After a morning drive up from Waitaki, we headed into Christchurch to meet up with Alan McCorkindale and his partner Mary in the city. Alan was one of the pioneers of the Waipara Valley. He was a winemaker for Corbans, and moved down to Waipara for Corban’s first harvest here in 1988. (You can read a history of wine in the Waipara valley/North Canterbury here, and also Alan’s account of his early Waipara years here.)
We had coffee at the fab C4 Coffee which is a roastery and coffee bar, and then we went to Shop Eight to taste Alan’s wines. I really like them. He makes great sparkling wine, and I really liked his Blanc de Blancs 2009, and also the same wine more recently disgorged with no sulfur dioxide and no dosage. ‘In 50 years’ time New Zealand will be very well regarded for sparkling wine,’ says Alan. ‘The issue is that it is so capital intensive compared with Sauvignon Blanc.’ We also tried the 2003 Blanc de Blancs, which is very interesting (although I preferred the focus of the 2009). I also really liked Alan’s Chardonnays: the 2011 is textural and has real finesse, and the 2014 Single Barrel Chardonnay is stunning, with nice acidity and freshness.
Another of Alan’s wines that is really interesting is his Riesling Germania. He made this first in 2010, and the 2014 we tried was the second release, and it’s a blend that includes 8% (1000 litres) of Mosel Kabinett in with Waipara fruit. It’s rich and textural with nice grapefruit and apricot flavours. It’s not cheap, but it’s lovely.
We then braved the Friday afternoon traffic to head to the Waipara Valley, and Black Estate, with Nicholas Brown and Pen Naish. In a relatively short space of time they have turned their project into one of the very top producers in the region.
They have three different properties, with the furthest 10 km apart. There’s the 12 hectare home vineyard, which was originally purchased by Pen’s family in 2007, and which has been expanded in 2011. This has sedimentary clays that are highly mineralized.
Then there’s the impressive Damsteep vineyard, which is part of the Spye farm that was established in the 1920s. The vineyards here, which are steeply sloped (hence the name), were planted in 1999, and Black Estate have 16 hectares of which 7.5 hectares is grapes: Riesling and Pinot Noir on Waipara clay.
The final vineyard is Netherwood, which was planted by Russell Black and Danny Schuster in 1986. This went into receivership in 2009, and is now being brought back into top condition. It’s unirrigated and there are 4.5 hectares of vines on the 10.5 hectare property.
The Black Estate wines are superb all across the board. Look out especially for the Home Chardonnay 2015, Netherwood Chardonnay 2015, The Damsteep Riesling 2014, Home Pinot Noir 2014, and especially the Netherwood and Damsteep Pinot Noirs in 2014, which are really serious.