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Maude and Mount Maude in Wanaka

By July 5, 2013No Comments
Over a decade, Dan and Sarah-Kate Dineen had carved very successful careers for themselves in the Hunter Valley wine scene in Australia, but hankered to go to Sarah-Kate’s home of Wanaka, Central Otago to fulfil their winemaking dream. Sarah-Kate’s parents Terry and Dawn Wilson had established the Mt Maude vineyard on a steep site in the Maungawera Valley just outside of Wanaka, and Dan and Sarah-Kate’s return signalled the full involvement of the next generation in their winegrowing venture. SK (as Sarah-Kate is called) and Dan made their first Maude wine in 2004, a Chardonnay from Mt Maude fruit, while on leave and under clandestine conditions. From then on the Maude wines were developed and the Mt Maude wines taken further.

The Mt Maude vineyard is small, only 4 ha in size, and planted on a very steep, north-facing slope. The varieties are Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The site is recognised as one consistently producing first-class fruit, especially with Riesling and Pinot Noir. The ‘Mt Maude’ designated wines are essentially the ‘Reserve’ wines for them, and Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is released in this tier. The Pinot Gris fruit goes to the ‘Maude’ label, as does the younger plantings of the Pinot Noir, these being from 10 year old Dijon clones. The original 10/5 clone Pinot Noir goes into the ‘Mt Maude’ label.

The ‘Maude’ wines are regionally-expressive wines made from fruit sourced from growers from around the different Central Otago sub-regions with whom they have developed a strong and trusted relationship with. Some of the fruit from the family ‘Mt Maude’ vineyard goes into these wines. The output of the wines under each tier makes their positioning clear, the ‘Mt Maude’ single vineyard wines around 600 cases, and the ‘Maude’ wines at 6,000 cases. The reality is that both of these labels are of relatively small volume, hand-crafted wines. www.maudewines.com

Contract Winemaking

It was their relationships with their growers that provided the momentum for the establishment of the contract winemaking services that has now become a significant part of what they do. Building the Maude winery in Connell Street in Wanaka in 2006, their initial crush was around 70 tonnes. With growers wanting to process their fruit for their own labels, this saw a sudden growth to 170 tonnes in 2007, than a record 680 tonnes in 2008. It was a very busy time for the Dineens, as the purchase of a vineyard, the setting up of the winery, taking on contract winemaking clients, and starting a family all coincided then!

While still very busy, there is more of a normal life. The winery handled around 550 tonnes for the 2013 vintage. There are currently around 10 clients who contract the facility and services to varying degrees of involvement by Dan, SK and their assistant James McElrea. Among the larger clients are Misha’s Vineyard, Mount Michael and Naked Wines.

As with most contract winemaking services, Dan and SK find “walking the vineyards is essential”, especially as many of the growers are their suppliers of fruit for their ‘Maude’ label. There are a number of young vineyards they are involved with and it’s a learning curve for all involved in how to get the best out of the grapes and making wines in the appropriate styles. Sometimes “it’s a reality check for what can be done with their grapes”, say Dan.

Tasting 2013 Tank and Barrel Samples and Older Wines
After calling into the Maude winery at Connell Street, Dan, SK and their administrator Myran Hagenfeldt took us out to The ‘Mt Maude’ block and SK’s parents’ home to taste a range of 2013 tank and barrel samples of their own wines and some of their clients. Also tasted were some older finished wines to provide perspectives. The clients’ wines are named with permission. Here are my impressions:

Starting with whites, the Mt Maude Dry Riesling 2013 at 11.0% alc. and 6 g/L rs is tight and very fine-textured with clear-cut lime, floral and mineral aromas and flavours. This had a lusciousness of fruit allied to crisp steeliness. The Mt Maude ‘East Block’ Riesling 2013 is 10.0% alc. and 30 g/L rs. Also delicate, shy even, but the lusciousness enhanced with beautiful honeysuckle notes. The sugar is a little prominent at this stage, but it shows great potential. Next was a 36 Bottles Riesling 2013, a very even flowing wine with lime and sherbet notes. More up-front and textural, growing to show citrus and tropical detail, and lovely approachability. Then onto a Maude Pinot Gris 2013. Exactly what you’d expect for Central Otago Pinot Gris, with florals, subtle spices and steely mouthfeel. A touch of alcohol noticeable, but a wine with depth and real drive.

I’ve already reviewed the Mt Maude Chardonnay 2012 (click here to see), but with just a little more time in bottle, this has come together superbly, the creaminess of barrel-ferment and MLF even more of a feature. This has power with layers of complex flintiness. A great wine. The barrel sample of Mt Maude Chardonnay 2013 was crisper and less developed for sure, but the underlying creaminess and interest is there, waiting to emerge. A fascinating wine was presented in the form of the TOSQ Flora 2013, made as a 100% natural wine with as little winemaker inputs as possible. It’s funky as, and I found it difficult to come to grips with, but the interest that emanates from it is undeniable. It’s an interesting experiment for the Thompsons who own TOSQ, as well as for Dan and SK. (Click here to see my review of the TOSQ Flora 2012.) Then a 36 Bottles Rosé 2013, dry to taste at 5 g/L rs, a fun, floral and confectionary fruited wine that is totally approachable with its juiciness and soft richness. This will surely be a guaranteed success, showing Dan and SK’s understanding of the styles that are popular in the marketplace.

Pinot Noir is the variety which is always in the Dineen’s minds, as it must hold the most challenges for them. Starting off with the 2011 vintage as benchmarkers, the Maude Pinot Noir 2011 is an excellent example from an inconsistent vintage, this showing sweet dark plum and red berry fruits, liquorice even, and just a little whole bunch complexity. The Mt Maude Pinot Noir 2011 has around 50% whole bunch, and this is a little more obvious, with darker, savoury, aromatic herb elements. But matching was greater richness of fruit and spicy detail, the wine being one of greater structure. Arguably the most successful wine with maximum whole bunch to date has been the Mt Maude Pinot Noir 2007. This is still a remarkable wine, displaying amazing richness and beautiful complexities, the sweetness of fruit, ripeness of material and suppleness of tannins hitting the spot. A truly delicious and outstanding wine. Then a look at the other releases with whole cluster work. The Mt Maude Pinot Noir 2009 had 100% whole bunch. Excellent lifted aromatics and intensity, and many layers of interest for sure, but the structure firm and dumbing down the fruitiness. This is a wine of textures and structure. The Mt Maude Pinot Noir 2010 with 60% whole bunch was positively fruit-driven in comparison. Initially quite primary, with florals and sweetly ripe fruit, this grew in glass to reveal the complex savouriness and structure associated with the use of whole bunches in the ferment.

We finished with a look at barrel samples of Pinot Noir. The Maude Pinot Noir 2012 has around 25% whole bunch, and this is very refined, elegant, and penetrating with its florals and sweet fruit flavours. It is pretty, but there is a pretty serious depth underlining it. The Mt Maude Pinot Noir 2012 has around 50% whole bunch. More reserved, but clearly with greater depth, concentration and richness. Both these wines show the quality of the 2012 vintage for Dan and SK. Then a sample of Mt Maude ‘Main Block’ Pinot Noir 2013, with 50% whole bunch, oldest vines, fresh and bright with classical dark herbal lift to the beautifully fragrant and aromatic dark red fruits. Already showing its structure and concentration. A contrast to the Mt Maude ‘Kids’ Pinot Noir 2013, from younger vines and newer clones, no whole bunch. Very primary, almost a jammy lift of dark raspberry fruit, lush and easy, quite upfront, and less grip. It won’t make the top blend, but there’s quality going on. Wait for the wines to mature!

The Maude and Mt Maude Crew – and a great line-up of wines
Myran Hagenfeldt, Dan and Sarah-Kate Dineen

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