Joelle Thomson

Writer, author, journalist

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New Huntress Pinot Noir best yet - wine of the week

Wairarapa winemaker Jannine Rickards new and old

What's the most important decision in winemaking? It's a bit of cliché these days but it is true to say the most important winemaking decision is when to the pick the grapes. And the when is becoming earlier each year, says Wairarapa winemaker Jannine Rickards, who has just released the third vintage of Pinot Noir made under her brand, Huntress. Jannine says harvest is now typically the first week in March rather than the third week, which is a big change in the small Wairarapa region. She made her first vintage of 2017 Huntress Pinot Noir at the winery formerly known as Julicher (now Butterworth) and since 2018 the wine has been made at Urlar, a winery where she works full time.

The winemaking and the relatively small volumes of Huntress Pinot Noir have remained pretty consistent over the past three years and also for the next two vintages, which will come out over the next couple of years; the 2021 and 2022 Huntress Pinot Noirs. She makes just over one tonne of Pinot Noir, which translates to about three barrels. Precious little wine, in other words, which may grow in the future. The grapes come from the On Giant's Shoulders Vineyard  in Martinborough village; a site that was first planted in grapes in 1988. It's recently been sold and there are exciting new plans for the vines on this land, which have yet to be officially announced.

This month, Jannine launched her third Huntress Pinot Noir from 2019. It's a great wine and, in my view, the best yet. She is also a friend of mine and last week she invited a handful of us over for drinks and nibbles; care of her amazing vegetable garden and her hunting. It's rare for yours truly to eat red meat but I have to admit, the wild venison slivers which were marinated in fresh herbs, tasted pretty magical with her latest 2019 Huntress Pinot Noir. And with a preview of the 2020 Huntress Pinot Noir, which will be released next year. 

Wine of the week

18.5/20

2019 Huntress Pinot Noir RRP $45.99

Full bodied, dry and silky with bold dark fruit aromas of plums and red cherries are supported by firm structure which comes in part from 40% of the wine made using whole bunches of Pinot Noir - a winemaking method that enhances structure and adds grapevine tannin to wine rather than relying on oak for weight in the wine. Like all Huntress Pinot Noirs to date, this is a blend of four different clones of Pinot Noir (a clone is a natural plant variation), namely, 10/5, Abel, 828 and clone 5.