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Spade Oak – Innovative Gisborne Artisan

By January 16, 2014No Comments
If there is anyone who has a broad and full understanding of the Gisborne wine scene, it will have to be Steve Voysey. Coming to Gisborne from Marlborough with Montana Wines, he’s seen the large corporate side of making wine and is now, with his wife Eileen, one of the new breed of artisan winegrowers joining James and Annie Millton, who inspiringly continue their pioneering ways in the Gisborne district. Steve has over two decades of winemaking experience, and along with Eileen have around 15 years of grape-growing. They’ve supplied the big guys with their fruit and now supply their own boutique label. Their Spade Oak vineyard in what they dub the ‘Central Valley’ of Gisborne has been home to grapes for nearly 50 years, and the Voyseys are seeing the property in its fourth planting. www.spadeoak.co.nz

Innovative Varieties and Hand-Crafted Wine
There are 17 ha of grapes planted at Spade Oak, with 2.8 ha of Viognier and 1.7 ha of ‘Rua’ clone Chardonnay conventionally planted on the front blocks either side of their drive towards the main road. However, it’s the back section of land that is extremely interesting. There, they’ve interplanted between the normal-spaced rows to end up with approximately 4,000 vines per hectare. They’ve done this not only to increase productivity, but to make better wine through earlier maturation and lower crop loads. After Viognier and Chardonnay, Albarino is the next most-planted, and there is a programme to increase this. Syrah followed by Tempranillo is next, with 1.0 ha and 0.8 ha respectively, with lesser amounts of St Laurent and Marsanne. There are only three rows each of Petit Manseng and Gruner Veltliner. The proportions are a moveable feast, as the plantings of Viognier and Gruner Veltliner are being reduced, as Albarino and Petit Manseng find favour.

Steve Voysey with ‘dinner plate’-sized Tempranillo vine leaves

The vineyard performs consistently for the Voyseys, and they put much of this to the site in the ‘Central Valley’ which, although is maritime-influenced, seems warmer than the Patutahi district and drier than the Hexton Hills, both of which are proven as quality-performing areas. The hard clay soils of the valley and dry farming are also factors in the quality of the fruit. This is a good base for Steve and Eileen to assess the performance of the new wave of innovative varieties and clones that are being introduced into the country by the Riversun nursery. The Voyseys seem to be among the leaders in the Gisborne region trialling them, along with growers such as the Bells, Briants and Paul Tietjen, and producers such as Matawhero and Coopers Creek.

A difference that the Voyseys have is that they are true artisans, personally tending the vines and hand-crafting the wines from the fruit, seeing the process from start to finished wine. As a consultant for Indevin, Steve has been able to use the facilities for vinification, but also others, such as the Longbush winery for specialist work, such as in the making of the method traditionnelle wines. Then there’s the sales and marketing, which is totally under their care.

Tasting the 2013 Vintage Wines
Steve took me to the Indevin facility where he led me through a tasting of Spade Oak wines, yet-to-be bottled, from the outstanding 2013 Gisborne harvest. Seeing how good the Voysey wines are from the difficult 2010 and 2011 vintages and the extremely challenging 2012 year, the 2013s will be extremely smart, if not rather special, and this I sensed as I tasted them. They will be worth seeking once bottled and placed on the market. Here are my impressions.
First sample was a Marsanne 2013 from stainless-steel barrel. Soft textured with distinctive citrus orange flavours and a ‘pithy’ core. This has good weight, and the acidity emerges. There’s an oak-like richness and flavour, even though it has seen no wood. I liked this, though Steve deemed it less than desirable in excitement! Next a Petit Manseng 2013, from stainless-steel barrel at 50-60 g/L RS. A sweet wine, this smells and tastes fresh and bright, with flavours of white stonefruits, exotic floral lift and nutty nuances, all enlivened by cutting and zesty acidity to balance the richness. Certainly no flabbiness here, but this is concentrated and has excitement and tension.

Moving to Chardonnay, firstly the ‘Voysey’ Chardonnay 2013, from tank, all blended up, this being very similar to the 2012 vintage with up-front fruit flavours, good oak and buttery MLF forming a complete package. This has a little more freshness and liveliness than the 2012. Then a Chardonnay 2013, from old barrique, to be a blending component at a higher level. Subtle citrus and stonefruits with some seasoned oak notes and a little earthiness. Much more positive on palate with structure, mouthfeel, concentration and excellent length, along with steely acid cut. This shows the quality of the vintage.

A Late Harvest Viognier 2013 from old barrel, at 13.5% alc. plus, and 150 g/L RS. More a ‘late harvest’ expression, though there is some botrytis influence. Tightly bound, but with beautifully lifted aromas and flavours of florals and apricots, enhanced by citrus zest. This combines power, linearity and concentration with acid cut. The richness provides a smooth flow and soft textures. This won’t be the decadent style of the 2009, but will be more versatile and accessible. Good job there’s three barrels, so there will be decent availability of this little beauty.

Starting the reds was a St Laurent 2012, finished wine from tank. An elegantly-sized wine with liquorice, spices, violets and some oak, along with lifted aromatics. Soft, mellow, and positively dry, but clearly one to drink sooner. A success from 2012. Then the St Laurent 2013, from old barrique with wood inserts, seriously rich with spicy red liquorice and earthy flavours, lovely depth and structure, a step up in mouthfeel and fruit ripeness.

Drawing samples of Spade Oak 2013 vintage wine
Sure to become highly visible!
Moving up, the Tempranillo 2013 is dark purple-red with excellent fragrance and spiciness. Rich and sweet, ripe red berry fruitiness, yet a lightness and poised balance with excellent acidity as much a feature as the fruit. A refreshingly fruity wine, with underlying fine tannin grip. The star for me was the Syrah 2013, from seasoned barrique, co-fermented with Viognier by indigenous yeasts. Tightly packed and concentrated with black fruits, black pepper and a subtle fresh floral lift. Plenty of structure and extract, but spices and an array of flavours that unfolds with air time. This has sophistication, and an excellent high-note finish to the tasting.

Disclaimer: The Spade Oak wines are distributed by ‘Wine2Trade’, the company under which ‘Raymond Chan Wine Reviews’ operates

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