A (great) old winery with a new lease of life…

Mountford Estate has always more closely resembled a southern French villa more than a Kiwi winery. One imagines it on the outskirts of a small village somewhere in the sprawling Languedoc where the dry and sunny Mediterranean climate gives visitors the impression that life has slowed down several notches, due to the heat and relative ease of growing all manner of edible food and grapes that anyone ever wanted. And there is a similar climate at Mountford, in summer at least. The long, languid days seem to stretch on forever into a slightly cooler autumn, which provides grapes with an extra burst of growth to bring out the best in them. The winters are undoubtedly  harsher than in the south of France, but there is a feeling to Mountford’s home in North Canterbury that makes it seem much further away from Christchurch city (damp and chilly) than the 40 minutes it actually is. Mountford is one of the smallest wineries in the heart of North Canterbury and it changed hands for the second time in its life in 2017 when Takahiro Koyama bought the 10 hectare estate. I first discovered Mountford when writing about design for New Zealand Home & Entertaining magazine in the late 1990s. Back then it was in its infancy and run as a high end, small scale place to stay by its founders, Michael and Buffy Eaton. He is an artist and she’s a hard working style queen who really did put the capital ‘b’ into Boutique accommodation, raising its quality to the next level. Their wines were superlative too, thanks to former winemaker CP Lin, who was as famous for being blind as he was for making outstanding wine. CP continued to make wine for Mountford when it sold several years ago and then fellow Cantabrian winemaker Theo Coles made the wines in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Ironically, there was no wine made at Mountford in 2017 when winemaker Takahiro Koyama bought the property, beautiful home, vineyard and tiny winery all included.

I met Takahiro in August this year for the first time and was transported back to the early days of Mountford in the glasses of wine we tasted together. Here’s the hit for me of the current line up. This is my wine of the week and I have bought a few bottles to ensure I put my money where my mouth is.

2016 Mountford Liaison Pinot Noir $29.99

Here is a wine that shows so much more to the New Zealand Pinot Noir story than the big names and better known regions. This is new on the market and made 100% from estate grown fruit, as are all Mountford Estate wines. All grapes are hand picked and winemaker Takahiro Koyama fermented this with wild yeast, plunged it twice daily then matured for 16 months in French oak barriques. It was bottled without fining or filtration. And therein lies some of its magic. The savoury, earthy overtones deliver a Pinot Noir that is next level, without a crazy price tag to pay for the privilege. Soils are clay over limestone.

Organic Week Aotearoa… Wines of the week

It’s more than a buzzword or a nice idea. Organic wine – certified organic wine, that is – is now an imperative part of every New Zealand winemaker’s current thinking. It has to be, if they want to share in the marketing of New Zealand wine overseas by New Zealand Winegrowers, but that’s another, much longer story than organic wine itself.

Organic Week Aotearoa kicks off tomorrow, Saturday 5 September, and here are my three new favourite organically certified wines for this week.

Organic trio

19/20
2019 Greystone Organic Sauvignon Blanc $28

Wild yeast, vegan friendly and certified organic all tick the boxes for health conscious wine drinkers but there are other strings to this Sauvignon’s bow that appeal to me. It’s fermented in old French oak barrels with wild yeasts and takes an incredibly long six months to finish ferment to dryness. And it’s worth the wait. It also goes through 50% malolactic fermentation, which softens its succulent, zesty acidity, giving roundness, supporting the zesty characters and the lingering finish…

Sauvignon Blanc may be this country’s biggest wine thing but here’s one that shows another side, a softer side to its personality with a smooth, creaminess and great complexity for the price. This wine will age for up to five years too. Buy here.

17.5/20
2018 Greystone Thomas Brothers’ Pinot Noir $100
Edgy, dynamic, silky, smooth, structured and it’s certified organic. This is a great Pinot Noir from a great wine region made from grapes that grow in conditions that would make most of us want to wither up and die – it’s a hard, windy environment on the steep hillside vineyard they grow on. This makes for small, tough skinned grapes (Pinot Noir is typically thin skinned but not so much here). Extensive thinning of the bunches while they grow also ensures small crops and the result is a big, powerful Pinot with a pale colour, no whole bunch fermentation but wild yeast fermentation followed by aging in French oak barriques, 66% new, for 15 months. Needless to say, the grapes were hand harvested.
A keeper, as previous older vintages show. If you’re tempted, buy two and think of it as an investment. Buy here.


18.5/20

2018 Greystone Erin’s Chardonnay $100
Hand picked grapes grown on limestone rich soils were fermented in separate components from individual parts of a steep hillside vineyard, grown entirely in the much respected Mendoza Chardonnay clone. This clone is also known as hen and chicken because of its variable grape berry sizes, the small ones adding intense fresh acidity to the softer flavours that Chardonnay is well known and loved for. Small berries and thick skinned grapes characterised the 2018 vintage on this organically certified vineyard. This wine was 80% whole bunch pressed, wild yeast fermented and aged for 15 months in French oak barriques, 46% new.
Drinking well now? Well, yes, but this is a keeper, if you have the willpower. Buy here.

FAWC announced in Hawke’s Bay

Fancy a weekend away? Since long distances are off the cards, a short one may appeal at this year’s Fine And Wine Classic in Hawke’s Bay from 6 to 15 November.

The FAWC!’s summer programme launched this week with a full programme and tickets online now. The programme this summer  includes chefs Josh Emett, Jason Kim of Gochu, Kate Fay of Cibo, Renato Ribiero of Maloca Boteco and also Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas. Hawke’s Bay chefs are also participating and include James Beck of Bistronomy, Sam Clark of Central Fire Station, Casey McDonald of Craggy Range, along with winemaker Chris Scott from Church Road and Wallingford’s Chris Stockdale.

Tickets to the 2020 FAWC! Summer Series are available now online at www.fawc.co.nz