Te Kano’s Waitaki adventure

Te Kano winemaker David Sutton. Te Kano Wines

Waitaki Valley Feature Week

Te Kano’s Waitaki winemaker, David Sutton, was getting ready to build a new winery when he learned that the relatively new winery owned by pioneering winemaker, Antonio Pasquale, was on the market.

Te Kano had 50ha of established vineyards in Central Otago and enough production capacity to process its total 61ha of productive vines.

The sale included a well-equipped winery, a modern bottling line and an 11ha vineyard that had lain dormant for three years. The winery was exactly the size of one they had planned to build. It was ready to go. Dave explained that the vineyard, which had been neglected, was easily restarted and that the vines had benefited from their holiday by being forced to find a new water source once the irrigation system was turned off.

Te Kano had 50ha of established vineyards in Central Otago (Northburn 40ha and Bannockburn 10ha) and enough production capacity to process its total 61ha of productive vines (it doesn’t buy grapes from contract growers).

Te Kano’s Waitaki winery stands apart from other wineries in the area. It is a 40-minute drive from the coast, a distance which gives it the benefit of cooling sea breezes resulting in a longer growing season, good acid levels and good levels of flavour ripeness at lower sugar levels. Cooler ripening conditions allow chardonnay and pinot noir to be picked at full phenological ripeness when the sugar levels are as low as 22 degrees Brix, which is low by any standard for a table wine.

Te Kano vineyard and winery in Kurow, Waitaki Valley. Te Kano Wines

Most of the Waitaki winemakers I spoke to were in agreement that the growing conditions, or terroir, of their region were unique and that they resulted in unique characteristics which makes the wines stand apart from those of other regions. Sutton bravely attempted to describe their characteristics.

The wines, particularly chardonnay, have a chalky character, which is a dominant feature. Pinot noir is elegant, rich and vibrant.

The wines, particularly chardonnay, have a chalky character, which is a dominant feature. Pinot noir is elegant, rich and vibrant. It ages well: Sutton believes that most will respond well to bottle age of 10 years or more. He enthusiastically described a 10-year-old pinot noir as being rich and vibrant. Pinot noir is often on the cusp of ripeness with fresh and dried herbs, red fruits and floral characters. Gewürztraminer, riesling and pinot gris also got an honorary mention: “elegant, super-aromatic and fine.”

Sutton’s favourite Waitaki variety is chardonnay. He loves the ‘Chablis-esque’ styles but also likes ‘super-aromatic’ wines, particularly pinot gris. Sutton is the chairman of Waitaki Winegrowers. His enthusiasm and knowledge make him the ideal man for the job.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.