The Waipara Valley is situated about 45 minutes north of Christchurch. It is protected from the eastern winds by a coastal range and from the western rain by another mountain range. The climate is significantly warmer and drier than Christchurch.
The Valley has three main types of soils : gravelly deposits in the centre and west of the valley, gravely loam over alluvial subsoil in the southern part of the region and limestone derived clay in the eastern side of the valley. This presence of limestone is a very unique feature for New Zealand.
I had read many reviews about the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines produced in North Canterbury but I was very excited when I was offered to sample some Albarino, Riesling and Pinot Gris. I soon realised that, in fact, the Waipara Valley regions offer an incredible diversity of wines and styles. Out of this diversity I got to taste some truly delicious wines. I have listed below, by grape variety, my favourite wines of the trip.
Bellbird Spring, Block 8, 2014
The block 8 is a clay slope planted in 2004. The land is farmed organically. The grapes are hand picked and pressed as whole clusters before being fermented with indigenous yeast in old oak barrique. After fermentation, the wine is aged for another 10 months in barrique.
A sauvignon blanc with some aromatic restraint : camomile, linden tree, citrus and a touch aromatic spices. A laser like palate, lean and precise without lacking of substance. Extremely refreshing with a pronounced saline character. This would be a lovely option with oysters.
Terrace Edge 2016
The estate was originally a sheep farm before being converted into an olive farm and vineyard. The first vines of Albarino were planted in 2013. The vineyards is managed organically.
A very pretty nose, delicately perfumed with aromas of blossom and mandarin. Dry, refreshing, with a lovely fruit weight and delicate texture. Cleansing mineral and saline finish.
Pete, winemaker at Terrace Edge
Black Estate, Dampsteed, 2015
Black Estate was established in 1994 and since 2007, thanks to winemaker Nicholas Brown, the wines are hand-crafted. Organic and Biodynamic practices have been used since 2010 and the estate is certified organic. The Riesling vineyard is 2.2 ha and lies on a North Facing slope. It was planted in 1999. The soil is very dense clay mixed with sandstone an limestone.
Charming nose revealing some blossom, pineapple and honey aromas. Dry, lean and focus with a very energetic acidity and a lemon sherbet like finish.
Terrace Edge Liquid Geography, 2015 (organic)
35gl/L RS. Hand picked, 5% botrytis
Extremely pure nose punctuated by mineral, citrus, light honey and floral notes. Medium dry. Energetic acidity balancing the presence of some residual sugar.
The Boneline Hell Block 2013
The Boneline is named in reference to the nearby K-T boundary line that is the evidence of the global catastrophe of an asteroid impact on earth. Each of the labels feature fossils discovered in the Waipara River dating back as far as 65 millions years.
The fruit for the Hell Block is sourced from a riverside terrace of gravels.
37gr/L RS -10% abv.
Savoury style of Riesling characterized by aromas and flavours of soy sauce, lime, earth and stony minerality. On the palate the wines taste medium dry, light, delicate and linear with a very precise acidity balancing the residual sugars.
Muddy Water, Skin Ferment, 2015
Conversion organic, clay and gravels, 1 month skin contact, no added sulphur , Amphora and barrel aged.
Aromatic, vine peaches, apricot and dried herbs on the nose. Dry, gourmand, fresh. A fine tannic structure brings some extra dimension to the long saline finish. One of the best examples of “orange” wines that I have tasted during the trip.
Bellbird Spring, Sous Voile, NV
This Jura style, sous Voile (under veil), aged 4 years two of each in ullage is unique for New Zealand.
Aromas of pear and spices punctuated by a subtle flor influence . A touch reductive on the opening. Very elegant, silky, smooth palate balanced by a refined acidity. Integrated alcohol. Would be a lovely pairing with some sushi.
Bellbird Spring ,Block 8, 2016
Organic . Old barrel ferment with indigenous yeasts. Aged on the lees after fermentation.
Delicate nose of spiced pears, blossom and ripe citrus. Dry, good acid support. A lots of gourmandise and silk on the mid palate lifted by a refined acidity.
Pinot gris, Georges road 2015
Barrel fermented with indigenous yeast and aged on its lees.
Delicate nose of white fruits, pears, honey, spices and rose petals.Off dry. Very voluptuous texture. Integrated alcohol. Delicate flavours similar to the nose. Prickly spiciness. A real charming style.
The Boneline, Sharkstone, 2014
Hand picked, whole bunch pressed, 20% new French oak. Small portion of skin fermentation .
Clean and pure nose. White flowers, almond blossom. Very delicate oak presence. Delicate and pretty. Dry, medium bodied. High yet very delicate acid bringing freshness and class to this wine. Slightly richer on the mid palate . Delicate intensity of flavours , similar to the nose . Lots of minerality. Really elegant chardonnay with lots of purity. Clever use of oak.
Pyramid valley field of fire 2015
The Estate is situated in the Pyramid Valley, near Waikari, in North Canterbury and was purchased in 2000 by Claudia and Mike Elze Weersing. Claudia was born in Germany and has originally studied fashion design. Mike studied oenology and viticulture in Burgundy and has worked for producers such as Hubert de Montille, Domaine de la Pousse d’Or, Jean-Michel Deiss, Ernst Loosen, Randall Graham.
The vineyards are all certified biodynamic and called after the main plants and flowers growing on the plots.
Shy but very pure nose. White flowers, chalky mineral, citrus. Bone dry. High acid. Lots of tension and energy. Still quite austere and reserved. Definitely needs some more time to blossom. Great purity and potential.
Pyramid vineyards Lyons tooth 2014
Precise nose with lots of depth and purity. Mineral focused. Oyster shell like, needs aeration. Hawthorn . Incredible purity. Cristal like. Lots of salty sensation. Still a baby.
Black Estate, Home, 2015
Organic, minimal sulphur only at bottling.
Fancrest estate, 2011
The vineyard is certified organic and was actually the first one to be fully certified in the Waipara Valley.
Bit of reduction on nose which disappears with aeration. Red fruits, cinnamon , wild plums, a touch earthy and spicy. Dry, relatively light with plenty of substance. Savoury, high refreshing acids. Slightly rustic tannins which suits the style. Red fruits , savoury. Good length.
Kokolo Vineyard , Whistling buoy 2015
The vineyard is name “Kokolo” since its original owner who was of Japanese origins and means “Heart and Mind”.
Very pure nose with plenty of minerality , herbal twist, floral and red berries.Dry, medium bodied. Plenty of juice, fruit, substance, savory and extremely digest. “Un pinot qui pinote”. Fine grained yet firm tannins bringing dimension to the wine. Delicious.
Pyramid Valley, Angel Flower, 2015
This plot is north facing with the limestone being present at 66 meters under the surface. All the wine is made by gravity , 100% destemmed and 100% barrel fermented. 2 % of the vineyard is grafted on American rootstock the rest is ungrafted.
The nose is beautiful and complex, reminiscent of wild spring flowers, blood orange peel, quinine and ginger tea. The palate is extremely elegant with an incredibly energetic acid backbone. Pure and vibrant, textural with a savoury finish and very fine-grained tannins.
Pyramid Valley, Earth Smoke, 2015
In this plot, the limestone is at a depth of 27 metres.
The nose is intense yet refined with aromas of smoke, dark fruits and paprika. The palate is medium bodied, vibrant, punctuated by tight firm tannins. The finish is savoury and spicy. A wine with a great harmony and energy which needs some time.
The Boneline , Iridium 2014
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc. 30% new Bordeaux coopered oak, matured for 15 months.
Lots of gourmandise on the nose : raspberry, red current jelly, floral, graphite like minerality. Juicy, great drinkabikity, sweet fruit balanced by touch of stalk/herbal notes. Integrated alcohol. Fine grained tannins. Easy drinking, delicious style.
The Waipara Valley is also a place to enjoy outdoors activities. The region is rich in local products and fishing, hunting and foraging are part of the local culture.
Picking eatable plants by the coast.