It has been nearly two years since Mark Weldon and Sarah Eliott purchased the Olssen’s Vineyard in Bannockburn, and much has changed. The startling labelling is a welcome addition to the shelves and they invite your interest. I’ve met up with Jen Parr, the winemaker, at tastings and wine judging, but ran out of time to visit when I was in Central Otago in July, earlier this year, so unfortunately, I’ve not had the chance to come to keep up with and discuss the developments. It was a very pleasant surprise when Jen made contact for a visit to me while she was in Wellington for some promotional activity. She came along with JP Henderson, the on-premise representative for my old firm Regional Wines, who works with Terra Sancta in the city. Over a glass of wine, she explained about how Terra Sancta is now presented.
Jen Parr – Terra Sancta Winemaker
Jen Parr – Terra Sancta Winemaker
It’s obvious that the focus is on Pinot Noir, with 80% of the 25 ha of plantings dedicated to the variety. From the start Mark Weldon and Sarah Eliott wanted to have “vineyard specific wines” and their tiers and styles they have instituted reflect the different vineyards they own and philosophical approaches possible in expressing the vineyard sources. The original old vines, planted in 1991 form the ‘Sancta’ vineyard, and the newly acquired neighbouring vines planted in 2001 is now the ‘Terra’ vineyard. These two sites, on Felton Road are the core of the operation, and are supplemented by grapes from ‘The Digging’ vineyard on the Cairnmuir side of Bannockburn.
Three Tiers of Pinot Noir
Weldon and Eliott have a three tier offering of the Pinot Noir wines. The ‘Mysterious Diggings’ is the ‘entry level’ range, and I use these words loosely, as some wine producers see the term as demeaning. This tier has Pinot Noir as well as Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and a pair of dessert wines in it, and the wines are “earlier drinking”, or as the website alludes to them as delicious accompaniments to life. For the Pinot Noir, the fruit is based on ‘The Diggings’ vineyard which is lighter in style. There’s around 3,500 cases of the red made. Jen discussed another wine, a ‘Mysterious White’ which will join this range, the wine being composed of old vine Gewurztraminer and Riesling blended with Muscat and Pinot Gris, made in a dry, aromatic style with I’d imagine an intriguing (or mysterious) array of aromas and flavours!
The main Pinot Noir for Terra Sancta is the ‘Estate’ wine. Fruit from both the ‘Terra’ and ‘Sancta’ vineyards go into this. It’s a reflection of the two sites on Felton Road and is crafted to show multiple facets and multiple layers. This should be the most consistent wine for Terra Santa, and as such really is their signature. There’s up to 2,000 cases of this made annually. As with the ‘Mysterious Diggings’ range, the ‘Estate’ wines include a selection of whites, all from either the ‘Terra’ or ‘Sancta’ vineyards, these being more seriously constructed or composed in outlook.
Then come the ‘Single Block’ wines, from special parcels within the ‘Terra’ and ‘Sancta’ sites. The 2011 ‘Jacksons’ and ‘Slapjack’ Pinot Noirs from the old vines in the ‘Sancta’ vineyard have a lineage that harks back to the releases in their former life, and the proven quality and character is clearly defined. Their respective pricing at approx. $50.00 and $80.00 indicates their class and heritage. Joining these two will be a ‘Shingle Beach’ Pinot Noir from 2012, this wine coming from the ‘Terra’ vineyard, the vines planted at high density a la Burgundy. The output of these wines is limited at under 400 cases of each. These wines are terroir expressions and will not have the evening effect of blending as seen in the ‘Estate’ Pinot Noir, and they will reflect the seasonal variations, as they should.
Terra Sancta Rosé
As an aside, Jen mentioned the incredible rise in interest in rosé wine and she talked about its production at Terra Sancta to meet the demand. This is a wine that she’s particularly enamoured with. The fruit for the rosé is purposely grown and dedicated to its making, rather than the wine being a by-product of red wine making. Jen takes the making of this wine just as seriously as the others, and its growth in popularity is no doubt a direct result of the care. JP Henderson confirmed this, and agreed on the deliciousness of the wine! www.terrasancta.co.nz
A Taste of the Terra Sancta Pinot Noir
A sample of the Terra Sancta ‘Estate’ Pinot Noir 2012 was poured. Here are my notes on the wine:
Terra Sancta ‘Estate’ Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2012
Very dark, deep, purple-hued red colour. The bouquet is fresh with aromas of dark cherry and berry fruit, along with dark herbs and a distinct minerally component showing good depth. Nuances of iron-earth unfold, the aromatics fresh, steely and primary. Medium-bodied and very elegantly proportioned, bright and aromatic cherry fruit is the feature on palate, and the flavours are supported by very fine-grained tannin extraction. Fresh, lacy acidity enlivens the palate and provides good energy and tension. Complexing notes of game, herbs and minerals become revealed, and violet florals blossom. The flavours are carried to a fine-textured, aromatic finish. This is an elegant. refreshing and fine-textured Pinot Noir that unfolds an array of detail and interest in the glass. Serve with wild duck and pork over the next 5-7 years. Fruit from the ‘Terra’ and ‘Sancta’ vineyards on Felton Road, given a cold soak and fermented with approx. 15% whole clusters to 13.5% alc., the wine spending 18-21 days on skins, then aged 11 months in 25% new French oak. 1,900 cases made. 18.0/20 Sep 2013 RRP $35.00