With just a shade under 100 hectares of their own vineyards, Chard Farm are one of the larger players in the Central Otago region. Their beautifully situated home vineyard, at the end of a slightly terrifying 2 km track at the side of a gorge in Gibbston, is one of the prettiest I’ve seen, but this accounts for just 12 of the 100 hectares they own. I met with winemaker John Wallace and proprietor Rob Hay to taste through some current releases.
They explained that buying good quality contract grapes in Central is getting more difficult. This is because the sales people of the big Marlborough-based wineries tell their bosses they need more Central Pinot, so they come down and buy it up, and the grapes leave the region. They need contract grapes for their most successful wine, the $26 Rabbit Ranch Pinot, which at 45 000 cases is the region’s biggest seller.
Talking of rabbits, they area problem and can decimate the vines by damaging the trunks. Last year they spent $28 000 on rabbit control. They recently bought a night scope for $9000, and in one night in the Dunsford Vineyard killed 890 rabbits. This meant there was a ton of rotting meat there for a while, which didn’t smell all that good. But the vineyard now has lush growth in it and the trunks aren’t being damaged.
John Wallace is a sensitive winemaker and the top Pinot Noirs are quite light in colour, with low oak imprint: he uses 20% new oak (lower than many) for the top Pinots, and he’s not trying to work them too much. The result is wines that are extremely expressive and potentially long-lived. ‘As the vines are getting older we are starting to see a bit more structure,’ he says.
Rabbit Ranch Pinot Gris 2017
Fruity and expressive with sweet pear and citrus fruit. Appley and delicious with lovely weight. Fruity and delicious. 88/100
Chard Farm Pinot Gris Sur Lie 2017
13.9% alcohol. Sits on the lees without stirring. This is fresh and expressive with nice pear and apple fruit. Some richness but in the contact of freshness and precision. This has lovely focus, concentration and quite a bit of complexity. 92/100
Chard Farm Vipers Vineyard Riesling 2017
From the Rockburn area. Popular at cellar door, once people get to try it. 10% alcohol, with 29 g/l residual sugar. Really intense with powerful lemon and lime fruit, with the acidity countered by some sweetness. Alive and electric in the mouth, showing such brightness and intensity. 91/100
Chard Farm Riesling 2017
Cromwell vineyards, 11.2% alcohol. Lovely wine, in a fairly dry style with a vibrant citrus core and juicy, bright fruit driving through to fine-grained finish. Lovely concentration with tingling acid line. Will age well. 93/100
Chard Farm Closeburn Chardonnay 2017
Unoaked style. Enticing creamy, appley nose leads to a stony, quite mineral palate. Very appley and nutty with a really mineral core. Lots of interest. 90/100
Chard Farm Judge & Jury Chardonnay 2017
40% tank fermented. Puncheons, some older oak and some acacia used here for the balance. This is really attractive and mineral with linear, textured citrus fruit. Lemony and pure with nice tension. Restrained. 94/100
Rabbit Ranch Pinot Noir 2017
60% contract grown. Direct, fruity, pliable and delicious with bright cherry and plum fruit. Lovely brightness to the fruit. Best selling Pinot in New Zealand – 45 000 cases, $26 average price per bottle. Nice sour cherry notes with lovely florality. Very drinkable. 90/100
Chard Farm River Run Pinot Noir 2017
This is a regional blend, all estate fruit. Lovely linear style with a taut, compact red fruits core and some savoury, cedary notes. Light in personality but with a silkiness to the fruit, and structure enough for development in the mid-term. 93/100
Chard Farm Mata-Au Pinot Noir 2017
Tiger, Viper and a bit of Mason vineyard. 13.4% alcohol. Juicy and supple with nice sweet cherry and plum fruit. Has sour cherry and a bit of savouriness. Understated with red fruits and a savoury, grainy edge. Nice weight and freshness, with potential. 93/100
Chard Farm Tiger Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015
Sandier soils in Lowburn. Pale colour. Elegant, restrained, floral red cherry nose. Really light and elegant on the palate with weightless, fruity red cherry and redcurrant fruit. Very fine grained and detailed. Layered with very fine tannins. 95/100
Chard Farm Viper Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015
Higher up behind Amisfield. Pale in colour. Tart and juicy with red cherries and plums. Sappy, supple, elegant with nice finesse and a very drinkable quality, but with some seriousness. Finesse. 94/100
Chard Farm Mason Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015
Older soils, higher up, a bit of clay in the soil. Parkburn subdistrict. Juicy and expressive with red cherry and herb notes. Subtle spiciness and some peppery hints. Very elegant, lighter style that’s juicy and refined with appealing purity. Low extract style, like all these Pinots, and very delicious and elegant. 94/100
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