A note from our winemaker Olly Masters on the Misha’s Vineyard selection of Pinot Noir clones.
At Misha’s Vineyard we grow UCD 4, 5, 6, Dijon clones 114, 115, 667, 777 and Abel (a clone that is unique to New Zealand that is also originally from Burgundy).
Most clones in New Zealand are generally the result of various programmes predominantly run by universities or research stations (both in France and the USA) looking to identify desirable characters. It should be understood that Pinot Noir is known for is genetic variability and instability. At Misha’s Vineyard, we believe it’s important to use a range of clones to maximise the potential in the wines and ensure good complexity and overall consistency.
Because Pinot Noir has naturally less colour/tannin than many other reds varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, it produces a lighter-bodied wine and therefore acid becomes more important. If the Pinot Noir is grown in too warm a climate, it tends to lose varietal character. It also requires lower cropping levels than other red varieties in order to produce wines of great quality.
The three UCD clones we use are all heated-treated to different degrees which alters the level of viruses they carry; generally the cleaner the plant material the higher the yield. The Dijon clones are identified in terms of distinct bunch morphology, yield ranges and wine quality, and hey are typically lower yielding. There are some clones that have been developed specifically with disease resistance in mind (usually botrytis), but these don’t seem to necessarily produce the best wines and aren’t widely used in New Zealand.
The clones we chose are all known to perform well in terms of making good wine in New Zealand and particularly in Central Otago. A lot of the differences between the wines from various clones are about different palate structures, tannins, acids/pH differences as well as overall fruit expression, with all these things being inter-connected. Also individual vineyards sites will give different expressions of the clones due to the impact of factors like soil vigour and structure as well as vineyard aspect – this also impacts in yield differences due to variations in bunch sizes and berry sizes.
There hasn’t been much quantified in terms of flavour compounds between the clones as most research work thus far has been done in trying to identify what makes Pinot Noir itself unique from a flavour perspective.
Generally I would describe clones we have planted at Misha’s Vineyard as follows:
• UCD 4 – unique spicy character
• UCD 5 – gentle broader full palate, red plum fruit
• UCD 6 – more delicate gentle palate cherry/strawberry character
• 114,115,667 – linear palate brighter red fruits/ raspberry/ cherry character
• 777 – heavier broader plate, blueberry fruit
• Abel – dense mid/back palate, darker plum character
Growing great Pinot Noir is about not having too vigorous a canopy but still having a good leaf area to fruit ratio. Cropping levels need to controlled (~5 T/ha). We also look to ensure air movement and sunlight into the fruit zone for ensure tannin quality and to minimise disease. On Misha’s Vineyard we achieve good tannin levels in our wines as it is a low vigour site, and the wines exhibit darker red/black fruit characters along with aniseed and licorice notes.
Olly Masters – Winemaker
More information on clones available in New Zealand is provided by Riversun, a nursery from which Misha’s Vineyard sources vine material.
The Pinot Noir Portfolio – Click Here
A listing of the Pinot Noir clones available in New Zealand – Click Here
Specific information on New Zealand’s unique Abel clone – Click Here