The Boneline: small scale North Canterbury wines

The low down and high quality on the South Island’s Boneline wines…

She’s the owner, he’s the winemaker and this week they came to Wellington to unveil their newest wines from Boneline – one of the few New Zealand wineries that actually can lay claim to calling itself an estate – which means all of their wines are made from grapes grown on their own land. In this case, that land happens to be in North Canterbury, one of the windiest corners of the country for grapevines to call home, which can be a factor in reducing the yield of grapes per hectare – and raising the quality of wine at the same time.

Vic is one of the owners of The Boneline and Paul is the winemaker and we will keep things on a first name basis in this article because their focus was firmly on the wines, which taste pretty awesome.

The tasting they hosted with Wellington wine woman Jeannine Mccallum was at Loretta’s in Cuba Street – one of Wellington’s best places to eat (don’t even get me started on the delicious cauliflower with almonds).

The Boneline wines…

The Boneline began life in 2013 as the new lease of life for the brand previously known as Waipara West (now the label for exports from this winery).

The vineyard is planted on three terraces on the banks of the Waipara River, approximately 5 kilometres from Amberley township. There are three distinct soil types here, which can attribute different aspects to the taste of the wines. The slightly different altitude on each terrace may also play a factor in flavour.

Paul worked his first harvest this year, 2016, and talked about the defining factors of the region being its very dry climate (drought is a frequent issue) and also the sea breeze, which cools the region.

The name Boneline is a reference to the fossils that have been thrust up from the riverbed – there is a visual line in the river where the soils and stones change colour. All wines are made with grapes that are 100% grown on the winery’s own vineyards. No grapes are bought from other growers. Vines were planted there in 1989.

Here are my highlights of this Boneline tasting

2015 The Boneline Dry Riesling

Dry Riesling is the gateway for many to one of the world’s greatest quality but so frequently misunderstood wines – by using the word ‘dry’ on the label and by ensuring this wine lives up to its name, the Boneline team hope to harness a new following for this fresh, light bodied, vibrant refreshing wine. Think lime zest on speed… it’s delicious.

2015 The Boneline Riverbone Sauvignon Blanc

This is a rich, full bodied style of Sauvignon with flavours of green apple, fresh herbs and creamy flavours – lovers of French wine will recognise its Bordeauxesque style in its rich, oily feel in the mouth. This wine is made from four rows of grapes grown on the Waipara River banks in North Canterbury. All grapes were hand picked and whole bunch pressed straight to oak (approximately 30% new oak) with the creamy notes coming from the oak and lees stirring. Low crop levels and lots of hand work adds the bells and the very subtle whistles to this high quality Sauvignon Blanc.

2014 The Boneline Waipara Cabernet Franc

Described by its makers as ‘an everyday and lighter style of Cabernet Franc’, this wine is made with grapes grown on Claremont limestone soils  and it tastes ripe and smooth with big tannins and dark fruit flavours; it’s an approachable style to drink now rather than to age.

2014 The Boneline Waipara Waimanu Pinot Noir

Big full body, dry with high acidity – so far, so technical, but this Pinot Noir puts the South Island’s best foot forward for Pinot Noir with its red and dried fruit flavours, its freshness and its long finish – a stunner.

A parting shot

2014 The Hellblock Riesling – made from grapes grown on the bottom terrace close to the river, which enables the grapes there to develop noble rot, which shrivels them and reduces their moisture, leaving elevated levels of sweetness in the grapes’ natural sugars, so that this wine cruises in with 46 grams of residual sugar, putting it firmly in the ‘sweet’ category. Its high acidity (cool climates retain that) means it has the perception of a medium sweet wine with a lingering finish. Very seductive…

Author: Joelle Thomson

I am a wine writer, author and educator... first bitten by a big buttery Chardonnay on a dark and stormy night in the 1980s and there was no turning back... Follow my tastings and join some too on this new site.

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