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Sileni Estates – Some Smart Wines in Seventeen


22-May-2017
A notable wine commentator has gone on record stating that 2017 is the worst vintage in New Zealand wine history, and this was before most of the grapes had been picked! Those who do not have the need to garner sensationalism are far more realistic when they quote the winemakers who say "it was a very challenging growing season”. Hawke’s Bay has had an unprecedented run of four very favourable vintages from 2013 to 2016, but 2017 was a very different story. The growing season nationwide was cool and behind the average, but rain events in Hawke’s Bay forced earlier than desired picking for a number of varieties, and spoiled the chance to harvest healthy fruit, especially in Syrah and to a lesser degree the later picks of Merlot. The thick-skinned Cabernet Sauvignon could see through the precipitation, and there are reports of high quality pickings. However, the average yield was down. To give some credit to the 2017 vintage, some Hawke’s Bay winemakers would rather have a repeat of 2017 than the very cool 2012 vintage! www.sileni.co.nz


Grant Edmonds. chief winemaker, Sileni Estates
"This is the winery, folks!"

A Tasting of Sileni Estates 2017s
CEO Nigel Avery and the winemaking team at Sileni Estates are remarkably upbeat about 2017. It was not a great year, but they have wine in tank and barrel that they are very happy with in quality terms, though the quantities are not as high as desired. It may be a case of ‘glass half-full’, but a positive attitude accounts for much in winemaking, as it results in the care and attention to get it right. Sileni Estates’ chief winemaker Grant Edmonds has 30 vintages under his belt, and is supported by the very experienced Nigel Davies and highly respected Cairn Coghill responsible for white and red winemaking respectively. They see 2017 as part of agricultural life cycle where one must expect ups and downs, and they just get on with the job of making the best wines they can for their markets.

On our visit to Sileni Estates, Grant Edmonds took Sue and I for a tasting of mainly 2017 wines, all from barrel. These are some of the more interesting wines which will receive more winemaker inputs than the more commercial or accessible wines. Most had barely finished fermentation and in some cases MLF was not yet completed. Despite the youth, one could get a sense of the character of the wines. It will be very interesting to see the finished wines in due course. Here are my notes on what was tasted.


Sileni Estates - winemaking triumvirate
Cairn Coghill (red wine), Grant Edmonds (chief) and Nigel Davies (white wine)

The Whites
It was interesting to see an array of white varietals in oak. There is plenty of experimentation and thinking beyond the square.

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017 Barrel Sample
Pale coloured, this was softly aromatic with lifted florals and esters. On palate gently textured with soft but poised acidity. The flavours not varietal in gooseberry or thiol expression at all. Quite subtle and stylish. This is a barrel portion of a wine that will be blended with a tank-fermented lot. Some inputs from indigenous yeasts, lees-stirring, and of course oak, but avoiding MLF. There will potentially be 15,000 L of the finished wine.

‘Alba’ 2017 Barrel Sample
This is the blended white wine project which is creating some interest in critical circles. With Viognier, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Here, the Viognier stands out with the apricot and exotic fruit aromas and flavours. Soft textures, but good presence, and a line of crisp acidity.

Mangatahi Pinot Gris 2017 Barrel Sample
From a 2015 barrel, the final wine to be an equal blend of tank-ferment and barrel-ferment. This oaked sample showing lovely citrussy fruit and a layering of nutty, spicy oak. Fine structure, and plenty of zesty acidity coming through.

‘Plateau’ Chardonnay 2017 Barrel Sample
Clone 2/23 from a 2 y.o. barrel. An elegant nose, already with complexing mealy and nutty notes on the nose. Medium-weighted and quite tightly bound, fine in expression with crisp acidity, but soft textures. Very good flavour profile.

‘Winery Block’ Chardonnay 2017 Barrel Sample
From a 2016 barrel. Full stonefruit and citrus fruit aromas and flavours, not overly oaked. On palate there is fresh acidity, but underlying power and drive. Plenty of body and weight, and a fine-textured phenolic line. This could form the structure of a very serious Chardonnay.

Mangatahi Chardonnay 2017 Barrel Sample
Clone 95 fruit, from a 2016 barrel. An elegant wine, somewhat leaner, but with good intensity. Refreshing on palate with zesty acidity, and fine textures to back the citrus and stonefruit flavours. Oaking quite restrained.



The Reds
We looked at many current vintage Pinot Noir samples, all showing individuality, possessing good characteristics for blending options. Then some 2016 vintage Syrah and Merlot, finishing with a 2017 Merlot. Certainly no weakness here, and indeed interest and diversity.

Mangatahi Pinot Noir 2017 Barrel Sample
Clone 667 from a 2014 barrel. Deep purple-red colour. Very fresh, primary and tightly bound on nose, but revealing lovely dark-red fruit aromatics and spices. Tight and firm with good depth of spicy red berry fruits, underlined by fine-grained tannin extraction.

Mangatahi Pinot Noir 2017 Barrel Sample
Clone 115 from a 2015 barrel. Dark purple-red colour. Plenty of ripe, dark raspberry fruit aromas. More serious on palate with firmness and concentration, and very good, fine extraction. Softer acidity. This is a plush and fruity component.

Mangatahi Pinot Noir 2017 Barrel Sample
Clone 114 from a 2016 barrel. Very dark coloured. A bit of a fruit-bomb, with upfront aromas and flavours of strawberries and raspberries. Well-structured core, and balanced, fresh acidity. Again, a very useful blend component.

Mangatahi Pinot Noir 2017 Barrel Sample
Clone 777 from a 2015 barrel. Very dark coloured, the nose is redolent of raspberries and cherries. On palate quite tightly bound with fragrant floral and red fruit lift. The structure is refined. This is a stylish sample with aromatics as a feature.

‘Springstone’ Pinot Noir 2017 Barrel Sample
Clone 114 from a 2016 barrel. Dark-red colour. This has ripe fruit notes, dark-red and plum jam fruit aromas. Quite refined on palate with a tight, concentrated core. The extraction and textures becoming the feature of this sample.

‘Triangle’ Syrah 2016 Barrel Sample
Clone 174 in a 2015 barrel. Deep coloured. The nose is soft, especially after current vintage Pinot Noir. Some savoury elements to the fruit. Attractively sweet on the palate with an array of spices. Good depth and richness, with fine tannin, and excellent, fresh acid cut. A very positive sample.

‘Triangle’ Syrah 2016 Barrel Sample
A 2016 (new) barrel. Dark coloured. This is very tightly bound and very refined, with black fruits and florals, a touch of reduction, and surprisingly little oak prominence. On palate quite fleshy, juicy and rich. Spice and floral flavours with a touch of chocolate.

‘Triangle Blend' Merlot 2016 Barrel Sample
A multi ‘Triangle’ parcel blend in a 2013 barrel. Deep red colour. This shows good ripeness with dark plum fruit aromas and a little dark herb. Ripe, sweet and intense on palate, with fine tannin structure. Quite complete in expression.

‘Triangle’ Merlot 2017 Barrel Sample
In a 2016 barrel. Dark coloured. On nose quite full and soft with plum and currant aromas, along with spicy and nutty oak. Rich and lush on palate, some fleshiness, with sweet oak and chocolate notes. The flavours underlined by fine tannin structure, the oak revealing more on finish.


Dan Buchanan, Sileni Estates cellarmaster
He's removed the spanner from the works!

 

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