Dan Barker is a man with a busy life building his Moana Park brand. He’d just come back from overseas marketing and selling, and though preparing for this year’s impending harvest, he had time with his right hand marketing man Mat Frear to fit in a quick run-down and tasting of some of the wines.
Moana Park, just 4 km out of Taradale on Puketapu Road, was established in 2000, and Dan assumed the role of winemaker in 2005, he and his wife Kaylea purchasing the operation in 2008. In that short time, they’ve upgraded the winery and extended the vineyards. With three presses to handle 250 tonnes of fruit from 28 ha of vines, Dan says “it’s a pretty tricked up winery” and is certainly able to handle the fruit in specific ways to optimise the styles they are looking to make.
The Moana Park label draws fruit from sites in Gimblett Road (the former Kingsley Estate), Te Awanga (Kim Crawford’s ex ‘Doc’s Block’), the ‘Cover Point’ vineyard in Dartmoor just up the road from the winery and ‘Chimney Flat’ out past Bayview on the road to Wairoa. Plantings will be made at the ‘Home’ site of the winery to add to the diversity of sites. The 15,000 cases of wine are sold 20% on the domestic market and 80% overseas. Part of the overseas marketing is assisted by Dan’s 10 year contract to make wine at the boutique Baillie-Grohman winery in British Colombia in Canada, with which distribution contacts are combined.
Dan and Mat have consolidated and refined the wine ranges to two – the ‘Estate’ entry-level wines and the ‘Single Vineyard Reserves’ selling at approx.. $20.00 and just under $30.00 respectively in retail. The ‘Estate’ wines are fruit-driven, while the ‘Reserve’ are altogether more sophisticated. The varieties planted are Merlot, Viognier, Chardonnay and Syrah in decreasing area. Their ‘Estate’ Merlot/Malbec is by far their largest selling wine, and Viognier has become their signature white and Syrah the signature red as far as regional interest is concerned. Indeed, it is these two varieties that have propelled the new Moana Park label onto the stage so quickly.
Dan and Mat led me through their current wines. The ‘Estate’ Viognier 2011 is rich and succulent with up-front fruit. Much tighter and with complex flint, citrus and exotic interest is the just bottled ‘Reserve’ Viognier 2011. It will express more fruit soon, no doubt. The ‘Estate’ Chardonnay 2010 is soft broader, and marked by attractive MLF butter notes. However the ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay 2010 is stunning with its citrussy fruit, spicy oak and creamy barrel-ferment textures. This is a hedonist’s delight. The ‘Estate’ Syrah 2011 is spicy and supple, quite elegant, but well-proportioned. A step up in richness, depth and layering is the ‘Reserve’ Syrah 2010. The cooler harvest has given it lovely aromatic nuances, with complex liquorice notes emerging in glass. And sure enough, the ‘Estate’ Merlot/Malbec 2011 is everything a petite Bordeaux-blend should be. Good deep currant flavours, some fresh acid, and decent depth, to match any decent meal.
Moana Park’s special philosophy is to make wines naturally with no animal products or fining, to be low allergen. This is their aim and focus, if not mantra. The wines fit around this drive. I’d think most wine consumers will enjoy the wines for the quality and pleasing style first, appreciate the pricing second, and see the ‘goodness’ as an extra benefit. But the way the world is tending with sustainability and provenance, Moana Park’s approach is bound to become more recognised and important. www.moanapark.co.nz