We grow three clones (types of the wine variety which are grafted on to four different rootstocks) of Pinot Noir – 5, 777, and 667- and believe it or not, the grapes from each clone have different characteristics. 777, for instance, is much more floral and fruity, 5 is tighter and cleaner, and 667 has a more eucalypt taste. Wine buffs may disagree with these descriptions, but these are the flavours I tasted in these different clones after tasting the 2008 vintage at Matahiwi yesterday. Jane Cooper is the winemaker at this vast estate and state-of-the-art winery just out of Masterton. She makes Matahiwi’s wines, plus James Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, and her own label Alexia (more of that later).
First – James Pinot Noir 2008. For the first time we’ve picked enough grapes to ferment and barrel the clones separately. We have 93 barrels altogether (scarey when you think that’s nearly 28,000 bottles of Pinot Noir we need to sell in 2010) – nestled on their racks in the Matahiwi winery:
This came off 24,332 vines, picked in ideal conditions beginning 5 April. It’s exciting and interesting tasting the wine at this stage – all three different clones – and deciding with Jane what to do with blending. Just for fun, we’ll hand bottle a few single clones, and blend the rest. Judging by the tasting yesterday at Matahiwi with Jane, James 2008 Pinot Noir will be a beauty. In keeping with our philosophy of not rushing our reds into the market and foisting red wine infanticide on the public, this won’t be commercially released until 2010.
The other big development is our Pinot Gris about which Jane is very excited, explaining in careful detail the tricky process of making a good Pinot Gris. We’ve done two vintages already – 2006 and 2007 – not commerically released, but which we’ve hugely enjoyed drinking. Here’s Jane Cooper telling us about this year’s Pinot Gris:
We tasted a sample from the barrel, where the fermentation is not arrested, and therefore the wine is very hot with high alcohol, and we tasted from the tank where fermentation was arrested to allow the character of the wine to develop. Even though the tank sample is more cloudy at this stage, it tastes rounder and you can get a hint of the aromatic flavours which will develop. This will be bottled in about November, then we’ll let it rest for a couple of months to get over the “bottle shock” and released on the market in January. We harvested four tonnes of Pinot Gris, from 3752 vines.
And I snuck a quick look at Jane’s own promotion for her Alexia Wairarapa Pinot Noir (3 stars from Michael Cooper), Sauvignon Blanc (3.5 stars), Hawke’s Bay Unoaked Chardonnay (3 stars) and Merlot (3.5 stars). Jane’s a terrific winemaker, so these wines, at unbelievably reasonable prices (rrrp$20 -$26) promise to be popular. Distributed by red + white cellar, 0800-9463792. And the labels are very stylish, just like Jane, though she says the Alexia label is a tribute to her zesty grandmother.