One of the nice things about flying on Air New Zealand is the opportunity to read their excellent in-flight magazine, Kia Ora. In it you can always count on reading about interesting things happening in New Zealand, as befits a magazine that travellers to and around our country will read while on board.
Today I flew from Auckland back to Christchurch and flipped through Kia Ora as I usually do, but this time something stopped me in my tracks–an article by Bob Campbell, MW, about the wonderful wines of the Waitaki Valley, New Zealand’s newest wine region, located just a short drive from Oamaru. Since I could hardly do a better job than Mr Campbell at describing his review of the wines of our region, I figured I’d just transcribe the article here. You of course can read it yourself if you’re on an Air New Zealand flight this month, or have the Kia Ora app on your iPad or other device.
Waitaki—a New and Exciting Wine Region, by Bob Campbell
Waitaki Valley is a large area in North Otago formed by the braided Waitaki River flowing from the main divide to the coast north of Oamaru. A small number of grape growers have been attracted to the area by its free-draining, limestone-rich soils and long, reliably dry ripening season. The region has all the elements needed to make taut, edgy and powerful wines, particularly from pinot noir and the aromatic varieties Riesling and pinot gris.
The earliest Waitaki wines I reviewed date back to 2004. They showed great promise but also revealed that the region was climatically close to the edge as far as viable winemaking was concerned. A thrilling Craggy Range 2004 Pinot Gris was followed by an equally exciting Ostler Pinot Gris two years later. Forrest Estate made a chardonnay in 2008 that would have been quite at home in a line-up of top French Chablis. More recently I have awarded high ratings to pinot noir from Ostler, Forrest, Valli, Q and Bobbing Creek.
It takes time to get the measure of a new wine region. The unique conditions at Waitaki have possibly provided a greater challenge than most, although it seems that predictions of great potential may not have been exaggerated, either.
I particularly like the power, tautness and minerality of the best wines. They are quite unlike the wines of Central Otago, which is hardly surprising when you consider the very different climate and soil structures in each region. It is the uniqueness of Waitaki wines that make the area so interesting.
Waitaki is a “must visit” for vinous adventure. It is an area of great scenic beauty and considerable history. Head for Kurow, a quaint town near the heart of the wine region. I recommend visiting the fascinating Kurow Museum and the Farmers’ Market (on Saturday morning). Check out the winery websites, because you may find it necessary to book before visiting. Stop in at the Vintner’s Drop, a retail shop on Main Street where you can sample and buy a wide range of Waitaki wines.
Ostler 2010 “Caroline’s” Pinot Noir, $45.90. Delicately scented, edgy wine with quite concentrated floral/violet, dark cherry, mineral and wild-herb flavours. High-energy pinot noir with a good thread of vibrant acidity that nicely balances the wine’s fruit and alcohol sweetness. Classy and elegant, it’s quite different to the richer and more concentrated wine from the equally exciting 2009 vintage.
Q 2012 Pinot Noir, $52. Deeply perfumed pinot noir with plum, black cherry, violet, liquorice and fresh herb flavours. Silken-textured wine in an elegant rather than blockbuster style. An exciting addition to a very promising wine region.
Kia Ora, August 2013