Forager Waipara Pinot Noir 2012 – A New Level of Natural

The ‘Forager’ label is the new and exciting family wine project of talented and thoughtful winemaker Dominic Maxwell at Greystone Wines in the Waipara Valley, North Canterbury. Dominic has been a significant part of the team working with the Thomas family that has brought considerable success to Greystone, such that in a relatively short time the company is now one of the leading producers in the region and in New Zealand. Although the aromatic wines and Pinot Noirs are particularly notable, all of the wines are excellent, if not outstanding.

Dominic intends to take the natural process of winemaking to a new level by conducting wild fermentation in the vineyard so that the indigenous yeasts of the vineyard can work thoroughly in their natural environment to truly express the actual vineyard site and "the essence of the land” as Dominic puts it. Surely, this must bring terroir out in a more real and truer form that can be tasted and experienced? The name ‘Forager’ refers to the wine made from wild yeast sought-after or foraged for in the vineyard.
Natural Fermentation in the Vineyard
Dominic will work only with Pinot Noir for Forager, as it’s the variety he loves. And of course it’s the red variety that is the classical conduit for the expression of terroir. He hand picks the grapes, hand-sorts them, then takes them back to the vineyard for the natural yeasts there to ferment the fruit. The fermentor actually sits amidst the rows of vines in the vineyard. The grapes get tipped in, "the lid goes on, and we leave it there” says Dominic. He observes "the fermentation is completely unique in its kinetics” and the process takes about a month to complete. The fruit obviously undergoes a very long soak compared to conventional indoor fermentation. This is not to be attempted by risk-aversive producers, as it opens the door to pathways of spoilage. Extreme care and monitoring would be required, and the ‘winemaker’ would also need to be fearless and adventurous to take this natural approach.

The natural vineyard fermentation was an idea that Dominic thought of several years ago, and putting it into practice was encouraged by the Thomas family, so it was trialled in small amounts at Greystone. Dominic and the Greystone team were very impressed with the results which he describes as "magnificent”. The Greystone Pinot Noir will include this technique in its production as a result. The ‘Forager’ wine is Dominic’s all-out wine using this technique, using Greystone fruit (of course), and he conducts the vineyard fermentation among those vines.
2012 Ideal in the Waipara Valley
2012 was a cooler growing season in the Waipara Valley, but also a "dream year” for fruit quality and expression. The 2012 Waipara Valley Pinot Noirs have proven to be very successful, with many of the wines taking top awards; the Greystone Pinot Noir 2012 taking the Champion Pinot Noir trophy at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards last year, as well as a host of gold medals.

Dominic chose 2012 as the year for his first ‘Forager’ wine to assess the potential of his vision. The fruit for 2012 was fully destemmed. In 2013 he introduced whole bunches, the inclusion of which not only adds structure and complexity, but he sees is also part of the natural vineyard expression. In 2014 the wine has 50% whole cluster. A cooler vintage, this wine heads towards the dried herb spectrum; vintage expression another influence that Dominic sees as a natural expression that should be captured in the wine. Here, I review the inaugural 2012 Forager Pinot Noir. It is an intriguing and indeed exciting wine to experience. www.foragerwine.co.nz


  • Forager Waipara Pinot Noir 2012

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