Joelle Thomson

Author, journalist, writer

Month: October 2018 (page 2 of 4)

Burgundy inspires top award for Otago Pinot Noir

Q&A with Andy Anderson, winner of Best Pinot Noir in the World Trophy at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London 2018

This year’s winner of Best Pinot Noir in the World at the International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC) in London is the 2014 Takapoto Pinot Noir, which is made from grapes grown on the Cox’s Vineyard in Gibbston Valley, from Pinot Noir clones 113, 115 and 5. It is matured in 66% new French oak and 34% one year old French oak and costs $70.

How important was taste as you were growing up?
Mum is a pretty good cook, so the kitchen was always full of enticing smells and flavours.
I started to be interested in taste and texture when I started in the hospitality trade at 18, particularly with regards to wine.
I love the fact my brother is a winemaker too because it makes for great get togethers where we share wine and discuss all things vinous.
How about the first wine to turn your head?
Back in the early 2000’s I worked for Woolworths Australia on the tasting panel and very fortunately got to attend some amazing wine tastings.

The wine that absolutely proved how amazing Pinot Noir can be was a bottle of Domaine Comte Georges De Vogue Musigny Cuvee Vieilles Vignes 1966 – it literally blew my perception of how magical a great wine can be, I made my mind up then and there that that is the bench mark wine to try emulate with a New Zealand twist.

What makes Takapoto such a special wine from your perspective?
Having access to two fantastic vineyards thanks to my friends at Viticultura is a large part of the story. I take my time walking both vineyards chosing the best rows of each individual clone to get the best interpretation of the vineyard. Each clone has a barrel specifically chosen to emphasize the uniqueness of the site.
The wine is very gently treated, it is left to warm up naturally after a cold soak as the native yeasts do their thing. It has no additives, apart from low levels of SO2 and it is bottled unfined and unfiltered.
What’s the most exciting part of winemaking?
Seeing the fruit arrive at the winery, watching as the yeast starts to bring each ferment to life releasing amazing aromas around the winery. Then the blending sessions too, which bring the final wine together after 12 months. So rewarding.
And the most challenging?
Mother nature is the biggest challenge each year, but as a winemaker the satisfaction you get from making good wine in a difficult year is what you want to get out of bed for.
What’s the best change you’ve seen in New Zealand wine?
The move to organic farming has been a huge positive, as well as the changing styles of wine as winemakers get a better understanding of vineyard sites.

Great southern whites… Otago peaks

Fresh back from a trip to the sunny deep south, I am now a dedicated follower of  the world’s southernmost white wines – as much as the new wave elegant reds from Central Otago.

Photograph by Joelle Thomson                                                                                                                                          Pictured above is Rudi Bauer, the first professionally trained grape grower and winemaker in Central Otago and founder of Quartz Reef Wines. Today he continues to carve his own path with 60 per cent of his wines being Pinot Noir and 40 per cent being bubbly (unusual in a region where most wine brands produce 80+ per cent Pinot Noir). His sparkling wine is made in the traditional method, disgorged and bottled on site as a hand-made labour of love where three to four people work on about 3000 bottles a day when they disgorge the bubbles at the Cromwell winery. Sparkling production includes Quartz Reef NV, Quartz Reef Rosé NV and, now, the 2013 Quartz Reef Blanc de Blancs. All are benchmark beauties – high quality sparkling wines – that show what else Otago’s vineyards can do, alongside the runaway success of the region’s Pinot Noirs.

Eight winning whites

2013 Quartz Reef Blanc de Blancs $70

Biodynamics are the new organics; and this full bodied bubbly is made solely from  Chardonnay grapes from Bendigo – home to Quartz Reef’s hand tended vines. It’s the first Chardonnay bubbly that winemaker Rudi Bauer has made and sets a new standard of high quality white wine from the region better known for its reds. This is tasty – super creamy, full bodied and every sip lingers.

It was launched on 1 September. Quantities are small.


2017 Mt Edward Chenin Blanc $29

This mouth wateringly refreshing Chenin Blanc is a first from winemakers Duncan Forsyth and Anna Riederer, who made it a little like Chardonnay, putting the wine through a secondary fermentation – malolactic fermentation – to reduce the high acidity and soften its flavours. This winemaking works a treat because while it softens the wine, it also retains the zesty core of vibrant freshness. It’s made with grapes grown on the Morrison Vineyard.


2018 Amisfield Chenin Blanc $25

Central Otago has more than the Pinot Noir string to its successful wine bow, as this refreshingly dry Chenin Blanc shows. It’s the best yet from Amisfield’s small Chenin Blanc stable and it shows how successfully the region’s vineyards can grow grapes for white wines. I love its crisp, refreshing, expressively tasty flavours of crunchy green apples and its long finish.

2017 Chard Farm Riesling $26

If you haven’t gotten up close and personal yet with the southernmost Rieslings in the world, you’re in for a treat – these wines are dry, succulent and taste like lime zest on speed. Not that I know exactly what that tastes like, but you get the picture – vibrant freshness is the order of the day. Winemakers Rob Hay and John Wallace have over two decades experience of making great Riesling from grapes grown in Parkburn and Lowburn.

They opened a 2009 Chard Farm Riesling last week to show how superbly these wines can age – and talk about fresh. As it ages, Riesling improves, giving the perception of being drier and more full bodied.


2018 Picnic Riesling 

The black and white picture on the front of this bottle features Sydney Neill, a wine merchant and the grandfather of actor Sam Neill, whose abiding love for Central Otago and its wines saw him create his own brands – Picnic is the entry level to his top shelf Two Paddocks Wines. And super refreshing it is too, thanks to its dry, crisp, lime and lemon zest flavours. Riesling is the unsung heroine of this beautiful wine region.


2017 Carrick Dry Riesling $25

This classic Central Riesling is dry as a bone (with less than 2 grams of residual sugar). It’s one of one of three Carrick Rieslings, in this case it is made from grapes picked a little later and with higher acidity, which provides its refreshing character and its ability to age for the long term. It was, unusually, barrel fermented 100%. This provides body but no oak flavour to the wine since the barrels were old.


2017 Carrick Bannockburn Riesling $25

This medium dry Carrick Riesling contains 15 grams of residual sugar from the grapes, a level of sweetness that is beautifully balanced by Riesling’s naturally high acidity. It’s made from the same vineyard as the other two Carrick Rieslings.


2017 Carrick Josephine Riesling

Here’s the sweetie and the high point for many with its relatively low alcohol of 9% ABV and 55 grams of residual sugar, putting it firmly in the luscious category but – and it’s a big ‘but’ – Riesling’s naturally high acidity provides balance and vibrant freshness with every sip tasting aromatically intense and crisp. Talk about a great white.

Winemaker Francis Hutt opened one of the last bottles of the 2006 Josephine Sweet Reserve Riesling, which also contains 9% ABV – it was the high point of the tasting with its electric acidity and amazing freshness with developed concentrated lemon zest aromas.

Wine cruising in Fiordland

This story was originally published in Drinksbiz, October 2018

I have just returned from a three day trip to Fiordland where phone coverage was non existent. Initially I had a strong feeling of discomfort in missing that familiar phone bleep, but once I got over it (about two Rieslings into the trip), the beauty, the untouched wilderness and the cool crisp air seemed to take wine tasting to a new level.

We often talk about the perfect food to go with wine – Pinot Noir and duck (unless you’re vegetarian – then it’s mushrooms) or Sauvignon and seafood or salty flavours, for example. And we talk about music and wine matching as if there is a formula to which we should aspire to enhance the experience of taste, but, when it comes to drinking wine, Fiordland takes taste to a whole new level.

The greenness of the untouched wilderness seems to dial up flavour intensity. One minute a wine tastes very good, the next it seems to taste great. The only difference being the insane greenness of sailing into the hidden Sportsman’s Cove, and Wetjacket Arm, both of which made every wine we drank taste fresher, brighter and better. At least, that was my perception and it’s one that is shared by Greg Hay, who took a small group of us to Fiordland to show his new Wetjacket Wines. He founded the brand in 2016 after leaving Peregrine Wines. Hay is a member of the Fiordland Conservation Trust because wants to make a difference to this remote region, hence, the name Wet Jacket Wines.
The name Wetjacket Fiord was first coined by Captain Cook, who arrived in Dusky Sound for the first time in 1770 and then again in 1773. He and his men shot a southern blue penguin in the Acheron Passage, wrote descriptions of kiwi, tui, kereru (native wood pigeons), kokako, hawks, ducks, gulls, weka, black oystercatchers, petrols, penguins, kakas, cuckoos, shags and albatrosses. They explored the fiords, naming the eery damp beauty of Wetjacket Arm after their experiences there.

Hay sells most of the wines from the Wetjacket Woolshed, an original stone croft built 150 years ago. Its pull in lanes, car parking area and the inclusion of a cheese room built on site to house Whitestone Cheese from Oamaru… well, it’s all made cellar door sales a winning formula. The aim is to remain relatively small in production terms with 2000 to 3000 cases, of which Pinots Noir and Gris make up 60 to 70 per cent of the overall numbers. The rest is split more or less evenly between Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc.

The winning part is that 80 per cent (ish) of the wine is sold at the cellar door, an unusually high percentage but it’s the key to unlocking commercial success for the  lovely new Wetjacket Otago wines.

  • Find out more about Wetjacket Wines online or email general manager Alison Vidoni:
« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2019 Joelle Thomson

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑