Tales of wine, people and travel

Category: NZ wine (page 1 of 73)

Homage Syrah destined to double

It’s one of the highest priced, lowest volume wines in New Zealand and it’s destined to double. It is Trinity Hill Homage, which will double in production from the 2018 vintage, a high quality year for Hawke’s Bay’s red wines.


Homage was first made in 2008 and is made from vineyards around Hawke’s Bay – it is not a single vineyard wine nor are all the grapes from the region’s highly respected Gimblett Gravels sub-region

The announcement means that Homage will be more widely available in restaurants and retail, albeit still as a niche wine.

The announcement that it would grow in volume was made at the launch of the new 2016 Homage at the winery in Hawke’s Bay, where the wine has been made since 2002 when it was priced at $105.

Today it costs approximately $135 and is on strict allocation, most of it going into restaurants, with a smidgeon in specialist wine retail.

Fine tuning the quality

The style of the wine has changed over the years and Trinity Hill Homage is, in my view, a far better wine these days.

Its biggest changes include adding whole bunch fermentation to the winemaking and removing the hefty amount of oak previously used.

Whole bunch fermentation was introduced to Homage in 2010 by winemaker Warren Gibson, who says whole bunches change the texture of tannins and how dense the wine feels in the mouth. The percentage used will always be a response to vintage. In a cool year, for example, the use of whole bunches would be minimal.

He has also intentionally and significantly reduced the hefty amount of new oak in the wine. He wants to shine the light on the fruit flavours, bringing them forward and drawing attention away from the wood used in the wine’s aging process.

History of Homage

The first vintage of Trinity Hill Homage was 2002 and the wine has been made nearly every year since then, with the exceptions of 2003, 2005 and 2008. None of these years were deemed strong enough in quality to produce the wine.

Homage heritage

Unlike many of Hawke’s Bay’s best known, highest priced red wines, Homage is not made exclusively with grapes grown on the Gimblett Gravels, although a percentage do come from this famous sub-region.

Homage growth

The announcement that production of Homage would double was made this year by Philip Kingston, CEO Of Trinity Hill Wines.

While production would increase significantly, overall volumes were still destined to remain small and the wine would continue to be allocated, due to its relatively low volumes.

Growth would take place from the 2018 vintage, one of the best years in quality and a year in which vineyard investment over the past decade has finally begun to pay dividends in fruit quality and quantity.

A deeper shade of dry rosé

She is a self declared Huntress by name and by nature and, now, Wairarapa winemaker Jannine Rickards has released the first two vintages of her new wines, branded Huntress.

Jannine Rickards’ first Huntress Rosé, a bone dry deep coloured pink…

They break the mould, in more ways than one. Aside from the distinctive artwork on the labels, featuring native New Zealand birds and trees, the first two wines are deeper shade of rosé, which looks more like a light red wine (and is bone dry, incidentally – proof yet again that colour and dryness are not a linear relationship in rosé) and a Pinot Noir from the tricky vintage of 2017.
The rosé is made from certified organic grapes grown in Gladstone, in the central Wairarapa, where she works full time as winemaker for Urlar Vineyard.

The deeper shade of Huntress Rosé

This wine is bone dry but falls midway between being a pink wine and a Pinot Noir, in terms of colour, taste and style.
“I thought it would be really nice to have a rosé that’s a bit deeper in colour, totally dry and a different style than many out on the market now,” says winemaker Jannine Rickards, of her first vintage of 2018 Huntress Waikura Rosé.
It’s sealed with a screwcap and labelled with original artwork depicting native New Zealand birds, drawn by Martinborough artists Dusty and Lulu.

The name

Waikura means ‘red glow in the sky’ and is a fitting description of her relatively dark rosé – or pale red – depending on your take on the colour.
Rickards made her rosé using a combination of winemaking styles. She incorporated  70% whole bunch carbonic maceration with 30% Saignee Pinot Noir, which was fermented in old French oak. It was then aged in old oak for a couple of months, prior to racking, after a small sulphur addition (40ppm), filtering, then bottling. She made 1300 bottles.

The Pinot Noir

The 2017 Huntress Pinot Noir is the result of a cool vintage, which was a tricky one to start with for a Pinot, she says.
As a result, she gave the wine a relatively modest 17% whole bunch fermentation, using clones 5, 828 and Abel.
These were grown on the On Giant’s Shoulders vineyard, which was originally part of Martinborough Vineyards and then renamed Pahi for the Escarpment Vineyard.
The grapes were given a warm post ferment maceration and egg white fined to reign back the tannins.
“I don’t think I’ll come to a set way to make this wine. It will be what feels right in each season and what style of flavours the vintage gives me.”
She made 1000 bottles of the 2017 Huntress Pinot Noir.

Where to get them

Both wines are available at specialist retail stores.

The Dawn of a new bubbly

The story of Dawn

It’s the dawn of a new era, only the Dawn in question is about to turn 104 and the wine made in her honour is now on its third vintage.

The first Dawn was 2012 – the year that its namesake, Dawn Ibbotson, turned 100

The third and latest vintage of the wine called Dawn was launched last night at Logan Brown restaurant in Cuba Street, Wellington, at a dinner hosted by a forward thinking group called Methode Marlborough. Members of Methode Marlborough make sparkling wine in the traditional method – using the same methods and traditional grapes as champagne, namely,  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

The newest member is Saint Clair Wines, founded by Neal Ibbotson, whose mother, Dawn, was born in Gore in December 1914, just after World War I began. She lives in Dunedin.

  • The first vintage of Dawn was first made in 2012. The new 2014 vintage is out now.


Three minutes with Saint Clair winemaker Stewart Maclennan 

Winemaker Stewart Maclennan

How did Dawn bubbly begin?

SM: One day in 2011, Neal burst into the winemaking office and excitedly proclaimed, “We’re gonna make a bubbly.”

The team was stoked and Neal explained the first bubbly was to celebrate his mother’s 100th birthday.

I started thinking about logistical matters, such as where the grapes would come from, when we would pick them, where we would store all the bottles while the wine aged on lees in the bottle and how we would manage it all.

Dawn Ibbotson pictured with her son, Neal, and a bottle of her namesake bubbly

What was the biggest challenge?

SM: The label design. Once we sorted that, my biggest challenges were  finding space in our barrel halls for fermentation and ageing and the steep learning curve of making traditional method, high quality sparkling wine.


How did you decide how long to age the wine on lees for?    

SM: Our winemaking team, Hamish, Kyle and I, felt strongly from the beginning that this wine would sit for 36 months on lees; the aging time in bottle after the secondary fermentation.


What led to this long time of aging before release?

SM: We tasted a lot of local and global wines and we agreed that 18 to 24 months wasn’t cutting it in too many cases. Too many producers were using dosage (sweetness) as a disguise for underaged wines.


Which wine or wines were your inspirations?

SM: We wanted to think locally, if Marlborough has nothing else, it has the incredible natural acidity needed to produce world class traditional method bubbles.

The wines of No1, Nautilus and Cloudy Bay are a few of the leaders of this style of sparkling wine.


What were your international sparkling inspirations?

SM: We tasted the full spectrum of sparkling wines from Australia, France, Spain and others to help steer our collective stylistic direction

Ultimately though, we were at the start of the journey, all we had to do was listen properly and the grapes would tell us where they wanted to go.

Considering the abundance of primary character we get in Marlborough, it was clear from pretty early on that we would be looking at a Chardonnay dominant base wine.


Do you plan to make Dawn every year?

SM: We haven’t made Dawn every year, Dawn is very much a vintage wine made only when the correct circumstances prevail.

Marlborough’s cool nights are so important for acid retention, so this becomes a big factor when growing the best grapes for sparkling wines


What’s your happiest winemaking moment with Dawn?

SM: Letting the first bottles ferment slowly in the halls while we tasted and monitored the fermentation dynamics gave me a sense of great feeling – and relief that it was working.

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