Monday, 5 February 2018

Exploring Waipara

This is the second of my posts focussing on my wine experiences when I spent a month Down Under in December / January (you can catch up with my first post about the Hunter Valley HERE).

Towards the end of our trip we spent a few days in Waipara, which is a wine region about an hour's drive north of Christchurch. We had spent the last couple of weeks touring around New Zealand's South Island and had earmarked having a couple of relaxing days at the end of the trip to do a bit of relaxing and a lot of wine sampling! Now the South Island (and, indeed, New Zealand wine in general) is mostly known for the wine region of Marlborough and its ubiquitous Sauvignon Blanc; I will state straight away that I am not a particular fan of these wines and hence we avoided the area altogether. I selected visiting Waipara because I wanted to go somewhere a little more interesting and also it fitted our itinerary a little better as we were looping back to Christchurch.

The Waipara wine region is a cool climate wine producing area, hence its main grapes are Rieslings, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blancs, Gewürztraminers and Chardonnays - what's not to like about that?! The topography of the region gives it a number of different reliefs with the south-facing hill-side faces being the premium sites. The soil types that you tend to find are limestone and clays with some gravel soils too.

Dunnolly's Wine Cottage 

What better way to get to know the wine making region then to stay in a cottage on a vineyard itself? We found accommodation at Dunnolly's Wine Cottage which is situated with view over the Dunnolly's own vineyard - Dunnolly Estate. The cottage was extremely beautiful with a lovely, spacious kitchen / diner / living area that had views across the vineyard.

As you would expect you can also try their wines whilst you are there and get to speak to members of the Parish family (who run the vineyard) themselves about the wine-making experience in the area. The head wine-maker for Dunnolly is Nicky Parish who has spent time working in wine all around the world and can be very pleased with the work that she is doing at Dunnolly. 

I tried their 2016 Pinot Gris which had a warm and lively nose featuring crisp pear and juicy red apple notes, augmented by warm honey aromas. On the mouth there was bags of acidity on this well-balanced wine, with lemon-lime flavours coming through accompanied by ripe pear. This was a nice wine that we sipped as we sat in the sun in our garden looking over the vineyard - bliss! 

We took a bottle home of their 2016 Reserve Chardonnay, which I opened recently in order to give us a little reminder of our holiday. This was a beautifully expressive wine with all sorts of buttery, briochey aromas on the nose, off-set with ripe pear and a little bit of lemon rind. The tasting notes were full of juicy, fresh flavours, crisp red apple with baked pie-crust. This was a very poised and pleasing wine to drink. It went fantastically with the fish pie that we had for dinner!

I'd heartily recommend staying in Dunnolly's Wine Cottage - you can find them on and other websites.


Waipara Wine Trail

One of the other attractions of visiting the Waipara region is that you can do a walking tour of the vineyards, which is very handy as it means the debate about who should be the designated driver are not required! 

When our trip started the weather was a little overcast, but as we made our way through the vineyards the grey skies gave way to glorious sunshine, meaning that towards the end of the trip we were turning up to vineyards somewhat hot and sweaty as the walk did require schlepping up and down a few hills.

Waipara Springs

We set off from our cottage and headed first of all to the nearby Waipara Springs winery which had a charming little Cellar Door on site for us to do a tasting. We tried our way through their 2016 range, sampling their Riesling, Sauvingnon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. As with a number of the vineyards they also have their premium range of wines which features wines from their best sites; they do this under their "Premo" label. I particularly enjoyed their Rieslings and Pinot Gris, which featured ripe, tropical fruit notes. Their Premo Chardonnay was probably their best wine; it had spent some time in oak, giving it a very pleasing breadth and presence. Their entry level Chardonnay was also a pleasant wine at a very reasonable price. 

Muddy Water / Greystone  

Next up on our trail was the adjoining vineyards of Greystone and Muddy Water, which have a number of very different soil types across their holdings with a similarly large numbers of perspectives and reliefs for the wines, giving them a tremendous amount to choose from when selecting where and what they should be planting. The soils of Muddy Water in general tend to be more clay-based, whereas the soils of Greystone are more limestone-based.

We tasted a number (actually quite a large number!) of wines at this Cellar Door as we really get on with the charming lady who was serving us. Very interestingly, they have been experimenting with some Pinotage and Syrah plantings on some of their sites, which is something that I hadn't come across before. However, it was their more Germanic wines that really interested me ("shock, horror" I hear regular readers exclaiming!). I absolutely adored their 2015 Greystone Gewürztraminer which was quite simply the best NZ Gewürztraminer that I have tried; it is made much more in a Alsatian style then many of the others that I had tried on my trip and really had that those beautiful spicy notes on the nose and those voluptuous fruit notes on the mouth. I was also really taken by their 2013 Basket Star Riesling which is made in a spätlese style, i.e. the grapes are left on the vines to get extra concentration of sugars in them, resulting in a delicious dessert wine full of fruit and honey notes that get the mouth salivating! I liked both of these so much that I bought bottles of them and have taken them home with me.

Black Estate


We finished our trail at one of the most famous vineyards in Waipara - Black Estate Winery. As well being known for producing excellent wine, this vineyard is particularly renowned for having a fantastic restaurant perched on the hilltop amongst its vines giving the visitor the opportunity to eat excellent food and drink their wines, overlooking the vineyards from which the grapes come. We took in a lateish lunch, which I must say really was very good; I had the Organic Lamb served with Spring Greens, Bulgur Wheat and Salsa Verde. 

To go with the food, we opted to take three wines available ex-Coravin, which allowed us to taste some of the estate's premium and somewhat older wines. We tried their 2012 Black Estate Riesling which had that characteristic Riesling whiff of petroleum, alongside notes of warm tropical fruit (lychee and passion fruit), with flavours of tart pear and zingy sherbert; the 2010 Black Estate Home Pinot Noir had a quite quiet nose which was pretty and delicate featuring smatterings of red cherry, strawberries and rose petals and a supple and rounded palate with loads of red fruit flavour, but surprisingly little secondary or tertiary flavours; and their 2010 Black Estate Omihi Series Pinot Noir which had a deeper nose expressing secondary profiles of forest floor and leather alongside the red fruit, and a mouth that was broader and more developed than the Home with dominant strawberry and black cherry notes. 

To finish the meal, we took in pudding and a coffee on a table outside of the main restaurant with a splendid view over the vines. This was the life - I think you can probably understand now how hard it was to come back to the UK in the middle of winter!


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