Lynnette Hudson who is intimate with the North Canterbury wine scene came to Wellington to present a seminar and tasting of wines describing the different soils and terroirs of North Canterbury and how it is assumed to influence the taste of the wines grown there. Lynnette is well-known as a winemaker, working for many years at Pegasus Bay in developing the styles of those wines, and as the winemaker at the boutique Tongue in Groove operation, and as a consultant at Pyramid Valley over the previous two vintages.
To start the seminar, Lynette discussed the current research and thoughts on the influence of soil on wine. The primary factor and most apparent are the physical properties, especially with regard to water retention. Then some words on the microbiology of the soils, and how different soils have different micro-organisms, with microflora, microfauna and the role of mycorrhiza fungi playing significant roles in vines absorbing nutrients. The role of organics and biodynamics and regimes associated with these philosophies was mentioned. The question remaining to be answered is what sort of role and effectiveness of the microbiology has in the transfer of nutrients? The subject of ‘minerality’ was not brought up. The overall conclusion is that the more micro-organisms there are, the better the health of the soil, and the more the resultant wine speaks of the terroir.
Lynnette had chosen a dozen wines to be served in pairs or groups of three wines, to demonstrate the different soils. All of the wines came from the excellent 2015 vintage, a year of low crops, good ripening with no over-ripeness, and the wines with good acidity. After going through a closed period, they are deemed to be “opening up” according to Lynnette. The wines were served blind to identity, but attendees were told what the wines were supposed to demonstrate. It was the job of the tasters to make an informed guess. The identity of the wines and their soil type were revealed after everyone had decided.
Both wines with limestone base, but one with more clay than the other in the make-up. To me, this was a relatively easy choice. The elegance of these wines as a pair made the differences clearer, in my opinion. Both were made similarly.
Lighter garnet-red. This is aromatic and perfumed with a floral lift. Very fine and fragrant. This has finesse, a line of acid, fine tannins, freshness, quite ethereal, but lively and delicious. My guess: lower clays, correct. (18.5+/20)
Pyramid Valley ‘Earth Smoke’ Canterbury Pinot Noir 2015 (Higher clay content)
Ruby-red colour with dome depth. Solid, deep nose with darker fruit and a solid core. Good weight, presence, quite solid, rich, rounded, fleshy, quite plush. My guess: higher clay soils, correct. (19.0/20)
One wine with limestone influence, the other with Awapuni clay soils influence. Again, I found the differences easy to see. These were more substantial wines than the previous two. And these wines were essentially made in an identical fashion.
Dark, deep ruby-red colour. Lovely fragrant nose, with lifted primary fruit and florals. Elegant on palate, the fruit bright and vibrant, lifted and with finesse. Fresh and good acidity. My guess: limestone, correct. (19.0+/20)
Full and dark ruby-red with garnet. Solid and densely packed on nose, some savoury and game-like aromas. On palate this has darker fruits, with depth and weight, savoury and tannic with plenty of structure and grip. My guess: clay soils, correct. (19.0+/20)
Three wines presented, two from high clay soils and one from gravel soils. This was more difficult as other variables were involved, such as different producers, and different winemaking inputs. The Tongue in Grove wine had a high whole bunch component whereas the other two were fully destemmed.
Darkish, deep ruby-red with slight garnet hues. The nose is full and broad with ethereal aromatics showing complex savoury fruit and other inputs lending dried herbs and game, Full and broad on palate with complex savoury flavours. Forward? A little rustic, but fine tannins. Very smooth and even, mouthfilling flavours. My guess: gravels, incorrect. (19.0-/20)
Dark ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the edge. Lovely up-front primary fruit with ripe berries and plums. Rich, sweet and luscious on the palate, still very primary, juicy and with refined tannin extraction. Fresh acidity but with presence and weight. The most elegant of the three. My guess: gravels, incorrect, (19.0-/20)
Light, even ruby-red colour, with some depth. Full, broad sweetly ripe dark-red fruits, with richness and concentration. The fruit bright and youthful. Similar in style to the Muddy Water, but more complete. Rich and plush, very together, and the fruit plushness the feature. My guess: clay, incorrect. (19.0+/20)
One wine from gravels which shows aromatics, perfume, elegant structure and fine complexities, the other from clays with fullness and richness. The Tongue in Groove is from Georges Road with 5-10% botrytis. It also has some reduction which firmed the mouthfeel.
Even straw-yellow. This has citrus and tropical fruit notes, some SO2 lending mineral reduction, but underneath broad and rich. Dryish to taste, this is soft-textured, quite dense and rounded, the flavours in the riper spectrum. The acidity is very fine. My guess: clays, incorrect. (18.0/20)
Bright pale straw with golden-yellow tints. This is beautifully perfumed and pure, with lime and lemonade and intense florals. This has delicacy and beauty. On palate quite taut, but with fine drying textures. This is refined with fine acid cut. Sheer finesse. My guess: gravels, incorrect. (19.0+/20)
Three Riesling, two of the wines from the same producer, but one from gravels soil and the other clay. The other producer’s wine from gravel soils. For me the house style was useful to identify. This aided the identification of the soils. The third producer, Terrace Edge, quite a different style, with botrytised fruit and slightly higher residual sugar. I came across the answers by elimination more than from the taste of the wines per se.
Bright pale straw-yellow colour. Very fresh and bright, a little SO2 reduction giving firmness. Very tightly bound on palate some delicacy and essentially a little shy. Softer on palate with some breadth. Unfolding lime, lemon and honey. The acidity is excellent, but the core has depth and richness. My guess” clays, incorrect. Guess: One of the two wines from the same producer, correct. (19.0-/20)
Bright, light straw-yellow colour, very pale edged. The nose is soft and delicate, quite shy in expression with mineral alongside florals. Soft on palate with intensity and depth, taut and tightly bound, with a slenderness. My guess: gravels, incorrect. Guess: One of the two wines from the same producer, correct. (18.5+/20)
Pale golden-hued straw-yellow. Very full with bright and very ripe fruit aromas, tropical fruits, deeply concentrated with honied breadth. On palate medium-sweet and rich. A tight core and some fineness. But also an unctuousness. Botrytis and honey, and deliciously decadent. Guess: gravels – by default, but the taste seemed to indicate clay. Correct. Guess: The single producer, correct. (19.0+/20)
The North Canterbury Wine Soils and Terroir tasting was held at The Wine Sentience Hub. This is a facility designed by Wine Sentience to offer wine professionals especially those visiting Wellington to have a space to work in. It is a fully licenced location to hold meetings, run tastings or getting work done. The hub has spaces for social events as well as quiet places for focussed work. There are Riedel glassware available for use, as well as Coravin preservation and temperature controlled storage for wines. Antipodes water is on hand. Users have access to high-speed internet and printing services.