Focus on the Land
Gisborne urged to focus on chardonnay strength
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
DIVERSIFYING has been a focus for Gisborne wine growers after a challenging few years but Villa Maria chief winemaker Nick Picone says it is still the district’s chardonnay that is coming up trumps.
At the Gisborne Regional Wine Awards the supreme award of the show went to the Villa Maria 2010 Reserve Barrique Fermented Chardonnay.
Mr Picone described it as Villa Maria’s Gisborne “statement wine” that reflected the best of viticulture-styled winemaking. The 2009 Barrique Chardonnay also won the supreme award at last year’s competition — just one of many accolades for the celebrated Gisborne wine.
Feedback from the judging panel at the awards was that chardonnay continued to be a real strength for the region, yet just a handful of growers were placing strong emphasis on it.
“Gisborne is famous for chardonnay but in my view there aren’t really enough of the wineries there carrying the mantle,” said chief of judges and Sacred Hill senior winemaker Tony Bish.
“There is still an opportunity for a premium chardonnay and clearly it can be done, looking at the likes of Millton Vineyard and Villa Maria.
“The region’s strength has always been chardonnay and people should not lose sight of that. There is a lot of history and equity with chardonnay and certainly the opportunity for producers to better leverage that. It may require some single minded focus,” he said.
With the recession there had been a decline in chardonnay but Mr Bish was confident it was coming back, albeit in a somewhat re-invented style.
He said producers in Australia’s Yarra Valley had changed their modus operandi in terms of vineyard and winemaking practices to produce modern chardonnays that have caught the attention of wine connoisseurs all over the world.
“It makes sense for Gisborne growers to look at wine regions with similar climates, such as the Yarra Valley for inspiration and really aim to push the envelope.”
These comments were echoed by James Millton of the Millton Vineyards and Winery.
“We have a greatness and ripeness, with good fruit characters and alcohol levels of 12.5 percent in our chardonnay and this is the style wine drinkers want to find from a modern chardonnay,” he said.
The Milltons also received an award for their late harvest viognier — a variety that Mr Millton says is another string to Gisborne’s bow, especially when blended with chardonnay.
“This blend of chardonnay and viognier — CV — is coming to the fore, after being instigated by TW Wines. The good thing about this blend is we get very fine aromatic fruit producing wines of complexity and full-bodied flavours with haunting salinity in the style of the white wine blends we see in the south of France or northern Italy. It is an exciting new consumer development.”
Mr Millton said this was just one example of using innovative approaches to traditional varieties and Gisborne was an ideal place to do it.
“The amount of energy it takes to grow a tonne of grapes in Gisborne is very small compared to other regions that rely on irrigation, mechanical means of frost control and other energy requirements.
“In terms of carbon footprint, Gisborne is one of the most sustainable winegrowing regions in the world.”
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