When you’re sleeping with the doors and windows open in late summer in Central Otago, you know that either the climate is changing or it’s a freak weather pattern. Either way, the 2018 vintage in Central Otago was a year with a difference. It was so hot that Otago winemakers were the first in the country to harvest their grapes. This is unheard of in New Zealand where Central Otago can often be experiencing waves of heat alternating with frost, snow and plummeting temperatures.
“We had never seen heat like it – we were sleeping with doors and windows open. As a consequence the windows for picking grapes were quite narrow initially and the acidity was way down. Then we got cold weather in late February and didn’t get any of the rain that other New Zealand regions got, so we have classic Central aromatic flavours. The wines will be a lighter framework and pretty rather than have heavy weights,” says Duncan Forsyth, winemaker and co-owner of Mt Edward Wines, which celebrates its 20th anniversary as a winery this year.
And this week Mt Edward winemakers celebrated 20 years with wine, food and their vermouth – a beautifully aromatic elderflower infused, grape distillation with about 17% alcohol – deliciously fresh and refreshing.
Duncan Forsyth (co-owner) and Anna Riederer make some of the best wines in Central every year, thanks to their quality minded focus and adventurous winemaking.
This is the third consecutive year they have made a Gamay (the Beaujolais grape) and it’s a stunner; my favourite of all the Gamays so far made in this country.
Smooth, soft, ripe and powerfully fruity – the perfect expression of a warm vintage in the world’s southernmost wine region.
Their inspiration is Morgon; one of the 10 top Beaujolais appellations in the rolling hills of this pretty wine region on the west side of the Saone River in France. Wines from Morgon tend to be deeply coloured, juicy, fleshy, soft and structured; everything you want in a red wine.
They drink beautifully when first bottled and can age. The same is true of the 2018 Mount Edward Gamay, which is in short supply, even though its production is increasing by the year. Duncan and Anna made 192 and a half cases this year; a big increase on the 25 cases they made in 2016; their first year of production.
Their Pinots are outstanding too. The top tier is Mt Edward Morrison Vineyard Pinot Noir. A special site, but that’s another story and Central Otago Pinot Noir needs little introduction.
The Mount Edward winery was founded by Central wine pioneer, Alan Brady, who also founded Gibbston Valley Wines and his own brand, the Wild Irishman. Brady was a burnt-out journalist looking for a life style change when he first started dabbling with grape growing and winemaking in Central. And while he has retired (sort of – he’s still keen as mustard on making wine), his influence, involvement and legacy remain pivotal to this most majestic of all New Zealand’s wine regions.