Winemaker’s Comment – Spring 2014

Another winter gently fades away as spring takes a pleasingly determined hold on Central Otago. One of the real pleasures of living so far south is the very distinct seasonality we always experience; the chill of a properly cold winter gives us cause to celebrate the signals of spring’s emergence. First we have the blossom on the fruit trees before the vines burst out in bud and a surge of green appears in the cover crops between the vine rows. I arrive at work to the sound of goat kids bleating noisily on the hills behind the vines.

The last of our previous year’s wines are in bottle, so the annual cycle starts all over again. But it’s anything but monotonous as every year and every season is distinctly different. The way in which the wine expresses these seasonal differences is also always unique and often difficult to predict. We don’t have a century of vintages to advise us, but with 18 under our belt, each year fills in a few more pieces of an ever clearer jigsaw. It gives us the opportunity to fine tune the myriad tasks and timings of the vineyard. It’s a multi-layered and complex combination of decisions and activities both small and large. All contribute to the expression of our wines, leading us closer to our goal: a truly satisfying drinkability with a strong sense of place.

It’s been very quiet at the winery over the last several weeks with both Gareth and Mike away overseas. Gareth has been in Europe on a well-deserved holiday, but as always, he can never be found too far away from vineyards, with a little harvesting in Southern Germany and a lot of tasting in the Rhone and Burgundy. While it’s always very inspiring to visit some of the great regions and great vineyards of the world, it’s a real pleasure for him to catch up with many of our previous seasonal and vintage workers on their own soil. Mike is in Oregon helping with their vintage and immersing himself in their style and culture: everything that goes into making Oregon Pinot Noir. He’s no doubt observing various techniques and practices that may be useful for us to consider. It seems a lifetime since I worked in Oregon but the contribution to my winemaking ideas from my time there, and in other wine regions of the world, was formative to say the least. It has been so important for all of us in such a young winemaking country to have these experiences to fast track our learning and understanding. Kiwis really do fly!

Nigel participated in a couple of interesting events in Europe this year. The first was the International Riesling Symposium in the Rheingau, Germany, where our Riesling was showcased amongst tastings of the great Rieslings of the world. Germany is a nation that applies great intellectual rigour to their wine industry, so the technical presentations of the top scholars within Geisenheim University were every bit as illuminating as the sometimes daunting 24 glass wine flights at the technical tastings.

He also attended a portfolio tasting where our Swiss importer arranged a guest slot alongside a swathe of the top Burgundy producers. New Zealand is not well known in Switzerland, but the audience were extremely receptive to seeing a usurper in the line-up, as were the Burgundians present. Increasingly, we all know each other and we always seem to have a warm reception from our French colleagues.

We hope we can persuade you to join us for the 2015 Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration to be held in Queenstown from January 29-31. As always, it will be an inspirational, informative and fun three days of fine food, great wines and mingling with old and new friends. Tickets will sell quickly so please visit for more details.


Blair Walter