Interesting Marlborough: Fromm, single-vineyard pioneers

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Fromm is an important winery for Marlborough, because they were one of the first to champion single vineyards in the region. They are also unusual in that in a white wine-dominated area, their focus is on reds. But they have had to cave into export demand by making a Sauvignon that’s fairly typically Marlborough in style. As well as this, they make Pinot Gris (there’s a big market for this, but theirs is made in a very Fromm style) and Riesling. The reds are led by Pinot Noir, plus a very distinctive cool climate expression of Syrah. There’s also a little bit of Malbec. Everything is from organic vines, certified by Biogro. And all the grapes are hand picked.

Founder winemaker Hätsch Kalberer

Founder winemaker Hätsch Kalberer

I visited to taste with founder winemaker Hätsch Kalberer and sales and marketing manager Adam Balasoglou. The range has two distinct tiers. The ‘La Strada’ wines were named after the 1954 film by Fellini, which George Fromm loved. These are wines that have more varietal character, and are usually a blend of different vineyards or younger vineyards. And then there are the site-specific wines with the name of the vineyard.

The home vineyard, Fromm

The home vineyard, Fromm

There are a number of vineyard sources. Riesling, Pinot Gris, Malbec and Gewurztraminer come from the home block (5.5 hectares), as well as the Fromm Vineyard Pinot and Syrah, and most of the La Strada.

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For a long time Fromm sourced from Clayvin (they were part-owners), but now this vineyard has been sold to Giesen they still get some Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay if there is availability. For the last three years they have had a block in the Churton vineyard, which they share with Takaki Okada of Folium. They have 3.3 hectares of Pinot Noir in the Quarters Vineyard in Brancott, all Pinot Noir specifically planted for them, and they also have some fruit from Yarrum, which is part of Dog Point’s vineyard in the southern valleys.

This year they will have 8-10 tons from a new block past Clayvin, called The Wrekin: the Pinot from here looks very beautiful, says Hatsch. They are also looking to get a bit more Chardonnay here, and some Chenin Blanc which was planted for Simon Waghorn of Astrolabe. The hope is that Wrekin will have enough personality to make a single vineyard wine.

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I asked Hatsch: do you think that single vineyard wine is the way forwards for fine wines from Marlborough? ‘Cautiously, yes,’ he replied. ‘It really has to have the purpose. Making single vineyards for the sake of it isn’t the way forward.’ He added that since 1996, when they made the first wine from Clayvin, the wines have always been so different, so this is an example of where it makes sense to produce a single-site wine. But he wasn’t tempted to drill down further and work with single blocks, although some had a distinct personality. ‘Even when we had Clayvin I didn’t see the point of making a block C or block D – the plants were too young to have this transparency.’

‘The wine has to tell you whether you should [make a single vineyard wine] or not,’ he concludes. ‘That’s why we haven’t done a single vineyard Yarram – it’s lovely fruit and useful for what we need it for, but it has this generic, nice Marlborough Pinot character.’

The new distemper

The new distemper

2016 was a good but not great year for reds in the region. The berries were quite large, and so some of the wines have a little less concentration than normal. Having said this, I was impressed by this line-up, which focused mainly on 2016. Quality has been helped in 2016 with a new generation distemper, the Scharfenberger Euroselect, which uses fingers, operating like human hands, to destem very gently.

Fromm La Strada Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Didn’t make any 2017. ‘We treat this a bit like a dry Riesling,’ says Hatsch. All stainless steel, inoculated with a neutral yeast. Sometimes they deacidify so they don’t need to add any sweetness. Linear, focused, mineral and bright with clean, crisp, yet textured citrus fruit. Focused and satisfying. 90/100

Fromm La Strada Pinot Gris 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
From the home block. Two-thirds in large old barrels and a third in tank. Full colour. Apple and lemon notes with some pear and honey. Dry with some honeyed richness and a bit of tangerine, with a lively finish. There’s some stoniness on the finish, too. Quite savoury and distinctive. 91/100

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Fromm La Strada Chardonnay 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Fine, expressive, nutty and mealy with lovely transparency to the lemony fruit. Old Mendoza clone from the Sutherlands up Dog Point Road, all on own roots. Fine and expressive with lovely open fruit texture. Has a fine lemony note here, and delicacy. Almost Chablis like, with real elegance. 94/100

Fromm La Strada Rosé 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
Mix of saignee and direct press. Fine, textural and dry with nice sweet cherry and pear fruit, and some attractive citrus fruit. Has a stony edge that’s really appealing. Nicely fruity but with a savoury edge. 89/100

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Pinot Naturel by Fromm 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
Inspired by drinking Lapierre’s Morgon. No additions except for a bit of sulfur at bottling (some was bottled with none at all). Had about 12 barrels. The Churton fruit worked extremely well as it has a lower PH, and from the Quarters and Fromm mainly used clone 10/5 and 210, which are higher acid. There is a bit of clone 5 here, but tends to have a pH of 3.85. Use a lot more carbonic maceration, and for the first time some dry ice. Bottled two thirds of what they made, with a pH of 3.7. This is supple and fresh with attractive black cherry fruit and some plum, too. There’s good acidity with nice grip under the fresh, vivid fruit. Very juicy and sappy with lovely fruit focus, a hint of bitter plum, and lovely drinkable cherry fruit. Lovely purity and focus here. 93/100

Fromm La Strada Pinot Noir 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
In 2015 made 6 wines from the vintage (La Strada, Cuvee H and four single vineyards). 2016 will do the six plus naturel. 2015 was a really good year, and nice for starting this range. 2016 was one of the most challenging because of high bunch weights: in Churton they are normally 80 g but they were 160 this year. The inside of the bunches has lots of less mature, transparent berries. Supple and expressive with sweet cherry and plum fruit. There’s a silky texture and pretty raspberry and cherry fruit. Has a fine spiciness with good structure and a twist of meat and pepper. Very attractive wine. 94/100

Fromm Churton Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
‘Texturally this is like a village Burgundy to me,’ says Hatsch. ‘It is so easy to sell a new world fruity wine but these finer wines are harder to sell.’ Perfumed and floral but with some brooding dark fruit and herbal characters on the nose. Spicy and detailed on the midweight palate with some savoury spiciness and fresh red and black cherry fruit. Has freshness and elegance with some brooding spicy, peppery, herbal savouriness. Nice bite on the finish. Lots of non-fruit complexity here. Very elegant. 94/100

Fromm Quarters Pinot Noir 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Fresh and direct with a juicy raspberry fruit quality. Vivid and detailed with good acidity and structure and a lovely bright, pure fruit core. There’s quite a bit of stuffing here with a direct, vital character and lots of fruit, but it’s very juicy and linear. Has lovely personality and freshness, and also seriousness. 95/100

Fromm Fromm Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Very distinctive. Bright with a touch of herbal character and some fresh red apple, as well as silky cherry fruit. Has some herbs and spiciness. Open and supple with a bit of green sappiness. Very interesting and complex with just a hint of undergrowth and some green sappiness, alongside bright cherry fruit. Finishes fresh and a bit earthy. 92/100

Fromm Clayvin Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Clayvin always has the smallest bunches. Complex and taut with nice density to the fruit. Really intense with good structure and acidity. Supple cherry and raspberry fruit with nice grip and a backward, slightly burly personality, but still has focus and harmony. Lovely fruit freshness here with lovely detail and precision. 95/100

Fromm Cuvée H Pinot Noir 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Represents the best blend that Fromm can come up with: their signature Pinot. This is essentially a blend of the single vineyards plus other bits. This is really refined with well integrated oak supporting silky, fine, pretty red berry and cherry fruit. Has directness and freshness with lovely purity and fine-grained tannins. This is rich but also very supple with good acidity and nice structure, and a lovely harmony. Such a lovely wine. 95/100

Fromm La Strada Syrah 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
2% Viognier co-fermented in here. Brooding with some olive, spice, meat and sweet black fruits on the nose. Very fresh and elegant on the palate with nice density and some chalky structure. Nicely peppery with some herby hints. Very focused and fresh, and quite delicious. Essence of cool-climate Syrah. 93/100

Fromm Fromm Vineyard Syrah 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
2-3% Viognier co-fermented. Old oak. Lovely peppery nose with a fine green leafy twist and some brooding black fruits. Complex, very fresh, and quite supple on the palate with nice elegance and good structure. There’s an olive and meat twist, some peppery character and nice structure. Shows lovely black cherry and blackberry fruit with a delicious savoury, peppery twist. 94/100

Fromm Fromm Vineyard Malbec 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand (cask sample)
Beautifully fresh and expressive with bright, sappy-edged blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, with nice acidity and focus. Lovely elegance with a grippy, gravelly edge on the palate. Quite structured and dense but really fine with such prettiness and purity, but also a savoury edge. Quite beautiful. This wine still hasn’t seen any sulfur, but it will get a bit at bottling. Lovely focus here. 94-96/100

Fromm Riesling Spatlese 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Lovely detail here with nice bright lemony fruit and some sweetness. There’s a hint of melony richness, too. Lovely zippy acidity on the finish, balances out things. So drinkable, with lovely delicacy but also palate weight. 90/100

Fromm Riesling Spatlese 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
7.5% alcohol. Very delicate and fresh with lovely harmony and focus. Sweet lemony fruit with some grapefruit and a twist of table grape. Sweet but with really high acidity. Linear and off-dry, with amazing drinkability. 93/100

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Interesting Marlborough: Mahi, with Brian Bicknell

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Brian Bicknell has made wine in the Marlborough region since 1989, so he knows the region pretty well. But he’s also had spells abroad, providing much needed context. Most significantly, he was chief winemaker at Viña Errazuriz in Chile until 1996, when he returned to the region to take the job as senior winemaker at the newly created Seresin.

In 2001, after five years at Seresin, Bicknell decided he wanted to do his own thing. So he resigned in order to start Mahi. But owner Michael Seresin persuaded him to stay, and so for the next five years Bicknell built up Mahi while he still had the day job, making his Mahi wines in the Seresin cellar. Eventually, in 2006 he left and bought a winery.

What is currently the Mahi Winery in Renwick was originally Cellier Le Brun, run by Daniel Le Brun. Le Brun was one of the very first wineries in the region, and originally opened its doors in 1984, when there were just a couple of other wineries based in Marlborough. Along with the winery, Bicknell bought the Daniel Le Brun label and with it 600 000 bottles of sparkling wine. He ended up selling the label and the sparkling wine stocks to Lion Nathan, but kept the winery.

For the first four years all the wines were single vineyard, and this has been an emphasis of Bicknell’s work ever since, aiming to demonstrate that Marlborough isn’t just a single, homogeneous region. ‘You get massive differences in flavour from different sites,’ he says. He mainly focuses on the western end of the Wairau valley, which is cooler and lower cropping.

His winemaking style? ‘I want to get juice away from skins, so I hand pick or machine pick to bin, and don’t use pressings.’ He says that press wines get potassium from the skins which makes them taste a bit soapy on the palate. ‘There’s no protein fining, just bentonite. The low skin contact results in low phenolics.’ Bicknell’s preferred wine style is to be ‘subtle at the front with a nice long elegant palate.’

Bicknell works with six vineyards, and three of these are hand picked and put over a sorting table. The rest is machine picked to bin, which means that the bin can be tipped straight into the press so the fruit only gets moved twice. Around 10% of the ferments are done wild in barrel.

Every year he gets 300-400 European winemakers applying to do vintage at Mahi, and he has room for seven. He’s now done 32 vintages, so if you multiply that by seven or so each year, he’s worked with a lot of people. Each year, Bicknell tends to go and do vintage with  Jean Max Roger in Sancerre, which is a really good producer.

Mahi pays a bit more than average for fruit: typical prices for Sauvignon would be NZ$1780 a ton, and for category 1 wineries (smaller ones) its $1860. Mahi pay $2100 but the yields are a bit lower than the average (for Sauvignon in 2016 average yields were 16.5 tons/hectare). So, as you can see, if management costs are around $9000-1000/hectare, growers are doing quite well at the moment in this region.

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Mahi Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Complex and taut with nice purity. Has some citrus and grapefruit, but also a hint of spicy, nutty character under the fruit. Quite textural and rounded, with some prettiness. It has some of the Marlborough exotic quality, but it’s really nicely balanced and textured, with great precision. 92/100

Mahi Boundary Farm Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
High clay, east of Blenheim town. No additions (no SO2 in the juice even), hand picked straight to barrel (barriques), wild yeast ferment. This is rich and textural with nice intensity. There’s a delicate green quality that adds a spicy cabbage and herb note that sits nicely with the sweet pear and peach fruit. Finishes nutty and a bit stony. Lovely texture to this wine. 92/100

Mahi Boundary Farm Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Marlborough, New Zealand
This has lovely texture and delicacy. Fine green hints with lovely fine-grained citrus fruit and a delicate spiciness. Lovely harmony here with beautiful fruit expression and a really nice mouthfeel. Lovely wine that should age really nicely. 93/100

Mahi Alias Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
From the Byrne vineyard in Conders Bend just behind Framingham. Made the same way as the Boundary Farm. Very fine and fresh. It’s a cooler vineyard and it tastes brighter with more acidity. Nice delicate citrus fruit with a touch of dried herb. Some tangerine, too. Lovely focus on the finish with a fine spiciness. 92/100

Mahi Pinot Gris 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
From Ward in the Awatere. Machine to bin, off the skins, no sugar, no press wine, a bit of French oak. Pure, fresh and enticing on the nose with attractive table grape and lychee hints. Linear, fruity and pure with bright fruit and good lemony acidity. Dry and quite taut, but with some personality. Finishes brisk and salty. 90/100

Mahi Ward Farm Pinot Gris 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
From Ward in the Awatere. All hand picked, pressed to barrel, wild ferment, in barrel for 15 months, unfined and unfiltered. Nutty and creamy on the nose with a hint of vanilla. The palate is dry and quite complex with nuts, honey and spice alongside the citrus, pear and table grape fruitiness. Finishes a bit savoury with some garlic salt. 91/100

Mahi Gewurztraminer Twin Valleys Vineyard 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Top terrace at the base of the Waihopai. Hand picked from three different clones. Don’t want to make an oily style so don’t pick it too late. Get it away from the skins and no press wine, no sugar. This is a grown-up wine with brisk citrus notes, a bit of lychee, and some grape. It’s dry on the finish with some fine spiciness. Nicely weighted with a crisp finish. 90/100

Mahi Gewurztraminer Twin Valleys Vineyard 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand
Top terrace at the base of the Waihopai. Distinctive with a salty, savoury twist to the herby lychee and yellow plum fruit. It’s quite textural and has a hint of cabbage alongside the fruit. Savoury, dry and a bit nutty on the finish. 88/100

Chardonnay is a big focus here. ‘We are 2.2 C cooler than Burgundy but we have a longer ripening period,’ says Brian. ‘The low temperature retains fruit character, but we still manage to ripen the grapes. I think it’s good. We are looking for another Chardonnay grower at the moment. It has a good future.’

Mahi Chardonnay 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
From three vineyards. Hand picked, no additions, whole cluster pressed to barrel with high solids. 15 months in barrel. Nice weight: there’s a spicy underpinning to the pear, apple and citrus fruit. Has a bit of nuttiness and a slight creaminess, with spicy bite on the finish. Nice depth and texture here. 92/100

Mahi Chardonnay Twin Valleys Vineyard 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Hand picked, no additions, whole cluster pressed to barrel with high solids. All clone 95, picked at three different times. 18 months in barrel. There’s a lovely freshness to this wine. Bright with a mineral edge to the citrus and white peach fruit. Well integrated nuts and spice here. Lovely weight. 93/100

Mahi Chardonnay Twin Valleys 2013 Marlborough, New Zealand
Spicy and lively with lovely pear, ripe apple and citrus fruit. Nice precision here with some lemony brightness and an attractive mineral core. Has good freshness and acidity. This is a well balanced, focused Chardonnay. 92/100

Mahi Chardonnay Alchemy 2013 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is really pure and expressive with fine citrus fruit and twist of white peach. Lovely richness, but it still shows finesse and purity. Lovely precision. Finishes with fine nuttiness and some bread and toast notes, but they never dominate the pure fruit. 94/100

Mahi Pinot Noir

Mahi Pinot Noir 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Blend of four different vineyards. 8 ton/ha at the most. Hand pick, sort, 30% stems. Small vats, hand plunged, wild ferments, 3 weeks on skins, go to barrel. This is ripe, sweet and quite textural with a nice spiciness under the red cherry and plum fruit. Has a bit of grip, and there’s a twist of damson bitterness and sour cherry that’s very pleasant. Nice mix of the sweet and savoury. Fresh style. 92/100

‘For Pinot we have been picking earlier and using a bit more whole bunch,’ says Brian. ‘We take all the wing bunches off. I want nice acidity.’

Mahi Pinot Noir 2010 Marlborough, New Zealand
15% stems. Shows a hint of cocoa and undergrowth development on the nose. Supple and fresh with some raspberry and cherry fruit, and some lovely elegance. Nice fine spiciness and a bit of peppery bite on the finish. Lovely combination of the sweet and savoury. 93/100

‘It has been interesting watching the evolution of New Zealand Pinot Noir styles,’ he adds. ‘In Central Otago they are extracting less. In the past, if it was dark it was Central and if it was lighter it was Marlborough.’

Mahi Pinot Noir Byrne 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
Cool vineyard. Three clones: 115, 5 (Pommard), 10/5 (Wadenswil). Compact, taut and intense with some firm spicy structure. Fruity and expressive with a lively spiciness. Nice sweet red cherry and plum fruit with a fine grained structure. There’s a hint of autumn leaf litter under the fruit. Proper Pinot. 94/100

Mahi Pinot Noir Byrne 2013 Marlborough, New Zealand
Sweet floral red cherry fruit nose. Pretty and expressive. The palate has nice tension with bright acidity. Really expressive and bright with good acidity and a very linear character. Stylish wine. 94/100

UK agent: Berkmann

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Burgundy 2016: a great tasting at Faiveley

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The new red wine cellar at Faiveley

Domaine Faiveley, located in Nuits-Saint-George, are one of the big players in Burgundy. We visited with Erwan Faively, who took charge of the domaine in 2005. When he took over there were two changes that he wanted to make. First, the top wines of Faiveley had a reputation for being quite hard and needing decades to become drinkable; he has tried to make wines that are a little more approachable in youth while still being ageable. Second, the domaine was 90% red and he wants to have more top whites. In order to get top whites, says Erwan, you need something to trade – it’s not easy to just go in and buy grapes from the best sites.

Erwan Faiveley

Erwan Faiveley

2016 was marked by the most severe frosts in recent memory in Burgundy, but these struck some areas and spared others. There was a knock-on effect for 2017. Erwin says that of recent vintages, everything was good in 2015 and everything that survived the frost in 2016 (which for Faiveley was one-third of normal volume) was good. For 2017, the whites are really good, but the reds are heterogeneous: you can’t buy blind, but will have to taste. ‘After the frosts in 2016, the vineyards compensated big time,’ he says. ‘In some places the vines with very little crop in 2016 will have experienced crazy rebound in 2017. I had an idea that this might happen and so was quite intense on pruning, but in some places there were walls of grapes. So for the vines that were frosted in 2016, I doubt they will be interesting in 2017.’

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As well as the domaine, there is also the negociant house Joseph Faiveley, but the domaine side of things at Faiveley is much bigger now, with 130 hectares of domaine vineyards. For Burgundy, this is huge. Holdings were boosted by a 20 hectare acquisition in Gevrey-Chambertin in 2012.

The exterior of the new red wine cellar

The exterior of the new red wine cellar

We visited the new cellar, which is quite stunning, and will be used for the fermentation of the top red wines. It’s like a cathedral of wine, and will be open for the 2018 vintage.

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We tasted extensively through barrels. These scores are a range, reflecting the degree of uncertainty of barrel samples – but they were directly from barrel, which I think is often better than sending a sample in bottle to London to be tasted a week or two later, as happens in the January primeur tastings.

Inside one of the new fermenters

Inside one of the new fermenters

 

Joseph Faiveley Meurault Charmes 1er Cru 2016 Burgundy, France
This is from a vineyard where Faiveley do all the work and then buy the grapes. Tasted from a 1 year old Francois Freres barrel. Toasty and mealy with lovely depth, good acidity and nice finesse. Shows some generosity. 92-94/100

Domaine Faiveley Puligny-Montrachet Les Referts 1er Cru 2016 Burgundy, France
This is from a plot that’s part of a large domaine bought by an investor, who then gave plots to winemakers he likes. From a new Cadus barrel. Linear and fine with nice citrus fruit and a hint of toast. Very expressive with lovely purity and some spice and nuts. 92-94/100

Domaine Faiveley Bienvenue-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2016 Burgundy, France
From a one-year old Cadus barrel. So fine, mineral and expressive with lovely intensity. Lemony and taut with subtle wax and spice notes. Fine, linear and expressive. 95-97/100

Domaine Faiveley Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2016 Burgundy, France
One year old Francois Freres barrel. While Bienvenue is a little more lean and mineral, Batard has thicker soils. This is very fine and saline with some precision and minerality as well as subtle toast and nuts. Very refined with real intensity. 94-96/100

Domaine Faiveley Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2016 Burgundy, France
One-year old Francois Freres barrel. Taut with some meal and cedar and spice notes. Lemony, fine and nicely expressive with lovely citrus fruit core. Powerful but linear with lots of potential. 93-95/100

Domaine Faiveley Pommard Rugiens 1er Cru 2016 Burgundy, France
Two-year old Francois Freres barrel. This is from an 0.5 ha plot in the bottom of the top part of the vineyard. Very powerful and vivid with nice purity and intense raspberry and cherry fruit. Good structure. There’s a hint of beetroot, and it’s powerful and vivid with tannins but also silk and perfume and joy. 93-95/100

Domaine Faiveley Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les Porets St Georges 2016 Burgundy, France
From a two-year old Taransaud barrel. Floral and fresh with pretty, juicy cherry and raspberry fruit. Good concentration and nice structure. Fine, direct and expressive. 95-95/100

Domaine Faiveley Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St Jacques Burgundy, France
South-facing with a sunny exposure. 2 year old Francois Freres barrel. Very aromatic, pure and fresh with floral interest. The palate has lovely generosity, some meaty hints and bright raspberry and cherry fruit, with amazing tannins. Such a beautiful wine. 95-97/100

Domaine Faiveley Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Cazetiers 2016 Burgundy, France
This faces more east than Lavaux and tends to be a more precise wine. Faively have nearly 4 hectares of this vineyard. Two-year old Francois Freres barrels. Very linear, taut and fresh with juicy raspberry and red cherry fruit, as well as some spice. Nice firm structure. Cherry and raspberry dominate with a linear personality and lots of energy. 94-96/100

Domaine Faiveley Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 2016 Burgundy, France
Faiveley have three plots here, and this comes from two of them. One-year old Taransaud barrel. Very aromatic cherry and raspberry fruit. Generous but with some grippy tannins. Pretty wine, with taut raspberry fruit and some herbs. 92-94/100

Domaine Faiveley Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 2016 Burgundy, France
This large Grand Cru in Gevrey is varied, just like Clos de Vougeot. Their plots here are the best, just below Chambertin. One-year old Francois Freres barrel. Very pure with floral aromatics and pretty cherry fruit. The palate has great acid and structure with lovely purity and density. Has brightness and vitality, and prettiness. 94-96/100

Domaine Faiveley Latricières-Chambertin Grand Cru 2016 Burgundy, France
This was purchased by Faiveley in the 1930s. It’s the first Grand Cru in Gevrey right after Clos de la Roche. One-year old Francois Freres. Bright, fine and quite mineral and expressive with some pretty red cherry and raspberry fruit. Has a brightness of body but also nice sweet fruit and a mineral dimension. Some saline character, too. 95-97/100

Domaine Faiveley Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru 2016 Burgundy, France
The last Grand Cru in the north of Gevrey. The soil is different: stony rocks and chalk from the mountain, resembling an avalanche. New Francois Freres barrel. Chocolatey new oak twist on the nose. Very fresh with nice perfumed, focused cherry and raspberry fruit. Good structure with some fine spicy notes. Linear with good acidity. 93-95/100

Domaine Faiveley Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru 2016 Burgundy, France
Very close to Latricières and Charme, this is supposed to be the greatest Grand Cru of Gevrey. One-year old Francois Freres barrel. Floral, enticing raspberry fruits nose. So fine and expressive with pure, direct fruit. Vital and fresh yet pretty too. Good structure. 95-97/100

Domaine Faiveley Corton Grand Cru Clos des Cortons Faiveley 2016 Burgundy, France
This vineyard was purchased in 1872, and Faiveley are the only living family whose name is part of a Grand Cru appellation. ‘This is the most consistent vineyard we have,’ says Erwan. Its 2.7 hecatres always deliver good yields, too. One-year old Taransaud barrel. Refined, floral raspberry fruit nose. Very fine, pure, fruity and expressive with good acidity and great acidity. Perfumed and pretty but also with seriousness. 95-97/100

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Arcangeli, an exciting new addition to the South African wine scene

ARCANGELI GROUP PACKSHOT LR

Arcangeli is an exciting new addition to the South African wine scene. The home of this project is a farm on Bot River that used to be called Freiteras Vineyards. It was bought a while back by Sandro Arcangeli, who tasked Krige Visser (Mount Abora, La Vierge et al) with making the wines. The property is just 4 hectares, and these grapes have been supplemented with fruit purchased by Krige from elsewhere. These are the debut releases, all wild ferment and old oak. The names of these wines were, at the time of tasting, provisional.

Arcangeli Semillon 2016 Western Cape, South Africa
This is from Bot River and Hemel-en-Aarde. Complex, lively and a bit tangy with orange peel and spice notes, as well as ripe lemons, herbs and apples. Tangy with some sweetness to it and a bit of grip. 90/100

Arcangeli ‘Freiteras’ Verdelho 2016 Bot River, South Africa
From the home property. This has pear, white peach and a hint of nuttiness. Lively with good acidity and nice citrus notes, showing lovely purity and a nice chalky edge to the fruit. 92/100

Arcangeli ‘Romulus’ Nebbiolo 2016 Western Cape, South Africa
The grapes for this come from the Breede River Valley. Juicy, bright and fresh with nice raspberry and red cherry fruit, as well as some tannic grip. Supple with a hint of leather and nice focus. Stony grip here under the red fruits with a vivid, focused flavour profile. Quite challenging now, but full of promise. 91/10

Arcangeli Merlot Petit Verdot Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 Bot River, South Africa
This is a blend of Merlot (55%), Petit Verdot (35%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%). Fresh, vivid and grippy with nice focused black fruits and some grippy structure. Vivid fruit here: juicy raspberries and blackcurrant. Crunchy and complex. 91/100

Arcangeli Syrah Mourvedre 2016 Bot River, South Africa
71% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre. Supple, fresh and fine with lovely raspberry fruit with a bit of spicy grip. Fresh and supple with juicy fruits and nice grip. It’s ripe but restrained with nice freshness and a bright berry fruits character. Lively, with good focus. Supple sweet fruit is nicely countered by the savoury spiciness. 92/100

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Novum, an exciting new producer from Marlborough

Will Hoare, Novum

Will Hoare, Novum

Scratch below the surface and there’s lots of interesting stuff going on in Marlborough. Here’s an example. Will and Rachel Hoare have just launched their new label, Novum, which focuses on Syrah, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay made from interesting sites in Marlborough. Will was previously general manager at Fromm, but he was travelling a lot and had three young children, so when Fromm had some ownership changes, he decided it was an opportunity to do something cool, making just a few thousand cases of high-end wine and selling it direct. ‘It was kind of like a midlife crisis,’ he says, ‘but the key is that I was getting back to what I wanted to do. As a winery you can get to the size that you have to spend all your time on a plane selling the wine.’

The Settlement Vineyard, Omaka Valley

The Settlement Vineyard, Omaka Valley

Will grew up in Marlborough. His parents had been living in Wellington where his dad, John Hoare, had a property company, but a house break-in prompted them to move to the rural quiet of Marlborough in 1978. The wine industry was just starting in the region, and with the capital they had they bought quite a bit of land on Jackson’s Road, at $700 per acre. At the time there were no vineyards on the Rapaura side of the Wairau Valley. Phil Rose of Wairau River was the first to plant vineyards here, but when he announced his plans to plant in 1978, he was met with 56 objections. In the end he won, and shortly after the Hoares planted their 40 hectares of vines, which these days provide grapes for Cloudy Bay. Interestingly, on this block there are six very old rows which were part of a rootstock trial for Montana (this was pre-Cloudy Bay), and which are among the oldest vines in the region.

Pinot Noir, with balanced canopies, organically farmed, hillside clays

Pinot Noir, with balanced canopies, organically farmed, hillside clays

‘The old man worked in the vineyard for two years and found it boring,’ says Will, so he started selling vineyards to wineries in the early 1980s. ‘He became the guy to go to to buy vineyards.’ As a result, Will learned a huge amount about soil and vineyards. When Will got kicked out of school for selling wine to students, he went to work for Cloudy Bay, and spent a year working on the bottling line. Eventually he was allowed into the cellar with James Healey. James was getting into Pinot Noir and did a vintage at Au Bon Climat with Jim Clenenden, and he recommended that Will should go over to California to do the same. So for five years Will went over to Au Bon Climat for vintage, spending a few months there at a time. When he came back to settle in Marlborough, because he was so interested in soil, Fromm was the place to go because it was the only winery at the time really focusing on single vineyards and respecting the soil. He came to Fromm for one vintage and ended up spending 19 years there.

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The first two Novum wines have now been released, a Pinot Noir and a Syrah. The Pinot comes from three hillside sites all in the Southern Valleys. The first is organically farmed Yarrum, part of the large vineyard holding of Dog Point, and this site gives flesh to the wine. The second is the Settlement Vineyard in the Omaka Valley. We visited this vineyard, which again is organic and also owned by Dog Point; this gives lighter, crunchier fruit. And Will also got a ton of fruit from Churton, which is on the border of the Omaka and Waihopai Valleys.

The Syrah comes from four rows of vines in Takaki Okada’s Folium Vineyard, in the Brancott Valley. These are mass selection, were originally planted for Fromm, and are now 21 years old and dry farmed. There is a Novum Chardonnay, too, but this hasn’t yet been released.

The wines are cork-sealed with NDtech corks, which are individually tested for TCA, and the bottles are wax dipped: they look stunning. Both wines are excellent and are currently being sold direct. Will sold out of Syrah in 3.5 hours, but there is still some Pinot left. New Zealand retail is NZ$40.

Novum Pinot Noir 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
13% alcohol. Pinot is 100% destemmed, wild ferment, aged in 30% new oak. Beautifully expressive and refined with sleek black cherry and blackberry fruit. It’s rich and seductive but also has freshness and detail. Great structure and harmony too. There’s some black fruit richness but also lovely red fruit crunch. Such a textural wine with real interest and detail, with opulence but also some seriousness. Beautiful stuff. 95/100

Novum Syrah 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
12.5% alcohol. Two barrels (one year old). Beautifully perfumed with fresh black and white pepper, lovely red and black cherry fruit, with a seductive smoothness framed beautifully by the spicy pepper notes. It’s a very elegant, almost Burgundian expression of Syrah with some sweet fruit but real delicacy and elegance. Nicely bright and crunchy on the finish: a really pretty cool climate expression of Syrah. 94/100

Available from www.novumwines.co.nz

Recently drunk: five impressive Kiwi Pinots

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While I’m here in New Zealand, as well as tasting wine I’m making an effort to drink some too. The challenge for writers and critics is to be relevant to readers. Most readers open a bottle of wine and drink it. They don’t line up 60-100 bottles in bags and then taste and spit small samples, which is the way most critics work. It’s clearly necessary to taste and spit, but this needs to be calibrated regularly by actual drinking of wine, because that’s reality. So here are five recently drunk Pinots that, in their own way, each impressed.

Black Estate Netherwood Pinot Noir 2014 North Canterbury, New Zealand
This wine was drunk around midnight on New Year’s Eve, so I think I’d have to revisit it to be sure of this note. But I loved it. It has beautiful leafy detail to the supple cherry and raspberry fruit, and it’s really elegant and focused with nice structure and fine spiciness. This is really delicate and appealing. 94/100

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Villa Maria Taylors Pass Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand
13.5% alcohol. From a vineyard on the north bank of the Awatere river, where the silty loam soils of varying depths over river gravels usually produce a ripe expression of Pinot Noir. With a few years under its belt, this has some mellow, quite complex savoury spicy notes over plum and cherry fruit on the nose. On the palate there’s a faint twist of mint and dried herbs as well as lush, warm black cherry and plum fruit. There’s fruit sweetness here and a bit of evolution, and it’s mellow and harmonious. Just beginning to shed its primary fruit a little, this is drinking very well now. 93/100

The Darling Pinot Noir 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
This organic Pinot Noir is from Southern Valleys and Antipode Estate Vineyard. 13% alcohol. Fresh and with some savoury complexity, combining notes of herbs, tar and earth, as well as cherries, plums and subtle leafy hints. This is a restrained, savoury style with lots of interest. 92/100

Folding Hill

Folding Hill Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
Lovely focus here: some sweet, lush cherry fruit with a smooth, silky core. And there’s fine spiciness and some thyme and sage notes in the background. Lovely purity and balance here: ripe but showing finesse. 93/100

grava pinot noir

Grava Pinot Noir 2015 Martinborough, New Zealand
This is a new producer to me. It’s made by Alistair Gardner from a vineyard on the gravels in Martinborough (Grava is Spanish for gravels, and he’s spent a decade making wine in Spain). Smooth and finely spiced with nice sleek cherry and raspberry fruit and some fine-grained tannins. Harmonious and balanced with a nice contrasting damson note on the finish. Finishes warm and spicy. 93/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

Burgundy 2016: the full line-up from Drouhin (47 wines)

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In late November I popped over to Burgundy for a few days to taste the 2016 vintage in situ. One of the best tastings was at Maison Joseph Drouhin, both because of the quality of the wines but also the depth of the tasting: it was great to taste so many appellations side by side. Veronique Drouhin introduced the wines, and this tasting confirmed that Drouin is one of the best of the negociant houses.

‘2016 was challenging and a bit depressing with the big frost,’ she shared. ‘It was disappointing in terms of quantity.’ The frosts that hit in late April (on the night of the 26/27th) were devastating, but erratic, with some regions spared while others were hit hard. These frosts were followed by difficulties with mildew. ‘Mildew was a problem too,’ says Veronique, ‘even though it’s normally oidium that is the problem.’ However, she reports that the end of the growing season was much easier than the beginning, and harvesting took place in ideal conditions.

‘Since 2010 we have had very small vintages, so the team and the winery is equipped for dealing with small vintages,’ she says. They have a small press, and small fermenters: this year, the Musigny and Amoureuses were fermented in barrels with the ends removed!

Some of these wines are bottled; those that are cask samples have this indicated. As always, don’t take scores too seriously, especially of cask samples where it’s not possible to be so precise.

Joseph Drouhin Mâcon-Bussères Les Clos 2016 Burgundy, France
This is from an interesting site at altitude. One-third is fermented in 500 litre barrels, the rest in stainless steel. It’s lemony, nutty and pure with nice weight. Very fresh. 88/100

Joseph Drouhin Saint-Véran 2016 Burgundy, France
17 partners supply grapes, and some are farming organically. Some in 500 litre barrels, the rest in steel. Tight, lemony and a bit pithy with pure fruit and nice focus. 89/100

Joseph Drouhin Pouilly-Vinzelles 2016 Burgundy, France
One-third fermented in 500 litre barrels. Juicy and lively. Expressive with taut citrus fruit and a hint of nuttiness. Nice concentration. 90/100

Joseph Drouhin Domaine Drouhin Vaudon Chablis Réserve de Vaudon 2016 Burgundy, France
Chablis was hugely affected by hail and frost in 2016. This is lively and lemony with a bit of herb and pith. Taut and focused with a hint of cabbage. 90/100

Joseph Drouhin Domaine Drouhin Vaudon Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2016 Burgundy, France
Stony, pure and pithy with linear, focused herb and lemon notes. Very fine. 92/100

Joseph Drouhin Domaine Drouhin Vaudon Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2016 Burgundy, France
This has almost electric lemony intensity. Very pure, focused and fine. So linear. 94/100

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Joseph Drouhin Domaine Drouhin Vaudon Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2016 Burgundy, France
Fermented in old 500 litre barrels. There’s a faint mineral smokiness on the nose. Refined, saline and pure on the palate with lovely depth. Fresh, lemony and pure. Harmonious. 95/100

Joseph Drouhin Domaine Drouhin Vaudon Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2016 Burgundy, France
Stony, lemony and concentrated with great precision. Has a taut citrus character and is really stony. Lovely stuff: intense yet refined. 95/100

Joseph Drouhin Rully Blanc 2016 Burgundy, France
Stony and bright with nice purity. Lemony and fine with good texture. Linear and delicious. 92/100

Joseph Drouhin Meursault 2016 Burgundy, France
Juicy and lemony and quite mineral with a hint of pear. Nice focused fruit here with subtle toasty richness. Very well integrated acidity. Refined. 93/100

Joseph Drouhin Chassagne Montrachet 2016 Burgundy, France
Refined with some toast and spice notes. Lemont and pure with some toastiness. Really refined. 93/100

Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Embazées 2016 Burgundy, France
This wasn’t hit by the frost. Refined and linear with lovely lemony fruit and some minerals. Very well integrated acidity. Mineral, linear and refined. 94/100

Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot ‘Marquis de Laguiche’ 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
This is a wine that Drouhin have been making since 1947. There’s s subtle creamy edge to the mineral/lemony nose. Very refined. The palate is stony and complex with real precision and purity. 95/100

Joseph Drouhin Meursault 1er Cru Perrières 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
Mineral with keen acidity and lovely purity. Stony and dense with good acidity and hints of wax and honey and stones. 94/100

Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet 2016 Burgundy, France
Very refined with nice taut citrus fruit and hints of peaches and nuts. The acidity is very well integrated. 93/100

Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Folatiières 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
Refined, fine and fresh with a nice spicy edge to the brisk citrus fruits. This has some depth and precision, and it’s stony and bright. 94/100

Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Garenne 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
Linear with some spice and nutty depth to the focused citrus fruits. Has lovely precision and focus. Linear and taut. 93/100

Joseph Drouhin Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Mouches Blanc 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
Drouhin have been making this since 1928. This has depth to it: it’s rich with pears, apples and lemons, and notes of toast and wax. Very powerful and spicy. 94/100

Joseph Drouhin Corton-Chalemagne Grand Cru Propriétés 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
Taut and refined with nice intensity. Concentrated and mineral with fine spices and good acidity. Shows complexity. 94/100

Joseph Drouhin Montrachet Grand Cru Marqui de Laguiche 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
The Puligny side of Montrachet was less affected than the Chassagne side, where yields were down to the point that six producers collaborated to produce a single shared cuvée, made at Domaine Leflaive. This is powerful, intense and mineral with notes of honey and toast. So fine and expressive with taut citrus fruit and some white peach richness. Shows concentration and focus with a long spicy finish. 96/100

Joseph Drouhin Domaine des Hospices de Belleville Morgon 2016 Burgundy, France
The Hospices own 14 hectares in Beaujolais and Drouhin started working with them in 2014. 70% whole cluster. This is juicy with focused red cherries and spice, as well as some vivid raspberry fruit. Fresh with good acidity. 89/100

Joseph Drouhin Domaine des Hospices de Belleville Brouilly 2016 Burgundy, France
100% whole cluster. Sappy with a decayed leaf edge to the floral cherry and berry fruit. Floral and fine with juicy cherries and plums. Vital and floral with spicy structure. 90/100

Joseph Drouhin Domaine des Hospices de Belleville Fleurie 2016 Burgundy, France
60% whole cluster. Fruity and expressive with bright raspberry and cherry fruit, with a bit of stony, savoury structure. Lovely. 90/100

Joseph Drouhin Rully Rouge 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
Very floral and fruity with nice crunchy raspberry fruit and high acidity, as well as a strong cedary edge. Nice freshness. 90/100

Joseph Drouhin Chorey-Les-Beaune 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
10% whole cluster. Very fruity and lively with vigorous cherry and raspberry fruit. Very fresh and well defined. 90/100

Joseph Drouhin Côte de Beaune 2016 Burgundy, France
Juicy and savoury with a stony note and bright, fresh sappy cherry fruit. Very nice definition here with a bit of savouriness. 91/100

Joseph Drouhin Côte de Nuits Villages 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
Linear and taut with stony cedary notes under the fresh raspberry and cherry fruit. 89/100

Joseph Drouhin Savigny-Les-Beaune 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
Nice structure here: grippy and stony with good fruit and some savoury notes. Has focus and presence. 91/100

Joseph Drouhin Savigny-Les-Beaune 1er Cru Fourneaux 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
This has lovely perfume and a fresh, slightly stern structure under the pure fruit. Some substance. 90/100

Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
10% whole cluster. Fresh but with a bit of spicy depth to the juicy raspberry fruit. There’s some silkiness here and also some flesh. Very pretty. 92/100

Joseph Drouhin Vosne-Romanée 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
Nice density and presence here with juicy raspberry and cherry fruit. Stony with lovely raspberry and red cherry character. Fine. 93/100

Joseph Drouhin Gevrey-Chambertin 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
Each year this has around 25-30% of declassified 1er Cru fruit in it. This has a lovely structure with taut, well defined red fruits. Lots of presence and depth here: expressive. 93/100

Joseph Drouhin Beaune 1er Cru Cras 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
10% whole cluster. Sappy, delicate nose. The palate is fleshy yet a bit green with nice weight. 92/100

Joseph Drouhin Beaune 1er Cru Grèves 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
10% whole cluster. Stony and structured with a backward personality and nice density to the chewy red fruits. 90/100

Joseph Drouhin Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Mouches Rouge 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
10% whole cluster. Beautiful focus with a hint of reduction to the bright raspberry fruit. Lovely concentration and structure with refined fruit and real beauty. Stunning wine. 96/100

Joseph Drouhin Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Procès 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
10% whole cluster. Intense and vivid with nice density. Stony and smoky with some slightly spicy oak character and some grip. Vivid. 92/100

Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
15% whole cluster. From seven parcels in the south and north of the appellation. Showing oak on the nose. Dense and vivid with nice acidity and a bit of flesh. Lovely weight. Pretty. 93/100

Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Amoureuses 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
60% whole cluster. Fermented in two barrels with their heads removed. Showing a bit of wood but also lovely textured raspberry fruit. Quite linear but has some flesh. 92/100

Joseph Drouhin Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos Prieur 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
This is a new wine that’s going to be under long-term contract. Vivid, taut and quite tannic with bold, dense raspberry and cherry fruit. Focused and tightwound. 92/100

Joseph Drouhin Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Cazetiers 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
Very perfumed and showing some toasty oak at the moment. Juicy, fresh and linear with finesse and some flesh as well as freshness. 94/100

Joseph Drouhin Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
Vosne wasn’t hit by frosts in 2016. Fleshy and juicy but also with some structure. Lovely definition here: really refined and expressive with lively raspberry and spice notes. 94/100

Joseph Drouhin Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Petits Monts 2016 Burgundy, France
Such vivid, fresh, pure raspberry fruit here. Lovely structure and acidity. So pure, refined and linear. 95/100

Joseph Drouhin Clos du Vougeot Grand Cru 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
10% whole cluster. Drouhin own two parcels in this large vineyard, and this is just one of them. The other, in the lower part of the vineyard, is only really good in warm dry vintages, and most years they sell the grapes. Intense and concentrated with structured red berry and cherry fruit. This has firm tannins and nicely integrated structure. 94/100

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Joseph Drouhin Grands Echezeaux Grand Cru 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
80% whole cluster. Just 350 litres made! This is beautiful. Concentrated, dense and yet with lovely flesh to the fine red cherries. Nice sweetness to the fruit with good acid and some meaty hints. 95/100

Joseph Drouhin Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
20% whole cluster. Fine, expressive spicy nose with a slight green hint to the bright berry fruits. Silky and fine on the palate. Refined, elegant and pure with lovely structure and finesse. 95/100

Joseph Drouhin Griotte-Chambertin Grand Cru 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
80% whole cluster. Supple, fine, taut and refined with well defined cherry and berry fruits. Some black cherry depth. Has a lovely autumnal richness on the finish. Ripe and refined with such purity. 96/100

Joseph Drouhin Musigny Grand Cru 2016 Burgundy, France (cask sample)
30% whole cluster. Concentrated but very refined with dense sweet black cherry and plum fruit. Lovely fine spiciness here. Intense and appealing with good acidity and precise structure. 96/100

These wines will be released from March-September 2018, with most coming out in May.

A vertical of the single-vineyard wines from Giesen, a forward-thinking Marlborough producer

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Matthews Lane Vineyard, Wairau Valley

The next stage in my exploration of interesting developments in Marlborough, New Zealand’s key wine region, was visiting Giesen.

Giesen are a sizeable producer in Marlborough, but over the last few years they have been making smaller quantities of high-end wines from privileged vineyard sites, in addition to their larger volume blends. Marcel Giesen, one of the three Giesen brothers involved in the winery, explained that this decision to try to do something more high-end was prompted by the GFC in 2008, when the region got caught out with a glut of wine that no one wanted. ‘There’s no future for Marlborough if it is just making cheap commodity wine,’ says Marcel. ‘In 2008 we had a big oversupply.’ So they began looking at their different vineyard sites, to see which ones had the potential for making serious wines if they were cropped a bit lower.

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I visited three of the sites they identified with Marcel and assistant winemaker Andrew Hawker, before tasting the wines with them and senior winemaker Nikolai St George.

We began in the Matthews Lane Vineyard, which is in the main part of the Wairau Valley. The soils here are river silt/gravels and free draining, with quite a bit of variation. The rows are planted North-South, but the river ran East-West. As a result, there is variation within the row, with some bits more gravelly and some bits more silty. The bony, gravelly bits ripen a couple of weeks earlier than the more silty bits, and this gives the fully ripe/only just ripe variation in Sauvignon Blanc that the region is famous for.

Matthews is around 50 acres and was first planted in the early 1990s. It used to be mainly Muller Thurgau, but the majority was replanted with mass selection Sauvignon. The portions of the vineyard that are used to make Giesen’s premium Sauvignons are cropped at around 6 tons/hectare, where the average for the region is 16 tons/hectare (and many would take 20 tons/hectare if they could get it, says Marcel). Cropping a vineyard low like this poses viticultural challenges. The vine has to be retrained for low yields. ‘Skilled labour to do this properly is a challenge,’ says Marcel.

The Ridge Block

The Ridge Block

Next we went to the Ridge Block Vineyard. It’s an 8.5 hectare vineyard in Fairhall that was planted in front of a housing development. It turns out the developer wanted a vineyard in the front to look pretty (this creates problems: people who buy swanky homes like the vineyard views but don’t like the sound of frost propellers or helicopters in the middle of the night). It was originally planted to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and Giesen got hold of it in 2008. It was their first organic vineyard. They ripped out the existing vines when the GFC hit and replanted it at high density in 2009, but kept the organic certification. The soils here are interesting: fine gravels with a layer of ferric iron further down, as well as rocks from the southern valleys and a bit of clay.

Ridge Block soils

Ridge Block soils

Clayvin

Looking down through the Clayvin Vineyard

The third stop was Clayvin, one of the regions most famous vineyards. This was the first close-planted, hillside vineyard in Marlborough and was established in 1991 by Mike Eaton, who’d spent time in Burgundy. He came back and found this land at the end of the Brancott Valley, and purchased it very cheaply off the Hille family. Mike planted the vineyard mostly with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on a shoestring budget, with ungrafted vines. However, phylloxera struck in 1994, which is also the year the first wines were made from the vineyard. This meant it had to be replanted, and the financial stress this caused meant that in the end Mike had to sell to George Fromm and Lay & Wheeler (UK wine merchant) in 1999. George sold his interest and moved back to Switzerland around 2010, and with the vineyard managed by absentee owners, it wasn’t in the best of shape. In 2011/12 Giesen made Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah from here. ‘We got interested in the vineyard and could see the potential,’ says Marcel. ‘It had always been talked about, but the wines were often tight and needed time to open out. There are some distinct characters on this site: you can pick quite early because the fruit doesn’t need high brix to shine, the pH in the must is low, and the tannins have a nice quality to them.’

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But with a change of ownership in 2014 things got a bit rocky. The irrigation system was a mess and the vines weren’t performing to their potential. So in 2014 Giesen signed a lease to manage the vineyard for 10 years, and brought in biodynamic expert Kurt Simcic to help get things back in balance. ‘Now it’s better managed there’s a much nice shape to the tannins,’ says Marcel. ‘They aren’t stress related.’ In 2015 Giesen had the opportunity to buy the vineyard, which they did. ‘When we took over the weeds were right in the fruiting zone, and there was no undervine weeding equipment.’ Now they have a Geier crawler, which is a narrow tractor with caterpillar tracks that weighs just 1.1. tons (versus 2.5 tons for their previous tractor), and which exerts a downward pressure of just 60 kg, avoiding compaction.

Geier crawler

Geier crawler

Undervine mechanical weeding attachment

Undervine mechanical weeding attachment

Clayvin soils

Clayvin soils

So, to the wines. Giesen’s Fuder range of white wines made in 1000 litre barrels from Germany (known as Fuders) began with their high-end Sauvignon, the August 1988. August was the grandfather of the three Giesen brothers, and was born in 1888. He was a restaurateur, sommelier and bon vivant, and got up to all kinds of scrapes it seems. Marcel had been with Donnhof in the Nahe, Germany, and he saw the new Fuders arrive there, and decided he needed some, So in 2011 the Fuder barrels arrived and some of the parcels of the August 1888 were made in them. Some of the wines looked too interesting to blend, so in that vintage, 2011, the single vineyard wines were born.

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These wines are hand picked and then whole bunch pressed, with a low yield of just 500 litres a ton. Two tons of grapes fill one fuder, and the yeast starters are made in the vineyard. ‘These wines are a completely different expression of Marlborough,’ says Marcel.  ‘The idea of texture lies behind it: we all know what the fruit of Marlborough smells like.’

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Giesen The Fuder Sauvignon Blanc Single Vineyard Selection Matthews Lane 2012 Marlborough, New Zealand
Powerful and weighty with lovely pear and white peach fruit, with a green hint (blackcurrant) and nice ripe fruit characters. Quite complex and broad with lovely density and a fine spiciness on the finish. It’s really textural and fine with a lovely mouthfeel, showing some greenness from the very cool growing season. 92/100

Giesen The Fuder Sauvignon Blanc Single Vineyard Selection Matthews Lane 2013 Marlborough, New Zealand
Linear and taut with nice citrus precision. Has some notes of tangerine and just a hint of cabbage, with nice intensity. Mineral and linear with lovely fruit drive, but also textural character. Nice reduction here playing a background role. 93/100

Giesen The Fuder Sauvignon Blanc Single Vineyard Selection Matthews Lane 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
Very fine and expressive with subtle green hints alongside linear pear and citrus fruit, and some elderflower aromatics. Lovely intensity and focus here with good acidity and weight. Has finesse and purity, but also lots of personality. Complex and fine with hints of pine needle. 93/100

Dillons Point was Giesen’s second organically certified block. It is the first vineyard they bought in Marlborough, back in 1993. It is dry farmed on silty soils. ‘It’s a bit more challenging in a wetter year,’ says Marcel, ‘but in a drier year have more reserves there.’ It’s located in the Riverlands area, closer to the coast. ‘This was perceived as potato country before,’ says Marcel, because of its fertile soils, ‘but now it’s sought after.’

Giesen The Fuder Single Vineyard Selection Dillons Point Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand
First vintage so new barrels. Complex and lively with bright citrussy acidity. Nice pear, spice and toast complexity. This has a compactness and focus to it even at year 6. Very intense and with some grapefruit bite, and a touch of sage. This is so lovely. 94/100

Giesen The Fuder Single Vineyard Selection Dillons Point Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Marlborough, New Zealand
Distinct green pepper and cabbage notes on the nose from the very cool vintage. Fresh and expressive on the palate with quince and green pepper, as well as some pear fruit richness. The green is present but integrates quite nicely on the palate. 90/100

Giesen The Fuder Single Vineyard Selection Dillons Point Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Marlborough, New Zealand
Tight and expressive. There’s a hint of mineral spiciness on the nose with some oyster shell character. The palate has tangerine, spice and herb notes. There’s a lemony freshness on the finish, with subtle herbal hints in the mix. Complex and delicious. 93/100

Giesen The Fuder Single Vineyard Selection Dillons Point Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is fleshy and delicious, but also has some nice taut restraint. Lovely fruit expression, coupled with nice texture. There are green herby notes meshing with subtle mango and pear, as well as some bright citrus. There’s some sweetness to the fruit too. Very appealing. 92/100

Giesen The August 1888 Traditionally Fermented Sauvignon Blanc 2009 Marlborough, New Zealand
First vintage. Complex nose of fig, toast and spice with some pear and ripe apple. The palate is fresh and complex with nice spiciness and detail. Very fresh and bright. There’s a bit of green but it’s very well integrated. Lovely pear and citrus fruit drive. 92/100

Giesen The August 1888 Traditionally Fermented Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Marlborough, New Zealand
Restrained and focused with fresh pear and citrus, as well as a hint of honeysuckle. Nice brightness and freshness with some grapefruit and dried herbs, alongside the pear and lemon notes. Still very fresh and linear with nice reduction. 92/100

Giesen The August 1888 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand
Predominantly barriques but with one or two fuders. Lovely depth here with a fine spiciness under the very fine citrus fruits, with just a twist of apple and pear richness. Lovely finesse with a twist of toffee and spice on the finish. 93/100

Giesen The August 1888 2012 Marlborough, New Zealand
Some greenness here, but also lovely well balanced pear and white peach fruit. Has some richness as well as the cabbage/green pepper characters. Stylish and linear, with nice textural quality. 91/100

Giesen The August 1888 2013 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is tight and fresh. Really linear with fresh, focused citrus fruit. There’s a compact quality to the fruit with great precision. Some stony, mineral notes, too, and good acidity. 91/100

Giesen The August 1888 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
Quite forward, but still fresh. Shows subtle green hints as well as some pear and white peach fruit. Crisp, linear and a bit spicy with nice depth. Fruity and fine with nice intensity. Some tangerine on the finish. 93/100

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Giesen The Fuder Chardonnay Single Vineyard Selection Clayvin 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand
Complex, intense and finely spiced with vivid citrus and pear fruit, a hint of pineapple and subtle fig hints. Really expressive and complex, combining some richer, sweet fruit characters with delicious spiciness and subtle toast. Intense and profound. 95/100

Giesen The Fuder Chardonnay Single Vineyard Selection Clayvin 2012 Marlborough, New Zealand
Fine toasty notes on the nose with a hint of toffee richness. Very fine on the palate with some bready, toffee sweetness alongside sweet pear and peach fruit. Textural and broad but also quite fine with some delicate citrus on the finish. 92/100

Giesen The Fuder Chardonnay Single Vineyard Selection Clayvin 2013 Marlborough, New Zealand
There’s a lively freshness here with bright citrussy notes as well as some pear and fine toast. Good acidity. Quite linear and taut with a shy, reductive personality. Finishes with slightly hard acidity. Needs a bit of time to integrate and open. 92/100

Giesen The Fuder Chardonnay Single Vineyard Selection Clayvin 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
Fresh and expressive with lively citrus fruit. Linear and quite pure with keen acidity. Quite tightwound and more Chablis-like in style. Very stylish and with lots of potential, but needs time to show its best. Such precision and purity. 94/100

Giesen The Fuder Chardonnay Single Vineyard Selection Clayvin 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Tight, slightly reductive nose with some minerals and a hint of mint. Lively, powerful palate with some pine needle, citrus and focused pear fruit. So pure, fresh, tight and expressive with very lemony fruit. Power and precision here, and needs a lot of time to show its best. 94/100

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Giesen Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Selection Clayvin 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand
Aromatic nose with sweet cherry and plum fruit, as well as subtle meaty hints. The palate has sweet, rounded fruit with some sour cherry savouriness and a bit of bitter damson, together with iodine and blood, finishing dry and tangy. Still has good structure and acidity. Nicely complex with a bit of maturity. 92/100

Giesen Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Selection Clayvin 2012 Marlborough, New Zealand
Light, expressive and quite savoury with cherry and raspberry fruit and a linear, focused personality. Has fine spices and a twist of herbiness. Good acidity. Nice savoury hints here. A lovely wine in a lighter style with supple, easy fruit and some attractive non-fruit complexity. 94/100

Giesen Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Selection Clayvin 2013 Marlborough, New Zealand
There’s a distinct mint/pot pourri edge to the nose with sweet raspberry and cherry fruit. The sweet fruit theme carries over to the palate: lovely raspberry/strawberry jam character with sweet fruit the main theme, and some nutty, bitter notes on the finish. Sweetly fruited and ripe, with 14.5% alcohol. 92/100

Giesen Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Selection Clayvin 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
No new wood this year. This is ripe and sweetly fruited with compact, balanced cherry and raspberry fruit. It has some floral notes, but also nice savoury iodine and blood characters. Juicy and fresh but still quite harmonious and fine. Lovely finesse to this wine. 94/100

Giesen Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Selection Clayvin 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Lots of second fill oak. This is beautiful. It’s dense and full, with good structure lying under the robust black cherry, raspberry and beetroot notes. There’s a lot of fruit, with real concentration, and the firm tannins are really nicely integrated. Dense, full and very expressive, with the potential for a lot of future development. A complex, complete wine. 95/100

Giesen Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Selection Ridge Block 2012 Marlborough, New Zealand
First crop. Highly aromatic and expressive with fine herb and bloody iron notes, as well as fresh black cherry and plum fruit. Juicy and expressive with lovely fruit personality and some savoury spicy notes. Good structure and depth here, finishing savoury. 93/100

Giesen Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Selection Ridge Block 2013 Marlborough, New Zealand
There’s a real mix of flavours here. There’s some soft, sweet berry fruit with a strawberry lushness, but also some lively spiciness and good structure. Combines sweet, warm fruit with some tangy, savoury, spicy notes. Has a leafy herbal edge, too. Very attractive and drinkable, but not quite fully integrated. 91/100

Giesen Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Selection Ridge Block 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
There’s some iron/blood/iodine savouriness here. Some sweet cherry and plum fruit but also some fine herbal characters. A bit of black tea, too, with a balance between the sweetness and savouriness. Drinking very well now. 92/100

Giesen Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Selection Ridge Block 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Spicy, herby aromatics on the nose. Definitely some tea-like characters. Lovely rounded, sweetly fruited palate with cherries and raspberries. There’s a nice savoury, non-fruit dimension here. Very expressive and multidimensional, with a bloody edge to the fruit. 94/100

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The wines of Folium, Marlborough, with Takaki Okada

folium vineyard

While I’ve been in Marlborough, one of my goals has been to dig a bit deeper under the skin of this, New Zealand’s largest wine region, to find the interesting stories. One of my first stops was a visit with Takaki Okada, who’s making some lovely wines that are a bit different.

Takaki Okada in his vineyard

Takaki Okada in his vineyard

Takaki Okada purchased his 8.5 hectare Folium vineyard block in the Brancott subregion in 2011. It had originally been planted in 1996 and when he bought it, it was managed by Fromm. Like pretty much every vineyard in Marlborough, it had been irrigated throughout its life, but Takaki decided that he’d like to dry grow his vines. Previously, he’d worked at Clos Henri for eight years, and they’d done a trial block unirrigated; while the yields dropped, the vines survived. Takaki reckoned that with the soils in Brancott, which have a bit of clay, he’d stand a chance without irrigation, so he turned the water off. He wasn’t sure that it would increase the quality (although he hoped it might): the real motivation was that as a small producer in Marlborough, he needed to stand out, and this was one way of being different. The vineyards experienced a lot of stress for the first few years, and yields were heavily impacted. The vines cropped at 35-40 hl/ha (about 6 tons/hectare, in a region where 16 tons/hectare might be expected for Sauvignon). Only in 2016, with its very dry spring, has Takaki needed to turn his irrigation on, and that was just once.

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Both the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are hand harvested, and everything is destemmed. Since 2014 he’s been experimenting with wild yeast fermentations for Sauvignon, but inoculating after the first 5-7 Brix have been fermented. The Pinot Noir is fermented in 3 ton open top fermenters with indigenous yeast, and it is pumped over for 2-3 minutes a day with no plunging, to get gentle extraction. There’s no cold soak but the grapes are picked in the early morning so fermentation takes a while to get going. The wine is pressed to French oak, 20-33% new. Until 2014 he used natural cork, but since then he’s used DIAM.

These are wines with character and personality.

Folium Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
An extremely dry spring meant that Takaki had to irrigate once, for eight hours, in November. This is taut and focused with lovely pure citrus fruit. Quite delicate and fine with subtle herbal hints. Linear, delicate and fine. 92/100

Folium Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Complex and almost exotic with lovely wax, herbs and crystalline citrus fruits. Lovely lemony detail here. Such finesse and interest. Has a bit of structure. 92/100

Folium Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
There’s some richness here. Lovely sweet mandarin and lemon with white peach richness. Opening out a bit, this is really pretty with ripeness and also good acidity. 93/100

Folium Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2013 Marlborough, New Zealand
Fine with some wax and nuts as well as subtle hints of toffee covering the sweet pear and citrus fruit. Rounded with some richness, this is very stylish and distinctive. 92/100

Folium Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2012 Marlborough, New Zealand
There is some richness here: nuts, a hint of green, some cabbage. Lovely density. Developing really nicely. The cool vintage has led to some greenness, but it integrates well. 90/100

First vintage!

First vintage!

Folium Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand
There’s some nut and toasty richness here with a hint of apple. It has some richness, with finesse and depth, and notes of citrus and spice. 92/100

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Folium Pinot Noir Reserve 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Textural and fine with sweet, refined cherry and berry fruits and a seductive, smooth mouthfeel. There’s concentration and substance here, as well as brightness and finesse. 95/100

Folium Pinot Noir Reserve 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
Fresh and aromatic with sweet cherry fruit on the nose. Lovely silky cherry fruit on the palate with nice acidity. There’s a hint of meatiness and some savoury cedary notes. Substantial with a hint of undergrowth in the background. 93/100

Folium Pinot Noir Reserve 2013 Marlborough, New Zealand
Real freshness and focus here with lovely sweet fruit. Supple, textured and fine with some floral characters. Nice finesse. Hints of spice and herbs under the cherry and plum fruit. 94/100

Folium Pinot Noir Reserve 2012 Marlborough, New Zealand
Lovely cherry and plum fruit with a hint of sweet and sour. Linear and focused with nice brightness. Supple and drinkable. 91/100

Folium Pinot Noir Reserve 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand
Warm, textural and fine with lovely rounded sweet cherry fruit. Smooth with a hint of pepper and ginger spiciness. Soft, smooth and harmonious with good structure. 94/100

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López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco 2004

vina tondonia blanco

There’s something about López de Heredia, the ultra-traditional Rioja bodega. These are not easy wines, and require time. They are made in quite an oxidative way, and there’s no emphasis on fruit. But they are complex and intriguing, and their difficulty is part of their appeal, because they just age so well. This white Rioja is a blend of 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia, and it’s aged for six years in barrel, being racked twice a year and then at the end it’s fined with egg whites. Unusually for a large Rioja Bodega, López de Heredia own their own vineyards (170 hectares in all). Tondonia is one of them, and is spectacularly situated on the banks of the Ebro.

López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco 2004 Rioja, Spain
Full yellow colour. Intense and vivid with piercing lemon and apple fruit with spice, vanilla and a touch of coconut. Powerful and complex with spice, lemony acidity. Structured and intense. This is just an adolescent, and it’s still a bit ungainly and awkward, but it has the potential to develop beautifully in the bottle. Unique and wonderful, but a little challenging in its youth: this will merit a higher rating in time, I’m sure. 93/100

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