This week we were lucky enough to have a visit from John and Jo Stichbury, a delightful couple full of New Zealand charm and one of the world’s great wine personalities. The CPW team met John and Jo at the Golden Lion in Tipton St John which was just recovering from severe flooding over the weekend. Whilst we sat and talked and tasted New Jackson Estate Zealand’s best, a team from the Environment Agency wandered round the stream that flows through the pub garden and looked like they would much rather be tasting wine with us lot.
All the wines produced at Jackson Estate are estate grown, the vineyards having a slightly stonier terroir than most others, giving the wines a distinctive mineral quality. The grapes are picked by workers from local islands for whom John has arranged local work permits. Those from Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu and other islands come for the harvest and take money back to the islands in a win/win situation. Jo Stitchbury says those from Vanuatu sing while they pick the grapes and is really something to listen to.
On to the wines:
Green Lip Sauvignon Blanc 2011: Stainless Steel fermented, no oak and a lovely representation of the vintage. Named for the New Zealand greenlip mussels (one of the world’s most unique shellfish delicacies) this has classic gooseberry fresh aromas, citrus and exhibiting great varietal purity. It combines a dense, tropical and citrus fruitiness, with hints of basil and spiciness. The palate is wonderfully textured, with a laser-show of juicy fruit flavours balanced out by a scintillatingly refreshing acidity.
Chardonnay Shelter Belt 2011: Approached in a very gentle way, this is hand harvested with bunch pressing and is 50% oak aged with 50% stainless steel. This is a single vineyard wine, named for the large shelterbelt of trees separating the grounds of the homestead from the vineyard. This wine smells of grapefruit, mineral and spice, leading to a palate with a lush integrated texture and tension, sleek acidity, and finishing with fantastic balance & length. (Please note current vintage is 2008)
Grey Ghost Sauvignon Blanc 2011: Partially fermented (50%) in oak barriques and rested for several months on yeast lees before bottling later in the year. This is named after a childhood ghost story that scared John enough not to wander out in the dark. Limited and in a very different style to the unoaked Sauvignon this had a delicious complexity and minerality that gives a great rounded mouthfeel. Citrus and spice on the finish.
Vintage Widow Pinot Noir 2010: . This wine was going to be called ‘The Widowmaker’ – the Gum tree tends to drop its branches at any given moment in a way to shed its leaves and when any traveller used to rest under a shady gum tree at night it was common for the wife to wake up a widow. However it was thought this might be a bit morbid (!) so it was named after the families who are often forgotten about during the harvest – ‘the wine widows’. These vines are only 8 years old (very young) and are grown on predominantly clay soil with good water holding capacity (taking the necessity for irrigation out of the picture). Pronounced red berry fruits such as raspberry and cherry are matched with a slightly spicy oak character. The nose continues to develop as the wine sits in the glass showing lifted pinot fruit and floral notes with hints of smoke and bacon adding further depth and interest. Medium bodied and dry in style, et with a lovely balance of fruit, acidity and tannin. Hints of toasty oak give a platform to wonderfully varietal fruit filling the front and mid-palate, lending the wine good texture and weight while fine, fruit tannins provide backbone and structure. This is a wine “not for vagabonds” says John ! (please note we have the current 2008 in stock, 2010 will follow).
Gum Emperor Pinot Noir 2009: Named after the beautiful Gum Emperor moth, a local at Jackson Estate. This was my highlight of the tasting. A beautiful Pinot Noir. Rich, smooth, spicy, powerful to name but a few of the many adjectives that come to mind ! At 14.5% Abv it’s not for the fainthearted but the freshness of fruit is outstanding and I savoured every mouthful. (Please note current vintage is 2008, 2009 will follow).
** It is worth noting that in 2012/13 there will be a huge shortfall (25%) of volume due to a very cool spring this year resulting in general weight loss of grape bunches. However the quality of these vintages will be superb.
So a big thanks to John and Jo and also to Ellie at Gonzalez Byass who accompanied them. Great to meet them and we wish them all the best for their flight home today – if they can get to Heathrow along the M4 !