Featured Reviews

Pyramid Valley and Lowburn Ferry from Aotearoa Fine Wine Estates

09 April,2018

Aotearoa New Zealand Fine Wine Estates is the collaboration of Steve Smith MW and Brian Sheth, established last year, based on making wines from great parcels of fruit from exceptional vineyards. This philosophy was the heart of the development of the ‘Smith and Sheth’ ‘CRU’ wines, which I reviewed last month (click here to see my reviews). The first release of these wines included a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, three Hawke’s Bay Chardonnays and a Gimblett Gravels Syrah. The company has also developed their own vineyard in the Gimblett Gravels.

The scope of the company grew with the realisation they could purchase outstanding vineyards and estates with a proven track record of individuality and quality, and the first two estates to come under the Aotearoa Fine Wine Estates umbrella are Pyramid Valley in North Canterbury, and Lowburn Ferry in Central Otago. Pyramid Valley was created by Mike and Claudia Weersing who developed to operation to espouse biodynamics and the crafting of very small quantities of site and terroir specific Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from their home property in the Wakari Valley, and individual bottlings based on fruit from their grower friends and liasons.

Lowburn Ferry was established in 2000 by Roger and Jean Gibson who established a 4 ha Pinot Noir vineyard on a north-facing terrace at Lowburn, near Cromwell. From the first vintage in 2003, they experienced success, and the wines continue to win top awards at wine shows. The wines from these two estates warranted Smith and Sheth’s attention, and subsequent purchase last year.

Here, I review a selection of wines from Pyramid Valley and Lowburn Ferry, now under the ownership of Aotearoa Fine Wine Estates. The wines have been made by Mike Weersing and Pete Bartle. For availability, contact Aotearoa Fine Wine Estates general manager Michael Henley at email: michael@aonzfinewine.com


Pyramid Valley ‘Growers Collection’ ‘Hutchison Family Vineyard’ Marlborough Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc 2015

Blended White from New Zealand – Marlborough


Bright, golden-hued yellow colour with some depth, lighter on the rim. The nose is softly full and densely packed with ripe fruit aromas of yellow stonefruits entwined with savoury honey, lifted yellow florals, unfolding nutty lees complexities and some mineral detail. Dryish to taste and medium-full bodied, the palate is full and rounded with broad and mouthfilling flavours of ripe yellow stonefruits melded with savoury honied notes, lifted yellow florals, and a complexing layer of nuts and minersls. The mouthfeel is plush and decadent with the up-front flavours forming a rounded heart. The fruit is underlined by soft textures with integrated acidity, and the flavours carry to a long, well-driven, softly rich finish. This is a rich and opulent, mouthfilling dryish Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc blend with ripe stonefruit, honey and floral flavours with complexing nutty notes in the Alsace style. Serve with rich pork and veal dishes over the next 4 years. Hand-picked fruit, a blend of Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc from the ‘Hutchison’ vineyard, Rapaura, indigenous yeast cool-fermented to 14.5% alc., the wine aged 10 months on lees in 10% new French oak barriques. 491 dozen made. 18.5/20 Apr 2018 RRP $35.00

Pyramid Valley ‘Growers Collection’ ‘Sutherland-Till Vineyard’ Marlborough Chardonnay 2016

Chardonnay from New Zealand – Marlborough


Bright, even light golden-hued yellow colour with lemon-green tints, lighter edged. The nose is elegantly proportioned with an intense, taut and tightly bound core of aromatic white and yellow stonefruits, and citrus fruit notes, intermingling with an amalgam of creamy barrel-ferment and nutty oak with a layer of lemon-curd MLF. Medium-full bodied, the palate has tightly concentrated flavours of white and yellow stonefruits, citrus fruit and citrus zest, interwoven with creamy and nutty oak and fine lemon-curd MLF notes. The fruit is rich and succulent, and build to form a deep and rounded core enlivened by fresh, lacy acidity. The wine flows smoothly along a fine line, leading to a sustained finish of citrus fruit and lemon-curd. This is a rich, intense Chardonnay with stonefruit and citrus fruit with creamy oak and lemon-curd MLF on a fresh, lively palate. Serve with seafood and poultry over the next 4-5 years. Hand-picked Mendoza clone fruit from the ‘Sutherland-Till’ vineyard on Dog Point Road, WBP and indigenous yeast barrel-fermented to 14.5% alc., the wine aged in seasoned 450 L and 500 L puncheons, the wine undergoing MLF. 611 dozen made. 18.5-/20 Apr 2018 RRP $40.00

Pyramid Valley ‘Growers Collection’ ‘Calrossie Vineyard’ Marlborough Pinot Noir 2016

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Marlborough


Dark ruby-red colour with good depth, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is fresh with elegant and up-front aromas of dark-red cherry and berry fruit entwined with a subtle layer of dark herbs. The aromatics show with depth and intensity and a degree of finesse. Unfolding nuances of dark-red and violet florals and nuances of liquorice with aeration. Medium-full bodied, the palate is well-proportioned with bright, intense and vibrant fruit flavours of dark-red cherry fruit interwoven with fresh and dark herbs. Subtle notes of liquorice and raspberry liqueur add interest. The mouthfeel is poised and refreshing with lacy acidity and the fruit is supported by fine-grained tannin extraction lending an elegant core and line. The wine carries to a long, lingering finish of cherries and herbs. This is an elegant, up-front, refreshing Pinot Noir with dark-red cherry fruit along with a subtle layering of herbs, with liquorice and raspberries on a lively, fine-structured palate. Match with duck and pork dishes over the next 6+ years. Hand-picked fruit from the ‘Calrossie’ vineyard, Dashwood Pass, indigenous yeast fermented with 10% whole bunches to 13.7% alc., the wine spending 27-28 days on skins and aged 9 months in 10% new French oak barriques. 828 dozen made. 18.5-/20 Apr 2018 RRP $45.00

Lowburn Ferry ‘Home Block’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Otago


Even ruby-red colour with some depth and slight garnet hues on the edge. The nose is softly full and well-packed with deep, dense and intense aromas of dark-red berry fruit and subtle notes of dark plums, along with nuances of spice, thyme herbs and aromatic oak. This is soft, plush and rich in expression. Medium-full bodied, the palate is softly concentrated with rich, plush and mouthfilling flavours of ripe dark-red berry and plum fruit harmoniously intermixed with subtle herbal notes, spices and sweet oak.. The fruit richness is the feature and the aromatics are lifted by fine acidity. The palate has very fine-grained flowery tannin extraction lending balanced structure and grip. The wine has excellent weight, depth and presence, and carries to a soft, fulsome and rich finish. This is is a plush and fulsome, well-concentrated and harmonious Pinot Noir with flavours of ripe berry and plum flavours and nuances of spice and oak on a finely structured palate. Match with lamb, beef and venison over the next 7-9+ years. Hand-picked fruit, clones 5, 115, 667, 777 and Abel, fully destemmed and fermented, partially by indigenous yeasts to 13.5% alc., the wine spending 20 days on skins and aged 10 months in approx. 27% new French oak barriques. 19.0-/20 Apr 2018 RRP $50.00

Lowburn Ferry ‘The Ferryman’ ‘Reserve’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Otago


Full, even, dark ruby-red colour with garnet hues, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is softly full, and gently voluminous with layers of dark-red berry fruit and dark, spicy plums intermixed with fragrant oak, unveiling complexing nuances of spices and nuts. The aromatics show a stylish restraint. Medium-full bodied, the palate has vigorous and vibrant fruit flavours of dark-red berries and plums, along with spices, herbs and sweet, nutty oak. The palate combines richness and robustness along with excellent vitality, and the fruit is supported by considerable fine-grained extraction and structure with balancing acid freshness. The flavours are mouthfilling and carry with excellent drive and energy to a long and sustained, vibrant finish. This is a powerful, vigorous and flavoursome Pinot Noir with rich and luscious flavours of dark-red berry and plum fruit, along with herb, spice and oak notes and plenty of structure. Match with slow-cooked game meat over the next 8-10 years. A barrel selection wine. Clones 115 and 5, hand-picked and destemmed, fermented to 13.8% alc., the wine aged 13 months in 38% new French oak barriques. 19.0+/20 Apr 2018 RRP $80.00

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