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David Cox to head New Zealand Wines

Published:  14 May, 2009

David Cox is the new chief of New Zealand Wine Growers for the UK and Europe.

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Anne Krebiehl: Eighth blog from New Zealand harvest

Published:  07 May, 2009

The harvest steps up. Our days just evaporate, there is no standstill: we generally turn up at a quarter to eight so that picking starts promptly at 8 o'clock. On some days we are all muffled up in woolly hats, on others a jersey will do.

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Anne Krebiehl: Seventh blog from New Zealand harvest

Published:  01 May, 2009

For the duration of the harvest I am staying at Jackson's Orchard just outside Cromwell. Before stubborn pioneers like Sue Edwards and Verdun Burgess of Black Ridge, Lois and Rolfe Mills of Rippon and Alan Brady of Gibbston Valley started planting vines in 'Central' in the 1980s (more of their wines in a later instalment), horticulture was and to a degree still is the mainstay of this area: Central Otago cherries and apricots are famous and there are many apple orchards, too.

Now in autumn the roadside stalls are fully stocked. I can stay at the orchard amidst rows and rows of trellised apricot trees since the season is over. Usually the huts, former motel units that were moved here, are occupied by the cherry, peach and apricot pickers and when I arrived, I saw the last fragrant batches of peaches being despatched. Since I moved in, the orchard has turned colour and I can walk ankle-deep through russet-coloured leaves to State Highway No. 6. From Jackson's own fruit stall I can buy milk, apples and tomatoes and one of these days I will have to try the Otago cherries in Kirsch. My neighbours are two Ecuadorean girls harvesting for Mount Edward and three Thai fruit pickers who keep making Tom Yum Soup in our shared kitchen shack. It is very quiet and very beautiful here and having my own little hut is luxurious.

There are two wineries in my immediate vicinity. Just a kilometre up the highway is Aurum Wines, another estate that aspires to organic standards without being formally certified. They make Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chardonnay and have just started making a traditional method sparkling Blanc des Blancs (not available yet). Two adorable blond little girls are playing in the tasting room and I learn that the older one lends her name to the barrel selection Mathilde Reserve Pinot Noir (2007). Their mother, Burgundian Lucie, managed to craft a Pinot with astonishing depth and elegance and allure from barely decade-old vines and the difference between the estate Pinot and the Mathilde is striking.

Joan Lawrence, the girls' charming grandmother conducts the tasting and explains the different terroirs of fluvial gravels and wind-blown loess that constitute her vineyards on the western shores of Lake Dunstan. We talk about how extraordinary it is for certain Central Otago wines to be so expressive at such a young vine age - quite a number of the very well-made ones really represent terroir. This may have something to do with the fact that yield needs to be restricted severely to allow ripening at all. The great majority of the local Pinots are punchy and fruit-forward but do not necessarily show any dimension beyond mere fruit. Most of these are probably also drunk too young even though some may not merit being cellared.

The better ones though, are extremely appealing and I cannot stop wondering how these will turn out once the vines have had time to stretch their roots deeper into the soil. Joan Lawrence reckons that the strong ultra-violet light and brisk climate make for a sped-up maturity in plants. Indeed, the Oregon Pines that are grown here for timber mature years and years faster than their cousins in the States, so Joan is probably right.

The Wooing Tree Winery is almost opposite the orchard. The 'wooing' tree itself, a huge old pine can be seen from the distance. Local lore has it that this used to be a prime romantic spot where quite a number of Central Otago babies were conceived...

The tasting starts with the unusual 'Blondie' a still Blanc des Noirs made from Pinot Noir, it has 4.8 grams of residual sugar and is a real pleasure wine that would work wonderfully as an aperitif. It has body and texture and is a fruit bomb, but in the nicest way possible. Then there is a nod to Pinot Gris and Chardonnay and the entry-level Pinot Noir called 'Beetlejuice'. The estate Pinot, the Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2007 is very pleasant, like all the wines made by Carol Bunn at Vinpro who makes the wines of a number of smaller properties here. It has a little herbacousness and a faint hint of cedar on the nose and needs to spend two more years in bottle to let the super-smooth fruit mellow out a little. Lots of promise. The 2005 Pinot Noir is very mellow and has lovely notes of cedar and cinnamon. Just for curiosity's sake I get to taste the very early effort of the 2002 Pinot Noir which was made from bought-in grapes- it smells like port and jam but is definitely over the hill.

More from the harvest in the next posting!

Anne Krebiehl, April 2009

 

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Anne Krebiehl: Sixth blog from New Zealand harvest

Published:  28 April, 2009

Excitement: the first day of picking! After the night frost I am dressed in layers of clothes. I was told to be ready for pick-up at 07.45 and Bruce, an athletic Englishman who made New Zealand his home and works for Felton Road full-time arrives promptly.


We drive to the Cornish Point Vineyard on Lake Dunstan and bit by bit various pickers arrive. As of yet they are nameless, but we are well-mixed in age and origin. We try and stay warm in the early morning and smile tentatively at each other, some of the older hands clearly know each other and we strangers laugh at their familiar banter.


The frost protection propellers, or windmills as some call them, are going everywhere in an attempt to dispel the cold and the mallow leaves on the dusty ground have an attractive rim of frost.


Everyone gets assigned a 'snip', i.e. secateurs, and we get a little health'n'safety lecture from Gareth King, viticulturist and mastermind of the entire harvest: cuts (those snips are very sharp!), accidents, sunscreen.... He introduces his full-time viticultural team consisting of Sarah, Sam and Nick. Gareth and his team are of hardy Kiwi stock and turn up in shorts!


Then we get going: we are told what to cut out, what to look out for and which bunches to discard. Small plastic crates have been placed throughout the rows and we pickers work in a long belt, side by side we move together from row to row, making sure that all fruit is picked and that what goes into the crate is of high quality. Simple rule: into the basket what you would eat, what looks, smells, tastes inedible goes to the ground. Yes, this is truly sensual work. This kind of attention during picking - where everyone is paid by the hour rather than by weight picked - ensures quality and does away with the need for a sorting table at the winery - which especially for white grapes, saves valuable time.


Our fingers are icy from touching the cold fruit but we work surprisingly quickly. As we leave the crates to go to the next row, they get picked up and taken away. That is the hardest job: being on the back of the quad-bike and heaving the full boxes up on the bike to be taken to the trailer.


The sun comes slowly up as we re-assemble in order to drive in convoy to the Calvert vineyard back in Bannockburn. Tea, coffee and buttered buns with jam await us there - and what a boon that hot drink is! We get to work on the Chardonnay first and this is very fast picking: hardly a grape needs to be discarded and whole, beautiful bunches quickly fill the crates. With every minute the sunrays are getting stronger, the hands warmer and the toes start de-frosting in the brilliant Central Otago sunshine. By midday, we can all work in our t-shirts.


It is this diurnal temperature swing that explains such a lot about the flavours of these wines: if the vines just had the sunlight and high temperatures all the time, nothing much besides the high potential alcohol levels would be there (and there is plenty of that) but the cold nights and cooling winds delay the ripening so flavours and aromas can develop.


Being an organic, biodynamic vineyard, I spot a lot of wildlife: earwigs, beneficial insects that feast on other predators, the odd ladybird and many, many spiders seem to live very happily in the vines. And it is delicious to be able to taste the sweet, ripe grapes as we go along knowing that they have not been sprayed beyond all possible life. Oh for the joys of a sugar-stupor!


Visiting other non-organic/biodynamic vineyards in the region is an eye-opener; they seem almost sterile by comparison. We have spider webs and weeds but at least the only things staining my fingers are grape juice and some dust, all rather harmless. Once the Chardonnay is all picked we break and have our packed lunches after washing our sticky, sugary secateurs and hands in a bucket of hot water. Then it's the Riesling's turn: the bunches are very tight and heavy and hardly have a blemish on them.


Again we can work very fast. Naturally, a lot of chattering is going on, we learn each other's names, stories and quirks and time flies. Before I know it, our first day of picking is over. Happiness and satisfaction.


Anne Krebiehl, April 2009

 

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Anne Krebiehl: Fifth blog from New Zealand harvest

Published:  14 April, 2009

On the coach again southbound from Blenheim to Christchurch: the route runs along the coast and to my right there is bush and steep cliffs, to my left is the Pacific Ocean. Fresh crayfish is sold at roadside stalls and I regret that I cannot just hop off to sample some of it.

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Anne Krebiehl: Fourth blog from New Zealand harvest

Published:  14 April, 2009

Red eye: am on the early coach from Nelson en route to Renwick. State Highway 6 winds its way through coniferous forests, crosses the turquoise Pelorus River in a picturesque, narrow valley and continues south to reach the expansive vineyards of Marlborough: Renwick, a sleepy highway village, sits amidst these and it's yet again a case of dropping the rucksack, grabbing bicycle, helmet and map and heading off to hit the cellar doors.

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Anne Krebiehl's third wine harvest blog from New Zealand

Published:  07 April, 2009


South Island - what a difference! Anne Krebhiel continues her tour around the wine regions of New Zeland - this week she crosses over into the South Island.

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Sparkling wine sales continue to soar

Published:  30 March, 2009

Sparkling wines continue to enjoy success at the expense of Champagne, it has been claimed by a buyer for one of the UK's most popular supermarkets.

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Anne Krebiehl, blog March 23, harvest blog from New Zeland

Published:  27 March, 2009

Hello again - this time from Martinborough in the Wairarapa - this must be the most bijou little town ever and seriously makes me think of emigrating....

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Anne Krebiehl, blog March 23, harvest blog from New Zeland

Published:  27 March, 2009

Hello again - this time from Martinborough in the Wairarapa - this must be the most bijou little town ever and seriously makes me think of emigrating....

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Anne Krebiehl, wine writer's blog from the New Zealand harvest

Published:  25 March, 2009

Kia Ora from New Zealand and welcome to the first instalment of my Kiwi wine adventure: I have come here from London to harvest grapes at the illustrious Felton Road estate -- one of the world's most southerly vineyards -- in Central Otago on New Zealand's South Island. To make the most of this long journey I decided to come early and taste my way through the various wine regions to give my shamefully Eurocentric palate a real understanding of Kiwi wines and their huge success on the world stage.

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Anne Krebiehl, wine writer's blog from the New Zealand harvest

Published:  25 March, 2009

Kia Ora from New Zealand and welcome to the first instalment of my Kiwi wine adventure: I have come here from London to harvest grapes at the illustrious Felton Road estate -- one of the world's most southerly vineyards -- in Central Otago on New Zealand's South Island. To make the most of this long journey I decided to come early and taste my way through the various wine regions to give my shamefully Eurocentric palate a real understanding of Kiwi wines and their huge success on the world stage.

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New Zealand screwcap pioneer dies

Published:  30 January, 2009

New Zealand winemaker Ross Lawson, founder of Lawson's Dry Hills, has died aged 66.

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Wines in the Press: Ways to enjoy seventy-five centilitres of fun

Published:  16 September, 2008

Jane MacQuitty indulges in a spot of armchair shopping, Jancis Robinson learns where not to mention the 'S' word and Tim Aktin enjoys "seventy-five centilitres of fun" with some Sauvignon this week. Meanwhile for those with cash to flash, Antony Rose's column makes for inspiring reading...

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New Zealand wine exports reach record levels

Published:  20 August, 2008

New Zealand wine growers are on target to achieve $1 billion (£538 million) of exports by 2010, according annual results released today by New Zealand Winegrowers.

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The Guardian

Published:  23 July, 2008

Pinot Noir is one of the few exceptions to the widely held truism that the best value wines cost between 6 and 9, Victoria Moore feels. This is not because "a 5 bottle of Pinot Noir can't be good", she hastens to add, more that by moving to the 10 mark "you begin to find wines that start to get it". Moore says it is at this point when "suddenly, the fairy dust comes out, the light goes on, some kind of magic sparkle arrives that simply wasn't there before". The Guardian critic says: "Either you're prepared to pay it and get it or you're not." If you fall into the former bracket, she suggests the 2005 Pinot Noir Martinborough Vineyard (22, Harrods) or the 2005 Pinot Noir Cte de Beaune (92 for six bottles, Armit).

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The Sunday Telegraph

Published:  23 July, 2008

Brits love nothing more than wiling away the hours talking about the weather and Susy Atkins is no different, although her column this week gives the subject an important vinous spin. "It is just plain wrong to drink heavy, blockbuster reds at this time of year," she says. We should curtail drinking big reds to "winter celebrations" and instead opt for "soft, juicy, smooth reds" in the early summer. Pinot Noir is an obvious choice, Atkins continues, citing the 2005 Pinot Noir Martinborough Vineyards (19.95, Harrods) for its "super-smooth texture and ripe, plush red-berry fruit with a subtle hint of chocolate".

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The Daily Telegraph

Published:  23 July, 2008

As part of the launch of the Cloudy Bay locator', JONATHAN RAY has lunch with Tony Jordan, CEO of Cape Mentelle, Cloudy Bay and Green Point.
Ray gives a blow-by-blow account of his meal, from eel fillet to kangaroo loin, as well as a glowing report of the various Jordan wines served with each course. It reads like a LVMH advertorial.
However, Jordan makes an interesting point: The New World is expected to be constantly on the move but nobody asks when Chteau Margaux will produce a Syrah or Chardonnay ... our parent company in France demands innovation from us then when I ask what's new with Dom Prignon, they go all Gallic, shrug and mutter, "That's different."'

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The Daily Mail

Published:  23 July, 2008

MATTHEW JUKES looks back at the New Zealand tasting at Lord's cricket ground in London, which he claims was the best ever.
His Kiwi selection includes: 2006 Spy Valley Gewurztraminer from Marlborough (9.99; Highbury Vintners, Grapelands) and 2004 Palliser Pinot Noir from Martinborough (12.99; Justerini & Brooks, Philglas & Swigott). Wine of the week is the 2006 Felton Road Vin Gris Ros from Central Otago (14.95; Lea & Sandeman).

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The Observer

Published:  23 July, 2008

Now that liquid is forbidden in airline hand luggage, the wine choices on board have assumed considerably more importance, says TIM ATKIN MW. The business class wine list is definitely an improvement on economy, but a recent tasting proved that the overall level of quality is still disappointing'. Fruity examples came out a lot better than tannic wines, due to the dulling of the senses at altitude, and Atkin says: Apart from a good glass of Champagne, the wines that taste good are softer reds and richer whites.' One such example he gives is 2004 Coney Pizzicato Pinot Noir, Martinborough (11.99, each if you buy two; Majestic).

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