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Green Men at Richmond Plains and Te Mania

By July 23, 2012No Comments
It takes a bit to untangle the connections between Lars Jensen and Jon Harrey of Richmond Plains and Te Mania respectively. Both men are vineyard owners with an interest each in Appleby Vintners in Nelson. They’ve leased property together and they have the same winemaker working for them, making both labels. Their shared cellar door and winery, a few hundred meters down McShane Road off the main Appleby Highway near Richmond, is another symbol of their involvement together in the wine industry. I understand that both men are very good friends and their families are very close. But where does friendship end and business begin? Only they can answer that question properly.
Needless to say, there is a differentiation between the wines that issue from the winery, made by Steve Gill, who has been with Jon and Lars over the last three vintages. To me, the Te Mania wines are more expansive and characterful, the Richmond Plains wines a little more subdued and elegant. Of course, Lars has taken the Richmond Plains wines down the road to be fully certified organic, while the Te Mania wines can include fruit not fully certified. There are advantages to both approaches, but I daresay that in the future, the Te Mania wines may be certified organic?
Organic, Biodynamic and Comfortable
On walking around the winery site and associated vineyard, it was obvious that Lars has whole-heartedly taken on the organic and biodynamic approach to grapegrowing, and he was proud of the results of the hard work that has been required to get to the certified status. I knew Lars when he was a corporate man in another life in Wellington, and now, he is a man of the land. Still very business-like and undeniably pragmatic, it is clear that he has a close connection with the land, and he knows how to fit in harmoniously with it. There’s a far more relaxed approach to life and an extra spark of humour is apparent from those office-working days.
Winemaker Steve Gill is another man who has grown comfortably within himself. Working at Dry River and Greenhough before arriving at Te Mania and Richmond Plains for the 2010 vintage, Steve brings good experience, and seems at home in the 500 tonne capacity winery that was built in 2004. Steve recently became a father, and it may be quieter at work? The amount of fruit handled is somewhat less than full capacity at present, around 300 tonnes being crushed, but both labels are gearing up with vineyards coming on stream. Over the last three vintages, I have noticed more polish and definition in the wines, and this is a sure sign of healthy progress, both in vineyards and winery. These are Nelson labels on the up.
2012 Barrel Samples and Some Older Vintages
Lars and Steve took us through a tasting of barrel samples and some finished wines that demonstrated the growing understanding and maturity of the sites, sensitive winemaking and aspirations. Sauvignon Blanc has been a successful variety for Richmond Plains over the last couple of vintages with gold medals coming Lars’ way. Taking this success further with a flagship barrel-worked wine made according to biodynamic methods is the next step. An unfinished Richmond Plains Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc 2012 100% fermented in wood by indigenous yeasts showed complex nectarine and spice flavours with gorgeous creamy textures, while still retaining acid zing. This is reminiscent of the more complex Sauvignons from Marlborough. Then a barrel-sample of a Richmond Plains Pinot Noir 2012, elegant and harmonious with bright red fruits and a growing structural backbone. This will never be the biggest wine, but there is plenty here, and with harmony.

Three vintages of Te Mania ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir were fascinating. The 2012 Barrel Sample, fruit from the ‘Marsland” site, aged in 30% new oak, dark fruited, with density and fine textures, yet balanced with well-judged tannins and good freshness. The Te Mania ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir 2010, based on ‘Marsland’ and ‘Hope’ fruit with some Moutere material, aged in 33% new oak for 15 months. Spicy oak and dark fruits, with real depth and concentration, showing the power of the vintage. Then a Te Mania ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir 2009, a single vineyard wine from the ‘Marsland’ site, aged in 40% new oak, quite toasty and smoky, now developing secondary mushroom notes, yet harmoniously interwoven with its flavour layers. I said what I saw was less winemaker shaping and use of oak, and the allowing of the natural red ‘feminine’ fruit and texture be expressed. Lars and Steve agreed, explaining this had been their aim, and I gave myself a pat on the back for recognising it. www.temaniawines.co.nz  www.richmondplains.co.nz

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