Terroir from three angles

Bannockburn vineyards (Photo: Bob Campbell MW)

Bannockburn has been described as “Central Otago’s pinot noir sweet spot”. The subregion has certainly won more than its share of accolades from the late 80s when it first began to produce wine.

On a recent visit, I was driven to the end of Felton Road (see extract from Bannockburn vineyard map – the grey road ends near The Fusilier vineyard). We circled around the Kolo vineyard, recently purchased by Akarua, and drove past The Fusilier Vineyard owned by Two Paddocks. Distinguished sites such as The Elms, Target Gully, Jackson and Slapjack are a stones throw away.

Over the next two days, I was able to taste wine from Akarua’s Kolo vineyard and their regular pinot noir label, which is a blend of fruit from Kolo and their home vineyard from Cairnmuir Road.

Although the Kolo and The Fusilier vineyards are comprised of different clonal material, and the winemaking methods used by Akarua and Two Paddocks are significantly different (Two Paddocks uses a higher percentage of whole clusters in the ferment for example), I sensed a common thread in both that pointed to the indelible imprint of place.

The 2015 Akarua Kolo Pinot Noir (NZD $85) is produced from a mix of Dijon clones. This label gets the best fruit, with the rest going to Akarua’s regular label (in 2015 it was blended with grapes from the Home vineyard around Cairnmuir Road. I was lucky enough to be able to compare the 2015 Akarua Kolo Pinot Noir with the 2015 Akarua Pinot Noir (NZD $43) and 2014 Akarua Pinot Noir, which is made entirely from Cairnmuir Road grapes.

The Kolo vineyard fruit has a wonderfully taut, high-energy quality, which really gave the Cairmuir a welcome boost and produced an exciting result when bottled as a single vineyard wine. It offers a definable character that’s hard to describe, but you know it when you taste it.

Sam Neill purchased The Fusilier vineyard (previously Dessert Heart vineyard) in 2013. It’s a six-hectare site planted in clones 10/5, 115, 777, 113, 114, 5 and 6 in soil described as;

“..deep alluvial fans, which are made up of varying depths of silt, sand and gravel layering all derived from mountainous schist parent material.”

The Two Paddocks The Fusilier Bannockburn Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 (NZD $85) is a little more structured than the Akarua Kolo from the previous vintage but has a similar plum, spice and thyme fruit character on both the aroma and taste. It has a similar brightness and energy that to me clearly demonstrates the influence of place.

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