Challenging is a mild word for the emotions evoked in winemakers in the lead up to vintage 2020 in New Zealand but fortunately wine was deemed essential and vintage went ahead, despite the challenges of social distancing during lockdown. But what now for wineries reliant on export markets as well as incoming tourists for sales?
The owner of Central Otago wine brand, Misha’s Vineyard, says the vintage was challenging and she hopes for a trans Tasman bubble to increase visitor numbers to the tasting room in Cromwell that she and her partner, Andy, opened three years ago. Numbers are significantly down due to the country’s closed borders, which makes it an ideal time for New Zealanders to hot foot it to the deep south to enjoy southern hospitality and Central Otago’s majestic beauty, without battling the tourists for a seat at the bar, so to speak.
With that thought in mind, here are my wines of the week, both from Misha’s Vineyard and made by winemaker Olly Masters, who has made the wines since the first vintage in 2008.
2014 Misha’s Vineyard Verismo Pinot Noir $75
All Misha’s Vineyard wines are made 100% from grapes grown on their own land, which is a steep sloping vineyard that rises from 210 metres to 350 metres above sea level, above Lake Dunstan in Bendigo. It’s one of the first areas to ripen grapes each year in Central Otago with its dry, hot summer climate. This Pinot Noir is a blend of clones UCD 5 (36%), 777 (32%), Abel (16%), 6 (10%) and 667 (6%), which were cold soaked for five to seven days after harvest then fermented with wild yeasts with an average of 27 days on skins in tank. The finished wine was matured in 300 litre French oak barrels, 16% new oak.
This wine, Verismo, is the top Pinot Noir of the four made for Misha’s Vineyard each year and is a blend of the best components aged in barrel. It’s light in colour with intense red fruit flavours and a brightness, even now at six years old. It is held back prior to release for further aging so that it drinks at its best when released.
2019 Misha’s Vineyard The Gallery Gewurztraminer $32, 14% ABV
Gewurztraminer can be a polarising grape at the best of times with its powerful aromatic flavours of rose, lychees, ginger and orange zest. The aim in this wine was to keep the wine tasting fresh and dry with balance, so the fruit was whole bunch pressed and fermented completely in older French oak barrels to help extend the palate length. Wild yeasts were used for 50% of the fermentation with the remainder inoculated with commercial yeast. The ferments were stopped to retain a hint of residual sugar with 11 grams per litre, making it an off dry wine with a firm and fresh finish. It tastes off dry and lightly aromatic; unmistakably Gewurz’ in style with its orange zest notes, balanced by freshness.