Featured Reviews

Pyramid Valley ‘Growers’ and ‘Home’ Collection Wines

27 June,2017
The Pyramid Valley life and environmentally sensitive wine venture of Mike and Claudia Weersing was established when they purchased their property in the Waikari Valley in North Canterbury in 2000 to make Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on clay-limestone soils. Their respect for the environment and philosophy has led to Pyramid Valley becoming a cult winery and for many an iconic winery. Their adoption of techniques to make the wine as naturally as possible includes biodynamics as the foundation for doing so, and Pyramid Valley is certified Demeter biodynamic.

The ‘Home’ vineyard is small, only 2.2 ha in size and divided into four blocks, two each for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the vines close-planted at a density of 10-12,000 vines per hectare. The ‘Lion’s Tooth’ and ‘Field of Fire’ Chardonnays and ‘Earth Smoke’ and ‘Angel Flower’ Pinot Noirs are labelled after the common names of the predominant weed species in each block. The Chardonnays employ the use of clay amphora, and both Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs predominantly use seasoned oak as part of the philosophy of maximising natural influences and minimalizing external inputs which may affect the wine expressing their provenance.

Pyramid Valley also has wines under the ‘Growers Collection’, made from fruit from vineyards of friends with like-minded growing philosophies. Pyramid Valley leases portions of these vineyards and apply their own viticultural regimes. The ‘Growers Collection’ has considerably broadened the range of wines in the Pyramid Valley portfolio, providing wines from different varieties and regions. However, the same standards and approaches in the winemaking remain identical to the making of the ‘Home Collection’ wines.

Due to the strong philosophies in the growing and making of the wines, it is fair to say that they do not generally sit with mainstream or conventional wines. This has attracted outstanding acclaim from critics within New Zealand and internationally. But there are others who find the wines very extreme and difficult to come to grips with according to their beliefs and experience. I can only say that with so many positive comments, one must keep an open mind in approaching and drinking them. As I’ve noted before, making the Pyramid Valley wines entails considerable risk taking for the conventional and conservative, but if lateral thinking is a positive trait, then the Pyramid Valley wines can be brilliant. Mike Weersing is assisted by Lynnette Hudson in the winery, and Struan McDuff tends to the viticulture at the ‘Home Block’ at Waikari.

At present, Pyramid Valley is undergoing a sale, with the process not yet finalised. The news is due to be released shortly. In the meantime, it is business as usual at Pyramid Valley. Here, I review a selection of current and new ‘Grower Collection’ and ‘Home Collection’ wines. www.pyramidvalley.co.nz


Pyramid Valley ‘Growers Collection’ ‘Kerner Estate Vineyard’ Marlborough Pinot Blanc 2015

Pinot Blanc from New Zealand – Marlborough

Bright, light golden-yellow colour with some depth, paler on the edge. The nose is full, deep and firm with aromas of ripe yellow stonefruits along with tropical fruit and honey, lifted by subtle yellow floral notes, unveiling nutty and mineral lees with suggestions of earth. This has considerable depth and density. Dry to taste and full-bodied, the palate is fulsome and robust with lusciously ripe flavours of yellow stonefruits and tropical fruit, along with honey and yellow florals. The richness and sheer power of the mouthfeel is relieved by steely nutty and mineral elements. The wine flows along a light-textured phenolic line, with alcohol power and drive carrying the richness and fruit extract. The wine leads to a strong finish with plenty of presence of stonefruit and honied flavours. This is a fulsome, ripe, dry Pinot Blanc with presence and weight, showing stonefruits, tropical fruits and honey, driven by alcohol power. Match with Middle Eastern fare over the next 3-4+ years. From 1.2 ha of the ‘Kerner’ vineyard, on Fareham Lane, Waihopi, hand-picked, WBP, indigenous yeast fermented to 15.0% alc. and 3.6 g/L RS, the wine aged 17 months in 5% new French demi-muids of 450-500 L, the wine undergoing MLF. 18.5/20 Jun 2017 RRP $35.00

Pyramid Valley ‘Growers Collection’ ‘Rose Family Vineyard’ Marlborough Riesling 2015

Riesling from New Zealand – Marlborough

Bright, even, pale golden-yellow colour, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is deep and elegantly concentrated with aromas of ripe citrus fruits including limes and lemons along with yellow florals and spice notes. This is essence of Riesling with power, intensity and purity. Medium-dryish to taste, the palate has great depth, densely packed and penetrating flavours of limes and lemon, citrus zest with ripe yellow florals, honey and spices, and suggestions of minerals. The palate is driven by alcoholic power, with crisp, lacy acidity providing some tension. The palate line is fine-textured, but shows the alcohol warmth and generosity. The flavours of citrus fruit and honey are bold and are carried to a strong, long, finish. This is a very full and powerful off-dry Riesling with great fruit intensity of citrus, floral and honied flavours, immense concentration and line. Match with Chinese cuisine over the next 4+ years. Fruit from 35 y.o. vines from the ‘Rose Family’ vineyard, hand-picked, WBP and indigenous yeast fermented in tank without temperature control to 15.7% alc. and 12.7 g/L RS, TA 6.1 g/L. 450 cases made. 18.0+/20 Jun 2017 RRP $32.00

Pyramid Valley ‘Growers Collection’ Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris/Gewurztraminer Marlborough On Skins 2016

Blended White from New Zealand – Marlborough

A little cloudy with orange and peach colour, with some depth, lighter edged. The nose is full, broad and well-packed with aromas of ripe peaches, tropical fruits, quince and guavas, unfolding a little spice and citrus notes in a complex amalgam. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate has full and rounded flavours of citrus fruits, tropical fruits, peach, quince and guava, entwined with spice, earth and mineral notes and bitter-herb and stonefruit nuances. The mouthfeel features a grainy, textural, phenolic grip providing a firm, underlying line, with soft and integrated acidity. The wine carries with good drive to a long, lingering finish of savoury stonefruits, tropical fruits and exotic elements on a grainy palate with slight bitter and refreshing notes. This is a flavoursome skin contact wine with ripe, savoury tropical and exotic fruits on a grainy textured palate with hints of bitterness. Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris from the ‘Kerner’ vineyard, the Gewurztraminer from Waihopi, hand-picked and indigenous yeast fermented to 13.0% alc., and dryness, the wine spending 35 days on skins and aged on lees in predominantly seasoned oak, with 100% MLF. 267 cases made. 18.0/20 Jun 2017 RRP $42.00

Pyramid Valley ‘Growers Collection’ Howell Family Vineyard’ Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Franc 2015

Cabernet Franc from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

Very dark, deep, black-hued purple-red colour, a little lighter on the rim, youthful in appearance. The nose is firm and intense with well-concentrated and tightly bound aromas of blackberries, blackcurrants and dark redcurrants entwined with cassis liqueur and fragrant dark herbs. Full-bodied, the palate ha rich, luscious and sweetly ripe fruit flavours of blackberries, blackcurrants with cassis and dark herbs, and subtle earthy notes. The fruit richness is underlined by fine tannin extraction and driven by a little alcohol power. The acidity is ripe and refined, and the wine flows with good energy, sweetness and richness to a long, elegantly concentrated finish of blackberries, cassis and herbs. This is a well-concentrated, rich and sweetly ripe fruited Cabernet Franc with blackberry, blackcurrant and cassis flavours of a fine-textured, fresh palate. Match with lamb, beef and venison over the next 7-9+ years. Fruit from the ‘Howell’ vineyard, bridge Pa, Hawke’s Bay, hand-picked and destemmed, and fermented with 35% whole bunches to 14.5% alc., the wine aged 9 months in seasoned French oak. 450 cases made. 18.5+/20 Jun 2017 RRP $52.00

Pyramid Valley ‘Lion’s Tooth’ Canterbury Chardonnay 2015

Chardonnay from New Zealand – Canterbury & Waipara

Brilliant pale golden-yellow colour with some depth, lighter on the edge. The nose is elegantly proportioned with a positively concentrated and deep aromas of white and yellow stonefruits harmoniously melded with a subtle layer of nuts and chalky mineral complexities, revealing lees elements at the core. The aromatics are fresh, vibrant and lively, and grow to show a degree of robustness. Medium-full bodied, the palate has lively and lusciously rich white and yellow stonefruit flavours forming a deep and well-concentrated core, unfolding nutty and minerally lees notes and complexing detail. The palate has weight and mouthfilling presence, and the mouthfeel is fresh and vibrant providing balance to the robustness. The wine flows along a soft, fine-textured phenolic line, leading to a lingering, weighty finish with thirst-quenching minerals. This is a rich, weighty Chardonnay with plenty of presence and a deep core of stonefruits and minerally lees balanced by fresh, vibrant acidity. Match with poultry and pork dishes over the next 5-6 years. From an east-facing block, 30% clay, 15-20% active lime. Fruit WBP and indigenous yeast fermented, half in clay giare and half in seasoned French demi-muids to 13.5% alc., the wine spending 10 months on lees in giare and barrel with MLF. 1,820 bottles made. 18.5+/20 Jun 2017 RRP $130.00

Pyramid Valley ‘Field of Fire’ Canterbury Chardonnay 2015

Chardonnay from New Zealand – Canterbury & Waipara

Light yellow colour with pale green-gold hues, lighter on the rim. The nose is very elegant and very refined with delicately concentrated aromas of white stonefruits and citrus fruits in a harmonious amalgam of nutty lees notes and suggestions of oak toast, unfolding to reveal a core of minerals and saline nuances. This has finesse and elegance. Medium-bodied, the palate has a rich, elegantly refined and rounded core with concentrated flavours of white stonefruits and citrus fruit, along with subtle notes of minerals and toasty oak. The palate has a fine proportion with positive drive, power and energy. The wine flows along a very finely concentrated line with delicate phenolic textures with bright, lacy acidity, leading to a very long and sustained citrussy and minerally finish. This is a refined and delicately concentrated Chardonnay with stonefruit and citrus fruits, along with mineral elements on a refreshing, lively and lacy palate. Serve with seafood and poultry dishes over the next 5+ years. From a south-east facing block, 20-25% clay and 5-10% active lime. Fruit WBP, and indigenous yeast fermented, half in clay giare and half in seasoned French demi-muids to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 10 months on lees in giare and barrel with MLF. 1,200 bottles made. RRP $130.00

Pyramid Valley ‘Earth Smoke’ Canterbury Pinot Noir 2015

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Canterbury & Waipara

Moderately deep ruby-red colour with slight purple hues, lighter on the rim with a garnet tint. This has a very finely proportioned nose with good depth and concentration of dark-red berry and cherry fruit harmoniously entwined with a layering of dark and dried herbs and subtly lifted red florals, unfolding savoury mineral and earthy detail from the core. This grows in density and depth, becoming quite solid with aeration. Medium-bodied, the palate has a concentrated core of rich and lively strawberry and red berry fruit interwoven with dark herbs, unfolding savoury earth and mineral notes. The tannins are fine-grained, forming a firm core and the mouthfeel shows lively, refreshing acidity, providing energy and drive. The concentrated core carries to a long, solidly packed finish which retains a degree of elegance. This is a rich, concentrated Pinot Noir with dark-red cherry and strawberry fruit melded with savoury herb and earth notes on an energetic, fine-textured palate. Match with pork, lamb and beef dishes over the next 6+ years. A site with 25% clay and 15% active lime. Hand destemmed and partially foot-crushed, and indigenous yeast fermented to 12.5% alc., the wine aged 12 months in 10% new French oak. 3,396 bottles made. 18.5+/20 Jun 2017 RRP $130.00

Pyramid Valley ‘Angel Flower’ Canterbury Pinot Noir 2015

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Canterbury & Waipara

Even ruby-red colour with slight purple hues, lighter on the rim. This is very elegant and tightly bound with refined and ethereal aromas of red cherry fruit entwined with red florals and subtle notes of fresh herbs. This is seamlessly integrated on the nose, and an expression of beauty and florality. Medium-bodied, the palate rich and lively, vibrant aromatic red cherry and berry fruits entwined with an array of red florals, with subtle herb notes. The fruit forms a refined core and line with supple, fine-grained extraction and textures. The mouthfeel features plenty of energy from the acidity, and the wine has drive and linearity, flowing along to a ling and sustained, elegant and fragrant finish. This is an elegant, refined, rich and lively red cherry and floral fruited Pinot Noir with supple and fine-grained tannins and a fresh mouthfeel. Serve with tuna and salmon, poultry and pork over the next 5-6+ years. From a very steep north-facing slope, 15% clay and 5-10% active lime. Hand-destemmed and partially foot-crushed, indigenous yeast fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 12 months in 10% French oak. 3,198 bottles made. 19.0-/20 Jun 2017 RRP $130.00
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