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Visiting New Zealand's wine regions 
Part 16: Daniel Schuster, Waipara

192 Reeces Road, Omihi, Waipara Valley, New Zealand  
Website: www.danielschusterwines.com

The final stage of my all-too-brief visit to New Zealand’s wine country took me to Waipara – a region I’d been keen to visit after hearing a lot about it. It’s about half-way down south Island, and a short drive from Canterbury. Waipara is a growing region, with a real momentum to it. The vineyard area is growing, with big companies such as Montana, Nobilo and Villa Maria now involved here.

Growing grapes here can be quite tricky, though: last year the flowering was disastrous, and cold Decembers have been problematic of late. Despite this, Waipara has a growing reputation for producing great Pinot Noir and Riesling. For more on Waipara, visit the Waipara Valley wine growers’ website www.waiparawine.co.nz)

My first visit (of just three – there was a lot more I’d have liked to have done here) was at Daniel Schuster. Daniel is well known as a wine consultant, and works at Ornellaia in Italy and Stag’s Leap in Napa, among others. He began working in the New Zealand wine industry in the 1970s, and founded his own project in 1986. 

Daniel was travelling when I visited, so I was received by his wife, Mari, and winemaker Nicholas Brown (below right). Nicholas has been working here since 2002, but has also worked in Italy and the USA during this spell.

The approach at Schuster is quite different to that of the majority of New Zealand producers. The vines are unirrigated and spur pruned, planted at a very high density (6000 per hectare). Sustainable farming methods are employed, with the Schusters moving towards organics. Composting, with the biodynamic preparations, is practised.

One of the hills is sandstone over clay, the other is clay over limestone: this is why Danny chose this particular site. In addition to their own vineyards, which total 6 hectares, the Schusters also buy Pinot Noir and Riesling from the Hull family, who have 10 hectares nearby.

When the grapes arrive in the winery, they are left overnight to cool. Conveyers are used for sorting, and then the red grapes are destemmed and go to vat. Open top vats are used: the wood holds the heat generated by fermentation well. A four-day cold soak is followed by an indigenous fermentation, and then a basket press is used for pressing.


The whites are pressed with a bag press. Riesling is whole-bunch pressed, and sometimes left on skins for a few hours. Fermentation is in stainless steel. Chardonnay is whole-bunch pressed, the juice is settled, and then it goes to puncheons.  

Daniel Schuster Petrie Vineyard Selection Chardonnay 2004
From a riper year than normal, with 20% malolactic fermentation. Herby, brightly fruited nose is fresh with some ripe tropical notes and hints of lemon. The palate has a herby, minerally edge to it. It’s precise with high acidity and nutty depth, as well as a long finish. Unusual but nice. 89/100 (NZ $32)

Daniel Schuster Petrie Vineyard Selection Chardonnay 2002
A cooler year, so not so much fruit richness. Smoky, minerally nose which is fresh and quite tight. The palate is savoury, bold and intense with lovely tight, savoury intensity and high acidity. Really impressive. 92/100

Daniel Schuster Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Marlborough
From five different parcels in the Rapaura Road area. Lovely aromatic, herby nose shows some restraint, and a bit of complexity. The palate is bold, herby and rounded with a lovely texture. Quite broad and complex with a lovely finish. 91/100 (NZ $26)

Daniel Schuster Waipara Riesling 2006
Half from the Hull vineyard, and the rest is parcels of juice from around Waipara. Fantastic rich nose is ripe, melony and full with a limey spiciness. The palate is broad and smooth-textured but with a lovely minerally, lemony-fresh fruitiness backed up by some spice. Finishes very long and sweet but it’s dry enough for food. 92/100 (NZ $23)

Daniel Schuster Twin Vineyards Pinot Noir 2006 Canterbury
Not deep coloured – often a good thing with Pinot. Wonderfully sweet, aromatic nose of open red fruits with nice purity. The palate is bright and quite pure with a supple fruity character and some elegance. Fresh and pure. 91/100 (NZ $29)  

Daniel Schuster Waipara Selection Pinot Noir 2006  
This is the fruit from Danny’s vineyards that doesn’t make the top selection, plus valley floor fruit. Fresh, bright, forward fruity nose is quite pure with some focused spiciness. The palate is lively and pure with lovely focus and great precision and brightness. There’s a sappy freshness, but also some richer notes. Beautiful. 93/100 (NZ $45)

Daniel Schuster Omihi Selection Pinot Noir 2006
A selection of 20 barrels of estate fruit. Smooth, sweet, pure aromatic nose with a bright red fruit character. Sweet but restrained, and quite complex. The palate is open and bright with lovely depth and supremely elegant red and black fruit. More elegant and poised than the Waipara selection. A serious effort. 94/100 (NZ $90)

Daniel Schuster Hull Family Vineyard Late Harvest Riesling 2004
Delightfully aromatic nose. Quite bright and with a lovely full texture as well as good acidity. Smooth and quite intense. Delicious. 89/100

Wines tasted 11/07  
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