Hill Country Estate is a series of limestone terraces in amongst residential areas on the slopes of Te Mata Peak. The vineyard area is approximately 5.3 hectares divided into 8 sub-blocks, producing the varieties Viognier, Chardonnay, Syrah, Barbera and Montepulciano. The vineyard was already planted in these varieties when we took over management of it in early 2013.
Not far from Hill Country Estate is a picturesque vineyard overlooking the Tukituki River. This is where we source the Tannat grapes from. This very small vineyard is in 2 blocks – the terraced House Block that produces the fruit for our Reserve Tannat wine and the flat Road Block which makes our Estate Tannat. We took over the management of this vineyard after vintage in 2013.
We take maximum advantage of the large planting of Chardonnay grapes in our vineyard by producing four different wine styles – from a simple, fruit-driven
table wine, two different styles of barrel fermented Chardonnays and a Methode Traditionnelle Blanc de Blancs.
The largest of the plantings in our vineyard, we make 5 different styles of wine from this one grape variety, including a Late Harvest wine and a Sauternes-style Noble.
Tony is determined to change the perception of Viognier in New Zealand by demonstrating that it is possible to make elegant wines from this variety.
Barbera is a very early ripening red variety, believed to originate in the hills of Monferrato in central Piedmont, Italy. The clone in our vineyard was selected specifically for its suitability to New Zealand growing conditions. On the vine, Barbera looks very much like Pinot Noir – very small, tight, fist-size bunches.
The vines are very low yielding (<1kg per vine) resulting in a real depth of fruit concentration and flavour. The berries are thin skinned and light in colour. The Barbera vineyard is quite small so we only make one wine from this block.
The Syrah vineyard is the highest in Hawke’s Bay, looking out over Hastings and the Heretaunga Plains towards the Kawekas. There is only one vineyard
block, but different areas within the block produce have different characteristics, so this allows us to make 2 tiers of wine – Reserve and Estate.
Montepulciano is a very late ripening variety, with huge bunches, huge berries and a completely unique flavour spectrum.
This is the smallest of our Hill Country Estate vineyards and the last to be harvested. The Montepulciano block is tucked away in a small valley creating a microclimate which is quite different to the rest of the vineyard.
This is a very attractive eating wine grape with its thick skins, dark colour and vibrant refreshing acidity.
Despite the large bunches of fruit, the yield per vine is still remarkably low at approximately 1.6kg. The Montepulciano block is also quite small so we make only one wine each vintage.
This variety originates in the Madiran region in south west France and is closely associated with the French Paradox. The incidence of heart-related disease is very low in this area despite the diet, with research pointing to the high level of tannins in the local red wine (Tannat) as providing a number of benefits that support this. Everything about Tannat is big – big bunches, big berries, thick skins, naturally high acidity and very high tannin levels. The fruit is very late ripening and is markedly resistant to botrytis. In many respects, it is very similar to Montepulciano.
The vines are quite vigorous and throw a relatively high yield per vine. A critical step in producing this wine is reducing the yield back to 1 bunch per shoot – this is done progressively through the season with a final thinning just prior to veraison and netting.
Tannat achieves sugar ripeness very easily but it is the tannin ripeness(especially seed tannins) that dictates the picking decision and wine style.
There are 2 Tannat vineyard blocks allowing us to make 2 tiers of wine – Reserve and Estate.
Vineyards and Wine Styles
Key to making good quality wines is ensuring the fruit coming into the winery is right for the wine style to be produced. How the management of the can impact on the style of wine we make and vice versa is an on-going and critical step in our winemaking process.
Each year we learn a bit more about the vineyards and the best way to manage them to produce the right grape quality. This includes understanding which areas of the vineyards have the heavier soils (more vigorous growth), better drainage, are
more shaded, are more susceptible to bird damage (there are a lot of olive trees and native plants around parts of our vineyard) etc.
Tony needs to make early decisions on the wine styles he wants to make next vintage so that the vineyard can be managed correctly – this includes shoot thinning, bunch thinning, leaf plucking, and allocating different areas to the different wine styles (even down to specific vine selection in places), and when the grapes are picked.