On a visit through Marlborough and calling in on Ponder Estate in 1998, Bruce and Jill Chapman became inspired to grow olives and grapes in Canterbury. When the Retallick sheep farm property on Georges Road in Waipara came up for sale, the Chapmans acquired a third of it and began planting olives and grapes in 1999. Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc are the varieties planted. As is the case in similar situations where there are grapes and olives, the growing of grapes and making of wine has become the main focus, though the Chapmans are equally passionate about their olive grove.
The Chapmans are at the heart of the vineyards established along Georges Road. Their immediate neighbours are Guy Porter’s Bellbird Spring and 1000 Voices, on each side, being the other owners of the former Retallick farm. Along Georges Road, Mud House have ‘The Mound’ vineyard and Fiddler’s Green are also very prominent. Kirk Bray’s ‘Georges Road’ is further up the road, off Mount Brown Road; the area is well-invested with other vine plantings, indicating the potential seen in the soils and land in the ‘basin’ of the Waipara Valley.
The Terrace Edge vineyard is named after the eponymous geological feature as the land steps down to the Waipara river. From the edge of the terrace one gets a magnificent outlook over the Waipara Valley. The property measures 33 ha, of which 12 ha are planted to grapes and 6 ha to olives. Almost all of the vines are planted in neighbouring blocks on the upper flat terrace, based on alluvial, free-draining soils with gravel and greywacke. The fruit initially went to Muddy Water and Pegasus Bay, but now most of it goes into the Chapmans’ own Terrace Edge label. There is a special 0.6 ha area called the ‘Bank Block’ on the steep slope (with a 45° incline) of the terrace with a northerly aspect which enjoys a sheltered position. Here, Syrah has performed superbly, and with the clay influence of the soil, it offers a difference to the character of the Syrah from the plantings on the level ground.
The terrace edge at the eastern end of the property is devoted to ‘The Greening of the Waipara’ project which promotes biodiversity. Here, around 0.3 ha has been has been planted to a range of native flora. The vineyard is tended using many organic regimes and taking the next step to certification is being considered.
2011 saw an expansion in the range of Rieslings produced. The ‘Classic’ Riesling 2011, at 13.0% alc. and 12.5 g/L rs is the driest of the trio, off-dry to taste, very fine and elegant, with clear-cut lime and lemon aromas and flavours. While carrying similar alcohol and sugar figures to previous releases, this seems more taut and refined, possibly a reflection of the vintage. 425 cases were made. Next was the ‘Liquid Geography’ Riesling 2011, at 12.0% alc. and 38 g/L rs, showing some honey overtones, markedly more luscious and succulent, yet balanced by fine cut and acidity. This is a beautifully rich wine with great stylish restraint, but definitely a step up in opulence, a result of the inclusion of some botrytised fruit. 300 cases were made. Only 48 cases of the ‘Late Picked’ Riesling 2011 were made. At 11.0% alc. and 70 g/L rs, this shows significant botrytis, yet expresses this with breath-taking beauty and finesse. The wine retains superb citrus and floral varietal character. This will be limited in availability, but very well worth seeking.
The two Pinot Noirs were contrasts, at opposite ends of the size, power and ripeness spectrum. The Pinot Noir 2010 was from old vines only, the crop a small one. Lighter and with delicacy and an ethereal beauty, this has a rich core that unfolds with great interest revealing red fruits and florals with dried herb complexities. This is a wine that will match fine cuisine. Only 650 cases were made. The Pinot Noir 2011 expresses much darker, riper dark red and black berry fruit characters. This is also more structured and more instantly mouthfilling, and will be a popular wine for the wider market. 1,500 cases were made.
The Syrah wines followed a similar pattern to the Pinot Noirs, though the differences in weight, richness and ripeness not as wide. The Syrah 2010 is tight and restrained, showing reductive complexities to the bouquet and rich spices and peppery elements to the layered palate. The balance and proportion is impeccable. The Syrah 2011 is an example of classic and pure varietal expression with lifted violet florals to the fruit. The textures are classy and refined, and this is a beauty with textbook cool, Northern Rhone character. Across the board, the 2011s look to be an outstanding vintage for Terrace Edge, possibly even better than 2010 which is seen as a top Waipara year.
We finished the tasting with the wines (and the excellent olive oil for bread dipping) accompanying lunch at the cellar door, in view of the vines, looking out towards the lower ground of the Waipara Valley and the hills beyond. The outlook there and for the Terrace Edge wines is indeed great. www.terraceedge.co.nz