Marlborough is the most famous wine producing area in New Zealand. Indeed the first plantings of Sauvignon Blanc in this area, back in 1973 helped launch the whole kiwi wine industry. Now over to Emmanuel (Vintage Roots sales manager) to tell us more…
Of course Marlborough evokes the taste of a crisp Sauvignon Blanc but what if you were to consider a Pinot Noir from this region? No, I have not had one too many! There are some young winemakers out there taking the risk in producing new flavours and exciting wines. Clyde Sowman of Walnut Block is one such producer that challenged my taste buds. All my friends and colleagues know me to have a penchant for Old World Pinot Noirs but having recently returned from a fabulous visit to Walnut Block, I am smitten by the Marlborough Pinot Noir.
Clyde runs this family estate supported by his wife Helen (originally from Kent) and his brother Nigel, a viticulture consultant and Dog Point vineyard head viticulturist. Their work is a labour of love expressed in the ever improving quality of their wines. I took great pleasure in the tour of the vineyard and was looking forward to seeing the famous 100 year old walnut tree that stands majestically in the middle of the vineyards. I even helped Helen pick the walnuts which were to be sold for a charity event.
During the tour, I could not help but notice about 8 to 10 rows of vines with ripe red grapes untouched and birds happy to nibble on them. I thought this odd as the harvest was over. Clyde explained this part of the Pinot Noir is a result of second flowering, having lost the first due to frost. I asked him why not use these, as on tasting they were nice and juicy? Clyde explained the grape did not have enough quality for his Pinot Noir wine thus compromising his yield and a drop of about 30% in this year’s harvest. Clyde is happy with the vintage so far, there is work to be done in the cellar as the wine is not yet ready.
The tour was followed by the most important part – tasting the current vintage including his Sauvignons:
The Collectables Sauvignon Blanc 2014 – There is more lime and citrus on the nose that I had not noticed in last vintage. Passion fruit and tropical fruits are plenty and in the mouth, the wine is fuller and more expressive than in the previous year. It lingers on after tasting from that great acidity that leaves you wanting more. It is Autumn here but I am already thinking summer in UK! The Sauvignon grape for the ‘Collectables’ are machine harvested but Clyde explained that he has reduced the stages from harvest to fermentation, hence greatly improving fruit expression in this wine.
The Nutcracker Sauvignon Blanc 2014 – The grapes for this wine come from a different plot to the ‘Collectables’. They are older vines therefore with more character. Grapes are hand-picked and selected and the result is a refined wine of character with touch of minerals, voluptuousness with a refreshing acidity. The Rapaura terroir (sub region of Marlborough) is noticeable, encouraging you to pause, reflect and admire the glass in front of you! Clyde ages about 20% of the wine in old French oak barrels. I asked him how old and he replied – they don’t leak yet! They give the wine that extra dimension but if nobody told you this, it is hard to tell.
The Collectables Pinot Noir 2014 – Ahaaa…The Pinot Noir!! Some of you may be a bit pleasantly surprised, I was! Last year’s vintage was light fruity and forward and I enjoyed drinking it slightly chilled. This vintage is different. You still have summer berry fruits but there is an added touch of herbs. There is a more to the body, rounded, fuller with soft tannins. A beautiful glass of wine and I could not help but think of spring lamb!
The Nutcracker Pinot Noir 2013 – Now the piece de resistance and new to Vintage Roots! This wonderful addition to our range from the Walnut Block family is indeed a ‘nutcracker’. No exaggeration but young Burgundy springs to mind when the aroma hits the nose. Grapes are also hand-picked. This wine is a marriage of 2 terroirs about 50:50 grapes from Rapaura and the other from the hill slopes of Wairau. It is as natural you can get, minimal handling and fermented on wild yeast, and aged for about 18 months in French barriques. This is a complex wine, the fruits lean towards cherries with herbs and earth character, the tannins are lively but on the soft side. When tasted the following day, the wine was showing even better indicating its potential to age. Clyde suggests aging 3 to 4 years plus but must you be tempted to open one soon, give it a couple hours to breath.
The Nutcracker Chardonnay – Clyde allowed me to taste some great Chardonnay too, so watch this space…
Clyde and Helen were the perfect host and I was privileged to stay in one of their cottages which meant sleeping in the vineyards literally… check out the details on this link http://www.walnutblockcottages.co.nz/