The Alsatian-style wine is a unique offering from a New Zealand winery. A grape variety most producers usually blend away has been transformed into an aromatic, vibrantly fruity wine that offers a new option for New Zealand white wine lovers, says Blackenbrook Vineyard which today released its first vintage of Pinot Blanc.
Blackenbrook’s 2019 Pinot Blanc comes from vines planted at its Nelson vineyard in 2016. Winemaker Daniel Schwarzenbach says it’s virtually a one-of-a-kind style of wine in New Zealand.
“There are only 11 hectares of Pinot Blanc planted in the country. Nearly all of these grapes are blended into other white varietals or matured in oak, which brings the texture and flavour closer to a Chardonnay.
“But Pinot Blanc is absolutely aromatic and fruit-driven all on its own. We want to make the wine in a way that allows the varietal flavours to shine by maturing it in stainless steel rather than oak. This way the grape expresses its pure style from our Nelson vineyard.
“This wine is going to surprise a lot of people who have a pre-conceived notion of Pinot Blanc and also surprise people who aren’t familiar with the variety at all. It’s a fresh option for white wine drinkers.”
Ten years ago Daniel was a judge at Mondial des Pinots in Switzerland, a wine competition solely dedicated to Pinot varieties, and he tasted some of their tank fermented Pinot Blanc.
“I was absolutely blown away by the flavour. It was totally unexpected. I knew then that I wanted to grow it back home in New Zealand.”
However, his initial inspiration came from his time working in Europe early in his career when he originally tasted Pinot Blanc wines from the Alsace region of France, a place that has had a significant influence on Daniel’s style of winemaking.
“Most Pinot Blanc wine is produced in Alsace, Germany, and Italy. Their grapes grow in older soils and can be quite minerally with floral stonefruit flavours. You get more depth of flavour with older soils, but I really think our first vintage has intense flavour characteristics already. The vines are still young and, as the roots grow deeper, we hope to get close to the concentration of flavour that you find in Alsace.”
Blackenbrook is known for its Alsace-inspired wines; it has been producing an off-dry yet rich Pinot Gris and an elegant Gewürztraminer, both bringing home several gold medals and trophies. The introduction of the Pinot Blanc completes a trio of wines that present a unique offering from a New Zealand wine producer.
The inaugural 2019 Pinot Blanc vintage experienced excellent weather conditions for early growth with good spring rainfall. Early summer saw drier weeks and successful flowering and pollination. January was hot and dry with drought conditions, but the moisture-holding clay soils enabled the young vines to thrive and produce outstanding flavour concentration.
“This Pinot Blanc is crisp and floral and aromatic,” he says. “I think people will find it’s beautifully balanced, has vibrant fruit components, and will be really pleasing to drink, especially for those who love Pinot Gris. The fruit-driven style will suit the palates of New Zealand wine drinkers who look for young, vibrant, yet elegant wines.”
Blackenbrook produced 250 cases of the 2019 Pinot Blanc. Distribution and ‘where to purchase’ information can be found on www.blackenbrook.co.nz.
About Blackenbrook Vineyard, Nelson, New Zealand
On a gentle north-facing slope near Tasman Village, you’ll find Blackenbrook Vineyard, a 20ha block owned by Daniel and Ursula Schwarzenbach. Blackenbrook Vineyard produces seven grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and the Italian red variety Montepulciano. Blackenbrook Vineyard is accredited by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand.
It is a winery designed by a working winemaker. In this region, vines grow into Moutere clay soils and the mild maritime climate sweeps over the hillsides. The vineyard was first planted in the spring of 2001 and the first vintage was launched in 2004. Healthy soil, strong vines and sustainability are the focus of the vineyard management. Daniel, also the winemaker, strives for minimal interference with natural processes, which have resulted in pure and genuine wines. Most of Blackenbrook’s white varieties – including the 2019 Pinot Blanc – are completely unfined and vegan. Read more on www.blackenbrook.co.nz.
About the Pinot Blanc variety – from www.caros.co.nz
Pinot Blanc, a white mutant of Pinot Noir, has sometimes been confused with Chardonnay as they share regions of origin, physical characteristics, and taste profiles. Pinot Blanc resembles the more famous grape’s medium body and rounded apple/stonefruit, while its less distinctive (or just less obvious) individual character makes it less planted and more often used for sparkling wine.
However, in cooler climates where it retains acidity, like Italy’s Alto Adige, ‘Pinot Bianco’s’ neutrality allows elegant still whites with textural richness and focus on its particular subtle nutty/mineral characters. Now hardly planted in its native Burgundy it is more so in Alsace, with a little in Germany and Austria and promising New World examples from cooler climates in South America, New Zealand and Canada’s Okanagan valley.