Nelson is the northernmost wine region in the South Island of New Zealand and, as it’s tucked away in its sunny enclave on the west coast, it often slips off the radar of many wine lovers. It’s not a big region, home mostly to family owned wineries and wine brands, such as Ian and Jeanne Bathgate’s Old House Vineyards. They own the land and grow the grapes but employ local winemakers to produce the wines for them. This week they sent me their latest wines to review, which I’ve done below on this column.
By the way, their land is currently planted with 17 hectares of grapes, about half of which is Sauvignon Blanc; the leading grape variety in New Zealand.
This week is the first time I have tasted their wines and I was impressed by their top tier Sauvignon Blanc, named Kaho, the Maori word for barrel. It’s fitting name for a wine fermented and aged in French oak for eight months. Just 12% of the oak is new, so it’s not all cedary bells and whistles, but rather a dialled down Sauvignon with a smooth texture and appealing dry flavours. The wines are made by Nelson winemakers Patrick Stowe and Neil Todd. Ian and Jeanne hope to build a winery one day, funds allowing.
Here are my reviews
2018 Old House Vineyards Nelson Kaho Sauvignon Blanc $30
Winemaker Neil Todd has nailed it in this tasty, creamy, smooth and impeccably well balanced Nelson Sauvignon Blanc, named Kaho, the Maori word for barrel, which makes it an ideal name for a wine fermented in French oak to add softness, richness and complex savoury notes to the wine. Eight months in barrel, 12% new, adds great complexity and as the wine then went through malolactic fermentation, it has a creamy texture and notes of buttery flavour held in great restraint by vibrant acidity. This is a deliciously different take on the Nelson Sauvignon Blanc theme, which has tended to be ruled by fresh, fruity and impeccable bright tropical styles of wine. Screwcap
2018 Old House Vineyards One Tree Chardonnay $35
Fans of big buttery numbers will love the flavours of unmistakable creaminess in this wine, which softens the acidity of grapes grown in the relatively cool climate of the South Island, and marries nicely with tropical flavours of pineapple, passionfruit and ripe citrus. It’s made from hand picked Chardonnay grapes grown in the Upper Moutere in Nelson and fermented then matured for 11 months in French oak, 25% new. The wine is named after a solitary willow tree standing in the centre of Old House Vineyards Chardonnay block. The winemaker is Patrick Stowe. Screwcap
2017 Old House Vineyards Falcon Hill Pinot Noir $39
This wine is named after a vineyard called Hill Block in Nelson, which is home to a pair of nesting New Zealand falcons. It’s medium ruby in colour, aged for 11 months in French oak, light bodied with pretty notes of red fruit and noticeable oak. approximately 25% new, which adds structure and powerful aromas. This wine is still youthful in taste and could benefit from a couple of years aging to soften and round out. Screwcap
2018 Fantail Pinot Noir $24
This is Old House Vineyards’ second tier Pinot Noir from Nelson. Like its big brother, Falcon Hill Pinot Noir, this wine is made from hand picked grapes, which were fermented and aged in French oak for 11 months, 20% new. It has fresh, light cherry Pinot Noir flavours shining through in this wine. Good quality. The winemaker is Patrick Stowe. Screwcap.