New winemaker in Central Otago’s coolest region

Rosie Dunphy pours Pinot Noir and announces her new winemaker at Coal Pit.

Rosie Dunphy pours her Coal Pit Pinot Noir for a group of trade and media in March 2019

Rosie and Mark Dunphy may live in Auckland but their hearts are in New Zealand’s biggest red wine region, Central Otago.

The couple bought a six  hectare vineyard in the region’s highest altitude grape growing area, Gibbston Valley, in 2001, and this year they have hired a new winemaker to take their wines in new directions.

Anika Willner has made wine in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in Marlborough at Wither Hills; in the Mosel River valley in Germany and also in the Yarra Valley, Tasmania and Oregon.

Anika Willner is the new winemaker at Coal Pit in Central Otago

“I think Central Otago is a benchmark region for Pinot Noir in Australasia, especially Gibbston Valley, which is truly cool climate – and also alpine – which is unusual and very interesting. This year I’m going to do a lot more experimentation with vineyard expressions – we’re going to ferment some of the wines at 480 hectares above sea level, up behind the winery,” says Willner.

“I think Coal Pit Pinots have been very beautiful expressions of Central Otago Pinot Noir for a long time – elegant and sophisticated. There’s always room for improvement everywhere you move but it’s about refining small details rather than overhauling a whole wine.”

Coal Pit Wines is relatively unusual in that it has its own winery facility – an uncommon benefit for such a small scale producer. And it is a 100% estate winery. This means its wines are pure 100% expressions of the grapes grown on its home vineyard in the Gibbston Valley, which begins at 420 metres above sea level at the bottom of the vineyard, rising to 480 metres behind the winery. There are only two grapes grown and three wines made, at present. This are Pinot Noir and two different styles of Sauvignon Blanc – one fresh and zesty while the other is an oak aged/fermented style with more body.

There is also a rosé, made entirely from Pinot Noir, given light skin contact.

Consultant winemaker Olly Masters has also been brought on board by owner Rosie Dunphy to assist with stylistic directions. Masters if the winemaker for Misha’s Vineyard and formerly of Ata Rangi in Martinborough.

The Coal Pit winery is gravity fed, which means minimal handling of the grapes. Future innovations may include a basket press and large format oak as well as an overall reduction in the use of oak by 25 to 30 per cent because stylistically this suits the fruit more, suggests Willner.

Dunphy, who studied viticulture at Plumpton College in the United Kingdom, has another dream too – an innovative new style of wine that pays homage to one of the great French classics, but that’s a future hope and dream. For now.

There’s boutique and then there’s boutique. Coal Pit Winery in Gibbston Valley is one of the smallest wineries in the world’s southernmost wine region, Central Otago.

  • Coal Pit Wine is at 121 Coal Pit Road, Gibbston, Central Otago

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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