Waipara Waipara West
2018 saw us join forces with a new grower in New Zealand, the Tutton family at Waipara West, to the north of Canterbury in the South Island. Running along the Waipara River, on north-facing stony terraces, the vineyards benefit from warm winds from the north-west and the gorgeous extended summers and autumns allow the fruit all-important hang-time to develop deep flavours and balance without any of the excessive green herbaceous flavours which can characterise New Zealand’s whites.
Vineyards and Viticulture
A family venture, the Tuttons bought Waipara in 1989, then ‘an unsuccessful rabbit-infested sheep farm’. Planting started the same year as purchase and they now have 25 hectares of vines on heights and soils that range enormously through the different parcels; from river gravels with silt and limestone to alluvial loams over gravels on hillside terraces. Members of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand, the Waipara West team are engaged in protecting the environment around them, whilst also efficiently producing premium grapes. They do not use insecticides, residual herbicides or artificial fertiliser and are continually expanding the stretches of native bush on their property.
Each parcel is handpicked and then fermented and vinified separately, to allow for blending options. All three of their wines that we list are an exercise in restraint and elegance, from racy Sauvignon Blanc to juicy, vibrant Chardonnay and intense, stylish Pinot Noir.
Their Sauvignon Blanc comes from three separate blocks on the farm (one of which is called Hell Block), with three different soils, ranging from Riverside to Top Terrace and has classic Sauvignon notes of blackcurrant leaf and grassy fruit but without being a caricature. Juicy and fresh, with sherbet notes on the palate, the grassy fruit running through the core, this is delicious, stunningly fresh and at a very sensible 12.5%.
Cheekily described as ‘Chablis with fruit’ by the family is their N Block Unoaked Chardonnay – they do have a point as Waipara and Chablis weather data are very comparable. And in common with Chablis, they tend to use no oak on this Chardonnay to allow the fruit to shine and not be overshadowed; the wine spends 12 months on its lees before bottling. Tight green gold fruit, smoky and almost flinty, fresh and vibrant, this is Chardonnay in one of its purest forms.
Our current vintage of the Two Terraces Pinot Noir is 2015; a very difficult vintage in Waipara with an early frost causing a great deal of damage; neighbours came to the rescue, showing extraordinary generosity and ‘lending’ vineyards to the Tuttons to be worked by the Waipara West team so that they would at least produce some wine. Post-frost, as so often happens, the weather was glorious, producing superbly characterful fruit and, as a result, this wine has deliciously fresh strawberry notes, herbed and spiced, with a lovely floral touch and fine, ripe tannins – it would give many a Burgundian a run for their money.
Have a look at their website here: www.waiparawest.com