Brendan Seal has a modus operandi that is somewhat different to other wine producers. He obtains small and special lots of grapes each year to make one-off wines. No two wines are ever the same (of course), and there appears to be no continuity. However, looking more closely, one can see that it is the uniqueness of every wine that is the theme, and that Brendan’s style of wines is that which highlights texture as well as flavour. His wines are more ‘traditional’ in outlook, but they faithfully represent place. And that place is Central Otago, and Brandan’s preferred variety is Pinot Noir.
Brendan has made a fascinating run of Pinot Noirs under ‘The Writer’s Block’ label. The 2009 and 2010 were from Bannockburn fruit. There were no wines made for his brand in 2011 and 2012, but in 2013 his Pinot Noirs were from Bendigo and Alexandra, the latter under the ‘Heritage’ nomenclature. In 2014, his ‘Novella’ Pinot Noir came from Bannockburn and included 5% from Northburn. There is no 2015 Pinot Noir. Brendan’s model allows the making of wines when the fruit is suitable, and when he is ready to supply, rather than being at the whims of the market. www.thewritersblock.co.nz
Being in control of the making of ‘The Writer’s Block’ wines has also given Brendan the latitude to pursue a unique venture, URBN VINO, the making of Central Otago Pinot Noir in an urban winery in one of Dunedin’s heritage buildings. Pop-up and urban craft beer production, and to a lesser extent winemaking, is a popular phenomenon now, and Brendan is a leader in New Zealand, having his successful debut last year. The 2017 vintage has been crowd funded, and this included proceeds from the sale of the Urbn Vino Pinot Noir 2015 (click here to see my review). Brendan’s work in Dunedin has attracted a different clientele, and Brendan has become much more accessible to this market. Along with this project, Brendan will also be making a rosé wine to support the Dunedin Street Art Fund, made possible through the generosity of suppliers of grapes, labelling and design work. www.urbnvino.nz
Brendan Seal – The Writer’s Block and URBN VINO
Brendan Seal – The Writer’s Block and URBN VINO
The 2016 Wines from Barrel
From the 2016 vintage, Brendan has 7 barrels of Pinot Noir, of which 6 are from a Bendigo vineyard, and one from a Bannockburn site. From these barrels, Brendan is intending to blend proportionally to make two wines, approx. 65 cases of ‘The Writer’s Block’, and 50 cases of an ‘Urbn Vino’ ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir. Sue Davies, Brendan’s Wellington distributor and my partner, and I had the opportunity of tasting wine from the 6 Bendigo sourced barrels. Here are my notes on the wines, including a composite blend which might approximate the final version of ‘The Writer’s Block’ Pinot Noir 2016.
Clone 4 Pinot Noir, Bendigo 2016, no whole cluster, a new barrel
Light purple-red colour. This has black and dark-red berry fruit aromas, along with nuances of minerals. On palate, black fruits, some plums, and liquorice. Fine tannin and extraction. Some new oak lift and shine.
Clone 4 Pinot Noir, Bendigo 2016, no whole cluster, a neutral barrel
Light purple-red colour. The fruit is a little restrained, with the minerality to the fore. Lighter fruit and flavour expression, but with more extraction and grip. The tannins are fine-grained.
Clone 4 Pinot Noir, Bendigo 2016, no whole cluster, a 2 y.o. barrel
Light purple-red colour. The nose is soft and broad, a little earthiness, and also a touch reduced at this stage. The palate features a firm tannin linearity, and the mouthfeel enlivened by brisk acidity.
Clone 114 Pinot Noir, Bendigo 2016, no whole cluster, from a 1 y.o. barrel
Dark purple-red colour. The nose is firmly concentrated and tightly bound, with dark-red and black fruits along with subtle herbal notes. On palate quite bright and rich, showing black berried fruit with plums and liquorice notes. Mouthfilling, with ripe, soft tannins. The acid more in the background.
Clone 114 Pinot Noir, Bendigo 2016, no whole cluster, from a 3 y.o. barrel
Even ruby-red with purple hues. Tightly bound with a fine core of dark-red fruit, along with savoury, nutty seasoned oak notes. Soft in expression on palate, more ethereal, the tannins fine grained, and the mouthfeel driven a little by the acidity.
Clone 114 Pinot Noir, Bendigo 2016, no whole cluster, neutral oak
Light purple-red colour. The aromatics are delicate and elegant, and quite gentle in expression. More dark-red cherries with subtle herbal nuances. This has a soft, dense core with fine tannins and soft acidity. The wine nevertheless has a freshness and vibrancy.
Composite Pinot Noir Blend of Barrels, Bendigo 2016
The clone 4 slightly over 14.0% alc, and the clone 114 slightly under. All oak is Cadus, and 16% new. The wine in oak 11 months, with 12 months total planned. Deepish purple-red colour. This has a firm core of black cherry aromas, with a little savoury seasoned oak, revealing herb detail, the nose growing in depth in the glass. Bright and vibrant, with good sweetness and richness, dark-red and black fruits along with notes of spice. More front-palate expression initially, but balanced, positive and good length unfolding. This won’t be a blockbuster, but more stylish in presentation.