It’s always exciting to see new vineyards being developed. In recent years one of the most exciting vineyard projects in Central Otago has been the development of a large vineyard in Northburn, on the hills overlooking Lake Dunstan, by Te Kano. This is a substantial undertaking, and so far 32 hectares have been planted over the last couple of years, with 9 hectares to be added. (In the past four years, after a lull, 200 hectares have been planted.)
I visited with GM and winemaker Dave Sutton. The soils here vary a bit. The first block we stopped in was Chardonnay, planted on one of the warmer sites with fractured schist soils that were quite bony. Here’s a film of the visit:
Further down, the soils stay bony, but have some glacial/flood deposited stones. And there are also some patches that have more in the way of soils, which are mostly decomposed schist.
Te Kano used ground penetrating radar to map the soil variation, and match variety and rootstock appropriately. Irrigation zones also match these various soil types.
These look like really good vineyards. The biggest challenge will be the wind: these are exposed sites, and the vines will have their work cut out. But it will be exciting, in a few years’ time, to taste the first wines from here.
In the meantime, Te Kano’s wines are based on two vineyards in Bannockburn, which Dave took me to see. The first is Jerome, which has incredibly sandy soils. The second is Eliza, opposite Mount Difficulty, off Felton Road.
Jerome, with its sandy soils, gives firm tannins to the Pinot Noir, while with richer soils with some clay, Eliza makes plush wines. At the moment, Dave tries to marry these together. ‘When we add Northburn into the mix then we’ll need to make philosophical choices,’ says Dave. ‘Is it about expressing a single site, or creating a house style?’ With Northburn, taking a single site approach would likely result in 20 different wines.
Te Kano Rosé 2018 Central Otago, New Zealand
Clone 5 from the Jerome vineyard. Grown for rosé so there is less bunch exposure. Textured and quite rich with sweet cherry and plum fruit. Really appealing with a lovely rounded character. Has a smooth palate. Ripe and plush. 89/100
Te Kano Chardonnay 2017 Central Otago, New Zealand
Mendoza clone top grafted onto Pinot Gris in the Jerome vineyard, whole bunch pressed to barrel. Rich, nutty and spicy with some cedary, spicy oak with nice fruit expression. Good breadth of flavour, yet still has a compact nature. 91/100
Te Kano Pinot Gris 2017 Central Otago, New Zealand
Jerome vineyard. Very pretty and textural with freshness and brightness. A bit of tangerine richness, with some tropical notes as well as rose petal and lychee. Flavoursome. 91/100
Te Kano Blanc de Noir 2018 Central Otago, New Zealand
Whole bunch Pinot Noir from a block with large berries and bunches, pressed with a Champagne cycle. Very pale in colour. Gentle and textural with subtle pear, green apple and table grape flavours, and a bit of tropical character. Restrained and balanced. 89/100
Akin Pinot Noir 2016 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is a sister wine, although the label is a bit reminiscent of Akitu’s! Lovely intense floral and cherry fruit with some raspberry and tar on the nose. Fresh and direct on the palate with nice brightness and focus. Has some nice tannic structure with a grainy finish, as well as sour cherry and damson bite. 93/100
Te Kano Pinot Noir 2017 Central Otago, New Zealand
Debut wine that’s a blend of Jerome and Eliza. Fine and floral with some black cherry here. Herbs and tar here. A little closed. The palate is vibrant and elegant with black cherry, plum and savoury spiciness. Has some silkiness with a seamless nature. Needs a little more time to fully integrate. It’s plush, a deliberate choice for the first release, but subsequent vintages will be more Abel and have more tannin. 94/100
UK agent is Davy’s