Tussock Hill Vineyard – Pinot Noir from the Port Hills


Tussock Hill Vineyard

My cousin Alan who is based in the UK, introduced me to a little-known vineyard situated on the Port Hills above Christchurch – his friend Robin has a small family estate producing what I discovered to be a fabulous example of a wine made in the most unlikely of places – in a cool maritime climate overlooking Christchurch city.

Tussock Hill Vineyard is a small family owned and run vineyard located on the hillside up above Christchurch city. At 240 meters above sea level they are beyond the frost line and are on a sun-drenched, west-facing hillside. The clay soils of organic origin, that have a variety of minerals and trace elements present, give their vineyard some unique characteristics not found elsewhere in Canterbury. The site is sheltered from the cool easterly sea breezes and experiences a  micro-climate that is quite unique.

Young Pinot Noir Vines

Robin Woodsford and Julie Richards planted their first vines in 3 terraces we cut out on the hillside in 2000. Due to the open site, and exposure they have given the vines time to settle and develop without trying to get into production too fast. They are using biodynamic, organic and sustainable methods over the whole 10 acre / 4.1h block of land as well as in the growing of the vines.

By 2008 they had 3000 vines of various Pinot Noir clones planted in 7 terraces and harvested their first full crop off of the first 3 blocks. The fruit was of small tight bunches with good sugar levels and was handpicked on one day. They were very pleased with the result and feel it’s a great start to their journey. It is a full-bodied Pinot Noir and reflects the site, vine balance and micro-climate as well as their methods of working.

One of Seven Terraces Planted

Robin & Julie see Tussock Hill Vineyard as a long-term project and are aiming for the boutique market of hand tended, high quality product that is loved and nurtured the whole way through…. the wine reflects the journey of the grower and winemaker…. it’s the journey that’s important not just the end point.

Robin says “We will eventually produce only around 400 cases per year so are not aiming for the big mainstream market. Our goal is to try to bring the best wine we can develop from a unique and beautiful site, by working with the land and natures own rhythm’s in a gentle and sustainable way. We are in certification process now and have succeeded in the first year so all is good. Focusing on balance in the vineyard and building a supply and marketing the good wine… sometimes it feels like too much then at others it’s a buzz.”

Tussock Hill Pinot Noir 2008

Tussock Hill Pinot Noir 2008

The wine is stunning – deep black-cherry in colour with a smoky, tobacco nose underpinned with a little oak, berry fruits through to savoury notes in the finish, a mouth-filling generous wine with a great backbone structure which should see it last many more years (shouldn’t have opened it yet!)

I really liked the Tussock Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008 a lot and rated it 18/20

Tussock Hill Vineyard does not have a website or social media presence yet so if you are interested in finding out more about this wonderful Pinot Noir, please contact Robin  by email: tusshill@ihug.co.nz or by telephone: +64 3 337 2121

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