Dabbling in vintage and wines for Easter

 A girlfriend who loves art once told me that the more she learnt about art, the more she realised she didn’t know. That’s exactly how I feel about winemaking right now. Not that I’m a winemaker. But as a wine writer, I’ve always felt it was important to learn some technical aspects to make the writing authentic. It’s easier said than done.

This is the fourth year in a row that I have worked a couple of days of vintage at Pegasus Bay in North Canterbury. Or is it the fifth? Who’s counting. And the word ‘work’ isn’t strictly accurate. It’s more a case of tagging alongside a winemaker or two, plunging the cap on a couple of Pinot tanks, measuring a ferment starter and, occasionally, digging out tanks of sticky Pinot skins after the wine’s been moved to barrels.

It’s amazing dabbling in vintage work. I’ve learnt so much about how much I don’t know.

The incredibly diverse range of skills a winemaker needs to be successful is mind boggling. Knowledge of plant biology is essential to coax the best from the raw material – the grapes. Then there’s chemistry for the winemaking, technical understanding and proficiency when working with pumps, tanks and pipes in the winery. And last, but far from least, you need to love it. That’s the only way to blend wine that tastes great.

So the week was interesting, delicious and humbling, yet again, thanks to the great communicators in the cohesive winemaking team at Pegasus Bay Winery in North Canterbury. Speaking of which, the week began at Greystone Winery’s vineyards where writers and retailers were taken into the vineyards to watch the third commercial release of this winery’s interesting vineyard ferment Pinot Noir, which I wrote about here:


And here, without further ado, are wines for the weekend. 

Bargain buy

2017 Forrest Albarino $24.99

Marlborough winemaker John Forrest was at the forefront of pioneering New Zealand’s modern wine industry, he was one of the first to adopt screwcaps in 2001 and, now, he is leading the pack with experiments of Albarino in this country. This fresh, high acid white grape variety is originally from the maritime climate of north west Spain, which makes it ideally suited to New Zealand. Its freshness and vibrant green herb and citrus flavours shine through in this well priced wine.

Available widely or Forrest Estate here: https://www.forrest.co.nz/


Treat of the week

 2016 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir $50

Whole bunch ferments are rising and so is the quality of Pinot Noir at Pegasus Bay winery in North Canterbury.

The winemaking team is on a mission to fine tune their Pinot Noirs and this, the freshly released 2016, is possibly the best yet, although I am still smitten with the earthy depths and fruit ripeness in the 2015.

The grapes in this wine were harvested at 24 brix in stages between 7 and 21 April 2016. About one third were placed at the bottom of tanks to ferment as whole bunches, which adds strong fruity aromas and structure to the wine, which was matured in French oak (40% new) for 18 months. Its fruit weight and fresh acidity are beautifully balanced by the wine’s full body, moderate tannins and lingering flavoursome finish.

It sometimes seems strange to discover the gritty reality behind the romantic dream of winemaking but a sip of this Pinot reminds me why I fell in love with wine in the first place.
Available from specialist stores or the winery: https://www.pegasusbay.com/

Reaching for the stars

2017 Greystone Vineyard Ferment Pinot Noir $65

The first time winemaker ever Dom Maxwell bottled a Pinot Noir that was fermented in the vineyard (rather than in the winery) was 2013 but that wine was firmly in the experimental category. Three years later, he made the first vineyard ferment Pinot Noir that was destined for commercial release and this new release is the second one. It’s distinctively different Pinot Noir from most, in part because of its pale ruby colour and in part because of its earthier flavours, which are surprisingly medium bodied, given the pale hue of this tasty drop.
It was bottled unfined and unfiltered with a lower than usual dose of sulphur dioxide added only at bottling to prevent oxidation. This tastes spicy, interesting and fresh and, hopefully, has a long life ahead. I plan to find out by cellaring some.
Available from specialist stores or Greystone Wines: https://www.greystonewines.co.nz/

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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