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Winemaking

Waipara Hills Wines

Winemaking Philosophy

At Waipara Hills our winemaking philosophy is simple. It’s about creating perfect balance, encouraging the characteristics of each season’s fruit to shine, whilst celebrating South Island vineyards. The result is wine that is rich, textural and bursting with complex flavour.

From the vineyard to the winery, our team are hands-on in perfecting their craft, pouring a little of themselves into everything they do. For us every harvest signals the beginning of a new adventure, the chance to create wine that is distinctly Waipara Hills.
 

Waipara Hills Winemaker Simon McGeorge hands over the reins.


It’s an end of an era for Waipara Hills winemaker Simon McGeorge, as he hands over the reins and delves into his own winemaking ventures.

Simon has pursued a successful tenure as winemaker at Waipara Hills since 2006 to 2016, and loved every minute of it.
 
Working amongst the land of North Canterbury’s Waipara Valley, he has thrived in his craft, drawing on his patience and passion to produce award winning wines that are rich, textural and bursting with flavour.
 
Simon said no matter what challenges the season delivers, each year is an improvement on the last, and that is thanks to the great people from many walks of life that he’s had the privilege to work with. 
 
“I am grateful for the long list of fellow wine industry personnel who have helped me to fuel my passion for winemaking and develop my skills. All these people have helped shape me into the winemaker that I am today.”
 

Andrew Brown, Winemaker

Taking over the reins of passion and patience for the craft of winemaking is Andrew Brown, well renowned for his expertise with aromatics, particularly with Riesling, of which he enjoys the stylistic diversity. 
 
Making the switch from Assistant Winemaker at Framingham Wines in Marlborough where he has been since 2009, Andrew is looking forward to getting his hands amongst the soils and vines of Waipara Hills, where he has a long term fascination and respect for the wine produced in the Valley.
 
“I’ve always been a fan of the Waipara Valley so am really thrilled to be taking up the role as Waipara Hills winemaker. I am looking forward to working with the fruit, championing the region and becoming part of the team.”
 
Andrew’s love of the land started from a young age; his first taste of harvest was cropping the swedes on his family farm in Waitahuna, South Otago, at the tender age of six.
 
After high school he completed a Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management degree at Lincoln University, and promised himself he would return to complete the Post Graduate Diploma of Viticulture and Oenology at a later date. He did just that, dipping back into the study books in 2004 after four years of travel.
 
On the winemaking front, Andrew has worked in Alsace, Oregon and Central Otago and Marlborough.
 
Even with 10 harvests under his belt, and one just around the corner, he still thrives on the thrills and challenges they deliver.
 
“Trialling winemaking techniques and learning from these is what I really look forward to. As well as working with new vineyards and ferments….. as long as they behave themselves!”
 

 

Vintage Reports

2017 Vintage

Sensible crop levels and skilful vine management promoted early flavour development as harvest time rolled around at Waipara Hills for 2017.
 
 “It is in such a year that the basic, but all important tasks performed by our viticulture team throughout the season, prove so important,” said Waipara Hills vineyard manager Jean-Luc Dufour.
 
Daily walks through the vineyard to monitor flavour development and ripening parameters versus disease pressure was paramount, to make the “all important call” for when and what to pick.
 
He said a good spray programme, canopy management, crop levels and irrigation management all contribute to picking day. The stand-out fruit for Jean-Luc was the Riesling from the Mound Vineyard, where the picks displayed a wide range of flavours.
 
“We made several picks, and our best fruit came from lower cropping vines with good sun exposure,” he said.
 
Waipara Hills winemaker Andrew Brown was also particularly excited about the developments across the Riesling blocks.
 
“There was a range of flavours which matched the timings of the picks, from lime and ripe lemon, to orange citrus and satsuma,” said Andrew.
 
2017 marked his first harvest in the role of winemaker at Waipara Hills, and he was eager from the early stages to get involved and see how all the fruit was developing.
 
The timings of the picks lasted four weeks, with the first Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris fruit coming off the vines on March 30.
 
Andrew said working with fruit from vineyards in such top condition was a huge advantage for him when it came to making picking decisions. He noted the early picked Pinot Gris saw profiles of apple and nashi pear compared the later-picked spicy flavour profiles of baked apple and stone fruit, while the Pinot Noir provided primary red fruits, good colour and fine acid backbone.
 
“Despite the challenges, our vineyards and general fruit condition stood up amazingly well. It’s a huge credit to the viticulture team for this,” said Andrew.
 
Assistant Home Block Vineyard Manager Ben Roiri said grapes harvested were clean and full of flavour, courtesy of great vine balance throughout the season.
 
He was particularly happy with the Riesling this year, and noted that the Pinot Noir picked off the Deans vineyard, as well as the Pinot Gris, also looked great.
 
Ben added that if the rain events did occur, fragile fruit was prioritised, ensuring the best results from across the blocks.
 
“It was all clean, flavoursome and ripe,” he said.
 
The whole team has enjoyed seeing how the wines are developing post-harvest, with the wine now in tank and barrel waiting for some finishing touches.
 
“Despite the well acknowledged and talked about bad weather for the harvest of 2017, we had some very pleasing results,” said Jean-Luc.

 


2016 Vintage
It’s been a dream autumn for our harvest team at Waipara Hills this year; a long string of warm clear days producing some truly stunning wines across the varietals.

This year’s fruit produced arguably some of the best Pinot Noir I have seen in Waipara in ten years. The summer was mostly dry and while we had some consistently warm temperatures it was certainly not hot. The rule of thumb for great reds is good conditions in February. Having enjoyed exactly that, our Pinot Noir rewarded us with beautiful texture, mid palate sweetness, balanced with ripe skin and seed tannin. I love all my children, but when Pinot Noir performs like this, it really puts a smile on my face!

On March 23 the first fruit off the vines was the Pinot Noir for the Waipara Hills Rosé, from the Home Block. We were thrilled with the quality this year, which expressed bright, lifted perfumed characters with juicy concentration. The longer hang time on the vines also benefited the Pinot Gris, which achieved beautiful ripeness in the settled conditions and we saw this reflected with similar results across all of the whites. The last of the fruit to come in was the Riesling, hand-picked on June 2 off The Mound vineyard. It built flavour later than normal and was exceptional.

Our Waipara Hills Vineyard Manager Jean-Luc Dufour shares my fond memories of the 2016 harvest. The crop thinning just prior to harvest was a critical activity to maximise potential ripening ability of the fruit, on the back of favourable weather in November and December. Jean-Luc said we had the longest ripening period without rainfall he has experienced in more than 30 years of grape growing. He is looking forward to some exceptional wines this year.

Head of hand-picking was Ben Roiri, Assistant Vineyard Manager at the Home Block. His team this year was a cultural melting pot, from Chile, Argentina, France, Czech Republic, and of course New Zealand. The clean and ripe fruit certainly made his life easier, thanks again to the favourable autumn. It was a first crop from the Grüner Veltliner, which made an impression on his pickers due to the unfamiliar look and bunch shape.

Our Waipara Hills Equinox wines are all created from this hand-picked fruit, capturing the unique terroir of the Waipara Valley region, with an emphasis on texture and structure. As each of the hand-picks came into the winery it became evident that this season was producing excellent fruit.

2016 was such a great harvest and I can’t wait to follow these wines as they unfold in the cellar before we get them into bottle. I look forward to taking these wines out to the world and sharing the stories of this harvest, the harvest that will be remembered for the endless dreamy autumn.

Simon McGeorge, Winemaker



2014 Vintage

Every year when I come to describing how the past vintage has gone I inadvertently end up using quite similar words, like “challenging”, “stressful” and “rewarding” and I guess this is due to the nature of wine growing, which is so dependent on the weather and the “ups and downs” of the season. This season has been no exception in that way and yet has taken things further than ever before in certain ways.

We started the season without too many surprises with budburst about the usual time, followed by a few frosts but nothing unusual and nothing that couldn’t be managed. The flowering was however not so good and the crops that we went into the season with were estimated to be 15-20% down on normal. This isn’t the end of the world as it meant that considerably less shoot and fruit thinning was required to get a balanced crop. Then the Summer arrived, or didn’t arrive as the case may be. I don’t have the stats, but it felt like one of the coolest Summers here for quite some time and while it didn’t rain significantly more than usual, the cooler temps really delayed the ripening of the fruit.

By mid-March, when our Harvest Crew was starting to arrive, we were still a long way from looking to harvest anything and with occasional showers coming through we were starting to get nervous. However the Autumn settled in, the warmer weather did finally arrive and eventually (about three weeks late) the first fruit was harvested in great condition. From a late start the harvesting picked up quickly after that and we ended up having one of the most condensed harvest periods in recent memory, which made for a busy time.

The cooler season overall has produced wines with higher levels of Malic acid than normal, which means crisper acidity and in some cases more structured wines. The Riesling has lovely fruit depth, crisp acidity balanced with a generous mid palate. The Pinot Gris is really quite opulent and lifted already, which is surprising given its age. The Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough shows lovely vibrancy and depth. The Pinot Noirs all look bright and fruity yet with some decent structure and length, even though a number of them have yet to finish MLF. It’s hugely satisfying to see the wines looking as good as they are after what was quite a stressful and worrying harvest season.

Simon McGeorge, Winemaker

 
2013 Vintage

With the greatest number of varieties of all the regions, Waipara often has the most prolonged harvest. The first fruit picked in Waipara was the same block as last year with the hand harvesting of some Clone 95 chardonnay for the Equinox range on the 28th of March. This region also enjoyed the fantastic summer conditions which stretched along the entire east coast of New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc developed some great flavours, with ripe nectarine and stone fruit characters predominating. It’s different from the typical Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc flavour spectrum, but delicious all the same.

The other highlight was the first harvest of fruit which had been grown using organic methods. Separate parcels of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling were grown without the use of synthetic herbicides or fungicides in a trial to see the resulting quality of fruit produced. This will be continued for the next two years as a learning experience for both vineyard and winery staff. The fruit this first year looked very exciting on the vine and I am looking forward to seeing the resulting wines at grading.

Waipara as a region seem to love growing great Pinot Gris and Riesling. The fruit develops lovely ripe fruit flavours without necessarily accumulating too much sugar which produces wines of intensity and finesse without excessive alcohol content. I fully expect that 2013 will produce Pinot Gris that will match some of the best examples of 2011.

For the record, harvest started on the 28th of March and was completed with the final Pinot Gris harvested on the 1st of May.

Simon McGeorge, Winemaker

 

2012 Vintage

Every year when I come to describing how the past vintage has gone I inadvertently end up using quite similar words, like “challenging”, “stressful” and “rewarding” and I guess this is due to the nature of wine growing, which is so dependent on the weather and the “ups and downs” of the season. This season has been no exception in that way and yet has taken things further than ever before in certain ways.

We started the season without too many surprises with budburst about the usual time, followed by a few frosts but nothing unusual and nothing that couldn’t be managed. The flowering was however not so good and the crops that we went into the season with were estimated to be 15-20% down on normal. This isn’t the end of the world as it meant that considerably less shoot and fruit thing was required to get a balanced crop. Then the Summer arrived, or didn’t arrive as the case may be. I don’t have the stats, but it felt like one of the coolest Summers here for quite some time and while it didn’t rain significantly more than usual, the cooler temps really delayed the ripening of the fruit.

By mid-March, when our Harvest Crew was starting to arrive, we were still a long way from looking to harvest anything and with occasional showers coming through we were starting to get nervous. However the Autumn settled in, the warmer weather did finally arrive and eventually (about 3 weeks late) the first fruit was harvested in great condition. From a late start the harvesting picked up quickly after that and we ended up having one of the most condensed harvest periods in recent memory, which made for a busy time.

The cooler season overall has produced wines with higher levels of Malic acid than normal, which means crisper acidity and in some cases more structured wines. The Riesling has lovely fruit depth, crisp acidity balanced with a generous mid palate. The Pinot Gris is really quite opulent and lifted already, which is surprising given it’s age. The Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough show lovely vibrancy and depth. The Pinot Noirs all look bright and fruity yet with some decent structure and length, even though a number of them have yet to finish MLF. It’s hugely satisfying to see the wines looking as good as they are after what was quite a stressful and worrying harvest season.

Simon McGeorge, Winemaker

 

2011 Vintage

2011 has been one of those harvests that seemed really long, but when looking back you realise that it wasn’t as long as many. There have been plenty of weather concerns and the different varieties and clones have performed differently as a result of these.

The season started off early, with stable and unexpectedly warm temperatures in Spring waking the vines about two weeks earlier than normal. The frost period didn’t affect things too badly either. The vines went into the growing season in good condition. The crops that set weren’t as heavy as those we saw in 2008, but were still very generous considering what the vines could realistically carry through to ripeness. The vineyard managers started a serious programme of crop adjustment to bring those varieties that we had concerns about into line.

The early growth meant we anticipated an early to mid March start for harvest, but cooler weather and rain in February delayed this. Our first fruit in the winery this year was the Central Otago Pinot Noir on the 25th March. The Waipara Valley Sauvignon Blanc came in soon after, approx a week later than normal.

The variety that really stood out this season was Waipara Valley Pinot Gris. I’ve always thought that it liked the longer “hang-time” season as I call it, and this year really re-enforced this opinion. The Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc also showed some lovely flavours and good texture and the Waipara Valley Chardonnay is looking fresh and vibrant. The 10-5 clone of Pinot Noir had a great year, developing depth and concentration that has rarely been seen in other years. The Dijon and Davis clones found this season a lot more difficult, although they’re looking nice and vibrant now they’re in tank.

Simon McGeorge, Winemaker

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Waipara Hills

Waipara Hills, 780 Glasnevin Road
State Highway 1, Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand

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