Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Courage and curiosity formed Chard Farm

Rob Hay first set eyes on the land that he planted in grapes at Chard Farm in August 1986. The arid slopes on the south side of Gibbston Valley were a merino sheep farm and locals regarded a vineyard there as an enormous waste of great farming country, but how times change. Yesterday’s lucrative farmland has become one of today’s most evocatively beautiful vineyards in the world. Chard Farm, for all its beauty, is not the only place vineyard that Rob owns or sources grapes from. When he planted the first grapes, he was a young university graduate and, in his own words, a failed computer scientist who had studied winemaking in Germany. A lucky connection with a cousin who worked on an orchard called Chard Farm got Rob and wife Gerdi interested and the rest is history. Chard Farm now encompasses vineyards in Gibbston as well as in Lowburn, Pisa, and Bannockburn. Rob and his long term winemaker John Wallace both make Pinot Noir that delicately reflects these dramatic landscapes. Oak is in the background. Red fruit flavours are in the foreground. Savoury flavours reign supreme in these gorgeous southern Pinot Noirs. Here are my notes on their latest.

2019 Chard Farm Mata-Au $45
This Pinot reminds me of the iron fist in a velvet glove  analogy. It’s made from three vineyard blocks in the Lowburn and Pisa area of Central Otago, which is slightly warmer than the Gibbston Valley, something this earthy, medium bodied, savoury tasting Pinot reflects beautifully. The wine spent 11 months aging in French oak with an extremely modest 18% new oak, which  is nicely integrated. The vineyards are Tiger, Viper and Mason (formerly owned by David Mason). All are now owned by Rob and Gerdi Hay of Chard Farm.

2019 Chard Farm River Run $33
Here is a light bodied, refreshing Pinot Noir made from estate vineyards in Gibbston, Lowburn and Pisa. This blend of grapes from two different sub regions in Central Otago is reflected in the earthy notes (flavours that always remind me of Gibbston Valley Pinot Noirs) and bright fruit flavours (more typical and classic of Lowburn and Pisa). It spent 10 months aging in oak, 13% new.

2019 Chard Farm Finla Mor $42
A bolder style of Pinot made mostly from grapes grown in the Cromwell area of Lowburn and Bannockburn. Powerful fruit flavours are held in check by Pinot Noir’s trademark fresh acidity and the wine spent 10 months French oak, 24% new. Of all three wines, this may be the one that most easily delivers on many wine lover’s expectations of a classic southern Pinot Noir, but each of these three wines delivers beauty in its own, individual right.