Waitaki Wine Week at Vino Fino

Cool Climate Viticulture on The Edge

Waitaki Wine Week

That was the theme of this brilliant tasting, the Waitaki Wine Week that I attended at Vino Fino in Christchurch on Wednesday. It’s great that we are finally getting back to having more wine events here in Shaky City. The last two years have been devoid of much wine related activity, and having Vino Fino back up and running is awesome news for the locals – Cheers to Rex and the team for hosting the wine makers for this event, which was very well attended with a great turnout. Excellent catching up with the wine makers and friends from the #NZWINE Online Community and of course wine friends from the real world  too.

Waitaki Wine Week

The Waitaki Valley in North Otago has of late become a surprising new wine region in New Zealand, with a few pioneering wine makers discovering that the region can produce some damn fine wines. The Valley is about 40 Kms inland from the sea, and stretches for  20km between Kurow and Duntroon on the southern flanks of the Waitaki River Valley.

The soils in the region are quite unique with free-draining river gravels inter-layered with ancient limestone seabeds. This and the climate there with 950-1000 growing degree days, gives Waitaki Valley wines their own distinctive characters, and personality, and while reflecting some of the typical Otago characteristics these are very special and exciting new wines.

There are now eight wine makers growing and producing wines in the region, and recent accolades from local and international wine competitions have put the Waitaki Valley squarely on the NZ Wine map as a force to be reckoned with in the future. The wineries present at Waitaki Wine Week were:

Black Stilt Wines, Earthkeepers, John Forrest Collection, Lone Hill, Ostler Wines, Otiake Estate. Pasquale Viticultura, Kurow Village, Valli and Waitaki Braids.

The evening was well organised and set out with some lovely nibbles, and the Powerpoint presentation by Jeff Sinnott (Introduced by Dr John Forrest) was a really great way to get a feel for the geological history of the area, a little about the variations in climate and where particular vineyards were positioned across the region and in relation to each other.

About 45 – 50 wines were available to taste and I manage to try around 30, starting with the aromatic Riesling (10)  Pinot Gris (12) and Gewurztraminer (2) Arneis (1) Chardonnay (2) then on to the Pinot Noirs (13)

I’m not going to write copious wine notes but just my favourite in each variety that I really loved (I enjoyed all the wines tasted but these stood out for me.)

The Lone Hill SV Riesling 2011 – very aromatic, rose petals and lemon, sweet citrus fruit and balanced acidity.

Ostler Audrey’s Pinot Gris 2009 –  Spice and pears, up front soft acidity leads into a creamy, textural, complex wine with body and a lengthy juicy finish.

John Forrest Collection Waitaki Chardonnay 2010 – delicate fresh nose for a chardonnay but in the mouth, concentrated fruit, creamy, buttery with a nice mineral backbone and great length.

Otiake Estate Gewurztraminer 2011 – lots of florals, spice and ginger in the nose and on the palate lovely viscosity and luscious mouth-watering finish

I couldn’t pick a favourite from the 13 Pinot Noirs tried but my top four at the end of the evening (in no particular order) were the Ostler Caroline Pinot Noir 2008, the John Forrest Collection Waitaki Pinot Noir 2009, the Pasquale Pinot Noir 2010 and the Valli Waitaki Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010. All wonderful examples of the high quality Pinots coming out of this very young area, with a minerality evident in all, great depth of colour and fruit concentration resulting in fabuolous wines.

Watch out Martinborough, Marlborough and Central Otago – they’re very serious about making world-beating wines down there in the Waitaki… I’ll be looking forward to Waitaki Wine Week next year. Hope they come to Marlborough…

It’s very hard at a tasting like this to take time and concentrate on evaluating wines in a couple of hours; I spent a lot of the time catching up and chatting with people, but at some stage I’ll endeavour to get some of these wines and review them on my blog.

In the meantime you can visit all the wineries online from our Waitaki Valley Wineries and Vineyards Page on The New Zealand Wine Directory…

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