Friday, 23 December 2016

Waimea Family Estate Wines

Waimea Family Estate Wines Gruner Veltliner 2016 Nelson
Fruity, fresh, varietal and distinctive bouquet show pineapple (tin), apple, lemon and white peach, some typical vegetal notes of radish and snow pea (quite quiet), a sfot spicy layer. On the palate - crisp, dry and fruity reflecting all the flavours described for the nose; more peppery and vegetal on the palate - which I like - stelly acidity and lengthy finish. Great balance. Drink now and through 2018.
88 Points

Waimea Family Estate Wines Gewurztraminer 2015 Nelson
Voluptuous, fragrant and enticing bouquet of flowers, spice and ripe fruits; apple and white pears, white peach and fleshy Asian pear, just enough exotic tones. On the palate - off dry to begin with but eventually finishes dry; flavours of exotic fruits return, spices and warming alcohol along with a lengthy finish make for very nice drinking indeed. Great balance and finish. Drink now and through 2020.
90 Points

Waimea Family Estate Wines Pinot Rosé 2016 Nelson
Very fruity, ripe and classic - packed with aromas of strawberry and red apple skin, some stony mineral notes and a light crushed rose layer. On the palate - juicy, fresh, fruity and just dry on the finish; persistent flavours of light red berry fruits and peach, medium+ acidity and persistent flavours overall. Drink now and through 2017.
88 Points

Waimea Family Estate Wines Pinot Noir 2015 Nelson
Lovely calm beginning of a varietal Pinot Noir with aromas of red and dark red cherry, some plum, toasty oak and vanilla spice, loads of silty mineral making for a complex bouquet overall. On the palate - varietal, fruity and dry with flavours of dark cherry and spicy plum, medium toasty oak, fine tannins and medium+ acidity. Balanced and definitely well made example.
91 Points

Waimea Family Estate Wines 'Trev's Red' 2015 Nelson
Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Viognier
Very fruity and quite fragrant too with aromas of red currant and black raspberry, some peppery spice notes and rose. On the palate - juicy, fruity and dry; flavours of plum and red currants, raspberry and some peppery notes, very easy tannins, medium acidity and balanced medium length and finish. Drink now and through 2018.
88 Points

Waimea Family Estate Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Nelson
Vibrant and expressive bouquet of ripe citrus and orchard fruits, some tropical fruit aromas and grassy layers. On the palate - equally vibrant, fruity, fresh and dry; flavours of tropical fruits and fresh herbs, plenty of crisp acidity and classic lengthy finish. Drink now and through 2018.

91 Points


Giesen Rosé 2016 Hawke's Bay
Made from Merlot grapes the aromas of red plum, cherry and red apple skin are fresh and ripe, some floral notes and light stone mineral quality complete the bouquet. On the palate - fruity reflecting the flavours of red berries and plum, medium+ acidity and very fine tannins; balanced, fresh and well made. Drink now and through 2017.
88 Points


Amisfield Chenin Blanc 2016 Central Otago
Very fruity bouquet with aromas of apples and green grapes, a gentle lees layer and soft white spice note, simple, fresh and lively overall. On the palate - frsh, crisp, fruity and dry; flavours of apple s and grapes return with a layer of white peach and a hint of spice; a wine in the very early stages of development requiring some months to begin to show its true potential. Balanced and well made - typical for this producer. Drink from late Summer 2017 through 2025.
87 Points

Amisfield Pinot Gris 2016 Central Otago
Generous, lush and fruity bouquet with aromas of fresh pear and apple, some quince and peach then a layer of silty mineral earthy qualities and a light white spice. On the palate - just dry with some light sweetness, a core of ripe fruit and medium+ acidity adding crunch and freshness. This wine will reward from now and through 2020 if stored well. Fresh, crisp, balanced and well made.
89 Points

Spinyback by Waimea

Spinyback by Waimea Riesling 2016 Nelson
Fruity and fragrant bouquet with fleshy apple and lemon aromas, light wet stone moneral character and a spun sugar note. Off-dry with some sweetness then balancing acidity; flavours of lemon and grapefruit then some apple, medium+ acidity, balanced and well made. Drink now and through 2017.
84 Points

Spinyback by Waimea Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Nelson
Pungent bouquet with aromas of apple, golden kiwifruit and tropical fruits then sweet hay and cape goosebery, simple and forward. Juicy, fresh, fruity and packed with energy; just dry with a core of ripe fruit; balanced example with medium+ finish. Drink now and through 2018.
87 Points

Spinyback by Waimea Pinot Gris 2016 Nelson
Fruity and quite fragrant with aromas of juicy pear and fleshy red apple, some floral notes and a hint of citrus. On the palate - just dry with a hint of sweetness, medium acidity and fruit flavours that reflect the nose - pear and apple; fresh and lively with a simple, clean finish.
83 Points

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

TWR Te Whare Ra

Te Whare Ra

Six pack of whites just arrived - anxious to get my thoughts on these wines to ya'l. Five of six are Single Vineyard expressions - marked by 'SV 5182' in the title of the wine.

TWR SV 5182 Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Quite pungent at first then a fragrant and complex layer of messages about wild white flowers, honeysuckle and heriloom citrus fruits; then of course some of the more typical Marlborough SB characters kick in with pink grapefruit and some tropical/red apple suggestions. On the palate - urgent, fresh, crisp and dry; loaded with flavours that reflect the nose, some softer herb notes, high acidity, vibrant texture, great balance and length. Drink now and through 2025 - this wine will age well.
94 Points

TWR Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Juicy, fresh, luscious and classical Marlborough aromas of citrus, tropical and white fleshed stone fruits; plenty of fresh herb and white spice. On the palate - juicy, fresh, crisp, dry and packed with flavour; lush salivating acidity, loads of citrus and tropical fruit flavours, lengthy finish. Totally classic, balanced and well made.
92 Points

TWR SV 5182 Riesling 'D' 2015
Lemon, green apple, mandarin, lime flower, apple blossom and honeysuckle dominate the bouquet, there's a distinctive mineral or light flinty character, quite subtle behind all the fruit messages. On the palate - fruity with an even display of all the types listed above, crisp, balanced, subtle flavours of green tea, peach and Kaffir lime, dry lengthy finish. 
94 Points

TWR SV 5182 Riesling 'M' 2016
Fragrant and slightly exotic aromas of ripe mandarin and lime flower, white peach and pale apricot, some honeysuckle moments and wild flowers. On the palate - off dry with some residual sweetness, flavours of cape gooseberry, mandarin, lime and green apple; unctuous textures and plenty of acidity, long finish and delicious. Drink now and through 2025.
95 Points

TWR SV 5182 Pinot Gris 2015
Fresh, floral, fruity and varietal with aromas and flavours of green and brown pear, yellow apple and some white spice, slightly oily texture to the bouquet. On the palate - crunchy, fresh, fruity and dry on the finish; flavours reflect the nose with medium+ acidity, light white spice moment and decent length, balanced and well made. Drink now and through 2020.
90 Points

TWR SV 5182 'Toru' 2016
Gewurztraminer/Riesling/Pinot Gris - co fermented
Exotic, complex and inviting bouquet of fresh fruits, exotic fruits, spice, honeysuckle and harmony. On the palate - dry with plenty of acidity and flavours that show off lemon and pear, spiced apple and white pepper. Lengthy and totally enjoyable finish, great balance and length. Drink now and through 2020
94 Points

Waipara Hills

Waipara Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Marlborough
Pungent, fruity, distinctive and classic with all the hallmarks of a Marlborough SB - fruits of golden kiwifruit, cape gooseberry, peach and pink grapefruit, plenty of fresh herbs and crunch red bell-pepper. High acidity, crunchy textures, some spice and flavours that reflect the bouquet; lengthy finish.
90 Points

Wooing Tree

Wooing Tree 'Tickled Pink' Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago
Ripe, fruity refreshingly sweet and packed with flavours of red melon, bing cherry, rose Turkish Delight, pink marshmellow and honey; plenty of acidity and a long fun finish. Delicious wine and perfect with spicy Asian soups or Pavlova. 
93 Points

Jules Taylor

Jules Taylor Sauvignon Blanc Late Harvest 2015 Marlborough
Very ripe, fruity and varietal with aromas and flavours of gooseberry and green gauge plum, apriocts and fuzzy skinned peach, the herbal side is mostly sweet hay and baked red bell-pepper with some cooked basil notes, high acidity, plenty of sweetness and honey, great balance and length, very nice indeed.
91 Points

Bendigo Estate

Bendigo Estate 'Loop' Noble Riesling 2016 Central Otago
Ripe and fruity with scents of lemon and honey, sherbet and ginger lemondade, exotic and inviting bouquet. On the palate - sweet and fruity with high residual sugar easily contrasted with high acidity; flavours of pineapple, apple, lemon and sherbet, lengthy balanced and well made.
90 Points

Music Bay

Music Bay 'Autumn' Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Marlborough
Ripe, herbal, fruity and powerful - aromas and flavours of fresh herbs, grass, piceapple, apple, hay and bell-pepper; plenty of acidity to offset the residual sugar and finisg=h the wine just dry. A wine for dessert courses or Asian spiced soups.
84 Points

Doctors Flat

Doctors Flat Pinot Noir 2013 Central Otago
Ripe and intense bouquet of dark berry fruits, dried spice, dried herb, new oak and complex mineral core. On the palate - dry, fruity, savoury, complex and youthful; flavours of dark cherry and dark plum then freeze-dried raspberry; plenty of oak flavours and oak spice, clove and vanilla tones; youthful tannins and plenty of acidity. A wine still in development and requires decanting for service. Drinking best from late 2018 through 2030.
95 Points

Akitu by Hawkesbury Estates

Akitu by Hawkesbury Estates Ltd
A1 Pinot Noir 2015 70% F Abel 30% C5 - Clones
Soft core of ripe light red fruits led by sweet cherry, plum and raspberry suggestions, a an additional core component of mineral with quartz-like features, moderate oak and quite complex. On the palate - youthful texture with medium+ acidity, fine tannins and youthful sulphide action, flavours of red berry fruits and oak spice layers add to a lengthy finish.
93 Points

Akitu by Hawkesbury Estates Ltd
A2 Pinot Noir 2015 57% F Abel 39% C5, 4% F Abel - Clones
A more forward and fruit focused bouquet with softer strawberry/cherry tones, fine yet quiet dried herb layer, mild earthy tones with  more clay-like reminders. On the palate - dry with fine tannins and medium+ acidity, flavours of berry and cherry return, soft brown spice and earthy tones, calm, balanced, soft and quietly complex. Balanced and well made, quite lengthy.
94 Points


Greystone Pinot Noir 2015 Waipara
Ripe, fruity and intense with ripe dark berry fruits and plum, a brambly bracken and dried herb layer, brown kitchen spices and medim+ oak layer, obvious complexity. On the palate - equally fruity and brambly with flavours of dried spice, plum and black cherry, youthful tannins and a back bone of acidity - both need time to intergrate and hunker down, lengthy finsh and complexity is obvious. Well made, youthful, time required. Best drinking from 2018 through 2028.
94 Points

Mineral Intervention

The following piece is written by Professor Alex Maltman from the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences within the  University of Wales at Aberystwyth, United Kingdom.

It is a discussion piece, with some pretty strong evidence, on the links between soil, vine and wine, if any, that a wine taster can - or cannot - perceive. My thoughts and comments are at the end for your consideration.

This piece is from the Guild of Sommeliers web-site. Thanks to the Guild for making this available. There is much valuable information available there, and I strongly recommend any Sommeliers serious about their study and knowledge sign up at

Vineyard geology – the rocks and soils in which the grapevines are rooted – pervades the world of wine. To illustrate the point, the picture below is a collage of wine labels – all of which bear geological terms. The back-labels on wine bottles also may mention geology, as in the following extracts: “our wine originates from limestone soils”; “the chateau is on sandy limestone from the Cretaceous period”; “the vines grow on argilo-calcareous soils with sea-shell fossils” and, most impressively, “our vineyard has Triassic and Jurassic sediments on undulating Proterozoic granulite and migmatite with numerous dolerite dykes”.
But it is in the wine press where wine-geology references really abound. It is de rigeur to at least mention the geology in vineyard descriptions, and commonly to assert how it influences the finished wine. Some even claim that the vineyard geology can be tasted in the wine: “you can taste the volcanic ash of nearby Vesuvius”; “wine allows me to taste soil and bedrock”; “a “graphite or schisty-ness flavor which I identify as coming from the soil of the Priorat”; “in Brouilly, there are veins of blue granite nuanced in the wines”.
Of course, all plants are influenced by the site and soil where they grow – every farmer or gardener knows that - but only with wine (despite the extensive post-harvest processing of the fruit) are the connections taken this far. And the fact is that much of the basis for this degree of interaction is anecdotal and subjective: the scientific justification is mixed.
This article attempts to review the situation, summarising present scientific understanding of vineyard geology and what it might bring to wine. It is in two halves. The first part outlines the general principles and the second part explains some of the wealth of geological terms and concepts that are so often met with in the world of wine.

A collage of wine labels illustrating the attraction of geological terms for wine names.
Historical: why do soils seem so important for vines and wines?
Back in the Middle Ages, the Burgundian monks were busy consolidating their newly granted monastic lands – and planting vineyards. They knew that vines grew better on some sites than others, and legend has it that the monks even tasted the soils to find which would give the best tasting wine. And why not? The vines were obviously taking up water from the soil and with it, presumably, everything else that they needed to grow. The vines and the resulting wine had to come from matter in the soil. The local climate affected the ripening of the grapes and to the monks there was a spiritual dimension to it all, but the idea that the vineyard soil was central to wine flavor seemed self-evident. Wine was made of the soil.
The idea was to become entrenched. It was all part of the patrimony of France, and the creed was handed down through the generations. Most soils come from the underlying bedrock so that by the time the appellation contrôlée system was introduced it seemed natural to involve the bedrock geology in delimiting preferred vineyard sites.
Today, to some it still seems self-evident. Wine writers have certainly embraced the sheer romance of the notion. Moreover, through bestowing an obvious “sense of place”, the idea provides immeasurable marketing value. After all, vineyard geology is one of the few things that cannot easily be replicated elsewhere. Also, in addition to the centuries of accumulated anecdote, there’s the fact that many classic wines, the Grand Crus and the like, come from sites with a particular geology. So – in a neat bit of cyclic reasoning – the bedrock is still supposed to be crucial. And it is certainly being perpetuated in the new fashion of tasting minerals in wine. “Minerals” and “minerality” are suddenly, apparently, the most commonly used wine descriptors  – and now being extended to specifics, such as saying wines have a graphite, granite or limestone minerality. Those Burgundian monks would certainly be pleased with their legacy!
Modern science, however, gives a somewhat different view. For we now know that vines, like all other plants, are not made of soil. Rather, they are made, in a way, of sunshine, air and water. By the late 1800s scientists were talking about photosynthesis. And today, ten Nobel Prizes later, we know pretty well how plants carry out their growth. So we are now in a position to put the folklore to one side and look at what the evidence says about how important vineyard soils really are for vines and wines.
Scientific: what do rocks and soils bring to vines and wines?
Grapevines, like all land plants, use sunlight to extract carbon dioxide from the air and combine it with water to produce sugars. From these, all the various carbohydrate compounds that make the vine are manufactured. In other words, sunlight-driven photosynthesis, not soil, makes the vines. The soil, however, is still very relevant: much of the vital water is obtained from it, drawn up through the vine roots. And we know of sixteen elements that are essential for the carbohydrate reactions to take place, almost all of them coming from the soil, dissolved in the soil water. (The availability or otherwise of these elements is generally referred to as the fertility of the soil.)
Most people know at least vaguely about such mineral nutrients, seeing as all animals, including humans, also require such “essential minerals”. In fact, this would seem to be the basis of the fashionable notion of tasting minerals in wines - minerals well known to exist in soils and assumed to have been transmitted through the vine to the finished wine. (However, my article in the forthcoming Spring 2013 Edition of Practical Winery and Vineyard Journal will document why the perception of what we are now calling “minerality” in wine cannot literally be the taste of vineyard minerals).
Regarding these nutrient minerals, let us first note that:
  1. They are derived from  - but are not the same as - the geological minerals that make up the rocks, stones and physical framework of vineyard soils;
  2. They are needed by the vine in only very small quantities: parts per million or less;
  3. Most soils have sufficient nutrient reserves to meet the unusually modest requirements of grapevines, and vinegrowers can easily correct any inadequacies;
  4. The vine roots do not passively accept whatever the soil water has dissolved in it but self-regulate, as far as they can, their nutrient uptake.
Hence the relations between the (minuscule) inorganic content of finished wine and geological minerals in the vineyard is complex and distant. That is one reason why it has proved so difficult to find a reliable way of chemically “fingerprinting” the provenance of wine. Even so, the nutrient supply is essential and so deserves a closer look.
Of the sixteen essential nutrients, a few are needed by the vine in relatively large proportions. Hence they are known as macronutrients. But note the word “relatively”: even these are measured in concentrations of only parts per million (milligrams per kilogram).
Nitrogen is particularly important in that small variations in its uptake affect the amount of vegetative growth of the vine and the way the yeast metabolises the must. Although, of course, air is mainly nitrogen, most of the vine’s nitrogen comes from the organic part of the soil, the humus, as does most phosphorus and sulfur. The latter, together with chlorine, can also be airborne and taken up through stems and leaves.  Of the other macronutrients, calcium, magnesium, and potassium are derived wholly from the soil. Calcium is important because it influences the pH (acidity/alkalinity) of the soil and hence the availability of other nutrients, enhancing it for some but reducing it for others.
The remaining nutrients, such as iron, manganese, zinc and copper, are also derived from the geological minerals that make the soil. The essential amounts are tiny (parts per billion) so these are called micronutrients, or sometimes trace elements. Excess of them can cause toxicity.  A common problem here is that although the vine roots attempt to govern the uptake of each nutrient, some elements are chemically sufficiently alike to “fool” the mechanisms so that too much is absorbed of one to the detriment of the other. A number of vine diseases result from this.
Grapevines try to develop extensive root systems, extending laterally and vertically for a metre and in some cases much more - a strategy of exploiting (relative to many other plants) large volumes of soil at a low root density. Some growers try to artificially increase the root density believing it may enhance any signature of the soil in the wine. Much of the root skeleton becomes established in the first few years of growth although small “feeder” roots continue to grow. Even then, the humus-based macronutrients will be derived from the topmost part of the soil and the other nutrients are usually available from not far  beneath. Any deeper roots are chiefly seeking water.
It follows from this that the belief that old vines have deep roots and therefore provide something extra to wine lacks scientific justification. Similarly, there is no basis for the common assertion that a complex geology leads to complex flavors in the wine. Vine roots take up their required balance of nutrients irrespective of the source, although vineyards located on a single rock type are more likely to suffer from nutrient paucity.
Vine roots have to absorb the mineral nutrients in soluble form. And this is the crux of the difference between geological and nutrient minerals: the latter are dissolved, and most consist of single elements, whereas the former are insoluble complex compounds. As an example, various transformations are needed to extract soluble magnesium (Mg++) from the geological mineral pyroxene, a typical formula for which would be (Ca, Na), (Mg, Fe, Al) (Si, Al)2O6. If that looks complicated, then that’s the point. Most geological minerals are complex! And so are the processes by which the nutrients are made available.
This is because the constituent elements are firmly bonded within the geological minerals, and can only become released after various processes of chemical “attack” we callweathering. Water and air, and the impurities they contain, trigger chemical reactions with the bedrock minerals, changing their nature and eventually, through a complex range of processes, tending to release some of the elements in dissolved form. Then, if circumstances are right, they may be transported to the vine roots for absorption.
Here’s an example. (The names of the rocks and minerals involved will be explained in the second part of this article, on vineyard geology). All vines require potassium and in the Lodi district of California they acquire it primarily from the region’s granite bedrock. But that simple statement hides a whole sequence of processes. In outline, the granite has to begin physical disintegration in order to expose its constituent minerals to weathering.  One such mineral is muscovite (which contains potassium), and on exposure to water, weathering starts to convert it into various clay minerals such as vermiculite. But although vermiculite (the same stuff you can buy in garden centers or for loft insulation) consists of loose, tiny grains and hence presents large surface areas that increase exposure to further reaction, most of the constituent ions remain firmly locked in the new minerals. Continuing reactions attempt to convert the material into other, different clay minerals, but the potassium may still be “fixed” in them. In fact, it has been estimated that although a typical vineyard may have plenty of potassium in the geological minerals, as little as 2% might actually be available to the vines.
Eventually, varieties of clay minerals may be formed that are able to yield the potassium from their surfaces, but only provided it can be swapped for some other suitable element that happens to be in the water adjacent to the mineral surface. If this does happen, finally the potassium that originated in the bedrock is released in dissolved form. But even then, transporting it to the vine roots and setting up the chemical gradients needed to trigger absorption involves further complex mechanisms. Natural vine nutrition is all very intricate, prolonged and variable.
Organic Content of Soil
All soil has some degree of organic content. It is this that makes fragmented rock a true soil. After all, the Moon is covered by rock debris and dust but it has no soil. However, this distinction between rock and soil is unusually blurred in the case of vineyards as vines can exist in thin, exceedingly stony soils.
Typical soils consist of a physical framework, usually geological minerals derived from some parent rock, with spaces called pores that contain some combination of water, oxygen and other gases, and organic matter, living or dead. The living material ranges from worms, lice, mites and the like down through nematodes and protozoa to invisible bacteria. Particularly important for vines are fungi, and especially the filamentous growths called mycorrhizae, which can live in partnership with the vine roots. They can extract directly, without the need for dissolving, certain elements from the surface of rock and yield them to the vine, in exchange for carbon. Such processes can be important in marginal soils, such as those poor in phosphorus.
While too much organic matter can lead to imbalanced nutrition, and especially excess vigour from surplus nitrogen, it is now fashionable in viticulture to strive for a healthy, living soil. This is partly a backlash to the sterile soils resulting from past decades and more of carelessly applied agrochemicals, but also a realisation that healthy soils tend to be well structured, easier to manage and relatively resistant to disease. Such thinking is the basis of so-called organic viticulture.

Strikingly stony soils (composed of a pale-weathering igneous rock called andesite) at Tokaj, Hungary.
Physical aspects
In addition to the nutritional aspects outlined above, there are physical factors of the soil that are relevant to vines and wines. For starters, fundamentally it is the resistance of the bedrock to erosion that determines the lie of the vineyard land and all the climatic variations that stem from that, e.g. with altitude, air flow, slope angle and aspect, together with the tendency to break down to make soil.
Over time, soils tend to become thicker and finer, and nutrients may be progressively leached away faster than they are replenished. On hillsides gravity tends to move soils downslope. On plains and valley floors the loose soil debris may have been brought large distances, typically by rivers to give alluvium. Some research has suggested that soil depth can influence wine character: shallower soils can give better balanced wines with fewer vegetal notes.
The color of the soil can affect thermal properties, which can be relevant in more marginal areas of grape ripening. Pale-colored soils such as the white, chalky albariza soils of the Jerez region, Spain, reflect the heat of the day and increase light reflection. In contrast, the dark soils, walls and embankments of the Ahr district of Germany, one of the most northerly in Europe, are able to ripen red grapes through absorbing heat for re-radiation at night.  
The texture of the soil can affect resistance to compaction, by treading or by machinery, and the ease of root penetration. Some soils can be deep overall but have what is called aduplex structure, where an upper layer of friable (crumbly) soil, possibly quite thin, overlies a hard lower layer which is impenetrable to vine roots.
Most importantly, however, the soil determines how rainfall is absorbed and stored, to be made available to the vine roots. A great deal of both practical experience and scientific research documents how this water behavior is crucial to vine development, grape ripening, and even, ultimately, to wine character. Two properties of a soil are fundamental to how it interacts with water, what are technically called its porosity and its permeability. The porosity expresses what proportion of the soil is space available to be filled by water; the permeability represents how well the spaces are connected.
Obviously a high porosity is desirable for storing water but it is no good if the pores cannot be accessed. A high permeability facilitates rainfall percolation in a wet period but also allows the water to rapidly drain away. So a good soil balances the two. The properties largely stem from the shape and size of the grains that are forming the mineral framework of the soil. The coarsest soils normally encountered in vineyards are gravels. They offer excellent drainage but normally need some additional way of reserving water. Gravels are important in areas of New Zealand’s South Island, like Marlborough, and on the North Island, in the Gimblett Gravels. They are especially noted in the Médoc, where, among others, Châteaux Lafite-Rothschild, Haut-Brion, Latour and Mouton-Rothschild are all located on mounds of gravel.
Particles measuring around 2mm or so across are sand, finer ones are called silt, and the very finest clay. A mixture of all three is termed loam. In general, coarser (larger) and round grains as in sands allow relatively high porosity and permeability; with irregular grains it depends on how they fit together. In addition, a suction force operates between the pore-water and the mineral grains, which is greatest in clays. Hence, together with other reasons, clay soils have the lowest permeability.
Some say that the most blessed vineyard sites have these water properties in exact, natural balance. Château Pétrus in St. Émilion is an example. Perched atop a gravel mound providing excellent drainage there are nevertheless lenses of clay at depth, storing water from winter rains for the deepest roots. In Portugal’s arid upper Douro region it is well established that the preferred vineyard sites are on schist rather than granite bedrock. Why? Intrinsic weaknesses in the schist happen to be oriented vertically – ideal for root penetration and percolation by the winter rain. In contrast the granite bedrock is too strong for root access and, lacking fissures, rainwater just runs off it. 
The striking terra rossa of Coonawarra, Australia (typically only half a metre thick) is justly famous but the key to its quality is probably the drainage and storage offered by the underlying fissured limestone. Certain esteemed vineyards at Montalcino and Poggibonsi in Tuscany give low yields and concentrated wines because their calcareous soils have just sufficient clay content to ameliorate drought. Accumulations of particles that were transported by wind – the material called loess – can have a good balance between porosity and permeability. Loess underlies some of the most desirable sites in the Walla Walla Valley of Washington and Central Otago, New Zealand.
Those then, are the principles. Taken together it may seem they go some way to restoring the pre-photosynthesis importance of vineyard soils. And clearly both nutrition and water supply are crucial. There is, however, a major proviso. That is, in most of the world’s vineyards these soil factors are artificially manipulated. Fertilisation takes care of nutritional needs and irrigation governs water supply. The natural situation presents the starting point but then the various factors are overridden as appropriate, hence reducing the importance of the natural soil. 

The town of Chablis from the Les Clos vineyard. All the Grand Cru vineyards of Chablis lie on the relatively steep, SW-facing “scarp”
slope of an escarpment due to the slightly SE-inclines strata of calcareous sedimentary rocks.
 Pebbles of mixed lithology in a river channel of the ancestral Columbia River, Newhouse Winery, Snipes Mountain, Oregon.

Manipulation of vineyard soils
Earth-moving has long been carried out at vineyards, to a greater or lesser extent. In olden days, down-slipped soil was carted back up a vineyard slope; terraces were built by hand. These days, it is normal for a new vineyard to involve major earth-moving machinery. Drains are installed. In past times, pale soils in cool latitudes of Europe were darkened by the judicious sprinkling of coal dust and soot. Today, planting inter-row cover crops is fashionable for various reasons, negating the role of soil color. Impenetrable soil layers or tough bedrock is attacked by machines known as rippers, to improve vine-root penetration. The list goes on, but the major interventions involve fertilisation and irrigation.
Most modern viticulturalists assess the vineyard soils for nutritional balance and correct it if necessary. The vines may show visual symptoms that all is not well, such as the leaf-yellowing of chlorosis, due to deficiencies in nitrogen, zinc. etc. but arguably it is better practice to anticipate problems through routine analysis. A whole sub-science has arisen on grapevine pathology: how best to carry out analyses, interpret them and selectively apply remediation. It has even become automated to some extent. Nutrient anomalies are detected by the remote sensing involved in precision viticulture and corrections included with the irrigation water, so-called fertigation.
It is axiomatic to many that wine flavor is enhanced by vines that have had to endure a degree of “water stress”. Science has now determined a range of parameters quantifying the required water values for this, for different varietals and soil types, and a range of sensors are available to monitor the data in soils and vine roots so that irrigation can be carried out with precision. Moreover, the timing of the irrigation regime can be adjusted in order to achieve certain desired outcomes. For example, water stress applied between bud burst and flowering can reduce cluster numbers, if this is desired; between fruit set and veraison some water stress can decrease berry size, with associated quality increase.
Of course, there are those who eschew these practices as far as possible, avoiding irrigation by “dry-farming”. An important reason for this is to attempt to restore the role of the natural soil and to enhance, as it is often put, the enigmatic “sense of place”. But usually some nutrient input, albeit organic, is needed.  And a host of other decisions have to be made both in the vineyard and during the winemaking so that this remains a debatable proposition. One study showed that even with minimal interventions in a classic region like the Mosel, Germany, wine quality (as reflected by price and land values) fluctuates through time depending on the winemaker of the time.
For the majority of the world’s vineyards, at least some degree of intervention is necessary simply to maintain production. In fact, an important limiting factor in some of the world’s developing vineyard areas, such as Bio Bio in Chile and the Yakima Valley in Washington, is the restricted access to irrigation water. Soil factors can be left to nature if desired, with its attendant vagaries, but for most some manipulation is beneficial, and can be employed to whatever extent the winemaker’s philosophy allows. 
Concluding remarks
From the above, it is clear that soil properties are highly relevant at least to vine behavior. But with so much artificial manipulation it may seem debatable to what extent the continuing preoccupation in wine writings and marketing with the effect of geology is justified, in the vineyard let alone on the finished wine. It is however, likely to continue: it is all very romantic and the fact is that soil ripping and fertigation does not make good copy. There is, however, a wild card lurking in here.
As explained above, the mineral nutrients essential for vine growth are needed in certain, small amounts, typically within a restricted range of values. Too little gives deficiencies and too much can lead to vine problems. But do variations within the known, narrow ranges have any effect? At present, science does not know. But they could be pivotal.
It is well established that very small amounts of metallic elements such as copper, iron and zinc can affect certain organic reactions, such as enzyme metabolism and yeast activation. Hence, conceivably, the course and progress of vine growth and vinification could be influenced. That is, tiny concentration variations in the nutrients of geological origin could in complex and in circuitous ways be influencing wine character and flavour. At present this is largely speculation but future research along these lines could finally provide a scientific basis for the hosts of anecdotal evidence. Note that in this idea the nutrient minerals themselves are still in minuscule amounts and virtually flavorless: they themselves are not tasted. The vineyard soil is not tasted in wine. Nevertheless, the idea would provide some justification for continuing the Burgundian legacy!

-Alex Maltman, Professor, Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of Wales at Aberystwyth, United Kingdom
A few of my very dear friends are scientists and sometimes when our discussion on a particular topic of mutual interest (or not) we share turns to the 'scientific' explanation for something often engage in lively discussion about the mysteries of life, alternatives to conventional medicine and 
Bringing together some thoughts that offer a balanced response to Professor Maltman's research 

My thoughts on the article above are as follows:
Reminds me of.....
inherent advantages for the vine specific soil types have
absorbing heat for re-radiation at night



Tinker's Field 'Mature Vine' Pinot Noir 2011 (14%)
A complex bouquet of brambly mineral laden red fruits with plum and wild red cherry, red apple skin and dried herbs, some undergrowth and sweet oak.
On the palate - dry, youthfully firm with medium+ fine tannins and acidity; that said there is a quiet concentration that keeps asking to be noticed with baked and fresh fruits of plum and berry fruits; the soil and brambly undergrowth flavors return as does the oak signature.
The finish is long and fine, but this a wine made for maturation.
Roll forward 24hours - the wine continues to shows its potential.
92 Points

Mountford Estate

Mountford Estate Chardonnay 2005 Waipara Vallley 14.5%
Developing golden tones, extremely bright appearance
Quite a complex bouquet - some of which reminds me of the fondness many have for the buttery side of Chardonnay, the other is the complexity that bottle-age can bring to a wine that is left to mature and become appealing in a different way. 
There is however a slightly tired tone underpinning the overall bouquet.....that said I can still pinpoint the grapefruit and other citrus fragrances, yellow apple, stone fruits and nutty/cashew and vanilla qualities in the oak.
On the palate - dry, creamy, nutty and tasty; there's no mistaking the warmth from the alcohol, but this also adds to the complexity and harmony from bottle age. Flavors of citrus, peach and apple fruits return; acidity is medium with the fruit flavors overall having a quieter voice. The wine remains balanced with a medium+ finish.
In the end - this is a charming wine - drinking very well for a 2005 example. It is also a wine that if you do have some in your cellar please start to enjoy this wine again.
4.5 stars

Mountford Estate Chardonnay 2007 Waipara Vallley 14.5%
Fully golden tones, bright appearance (Diam closure)
A delicate bouquet with a wine that is now fully integrated and reaching the end of its plateau.
Roasted and dried stone fruit aromas with apricot and peach leading; the oak still adds a complexity that will please many who prefer older Chardonnay expressions.
On the palate - a mix of fully integrated flavors, a whisper of peachy youthfulness and a sweet oak finish; medium- acidity and finish.
Drink today and perhaps with a salty veal or chicken based dish - no cream & minimal butter.
3 Stars

Mountford Estate Chardonnay 2008 Waipara Vallley 14%
Developing butter golden tones with a lemon skin yellow hue, bright appearance (Screw cap closure)
No mistaking the bouquet of Chardonnay fruit and its buddy oak - integrating, but still with youthful suggestions of fresh California peach; there is also sweet crisp and caramelised apple; citrus peel and even a little raw sugar note; plenty of smokey vanilla oak suggestions as well.
On the palate - dry with plenty of oak bite and citrus peel texture; other fruit flavors suggest tart peach and apple; medium acidity and lots of phenolics for food to play with. the finish is taut and dry with medium length.
3 Stars

Mountford Estate 2007 'Liaison' Pinot Noir Waipara Vallley 14.4%
A deliciously attractive and seductive bouquet of Pinot Noir - a wine that is now fully integrated and showing its bottle- development attributes: sweet scented pot-pourri of Autumn rose, sweet and spicy game meats, macerated red cherry & loads of red apple skin; no mistaking the oak either - medium+. If you like Chambolle Musigny the you'll love this.
On the palate - dry but with lots of sweet Pinot Noir fruit residue; this along with the oak and aged attributes presents a wine ready for you to enjoy - now. Still has a long finish. 
Be careful of the food you might prepare for this wine - keep it super simple and no spices - perhaps a salted loin of lamb with roasted carrots and a light jus.
4.5 stars

Mountford Estate 'Liaison' Pinot Noir 2008 Waipara Vallley 14%
Screw top closed
Fully integrated bouquet with a sweet fruit layer along side some sweet oak as well; savory brown spiced oak and a sweet vanillin edge; macerated cherry fruits.
On the palate - savory and dry with a old rose delicacy, savory red tea, macerated cherry fruits, medium integrated tannins and medium acidity. A balanced lovely expression. Although the wine is 'ready' it is drinking beautifully now. Will reward those who have this in their cellar, but I would suggest it be enjoyed before Summer 2015.
4 Stars

McBride Sillig Vineyard

McBride Sillig Vineyard Awatere Marlborough Cabernet Franc Rose 2014
Old school rose appearance with onion skin hues and even a light copper tinge
A bouquet of red cherry and dried rose with a light yellow plum and quince suggestions, old world and old school aromas. On the palate - just dry with a nudge of sweetness and medium+ acidity; the nose reflects the palate with flavors of cherry, quince and a touch of baked red apple, then rose and light mineral layer. Overall quite a charming wine that requires a particular food pairing.

McBride Sillig Vineyard Awatere Marlborough 'Devil's Advocate' Cabernet Franc 2012
There's no mistaking the signature of Cabernet franc here with the bell-pepper, tobacco and red fruits bouquet; plum, sour cherry and blackberry fruit suggestions, old rose and dusty mineral layer. On the palate - dry and firm with medium to medium+ tannins and acidity; the red cherry and sour cherry flavors return with some black fruit and rose moments. Medium weighted wine with a moderate finish. Best enjoyed with food.

Black Estate

Black Estate Rosé 2016 Waipara Valley
Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay progressive co-fermentation.
Strong colour, ripe plum, dried herb, violet and currants in the bouquet; exotic and quite complex, savoury, herbal, spicy. On the palate - fruity, ripe and loaded with texture; flavours of dried herb, plum, ginger, orange, raspberry and lemon - plenty to think about and absorb. Fine tannins, medium+ acidity, a natural/orange wine theme, well made, complex ansd balanced
92 Points

Johanneshof Cellars

Johanneshof Cellars Gewurztraminer 2015 Marlborough
Exotic, soft and silky textured bouquet; aromas of apple, quince and green gauge plum, quite floral and with gentle spice layers, alluring and complex. On the palate - juicy, fruity, fresh and exotic; flavours of pineapple and fresh peach, apple and tangerine; light fragrant spices, medium acidity, balanced and lengthy. A lovely wine from a producer who know how this variety ticks. Drink now and through 2020.
93 Points

Pegasus Bay

Pegasus Bay Gewurztraminer 2016 Waipara Valley, North Canterbury
Exotic, powerful, distinctive and alluring bouquet; pineapple and stewed apple fruits, quince and white peach then honeysuckle and ginger spice - complex! On the palate - creamy textures, spices, honeysuckle, aplles, white peaches and trifle; medium+ acidity, great texture and length. A delicious wine loaded with personality and spunk. Drink now and through 2020.
94 Points

Pegasus Bay 'Encore' Noble Riesling 2014 Waipara Valley, North Canterbury
Rich, intense, honeyed tropical fruits, white sugar and liquid butterscotch thoughts. On the palate - lush, exotic, creamy, intense and powerfully sweet; plenty of acidity brings balance. A delicious wine that's frankly dessert in a glass, buit would also suit uber sweet desserts or powerfully spice Asisan dishes.
95 Points

Richmond Plains

Richmond Plains Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Nelson
Quite a complex bouquet with an intriguing texture and lees spice led beginning; aromas of grapefruit apple and peach, a mild to moderate mineral layer. On the palate - lovely texture and shape with a light fragrant spice and flavours of peach and lemon; plenty of acidity and lees tones, lengthy finish, balanced and well made. Drink now and through 2020.
93 Points

Richmond Plains Blanc de Noir 2016 Nelson
Made from Pinot Noir grapes the appearance is very shiny with a light rose gold hue
Pinot Gris like aromas with suggestions of wite fleshed tree fruits, then white peach and fleshy juicy apple, a little spice and mineral. On the palate - a softer edged wine with creamier fleshed fruit flavours, pears and white peach; medium+ acidity keeps the palate fresh, light lees tones and a mineral led finish. Balanced and well made. Food oriented wine drink well now and through 2020.
88 Points

Richmond Plains Pinot Gris 2015 Nelson
Fruity, fresh, round creamy texture and aromas of ripe pear and cooked apple with a light white pepper spice layer. On the palate - honeysuckle, cooked and fresh pear, baked apple and a lees white pepper spice, medium acidity and finish; balanced and well made. Drink now and through 2018.
87 Points

Richmond Plains Chardonnay 2015 Nelson
Quite a soft and fleshy bouquet with aromas of sweet peach and Meyer lemon, velvet textures of vanilla pod and soft raw sugar, light lees and noticeable oak layer. On the palate - dry, fresh, warm, juicy and creamy with flavours and textures of stone fruit, citrus and tree fruits, some quince, vanilla and wood tones; medium+ acidity and lengthy finish. Keen to try this wine again in 12 months. Decant for service with best drinking from late 2017 through 2025.
92 Points

Richmond Plains Pinot Noir 2015 Nelson
Ripe, fruity and varietal with aromas sweet red plum, cherry and a little raspberry; moderate toasty wood layer and some vanilla clove suggestions. On the palate - fruity, spicy and dry with plenty of texture from medium+ acidity and sulphide lees layers; red fruits of plum and cherry return, wood spice and medium tannin levels. Still young and needs integration time. Decant for service with best drinking from late 2017 through 2026.
91 Points

12000 Miles

12000 Miles Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Gladstone, Wairarapa
Produced and bottled by Gladstone Vineyards Caterton
Juicy, fruity, fleshy and vibrant bouquet with ripe tree and citrus fruit aromas, some tropical notes and fresh herb qualities, sweet hay and a peppery lift. On the palate - fresh, crunchy texture with flavours of fresh citrus, fresh herb and some tropical fruit, refreshing acidity and lit mineral tones, balanced and well made. Drink now and through 2019.
90 Points

Black Barn Vineyards

Black Barn Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay 2016 Hawke's Bay
Subtle fragrances of white peach and apple blossom, grapefruit and minerals, a soft spice layer and calm even core. On the palate - firm, crunchy, fruity and dry; flavours reflect the nose with an apple layer before the peach and spice, medium+ acidity, balanced and well made. An aperitif style or best served with slightly salty foods and richer white fish sashimi dishes.
88 Points

Black Barn Vineyards R&D 'Orange' Wine 2016 Hawke's Bay
Exotic and attractive bouquet with aromas and flavours of preserved citrus peel, ginger spice, beer, five spice and walnut oil. Fine tannins and medium acidity accentuate the flavours leading to a complex and interesting finish. In the context of orange wine this is a very cool example. 
90 Points

Tuesday, 6 December 2016


Taylors 'Promised Land' Shiraz 2015 South Australia
Very ripe and fruity dark berry bouquet - black currant and plum then some peppery spice notes and moderate oak suggestions. On the palate - dry, spicy, toasty and balanced; flavours of red licorice and black currant, some dark cherry and raspberry ideas; fine easy tannins and acidity. In a drink now style and through 2019.
85 Points

Taylors Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Clare Valley South Australia
Bold and dark fruited bouquet with aromas of black berry, black currant, marmite and chocolate, plenty of roasted toasty oak. On the palate - firm, dry, fruity, toasty and totally drinkable now, chocolate, raisin, black fruits, medium tannins and acidity, balanced and well made

84 Points

Te Mania

Te Mania Pinot Noir Rosé 2016 Nelson
Lush and very fruity with fine red fruits bouquet,wild rose and cherry, some red apple skin and wild strawberry. On the palate - juicy, fresh, fruity, crisp and just dry, medium+ acidity, mineral and light red fruit flavours, very fine tannins and medium+ length. Lovely wine with a fine silky texture. Drink now and through 2018.
90 Points

Te Mania Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Nelson
Vibrant, complex and intriguing bouquet with honeysuckle and spiced laced white fruits with pear, apple, lemon and peach aromas, fresh herbs and sweet bell-pepper, some light lees add texture and shape. On the palate - youthful, fresh, vibrant and fruity, ripe and refreshing acidity, lovely texture and length, some sweet fresh hay and herb moments, a touch of spice and juicy finish. Overall a lovely wine. Drink now and through 2019.
91 Points

Te Mania Pinot Gris 2016 Nelson
Fleshy, fruity, lively and lightly spiced tree fruits with pear skin and apple, a light rounded texture with a softness and charm. On the palate - fleshy, juicy and packed with flavours of fresh pear and apple, some honeysuckle and light lees textures, medium acidity, lovely balanced wine with a juicy fleshy finish. Drink now and through 2018.
88 Points

Te Mania Chardonnay 2015 Nelson
Familiar aromas of roasted stone fruits with nectarine and peach leading, toasty oak, vanilla, raw sugar and cashew; a popcorn and butterscotch layer also present; vibrant and inviting bouquet. On the palate - some classic Chardonnay flavours with a creamy texture, nutty cashew layer, stone fruit and wood spices; yoghurt or cheese note; medium+ (ish) acidity, balanced and well made. Ready to drink or age some more - best from late 2017 through 2021.
92 Points

Te Mania Pinot Noir 2015 Nelson
Definitive and forward bouquet with ripe varietal characteristics, a velvet and plush texture then aromas of red fruits suggesting raspberry, plum and red cherry, some oak spice and stony silty earth tones. On the palate - crisp, tart red fruits, medium+ acidity, moderate oak and spice. A youthful wine with fine though youthful tannins, medium+ length and finish. A wine that needs more time to integrate, but does have potential. Decant for service, best drinking 2018 through 2024.
90 Points


Gladstone Vineyard Rosé 2016 Gladstone, Wairarapa
Very fruity and lush with ripe light red fruits of red cherry and red plum, light rose layer and even a hint of mineral. On the palate - juicy and crisp with flavours of light red fruits, plenty of acidity and fine tannins. A fine Summer wine for every occasion. Drink now and through 2018.
89 Points

Gladstone Vineyard Viognier 2016 Gladstone, Wairarapa
Lovely aromatics and quite exotic with a light floral spice combination, apricot and peach. On the palate - creamy texture with spice, flowers and exotic yellow fruit flavours; medium+ (ish) acidity, medium weight and lengthy finish. Great alternative to Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer. Drink now and through 2019.

90 Points

Domain Road

Domain Road 'Defiance' Pinot Gris 2016 Bannockburn, Central Otago
Ripe and quite fleshy bouquet with juicy, fresh mandarin, lime and lemon then a white spice and mineral layer. On the palate - crisp, fresh, balanced, fruity and dry; flavours of citrus and crunchy fridge cold apple, some jasmine and a hint of white spice. Nice example in a dry style with plenty of acidity and fine textures; great as an aperitif and with white fish sashimi. Drink now and through 2025.
90 Points

Domain Road Pinot Noir Rosé 2016 Bannockburn, Central Otago
Plush and fruity with suggestions of light red berry fruits and red apple skin; fragrant and welcoming bouquet. On the palate - equally fruity with some vibrant acidity and super fine tannins, a light red floral layer adds charm and some depth. Balanced and well made in a drink now style and through 2019.

88 Points


Circuit Chardonnay 2016 North Canterbury
Produced and bottled by Black Estate Limited
Quite an impact from ripe stone fruit and oak with a significant undercurrant of minerality; fresh oak with toasty spicy vanilla attributes - all quite loud and attention seeking. On the palate - great impact from the fruit and oak; medium+ acidity drawing attention to the minerality, a dry wine with a ripe core of fruit - again stonefruit with a grapefruit peel note, fine oak tannins; plenty of texture and mouth feel; lengthy finsh. Very nice wine!
93 Points

Black Peak

Black Peak Riesling 2016 Central Otago 48gpl RS & 9% abv
Juicy, fresh and very lush bouquet of ripe citrus, apple and apricot stone, citrus blossom and cold wet stone mineral suggestions. On the palate - very crisp and fresh attack with the acidity speaking first, very quickly the residual sugar offers contrast - both emphasizing flavours of white peach, citrus and red apple; mineral spike shows and a lovely lengthy finish. Great wine mid-summer as an aperitif (chilled), will suit fresh ceviche styles dishes and some desserts.
92 Points

Black Peak Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago
Intensely fragrant bouquet with black cherry, dried herb dark raspberry, spices, oak and bracken; vanilla and clove, toasty wood and plenty of Otago Pinosity. On the palate - dark berry fruits of cherry and plum, dried herb and bracken, toasty oak, clove and vanilla, fine to moderate tannins and medium+ acidity; youthful tense and lengthy. A lovely wine, but still in the throws of youth. Decant for service or enjoy from 2018 through 2026.

93 Points