were utterly perfect: sunny, warm but not hot, and dry.

The 2011 wines that we are releasing now are really quite fascinating. Coming after two very strong consecutive vintages (2009 and 2010), it was always going to be a hard act to follow. While early days yet, the Pinot Noirs possess more transparency and Pinot delicacy that many experienced tasters seem to prefer over the richer and bolder vintages. They seem to be showing the character of the individual vineyard sites particularly clearly, led by elegance and refinement rather than brute power. The Chardonnays continue (and perhaps even take to another level) the seamlessness and delicacy that they are becoming respected for. Don’t overlook the more humble “Elms” as it is rather complex and imminently (as well as eminently) drinkable as a youthful wine.

We hope you enjoy the wines!