Alex Lai, The Standard, Hong Kong, Friday, June 11, 2010

Reign of Terroir

Pinot Noir is very much terroir sensitive. Some say the grape flourishes best in Burgundy, but other parts of the world are capable of producing top-class pinots. Two examples came to light recently when Misha’s Vineyard from New Zealand and Merry Edwards from California presented their pinots in Hong Kong.

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Speaking of the difference between the pinot noir produced by Misha’s Vineyard and other vineyards in New Zealand and Australia, Oliver Masters, consulting winemaker for Misha’s Vineyard, said: “Misha’s Vineyard pinot noir comes from a great range of aspect, soils and altitude – all within one unique vineyard. This gives great complexity and structure whilst retaining fruit power.”
Misha Wilkinson, marketing director for Misha’s Vineyard, said of her New Zealand venture: “Being so far south at 45 degrees latitude, the most southerly wine-growing region in the world, the climate in central Otago is unique in relation to its broad temperature range and average rainfall, which is less than 400 millimeters annually.”
“The climate is continental versus every other New Zealand growing region and the majority of Australian growing regions, which are maritime climates.”
Misha’s Vineyard is one of the most sun-drenched sites in central Otago, with slopes facing the western sun soaking up the heat during the day and retaining it in the schist rock soil.
“We also have diversity through the range of altitudes on the vineyard that go from 205 meters above sea level at the lakefront up to 350m at the top of the vineyard. This provides a range of growing conditions and allows us to harvest over a longer period of time, getting a broader range of flavors in the grapes and providing more complexity in our wine.”

Masters said passion and attention to detail – from choosing the vineyard site, right through to the distributor – are all that the wines need.

For Wilkinson, it was the other way around. “Unlike most vineyards, we started our business with a marketing plan. Our initial focus was on producing a range of premium wines that would suit the palates of both our Asian markets and the markets of Australia and New Zealand.
“We sought to capitalize on the unique ability of cool-climate wines from Central Otago to express themselves with purity and intensity. Choosing the right site took more than two years. Vineyard development, team selection and wine production have all been based on our philosophy of no compromise.”

And from California, the Merry Edwards Winery produced the first vintage of its pinot noir in 1997. Wine & Spirits Magazine named Edwards one of the most influential winemakers in the world in 2004.
That honor comes as no surprise in the industry.
Throughout her 33-year winemaking career, Edwards has been perfectionist to a fault, constantly refining her vineyard practices, wines and techniques.
She studied winemaking and earned her degree at the University of California, Davis, in the early 1970s, and was one of only three women in the master’s program. She moved to Sonoma County in the mid-1970s, where she was taken both with the area and the distinctive pinot noir grapes grown there.
“Consistency is what I have always been aiming at,” she said, while presenting the Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2007, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 2007 and Meredith Estate Pinot Noir 2006, each of them showing the unique result of the microclimate and the terroir.

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