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Terrace Edge – Waipara Vineyard Progress

By May 16, 2016No Comments
During a recent visit to Christchurch, I had the opportunity of catching up with Jill and Pete Chapman of Terrace Edge Vineyard. The Chapmans are some of the friendliest people in the Waipara Valley. Purchasing the property in Georges Road in Waipara in 1999, after visiting Ponder Estate in Marlborough, Bruce and Jill Chapman planted 12 ha of vines and 2000 olive trees to realise their dream of growing grapes and becoming immersed in the land. The initial grape vintages were sold as contract fruit to some high profile wineries, but in 2005, the Chapmans released their first ‘Terrace Edge’ wines.

Pete Chapman, their third son took on the responsibility for the vineyard, and it’s something he’s grown and become fully committed into, while developing the site. The vineyard was accredited BioGro organic certification in March 2014 due primarily to his efforts. There would be few growers with the intensity of passion and questioning as I’ve seen in Pete. The Terrace Edge wines are made at the Muddy Water facility (part of the Greystone and Thomas Family holdings), and their winemaker Gavin Tait loves the strong approach and practical ideas that Pete has in where the Terrace Edge wines should be headed. Many contract winemakers bemoan the fact that growers only want to see their fruit turned into drinkable and sellable wine rather than something of high quality!

Joining the Terrace Edge team on a full-time basis as assistant vineyard manager recently has been Andy Gillespie, taking over from Pete’s cousin Mark Tarr (who is still assisting with administration). While studying viticulture and oenology at Lincoln, Andy worked at different vineyards and wineries including two summers at Terrace Edge, so it was an easy progression. Andy is one of the new breed of wine industry people with a wide and varied interest in all aspects of growing, making and selling wine, as taught by the modern academic institutions, but with a keen desire to be hands-on. www.terraceedge.co.nz


Andy Gillespie and Pete Chapman – Terrace Edge Vineyard
 
The Varieties and the Wines
The vineyard was originally planted to Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. When I first met Pete, his focus was on getting the style of the Riesling right for the market, deciding where to pitch the sweetness level. As it has turned out, their main Riesling, the ‘Classic’ is medium-dry at around 12 g/L RS, and it is just right, with the wine selling extremely well for that variety. There is a real following for their sweeter, medium style, the ‘Liquid Geography’ which is around 35 g/L. I’m not sure whether it is the sugar level seducing drinkers, or the clever name. Whichever, I’m a fan of it. I’d say that the delicious style of both Rieslings result in a disproportionately large amount of sales of the variety compared with most other producers. However, Riesling comes third in plantings to Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

Pinot Noir accounts for approx. 5 ha of the now 14 ha planted. There are 6 clones including the modern Dijon and Pommard clones and about 0.5 ha of Abel. Pete finds the 667 particularly successful, but the Abel less so. The Pinot Noir wine has grown in stature since I’ve seen it, and the Chapmans are especially proud of the multi-trophy and gold-medal winning 2012 vintage. I’m a fan of the even riper and richer 2013. It will be interesting to see if Pete directs the winemaking team to incorporate the use of whole bunches or in-situ indigenous yeast fermentations, as they are trialling at Greystone.

Pinot Gris has now become the second most planted variety at Terrace Edge, and this is not only indicative of the general trend of increased popularity in this country and world-wide, but also of the impeccable style of the wine. It too, like the Classic Riesling is medium-dry at around 15 g/L RS. But the sweetness combined with the unctuous texture achieved at Terrace Edge makes it a winner. I’m sure the Chapmans wished they had more planted!

The cult variety at Terrace Edge is Syrah. There’s quite a bit of Syrah planted in Waipara, and it appears to be pretty successful generally. The Chapmans have 1.4 ha planted on the flat terrace, but there are also 600 plants on an area they call the ‘Roasted Slope’, a north-facing 45° incline. Visitors’ imaginations are captured by the absurd nature of this plot, and become instant fans of the wine. As with the Pinot Noir, the Syrah has just gotten better and better with successive releases. The original bottlings incorporated some complexing, funky reduction, but the wine has gotten cleaner and cleaner. The 2013 was a cracker, but there was no 2014 due to the rain at the latter part of the harvest, which ruined the Syrah fruit for red wine. The Chapmans salvaged the best of the fruit to make a smart rosé from it.


The ‘Roasted Slope’ block, Terrace Edge Vineyard
600 Syrah vines at a 45 degree slope
 
New Developments
Over time, the Sauvignon Blanc variety has become seen as a lesser one, and in 2013, the Chapmans added 0.8 ha of Albarino and a similar amount of St Laurent as possible replacements. Just this spring, they’ve added 0.5 ha of Syrah which includes the new 457 and 174 clones. And to make things interesting, they’ve top-grafted 200 Sauvignon Blanc vines with Viognier.

The Chapmans have been very impressed with the fruit that has been produced so far, especially with the flavour of the Albarino, and the quality of the tight bunches of the St Laurent. The Viognier, left on the vine at this late part of the season had reached around 30° Brix, and while over-ripe, the flavours were truly exotic. The intention is that the Viognier will be co-fermented and blended with the Syrah.

On our vineyard tour, there was only some Riesling left on vine unpicked. This fruit was destined for the ‘Liquid Geography’ wine. The growing season for 2016 to date had been remarkable, with back-to-normal crops, of extremely high quality fruit. All of the fruit picked to date was pristine. The continued warm and dry weather was beginning to beneficially dehydrate and raisin the remaining Riesling fruit. What Pete and Andy were hoping for was some rain so that botrytis could form. The ‘Liquid Geography’ Riesling usually incorporates a portion of botrytised fruit.


Riesling hanging out for 2016 Liquid Geography
Not much leaf left at this stage!
 
A Tasting of Some New Releases
Jill, Pete and Andy put on a tasting of a few new wines for us, this especially important for my partner Sue, who distributes the Terrace Edge wines under her ‘Wine2Trade’ company. Here are my impressions.

The first wine served was the Liquid Geography Riesling 2015, the result of an excellent quality vintage, but with 4.8 tonnes of fruit instead of the usual 12 tonnes. A gorgeous wine with poised ripeness, fresh lime marmalade, citrus fruit array and honey. The richness and sweetness of the fruit just outstanding, giving body and length, but retaining acid vitality.

As a comparison, the current release Liquid Geography Riesling 2014. Elegance and intensity of lime fruit, with honey, a little less decadence and richness, but succulent enough to be near-opulent. Tighter and slightly narrower than the 2015, and a tad drier and more forward. Showing lovely savoury detail now. Beautiful as it is.

Then a super-star, the Pinot Gris 2015. Plenty of presence, mouthfilling weight and opulence, but retaining some lightness of foot. Ripe pears, spices, florals and stonefruits, with the edge of honied decadence. Lovely nutty detail, a hint of lees work too.

Onto the reds, the Pinot Noir 2015. Deep and dark purple-red. Still tightly bound but exceedingly vibrant with aromatic dark-red and black fruits, along with spices and violet florals. Elegant on the palate and a pronounced liquorice and aniseed core. Lovely concentration, and very fine-grained, flowery tannins. A slightly more refined version of the 2013?

Finally a Syrah 2015 Tank Sample. This is highly anticipated, as there was no 2014 made. Black-purple colour. Plenty of intense aromas of ripe black fruits with black pepper, spices and violets. Similar to the Pinot Noir, but taken further in blacker fruits, spices and florals. Classical nuances of toasty, minerally reductive complexities. Strong extraction, but still fine-grained, and the acidity providing tension and length. Maybe not as ripe as the 2013, but with more nervosity.


Jill Chapman, Terrace Edge and Sue Davies, Wine2Trade
having a natter under the netting

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