Folding Hill
Revisiting Central Otago, New Zealand, part 4

 

Tim Kerruish (above) is a doctor from the Isle of Man (UK). He and his wife came out to New Zealand when she was doing a PhD in Dunedin (she's a biomedical ethicist), and they bought this property in 2001. Tim still works as the emergency room in Dunedin hospital, but he's clearly been bitten by the wine bug. He now has 4 hectares of vineyard, all Pinot Noir, as well as 30 sheep and an orchard. He's currently planning to plant a bit of Chardonnay.

The existing vineyard was planted in 2003, and is at 230 m, looking across to the Pisa range, with Mt Pisa at 1800 m providing a beautiful backdrop. If you look left, you can see Mount Difficulty; look to the right, and you can see the southern alps.

The wines are made by Fred Reinds at Black Ridge winery, but Tim's plan is to put a small cellar into the basement of the home he has on the property (used currently as a holiday home) and make the wines himself. So you could say he's a lifestyler, but of the best sort, where the wine quality is a total focus.

Rudi Bauer was the first to make wines in Bendigo, which has a series of terraces, and is one of the warmer spots in Central Otago. Following a nice summer afternoon, it's still warm here at 7 pm. The soils are typical of Central: wind-blown loess with masses of river gravels under a thin topsoil. There's very little organic material in these young soils, so irrigation is essential. 'It's virtually hydroponics,' says Tim.

What are the characteristics of Bendigo wines? 'Bendigo wines tend to be fruit driven on the mid palate with a chocolatey thing on the back palate,' says Tim. 'This is what I'd be looking for in a blind tasting: a bit of mocha on the back palate.'

Winemaking involves full destemming, and a cold soak until things start to happen. There may be an inoculation. The wines are then run to barrel.

'The most profound effect we have is on crop level,’ reveals Tim. ‘For Central you need to run a pretty low yield. We do one bunch a shoot and take the shoulders off, which gives an average yield of 3.5-4 tons/hectare. The average for Central is 6-6.5 tons hectare, and for second or third tier wines it will be more.’ He adds that some people have made single vineyard wines from his vineyard, and have taken higher yields, but they then don't get the same degree of concentration. ‘We have to make the best wine we can here, otherwise no one will buy it. This requires aggregational gains – a percent here, a percent there. This is why we are thinking about bringing the winemaking on site.’

‘With Pinot, you get what you get, and this is what makes it exciting.'

Can the region get enough traction so there's enough support for people making interesting wines, before they run out of money or enthusiasm? Tim thinks that the real sustainability in Central Otago  is whether people can keep their operations going.

I tried verticals of the regular Pinot Noir and also the Orchard Block, a special part of the vineyard next to some apple trees. Tim doesn't know why it's special, but it does seem to be of particular interest. Production of both wines is 600 cases in total.

Tim gave me a summary of the recent vintages. ‘When you have a small vineyard like this you really get the vintage variation, which I enjoy,’ he says.

2012 – lots of excitement about this vintage, the wines have an immediacy

2011 – An interesting vintage. It didn't stop raining, which is rare here. We were picking grapes in grass that came up to our knees. There was a lot of rot through the region. We didn't have the luxury of letting fruit hang out so we picked a little earlier, by a week or 10 days.

2010 – a lot of tannic structure across the region. A run of cold fronts came through in February with ridiculous temperature variations- 35 C one day and a high of 10 C the next. This put stress on the vines and increased tannins in the grapes. 

2009 – an important vintage for us: we got a gold in the Air New Zealand show. We don't do shows any more.

2008 – not a highly regarded vintage down here. Nice uneventful season with biggish berries and bunches. I have always liked the 2008s.

2007 – seemed to be going well until we started to pick, when it rained, and then this happened again. It was a late harvest, on May 3.

 

THE WINES

Folding Hill Pinot Noir 2010 Central Otago, New Zealand
Sweet, warm, ripe cherry and plum fruit nose. The palate is concentrated and dense with nice grippy tannins melding well with the sweet ripe cherry and plum fruit. Dense and quite structured, showing lovely silkiness. Will take some time to peak. 95/100

Folding Hill Pinot Noir 2009 Central Otago, New Zealand
Sweet, ripe, seamless nose with hints of warm spices and attractive florality alongside the rich, slightly balsamic/soy notes. Rich, ripe, bold palate is subtly meaty with nice spiciness and ripe  fruit. A ripe style but with nice brightness, good texture and a mineral edge. 94/100

Folding Hill Pinot Noir 2008 Central Otago, New Zealand
Supple, pure and fresh with attractive black cherry and plum fruit. Smooth with fine texture. Still youthful and direct with a bit of bright spiciness, as well as some tingly acidity on the finish. A pretty, harmonious wine. 92/100

Folding Hill Pinot Noir 2007 Central Otago, New Zealand
Sweet, ripe and perfumed with subtle meaty sweetness under the fine dried herb and cherry notes. Lovely fresh palate is pure, fine and a little lighter than other vintages of this wine. Elegant and detailed with nice tea and dried herb notes, Pure, fine, silky and refined. 94/100

Folding Hill Orchard Block Pinot Noir 2011 Central Otago, New Zealand
Fine and subtly expressive. Precise with amazing detail and precision. Light but concentrated with a fine spiciness. Real elegance and some structure. Quite mineral: an amazing wine that's not a blockbuster but just deliciously detailed. 95/100

Folding Hill Orchard Block Pinot Noir 2010 Central Otago, New Zealand
Fresh, ripe, fine nose with some spiciness and minerality, as well as a subtle hint of ginger. There's an appealing mineral edge to the palate with nice grippiness and a hint of spiciness. Fresh with dried herb complexity. 94/100

Folding Hill Orchard Block Pinot Noir 2009 Central Otago, New Zealand
Beautifully expressive and perfumed  with aromas of floral black cherries and herbs. So detailed with sweet fruit and also a complex mineral, spicy character. Some warmth and richness but also amazing detail and elegance. 95/100

See also:

Chard Farm, Central Otago
Gibbston Valley, Central Otago
Wooing Tree, Central Otago
Visiting Martinborough, New Zealand (series)

Wines tasted 02/14  
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