Tale of Akitu wines, 21 January 2022

Mention Central Otago and and the words Pinot Noir are sure to follow close behind, which is why it was a no brainer for Andrew Donaldson to plant his vineyard in 100% Pinot Noir when he bought 12 hectares back in 2002.
Twenty years on, the vine age is starting to deliver in terms of resilience in the vineyard. “This gives us real confidence for the years ahead,” says Donaldson, who employs P J Charteris to make his wines. More about him here. Charteris has made every vintage of Akitu Pinot Noir since the first harvest in 2012 harvest, although much of it has been via Zoom over the past two years. This year, Donaldson and Charteris launched their third vintage of a white Pinot Noir, named, aptly, Pinot Noir Blanc. “A crazy idea we had a few years back that’s developed a small but devoted fan club, especially in the United Kingdom. Somewhat ironically Decanter listed Akitu Pinot Noir Blanc as one of its top 100 White Wines of the year a while back,” says Donaldson.
Here are my reviews of the latest trio of Akitu Pinots.

 19/20
2019 Akitu A1 Pinot Noir RRP $65

Akitu A1 has all the bells and whistles of great Pinot Noir with seductive red floral and fruity aromas leading into a full bodied, silky and structured wine with 40% whole bunch fermentation and five different clones of Pinot Noir adding complexity. The dominant clone in the blend is Abel (a clone is a variation of a grape variety), which lends this Pinot its impressive structure and a silky mouthfeel. It goes without saying that it takes a warm year and ripe grapes to include a high proportion of whole bunches in the fermentation tank, stalks and all. This wine benefits from its high portion of whole bunches and is possibly the best A1 from Akitu yet. A modest 20% new French oak was used to mature the wine. This lends it weight, smoothness and a soft mouthfeel while allowing the fruit to remain in second place after the charry complexity.

The 2019 vintage is possibly the best yet, making A1 an apt name for a top Pinot. Just 725 cases were produced and the wine was bottled on 19 March 2020.

17.5/20
2019 Akitu A2 Pinot Noir RRP $45

Here’s a wine to drink when looking for a medium bodied, black fruity beauty from the deep south. Savoury flavours of dark spice lead the style of the earthy Akitu A2 Pinot Noir, a wine made from three different Pinot clones and 35% whole bunch fermentation. Just 7% new French oak was used to mature the wine, prior to bottling. This makes for a smooth but subtle softness in a lush Pinot, which Akitu owner Andrew Donaldson suggests matching with Peking duck pancakes. Hear hear. Any duck would flatter this wine’s lush flavours, for that matter. Volumes: 1096 cases were produced and the wine was bottled on 19 March 2020.

17.5/20
2021 Akitu Pinot Noir Blanc RRP $45
This is an adventurous new-ish take on Pinot Noir; a white wine made from red grapes harvested early in the morning during the cool hours to retain acidity and freshness. Whole bunch pressing and given minimal settling time ensures the colour of the red Pinot skins doesn’t make its way into the pale hue of this refreshing white Pinot. It’s a textural, medium bodied wine with light red fruity aromas and a complex earthy taste. Best served lightly chilled, as you would a rosé or a full bodied white. Just 270 cases were made and it was bottled on 20 August 2021, three and a half months after the grapes in it were picked on 7 April.

Wine writers spill the beans in Hamilton this week

Happy New Year and hope it was a positive start to a better 12 months. It’s been at least three weeks between drinks, so to speak, on this website and it’s a great week to kick back into the swing of things. Watch this site for a regular weekly interview published each Friday, as from next Friday 28 January onwards. In the meantime, it’s an honour to interview three fellow wine scribes in Hamilton this Wednesday night 19 January.

Learn more about tickets to this fabulous event here.

Hamilton Book Month Wine Writers’ Event

Wine writers Bob Campbell MW, Michael Cooper, Joelle Thomson (yes, yours truly) and Yvonne Lorkin will talk about wine trends, wine writing and wine writers they read at Hamilton Book Month’s wine writers’ event on Wednesday, January 19.

The event was originally planned as part of last year’s August line-up and book month co-director Catherine Wallace says she is delighted Hamiltonians “will finally get to meet these wine legends.”

“What a great way to start the year with these four fabulous wine personalities sharing their wine stories. We’re excited they are keen to come and share their knowledge in what will be a highly entertaining evening.”

As the panel chair, yours truly will ask each fellow writer what inspired them to dive down the rabbit hole of wine writing and how they remain sober while doing so. We’ll also tackle some serious topics such as where we find our writing inspiration, the challenges of internet publishing versus traditional print media and, of course, what are the best and worst trends in wine today.

Join us by booking on the  link below.

Each panellist will also talk about favourite white and red wines under $35 with the audience tasting all eight wines ordered in by Hamilton Beer & Wine while enjoying fabulous platter food from Hazel Hayes.

Wine of the week

19/20

2019 Takapoto Pinot Noir Central Otago RRP $75

This beautiful Pinot Noir is a blend of grapes grown in Bannockburn and Gibbston Valley, which offer two very different takes on the country’s most popular (and most planted) red grape variety. Its intense fruity fragrance and elegant aromatic nose express both the warmth of Bannockburn’s climate and the edgy coolness of Gibbston’s. Flavours are dry with powerful macerated cherry notes and delicious depth with seductively silky, subtle red fruit flavours.

Talk about a wine with fantastic  balance. 

This wine highlights the benefits of blending and the greatness of good sites and great winemaking in Central Otago. 

Wine talk with Rebecca Poynter – our final for 2021

Rebecca Poynter is looking forward to Xmas and, all going well, a warm summer spent connecting with family and friends.

She is the chief executive officer of Trinity Hill Wines in Hawke’s Bay and she is the final weekly profile on this website for 2021.

We (I) will be back with more great profiles on wine lovers and others in 2022. Wishing you all a merry everything and, more importantly, special times of connection, rest and relaxation with the loved ones in your lives over the very aptly named silly season.

To all the wineries who support this site with samples, advertising support and, in many ways most important of all, constructive feedback and positive praise, I appreciate you all more than I can say.

It’s an incredible privilege to write about wine and to be part of the journey of New Zealand’s exciting, fast developing youthful wine industry.

Merry everything.

See you in 2022.

  • The weekly wine interview on this website is usually published every Friday and is inspired by the Proust questionnaire, which originated in 1886. Find out more here.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My time as Australian inmarket manager for Villa Maria Estate, building the brand and growing sales in a region where the big guns of New Zealand wine were already established.  It was an exciting and rewarding time both personally and professionally, with lots of travel, meeting and working with great people and living in one of my favourite cities – Sydney.

What is your current state of mind?

Hopeful.  I am looking forward to Christmas and, all going well, a great Hawke’s Bay summer with plenty of family and friends visiting, especially those who have been locked in Auckland since August.  It’s been a long time to be separated from special people who are only a five hour drive or one hour flight away, something few of us ever imagined would happen.

What is your favourite part of winemaking?

I’m not a winemaker but there is nothing I love more than being part of the buzz in the vineyards and winery at harvest time.

Do you have a most treasured wine?

I most treasure interesting wines that bring back special memories of people and places, such as a bottle of Grk shared with an old friend island of Korcula in Croatia. It was a discovery  wine for both of us, and enjoyed in a wonderful local restaurant, hanging out with the chef/owner who cooked lunch over an open outdoor fire.

Where is your favourite wine region?

Hawke’s Bay… and whichever other region I am in at the time. Wine is produced in so many fantastic places.

When and where are you at your happiest?

Travelling, pretty well anywhere. The world is fascinating.  And outback Australia is one of my happiest places with its dramatic landscapes, skies with horizons so wide you can see the curvature of the earth and  that blaze with stars at night.

What do you most dislike in wine?

Industry people who talk down Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. It put New Zealand on the global map.

What is your greatest fear?

Earthquakes. Which is ironic seeing I grew up I Napier.

What is your greatest extravagance?

The occasional impulse purchase, usually of something I want at the time but really don’t need.

What is your greatest regret?

Never seeing David Bowie perform live.

What talent would you most like to have?

Something showbizzy, like being a great actor or musician.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

A person who only feels they are winning when someone else is losing.

What is the trait that you most deplore in yourself?

Procrastination.

What do you most value in your friends?

That they are incredibly interesting and so much fun. And there for the good and the bad times.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

OMG and WTF.

What is your favourite meal?

Crayfish.  Caught and cooked the same day, with a glass of Trinity Hill 125 Gimblett Chardonnay (shameless product plug).

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what do you think it would be?

A kitset furniture designer.  Probably working for Ikea.