Normally with white wine, the juice is immediately pressed from the grapes and the skins discarded. They can, though, be made in exactly the same way as red wines, keeping the juice in contact with the skins. This is how orange wines are made. Their origin lies in the classic wines of Georgia, and in Italy’s Fruili region, where fermentation and extended maceration on the skins creates a unique character. Orange wines acquire a deep hue and have a phenolic grip to them, with additional tannins derived from the skin contact. They often exhibit a dry, austere nature, and tend to partner very well with food.
Short for pétillant-naturel, aka méthode ancestrale. A traditional method of making sparkling wine that is, in fact, the world’s most ancient. The wine is bottled before the primary fermentation is finished, delivering a lower pressure, lightly sparkling wine in the pétillant style. The wine is finished without the addition of secondary yeasts or sugars. Pét-nat wines can manifest as cloudy, unfiltered and capped with a crown seal, and they can be white, rosé or red in colour. They are a rare item in New Zealand, and don’t have a particularly long shelf life. Tip: do not leave them in the boot of your car in the heat of summer.
Wine, sherry, port and cider are all made from fruit and don’t contain gluten, while gin, brandy, rum and tequila are made from gluten-free ingredients. There is debate as to whether a tiny amount remains in vodka, bourbon and whisky, however, most research concludes that any gluten is removed through the extensive distillation process. If unsure, select vodka made from potatoes, corn or grapes and avoid single-distilled spirits and those made from wheat, barley or rye. All beers are produced using varying quantities of barley or wheat malt. Those claiming ‘gluten removed’ require investigation. So we did.
The history of the Chilean wine industry does remind me a little of our own and, in fact, I do ponder whether Chilean wine recognition is set to grow beyond expectations in the not so distant future. This is certainly what drove me to visit in February, and to say I was excited with what I saw is an understatement. My visit did also highlight for me one of the biggest challenges that Chilean wine has to overcome; that being the perception of Chilean wine, particularly Chilean Fine Wine. In discussing with friends where I was heading, the most common response was, ‘there’s great value wine made in Chile’, which there certainly is, but what has me excited are the fine wines, the diversity of grape varieties being grown there and the focus on microclimates. Chile is a very long country with an extensive range of climates. Historically it was the central Maipo where most of the attention was focused. There’s still great wines coming from there, as there should be; without phylloxera, Chile has some exceptionally old vines. The viticultural extremes in the south, north and at altitude are now being explored and championed, which adds many dimensions to Chilean wine.
Two of the most iconic Chilean Fine Wines are Almaviva and Seña, wines that we have just recently landed in New Zealand. Almaviva was launched in 1998, a joint venture between Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and Don Eduardo Guilisasti Tagle, Chairman of Viña Concha y Toro. The grapes are grown in the Puente Alto sub region of Maipo, which over 20 years ago now was acknowledged for its ability to produce world class Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s here that the 85 ha Almaviva vineyard is located. Almaviva is only one wine, a blend of classic Bordeaux varieties with Cabernet dominating. The name Almaviva comes from French literature: Count Almaviva is the hero of The Marriage of Figaro. The label pays homage to Chilean history, the image representing the design that appears on a ritual drum used by the Mapuche civilization. The word Almaviva on the label is in the Beaumarchais’ (who wrote the Marriage of Figaro) own handwriting. The label designed to symbolise the joining of two cultures, which is what Almaviva is all about; a French inspired wine from exceptional old vines in Chile.
The vintage that has just arrived is the 2015 vintage: a blend of 69% Cabernet, 24% Carmenere (a variety rarely found in Bordeaux now, though is permitted), Cabernet Franc 5% and Petit Verdot 2%. This wine spent 18 months in new French oak. There’s an impressive bright red fruit and floral note on the nose, the palate is full of unctuous sweet red fruit with a firm tannic structure and a long fine elegant finish. It’s very youthful right now and has great ageing potential. I tried this alongside the 2007 for comparison at the winery. The 2007 was showing signs of ageing, with a lighter rim, though not a distinct change in colour. There were dried fruit characters on the nose and the tannins had integrated beautifully into the wine. The 2007 was gorgeous; this level of maturity was just right for Almaviva.
Seña is another joint venture, this time between Eduardo Chadwick and Robert Mondavi. Seña was Chile’s first international joint venture; Eduardo Chadwick, from Viña Errázuriz, joined together with the Napa Valley’s Robert Mondavi and in 1997 released Chile’s first Icon wine, the 1995 vintage of Seña. Whilst of excellent quality right from the beginning, Eduardo was frustrated that the international recognition was not as he thought it should be. So, in 2004 he held a tasting in Berlin, inspired by the 1976 Judgment of Paris which put Napa’s Cabernet’s against the best in the world. The tasting in Berlin involved a stellar line up of tasters, who produced this set of results:
1 – Viñedo Chadwick 2000
2 – Seña 2001
3 – Château Lafite-Rothschild 2000
4 – Seña 2000
4 – Château Margaux 2001
6 – Château Margaux 2000
6 – Château Latour 2000
6 – Viñedo Chadwick 2001
9 – Don Maximiano 2001
10 – Château Latour 2001
10 – Solaia 2000
Viñedo Chadwick in this line up is Eduardo Chadwick’s wine. Dom Maximiano is named after the founder of Viña Errázuriz, who established the impressive property in the Aconcagua Valley in 1870. So, essentially Viñedo Chadwick, Don Maximiano and Seña all sit together. We have Seña in stock now, with the other two wines due later in the year.
Since 2005 Seña has been converted to biodynamic farming; the resulting wines continue to be spectacular. The tasting first held in Berlin has been repeated with similar international benchmarks; each time, the results have been impressive.
Just last week Eduardo Chadwick was named as Decanter Man of the Year for 2018, this story just the tip of the remarkable contribution he has made to the world of wine.
Natural wines are more difficult to define, and are not certificated in the way biodynamic wines, for example, are. They are farmed organically or biodynamically, hand-harvested and ‘transformed’ without the addition or removal of anything in the cellar. No additives or processing aids are used, and intervention in the naturally occurring fermentation process is kept to a minimum. Neither fining nor filtration are employed. The result is a wine full of naturally occurring microbiology. Essentially, it’s about using what one was given, with the wine evolving naturally to be whatever it will be.
In NZ, the presence of sulphur dioxide is required to be noted on the label. Sulphur is produced naturally from the grapes through the fermentation process, so all wines will contain a certain amount. The other way you’ll encounter sulphur is in its addition as a preservative, used to inhibit oxidation and microbial spoilage. The amount used varies, and therein lies the difference: between those who adhere to the formulaic approach and those who do everything they can to reduce their sulphur content. Some wines have no sulphur added at all, the Seresin and Araucano wines below being prime examples.
The reason not all wines are vegan- or vegetarian-friendly is down to the way a wine is clarified (i.e. made clear and bright) via a process called ‘fining’. Young wines naturally contain proteins, tartrates, tannins and phenolics. These are in no way harmful, and most wines will eventually self-clarify. However, to hasten the process, many winemakers use fining agents. The most commonly used are casein (milk protein), albumen (egg white), gelatin (animal protein) and isinglass (fish bladder protein). When it comes to assessing what’s in there, it’s worth noting the label is generally not going to be of much assistance.
These days, out on the borders, some people like to build walls. It’s all part of a trending push to adopt a more conservative, inward-looking stance, and it’s often self-serving in nature. You might think that this has little to do with your bottle of wine, but you’d be wrong. There are individuals out there who are bucking the status quo and questioning the sometimes rigid behaviours associated with today’s wine production. As with other human endeavours, this doesn’t always go down well.
This is particularly true in some of the European countries, where appellation, and its protection, can, in some minds, be everything. Hence, some very good wines there that travel a less frequented path (biodynamic wines, natural or unfined wines, for instance) can cop a wall’s worth of rejection as they are ‘cast into exile’ by those policing the regulations. The result? These wines are unable to state their provenance as they fall outside strict guidelines around what constitutes an appellation. But they do it anyway.
The irony is, of course, that in many instances, these hardy souls are in fact turning back towards older, now discarded traditions and questioning the original reasoning behind their abandonment. Or, sometimes, they are just heading off Stage Left to see what’s over there. While logic dictates that this can only be healthy, it is also perceived as threatening in some quarters. The line between craftsmanship and creativity can be a hazy one, expecially when it comes down to definitions.
However, many of us are excited about what’s happening out around the edges. After all, for things to flower and progress, experimentation and rejuvenation is what it’s all about. And so, this issue casts a light on those viticulturalists and winemakers shedding some of the more insidious aspects of the wine industry as it corporatizes itself, as they go in search of greener, more meaningful ways of doing things. These wines and their creators are forging new paths, often into old, forsaken territories, and we should be encouraged by their energy, their initiative and their sheer audacity, to cheer them on.
Organic grape cultivation eschews the use of synthetic fungicides, herbicides, fertilizers and other artificial processes. The wines themselves are regulated through legislation that can vary from country to country. One of these certification challenges is derived from the USA, where wine and food are conflated under organic regulations. There, in order to protect various food products, the term ‘organic wine’ can’t be applied because of the sulphur present, resulting in the designation ‘made from organic grapes’. We encounter that in NZ when the producer labels both their domestic and exported product with the one label.
Biodynamic winemaking and viticulture draws its philosophy from the premise of Austrian philosopher, Rudolph Steiner, that the Earth (and thus the vineyard itself) is a living organism. In order to keep everything in balance, the rationale is that vinicultural practices need to be timed to coincide with the rhythms of the earth, a philosophy embracing the whole ecosystem, that requires environment, plants, animals and people to be in complete harmony. As with organics, there is a certification system, but it’s a global standard, known as Demeter and named for the Greek goddess of grain and fertility.
The Marlborough Pinot Safari is a collaboration event by 10 wineries in Marlborough whose focus is Pinot Noir. These winemakers and wineries all have very similar ethos and winemaking practices, whilst producing an array of differing styles of Pinot Noir. Marlborough is so well known for the Sauvignon Blanc produced in the area, and while all these wineries produce Sauvignon Blanc, their primary focus and for lack of a better word, passion, is Pinot Noir. The wineries involved in this event were Auntsfield, Churton, Dog Point Vineyard, Fromm Winery, Greywacke, Terravin, Nautilus Estate, Seresin, Spy Valley and Villa Maria Wines. The aim of the game is to show a different side of Marlborough Pinot Noir and how the sub regions can produce such different wines stylistically. Glengarry Wines‘ Hannah Beaumont writes about her experience.
Our day started at 9am with a glass of Seresin Moana Zero Dosage Methode at the top of Calrossie Vineyard which houses the vines for Terravin Pinot Noir. From here we all piled into the convoy of 4 wheel drive utes, and started our off road journey. Travelling first towards the Awatere Valley, through the back of vineyards, travelling down to the Nautilus Awatere River vineyard. This was stop number two for a wine tasting:
Terravin Pinot Noir 2012
Terravin Pinot Noir 2015
Villa Maria Taylors Pass Pinot Noir 2015
Nautilus Awatere Pinot Noir 2015
After this we headed down to the Awatere River to have a good look at the riverbank, this put a great image to the words the winemakers were saying when talking about the soil type in the Awatere, the layers of loess (silty sediment) and deep free draining gravel.
After this pit stop it was onwards towards the Wairau Valley, via the windy roads of Taylors Pass (you would not want to come across a logging truck on this road!) travelling through Fairhall to Auntsfield. Here we stopped again, greeted by Sammy the vineyard dog, ready for another wine tasting. Set up in the Auntsfield barn we were here to try another 3 wines:
Auntsfield SV Southern Valleys Pinot Noir 2015
Auntsfield Hawk Hill Pinot Noir 2015
Villa Maria SV ‘The Attorney’ Pinot Noir
Carrying on from here, we travelled through Brancott Valley, passing through the Greywacke vineyards, and a quick pit stop at Clayvin vineyard. Clayvin vineyard was Marlborough’s first significant hillside vineyard, organically run, clay soils and 24 year old vines produce fruit with high concentration, structure and tannin. Now owned by Giesen wines and used by Te Whare Ra and Fromm also. Pressing on, we then went back roads through vineyards and ended up at the Dog Point property. Beautifully laid out and abundant with fruit trees and exotic foliage, vineyards littered around the property and well spaced out, they are all about the look and feel of the property, they’re not trying to cram in as much as possible. Here we stopped in at the Bell Tower for another tasting and lunch (shout out to The Burleigh and your incredible pies!) Wines were:
After leaving Dog Point we headed off in the direction of Spy Valley’s Outpost Vineyard. Making a quick stop at the famous Seresin vineyard site of Sun and Moon (I was massively fangirling by now) Rapou, Leah and Rachael, then on to Spy Valley to try some more wines:
We rounded off the day by with the final leg of the journey, heading west, over the Omaka river and finishing off at Churton in the Waihopai Valley for our last tasting. Perched atop a slope overlooking a majority of the Churton vineyards (cleverly named after cuts of a cow), certified organic wines and biodynamically farmed.
Wines we tried here:
Fromm Clayvin Pinot Noir 2012
Fromm Clayvin Pinot Noir 2015
Churton Pinot Noir 2015
Churton Pinot Noir 2013
The day was incredibly well thought out, educational and well integrated. It was like having a backstage pass to the Marlborough Pinot Noir scene. It was such an eye opener for me, and being someone who has always had a soft spot for Marlborough Pinot Noir, it was like a wine nerd’s dream day out. Go on, try some Marlborough Pinot!