Winemaker’s Comment – Spring Newsletter 2012

Spring arrives just as I’m settling down after a winter of travel. I can’t claim that the chance to spend a large part of the bitter months enjoying warm climes, great chefs, and the cosmopolitan rush that is a million miles from an icy Cromwell day, is anything but a pleasure. But the best part is to have a chance to chat at some length to our customers around the world. This year I have covered New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Canada and the USA.  Nigel has, or will, notch up Australia, USA, Canada, Singapore and Hong Kong on tours with both the Complexity marketing group, representing New Zealand’s fine wines in the USA ( and with the Family of Twelve (  Whether it is sommeliers, retail buyers, or the amazing proliferation of private customers in each country, they are all eager to hear about the vintage we are shipping (on this trip, the 11’s) and inevitably the question pops up: what about the 12’s?

I think they are always a bit bemused when I have to confess I haven’t really tasted them properly yet. The world assumes that a winemaker is daily wandering from barrel to barrel communing with his latest children. It doesn’t work that way for me. To be honest, at that point in a year I am still trying to understand the wines we have just bottled. I am trying to articulate to myself what we can learn from them; where do they differ from our expectations, why do they differ, how do they relate to our previous vintages? These are difficult things to grasp at times and it is important that I can offer some useful insight. So when it comes to the new wines, I need to leave them alone… let them find a shape for a while, then once the spring malo is done, we get a second chance to see what the year will bring. 

It is the second chance, because we have already bottled the Rieslings and we know how excited we are about these wines. While I am always hesitant when it comes to big claims, I cannot deny that these Rieslings could well be the finest we have made. There is an intensity and vivacity that is truly striking and in the case of the Bannockburn, it is delicately held in a wine of only 8.5% alcohol. Enjoy it over the summer months as a crisp, refreshing and relatively light bodied aperitif. While light in alcohol, there is considerable ageing potential for wines of this style and we have no doubt that this wine will cellar well for 15 years and beyond. 2012 Riesling yields were low so be warned - we will run out earlier than usual!

I should say something about my increasing grasp of the 2011 vintage. These wines are starting to find their definition after several months in bottle. Definition is a good term for what I think I am seeing. They are precise, quite mineral, showing their sites with great clarity, and allowing the ever-critical balance of acid and tannin to lead the wine. I like them a lot, but it has taken a little while to get to know them. Perhaps the future will be like that, as the vines get older, the wines get a bit more reticent to tell you everything at the start.


Blair Walter