Alan McCorkindale
North Canterbury/Waipara Valley: a series on one of New Zealand's most interesting wine regions, part 3


Alan McCorkindale (above) has been a key figure in the development of the Waipara Valley. ‘I moved down to Marlborough from Hawkes Bay with Corbans Wines in 1988,’ he says. ‘We were still making Corbans Marlborough wines at Cloudy Bay winery, and swapping space in the winery for grapes with Cloudy Bay. Corbans contracted fruit from the new Waipara vineyards developed after Derek Quigley, who was a cabinet minister, helped push through an irrigation scheme for Waipara as part of the government's ‘think big’ strategy to develop agricultural and industrial infrastructure. Derek happened to own one of the blocks which benefited from the scheme (now Dancing Water). Danny Schuster and David Jackson were at Lincoln University and talked the local farmers into planting grapes.’

‘I inherited a 1988 Waipara Riesling ferment which looked like over-extracted breakfast tea, and didn’t taste much better, so 1989 was my first vintage with fruit from Waipara,’ says McCorkindale. ‘We made Riesling from John and Pat Corbett’s vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc from Glenray Sation and Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Bruce and Jill Moore’s vineyard. Glenray and the Moores started making wine themselves soon after, but I made Riesling from the Corbett’s block until I left Corbans in 1996. The Rieslings consistently were very good, unique, with that Seville orange/mandarin character that Waipara Rieslings develop. They were made in a dry style, and bottled as Robard and Butler Riesling. I still have a few bottles of the 1990 and 1991 vintages, they’re still drinking well.’

‘With Paul Mooney (Mission Estate) I did a vineyard site selection survey for Hawkes Bay Vintners in 1985, John Buck wanted us to produce a paper to support his moves to preserve suitable viticultural land from being zoned’ for forest development. We looked at all the soils in Hawkes Bay, and climatic data. We thought the alluvial river terraces in Central Hawkes Bay and more elevated sites up in the foothills would be ideal for white grapes, very similar climate and soils to Marlborough, cooler than the Heretaunga plains, and we found pockets of limestone soils which I thought would be ideal for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (Rosie Butler has planted on one of those sites). But my vision was, and still is, that NZ will produce world class bubbles, Hawkes Bay is maybe a little too warm, but Waipara was really exciting, because of the climatic data and the limestone! We purchased 17 hectares from Michael and Buffy at Mountford in 1995, imported clones of Chardonnay, Meunier and Pinot Noir from France, and close planted a very small block for methode.’

His vines are planted on the heavier clay soils with a limestone base, and because of these clay soils he’s able to grow without irrigation. ‘As it turns out the Waikari and Waipara limestone is the same age and structure as the Cote de Blancs, but I just had a feeling it was special. We produced the first wine from our block in 2001. I keep in contact with a number of Champagne producers, they really enjoy the purity of fruit we have from our site.’


Alan McCorkindale Riesling Germania 2010 Waipara, New Zealand
This is unusual because it is a blend of New Zealand and German wine. Subtle and textured with off-dry melon and citrus fruit. Lovely texture and balance. 92/100 (02/14)

Alan McCorkindale Gewurztraminer 2010 Waipara, New Zealand
Lively, dry and textured with full sweet grape and lychee fruit. A really nice wine that's fresh and rich at the same time. 92/100 (02/14)

Alan McCorkindale Blanc de Noirs 2002 Waipara, New Zealand (magnum)
This fizz has developed very nicely. Fresh, lively and very pure with a bit of herby complexity and some citrus fruit. Nice warmth on the finish showing nuts and pear notes. 90/100 (02/14)

Alan McCorkindale Pinot Noir 2007 Waipara, New Zealand
Very nicely focused with sweet cherry, herb and berry fruit. Lovely purity. The palate has lovely focus and purity with a mineral undertone. Beautifully focused with amazing acidity. 94/100 (02/10)

Alan McCorkindale Pinot Noir 2008 Waipara, New Zealand
Very fine and elegant with mineral cherry fruit. Pure and round. The palate is beautifully fresh with good acidity and savoury cherry and herb fruit. 93/100 (02/10)

Alan McCorkindale Pinot Noir ‘Chalky’ 2009 Waipara, New Zealand (cask sample)
This is from the highest point of the vineyard where the limestone rocks stick out. Really elegant with sweet fruit and nice herbal notes in the background. Supple and leafy with sweet, linear, pure fruit. 94-96/100 (02/10)

A historical perspective
Physical features
Alan McCorkindale
Black Estate
Bellbird Spring
Pegasus Bay
Bell Hill
Pyramid Valley
Bishops Head
Casa Leopardi
Mount Brown
Muddy Water
Tongue in Groove
Terrace Edge
Waipara Springs
Waipara West
Waipara Hills

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