Brady was one of the pioneers of Central Otago wine. In a former
life a journalist from Northern Ireland, he planted 500 vines here
in 1981, although he emphasizes that he wasn’t the only one
experimenting then. At the time he tried lots of varieties,
including Chasselas and Müller Thurgau. It was initially just a
hobby, but the encouraging results spurred him on to release his
first commercial wine in 1987: the Gibbston Valley winery was born.
is no longer involved in Gibbston Valley, and the winery has also
expanded beyond its original home vineyard. The home vineyard,
planted on soils of schist and river terraces can produce excellent
results, but the Gibbston sub-region has a pretty marginal climate,
and to focus all vineyard efforts here would be pretty risky.
Christopher Keys, winemaker
that reason, in the late 1990s Gibbston Valley started planting in
the warmer Bendigo sub region. This is where most of their vineyards
are now located. Christopher Keys, the winemaker at Gibbston Valley,
explains that in Bendigo there’s quite a bit of variation. They
have four different vineyards on terraces at different altitudes.
The lower terrace is more alluvial, at lower altitude (250 m) and
has coarser soil. It’s a bit warmer. Higher up, the soil is finer,
and there’s even a bit of limey soil under the schist. It’s also
cooler. This variation in terroirs helps add complexity to the
wines. Altogether Gibbston Valley have around 40 hectares in Bendigo.
visit was to the small home vineyard in Gibbston, where the winery
is located. Christopher showed me a small plot of Riesling vines
planted singly on stakes that, with the schist soil, bore a pretty
close resemblence to the Mosel.
range of wines are made here, but – of course, it being Central
Otago – the focus is on Pinot Noir. And these Pinots are superb:
among the region’s very best. We tried some 2009 Pinots from
barrel, in the winery’s cave, which was built in 1998. It’s a
proper subterranean cellar, drilled into the schist hillside. Once
the Clyde Dam project had been completed the technology was already
in the area for drilling like this, so the cave was built in just
three months at a lower cost than would otherwise have been
possible. It has a natural temperature of 13/14 °C which is warm
enough for malolactic fermentation to take place.
samples, 2009 Pinot Noir
lower vineyards: this is rich, broad shouldered and muscular with
firm tannins. A great blending component.
lower vineyards, east. Rich and intense yet focused with lovely
vivid fruit. Still fresh and structured.
Man’s Terrace. This is a higher altitude vineyard in Bendigo and
it’s cooler, with the Pinot Being harvested two weeks later than
the lower vineyards. It’s very fresh and perfumed with lovely
structure and focus. A thrilling wine with sense red fruit, some
meatiness, and some spice.
House. The highest vineyard at 400 m, and the latest ripening.
There’s a limestone belt under the schist here. Very focused and
perfumed with lovely ripe yet fresh fruit. Finesse and intensity
here. Powerful and expansive with lovely tannins.
House, but clone 6: very elegant, pure and linear with real purity
of dark fruit. Textured and stylish.
Valley Pinot Blanc 2008 A long ferment here pushes out the texture. Very pure and creamy
with rich pear and citrus fruit. Nice texture with real interest.
Valley Riesling 2008 Very clean, elegant, pure nose with subtle lime and floral
notes. The palate is beautifully elegant with nice liminess. Dry but
fruity with beautiful balance. 89/100
Valley ‘Le Fou’ Riesling 2008 From the Gibbston vineyard; 9% alcohol. This is beautifully
textured with fresh, citrussy fruit. Off-dry and harmonious. Complex
and quite thrilling. 92/100
Valley Pinot Gris 2009 Very nice lemony, perfumed nose with real clarity and focus. The
palate is fresh and textured with some estery fruit character and a
bit of citrus. 88/100
Valley La Dulcinee Pinot Gris 2008 Very nicely textured. Creamy and elegant with grape and melon
fruit. Lovely flavour and rounded texture. 90/100
La Dulcinee Gewürztraminer 2008 From vines planted in 1983; just 450 bottles made. Very nice
lychee, melon and Turkish delight nose. Elegant but rich. Fresh and
textured with lovely balance. Harmonious. 92/100
Valley Reserve Chardonnay 2007 100% barrel-fermentation with 20% new oak. Toasty, focused fig
and herb nose. The palate has a soft, buttery character with lovely
Valley Reserve Chardonnay 2008 Lovely nose: some minerals, some nuts. Nice pure fruit with a
hint of toast. Lovely complexity and minerality here. 92/100
Valley Reserve Chardonnay 2009 (barrel sample) Very fine, fresh and minerally with lovely focus and complexity.
Really intense with lovely minerality even though it’s in new oak.
Valley Pinot Noir 2008 Very pure, elegant dark cherry and spice nose with great
precision and a bit of sappiness. The palate has lovely focus and
real purity with plum and cherry fruit. Nice focus and freshness.
Deliciously balanced: rich yet fresh. 93/100
Valley Le Mineur d’Orient Pinot Noir 2008 Superbly elegant. Fresh cherry and berry fruit with rich texture
as well as freshness. Good balance here and firm yet silky structure
under the fruit. Needs time to settle down. 94/100
Valley Reserve Pinot Noir 2008 ‘I’m trying to capture the beauty that Pinot Noir can
offer,’ says Christopher Keys. ‘Getting extraction and weight is
quite easy here.’ This wine is based on prettiness, finesse and
perfume and comes from the School House vineyard at altitude.
Beautifully elegant with pure focused cherry and spice character.
Sweet and textured, but also structured with refined minerally
tannins. A lighter style, but with good concentration. Swallows up
the 60% new oak with ease. 96/100
Valley Pinot Noir 2007 Very aromatic pure, sweet liqueur-like nose with purity and
elegance. The palate is rich and sweet with bold flavour and nice
texture. Real finesse, too. A broader style than the 2008. 93/100
Valley Le Maître Pinot Noir 2007 From the home block. Very fresh and aromatic with bright cherry
and herb fruit. Complex herby, spicy notes. The palate is lively and
spicy with real freshness and savoury minerality. Finishes with
spiciness. A distinctive style. 92/100
Valley Le Maître Pinot Noir 2009 (cask sample) Very lively, herby aromatics. Spicy and a bit smoky with lovely
cherry and herb fruit. Lively, juicy and focused with the chocolate
and spice richness tempered by fresh fruit and good acidity.