It’s all change at Sileni, which has just been bought by New Zealand financial service company Booster. Booster have also recently purchased Waimea Estate (Nelson) and Bannockbrae (Central Otago), and have an investment in Awatere River. Sileni grew significantly over the last years and now make a lot of Marlborough Sauvignon. They will be pulling back a little from this direction, and focusing on their more high-end wines.
I visited with winemaker Cairn Coghill, and the reason for my visit was to see what he’s doing with Pinot Noir. This is an untold story. ‘Hawkes Bay produces as much Pinot Noir as Waipara, Nelson and Wairarapa when you consider just table wines and not Pinot for sparkling,’ explains Cairn. He’s been an almost lone voice advocating the potential of this variety when it is grown on some of the more elevated, inland sites in Hawke’s Bay.
There are 311 hectares of Pinot Noir in the region, and 20 wineries here make a Pinot Noir.
We took a drive up the Ngaruroro River, to the Mangatahi Terraces. Over the river are the Crownthorpe Terraces. These are more elevated sites with climates better suited to Pinot than some of the more prominent Hawke’s Bay sub regions. The climate is similar here to other top Pinot regions, but there’s general better flowering and more consistent cropping. The soils are a mix of gravels, clay and limestone.
The first vineyard we looked at is the Plateau, which has 1300 GDDs compared with 1500 at Bridge Pa. It’s at 150 m altitude, and used to be a feed lot for sheep before they were shipped overseas. The second visit was Springstone, which is a bit further in and lies at 180-200 m. Cairn believes that Hawke’s Bay should be taken more seriously, and makes a range of them.
Sileni Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2018 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
($13 in supermarkets) 80% inland – Mangatahi and Crownthorpe, and 20% coastal vineyard. Production is around 40 000 cases. Very pretty red cherry and plum fruit with nice spiciness. Lovely texture here with a grainy, stony edge. Quite Gamay-like with lovely supple fruit. Super-drinkable, with some black tea hints. 88/100
Sileni Plateau Pinot Noir 2017 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
$32 retail. 80% from the Plateau Vineyard. Very stylish and supple with nice grainy structure. Red cherries, black cherries and fine herbs. 9 months in barrel, with 18% new oak. Some subtle warm herbal notes with nice finesse. 92/100
Sileni Springstone Pinot Noir 2016 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
$35 retail. Entirely from the Springstone vineyard. First time Cairn has used some whole bunch in his Pinot Noir, and this is 50%. No new oak. Supple and fresh with red cherry and raspberry fruit. Lovely smooth texture here with refined fruit and nice structure. Shows freshness with a bit of sappy brightness as well as ripe fruit. 94/100
Sileni Springstone Pinot Noir 100% Whole Bunch 2016 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
This is a pair of wines that will be auctioned in 3 Litre bottles for the Hawke’s Bay Charity Wine Auction. Complex fine herbal nose with a savoury edge to the cherry and raspberry fruit. The palate has a slightly minty herbal dimension with some brightness to the fruit. Fresh and structured with nice focus. 93/100
Sileni Springstone Pinot Noir 100% Destemmed 2016 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Brooding black cherry nose with some meaty hints. Dense with good structure and pure, fresh black cherry fruit and some raspberry freshness. Juicy and intense with nice brightness, but also some meaty depth. 93/100
Sileni Exceptional Vintage Pinot Noir 2013 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
$70 retail. Brooding aromatic nose with some meaty hints and a bit of Bovril and malt development. Concentrated, smooth, ripe palate with mint and meat, as well as ripe berry fruits. Quite broad and full in the mouth. Mellow and mature with a spicy finish. 91/100
Sileni Exceptional Vintage Pinot Noir 2014 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Broad, mellow and texturally rich with notes of cherry, plum and some beefy meatiness. Nicely developed with a savoury edge to the fruit. Has some warm herby characters. Quite developed. 91/100
Sileni Exceptional Vintage Pinot Noir 2015 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Supple and textural with a rich black cherry and plum fruit character, as well as some meaty savouriness. Warm and a bit spicy with a refined, mellow mid-palate. Lush and generous but with a fresh finish. 92/100
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com
- Tony Bish and The Urban Winery
- Ant Mackenzie, Craft Farm
- Ash Ridge
- Collaboration Wines
- Sileni and their Pinot Noirs
- Clearview Estate
- De La Terre
- Trinity Hill