Wine writing scholarship announced

Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Association announced its inaugural annual wine writing scholarship today, with the first recipient to be announced by 1 February 2022.

The scholarship includes a cash stipend, access to wine industry events and mentoring by professionals working with wine. It will last for 12 months from February when vintage commences in Hawke’s Bay each year.

“We hope to foster and motivate new writers for the industry and create a voice for our story,” says Sally Duncan, chairperson for Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Association.

She says the new scholarship was inpired by the late Raymond Chan, a highly respected wine advisor in New Zealand.

The scholarship selection panel is comprised of Daniel Brennan, winemaker and owner of Decibel Wines; Cristina Sanders, award winning writer and  author); Holly Russel, winemaker and coowner of Three Fates Wines) and Michael Henley MW, board member for Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers & New Zealand Winegrowers.

Full details of the programme and how to apply can be found on the Hawke’s Bay Wine website, www.hawkesbaywine.co.nz

This year’s applications must be received by 5pm on 15 January 2022.

The successful applicant will be notified by 1 February 2022.

Update on NZ’s best Pinot Noirs… from all round

This is an update of my original post which reported that the wines had been ranked. This was my initial reading of the ratings, however, it has since become clear that the wines are simply listed with their ratings. 

It is also clear that New Zealand’s best Pinot Noirs come from a wide range of places. Which is great news all round.

Where do New Zealand’s best Pinot Noirs come from?

Of all the questions worrying many of us right now, this one may not be top of the list of thoughts that keep you awake at night but an extensive Pinot Noir tasting certainly did occupy the thoughts of Master of Wine Stephen Bennett and winemaker Lynnette Hudson. The pair founded their relatively new NZWinerater.com website last year and this week they officially launched their website’s first annual top Pinot Noirs. The results made for sobering reading. 

The top wine came from North Canterbury’s Pegasus Bay winery and was the distinctive 2018 Pegasus Bay Vergence Red MK1 with 97/100 points.

Of the other six wines that scored 95 and 96 out of 100, five of them were from Martinborough and one from Marlborough.

The result has been described as “A bit of a coup for the Martinborough district” by one of the region’s first winemakers, Larry McKenna.

Two of the top wines have featured on this website this year as top wine of the week. They are the 2019 Escarpment Kupe and 2019 Palliser Estate Pinot Noir, both outstanding wines and the best yet from Palliser, in my view.

Here is the list of wines that scored over 94/100 points by NZ Winerater.com

The following wines are not ranked but rather scored out of 100.

2018 Pegasus Bay Vergence Red MK1  97/100

2019 Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir 96/100

2019 Luna Eclipse Pinot Noir 96/100

2019 Palliser Estate Pinot Noir 96/100

2019 Dog Point Pinot Noir 95/100

2019 Escarpment Pinot Noir 95/100

2019 Palliser Hua Nui Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 95/100

2018 Ata Rangi McCrone Pinot Noir 94/100

2018 Butterworth Te Muna Pinot Noir 94/100

2019 Escarpment Te Rehua Pinot Noir 94/100

2020 Kumeu River Hunting Hill Pinot Noir 94/100

2019 Neudorf Tom’s Block Pinot Noir 94/100

2020 Palliser Estate Pinot Noir 94/100

2019 Quartz Reef Single Ferment Pinot Noir 94/100

2017 Quartz Reef Otto Pinot Noir 94/100

2019 Valli Bannockburn Pinot Noir 94/100

2019 Valli Bendigo Pinot Noir 94/100

The full list of ratings and tasting notes appear here NZ Winerater.com

The founders of NZ Winerater.com describe Pinot Noir as unequivocally New Zealand’s signature red grape variety with 14% of the country’s vineyard area. This is five times that of the next most planted red variety, Merlot.

“In terms of inherent quality it leads the way with a much higher percentage of wines scoring top marks in our latest tasting than any other variety,” says Bennett, of NZ Winerater.com.

“While it was once the speciality of just a handful of regions, the variety is now performing strongly across the country. Featuring amongst the highest 10% of the scores we awarded were wines from Auckland, Canterbury, Central Otago, Martinborough, Marlborough, and Nelson.”

“The quality of the 2020 and 2019 vintages was overall high, albeit from two very different growing seasons, which both showed a similar vibrancy and energy with good ripeness levels, concentration, and balance.”

Larry McPinot resigns from The Escarpment

Martinborough winemaker Larry McKenna has resigned from The Escarpment Vineyard in the same week that two of his wines made the top 10 in the latest NZWinerater.com’s Pinot Noir Results 2021.

The resignation this week has been on the cards, says McKenna, who turns 70 this year and has no plans to fully retire. He is stepping away from the role of general manager at The Escarpment Vineyard.

He founded the high ranking brand in 1998, planted the first vines a year later and released the first Escarpment wine in 2002. From what he describes as ‘the get-go’, McKenna has made some of New Zealand’s most impressive Pinot Noirs, mostly single vineyard wines with a high proportion of whole bunch fermentation. “This has often made for wines with a lighter colour but always with incredible power and structure underlying the taste,” he says.

This week, the relatively new NZ Winerater.com (owned and founded by Master of Wine Steve Bennett and winemaker Lynnette Hudson) ranked Martinborough as its top Pinot Noir region. The pair blind tasted 119 Pinot Noirs from all over New Zealand and the top 10 wines included eight from Martinborough with the other two from North Canterbury and Marlborough.

It’s a result that McKenna describes as “A bit of coup for the Martinborough district.”

He will remain at The Escarpment until the end of April 2022 to oversee the next vintage made in the new winery that he is currently managing the construction of. It is based on a design he conceptualised 20 years ago. He has also taken over the management of the three hectare, high density vineyard, Ma Maison, south of Martinborough. The fruit will be sold to The Escarpment for at least the next year. This will enable him to remain involved with The Escarpment.

This is the 16th interview on this website based on the famous Proust questionnaire, which originated in 1886 – find out more here.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My children, Ryan and Nina and deciding to immigrate to New Zealand in 1980.

What is your current state of mind?

Relaxing into getting my head around resigning (not retiring) from The Escarpment Vineyard this month. 

What is your favourite part of winemaking?

The first ferment each year. Watching the first fruit begin its uninoculated fermentation. All that happened is the fruit has been picked destemmed (or not) and placed in a tank. Fermentation starts a few days later So clean, fruity and magical/mystical. We were certainly meant to enjoy wine. It’s almost religious or makes you feel religious.

Do you have a most treasured wine?

It progresses and evolves. Currently I’m itching to open a Bonne Mare 2013 from Lucien le Moine.

Where is your favourite wine region?

To visit or to drink? Margaret River and Burgundy, particularly Chablis.

When and where are you at your happiest?

Outside. Standing in a river or on top of Aoraki Mt Cook and Mt Aspiring.

What do you most dislike in wine?

Wine is too much about the brand perception and the expectation rather than the actual quality of wine in the bottle. It’s so amorphous. I certainly lean towards the scientific side of wine and winemaking rather than the creative side. Obviously it has both sides but my understanding is very much on the technical and logical side.

What is your greatest fear?

I’m about to turn 70, so growing older.  Didn’t even see it coming, that alone plan for it.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Restaurants.

What is your greatest regret?

Not moving to Central Otago in 1998 and missing out on Little Feat in Melbourne in 1976  because of a train strike.

What talent would you most like to have?

To be a linguist, particularly Chinese and French.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Homelessness and being destitute. I think this leads to so many of society’s problems such as excessive drug use, unemployment, poor health and poor relationships.

What is the trait that you most deplore in yourself?

Excess.

What do you most value in your friends?

Their presence.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

No worries. WTF is going on.

What is your favourite meal?

I have to ask for two courses here. Fish with Chardonnay. Game meat with Pinot Noir.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what do you think it would be?

A dolphin. They seem to be eternally happy which is about all you can ask for. All you need.